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Iceland, Finland, Estonia, Russia, Mongolia, China, Thailand, Cambodia and South Korea

Germany, Poland, Austria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Israel, Jordan and Denmark

Hawaii, Australia, Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, Malaysia, Nepal, India and England

Panama, Colombia, Ecuador (inc. Galapagos), Peru, Bolivia, Chile (inc. Easter Island), Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil and Mexico.

France (Paris and Lourdes), Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Spain, Andorra, Morocco (Tangier), Portugal and the Netherlands (Amsterdam).

New Zealand, Australia, Ireland, Great Britain, Antarctica, Patagonia and Paraguay.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Six Months Later: The Last Highlight Reel of UAE & Denmark!

Figure it's about time I finally get around to finishing the last post on our four-plus month long 2016 trip that began in August in Latvia and ended in mid-December in Denmark! After all, Steven and I have both been already planning for several months our trip to South America this fall.

On December 8th, after flying all night from Cape Town, South Africa, we arrived before six in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, a federation of seven hereditary absolute monarchies established on December 2nd, 1971 and sometimes simply called the Emirates. We hightailed it to Abu Dhabi, a 90 minute drive south of Dubai, as we had long ago reserved two places on the tour of the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital beginning at 10.
The Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital, the largest falcon hospital in the whole world, opened its doors in 2007 to visitors to experience the fascinating world of falcons and falconry.
We learned that because falcons live in mountains naturally and not in deserts, they are very popular in the Emirates. The white-hooded gyr falcon, the largest of the falcon species breeds on Arctic coasts and tundra, and the islands of northern North America, Europe and Asia.
A new feather was attached with good old super glue of all things!

One of Abu Dhabi's highways was lined with an impressive string of high, glass-fronted towers. These were two of the planned three buildings that comprised the Abu Dhabi World Trade Center.
Rising over the southern part of the city was undoubtedly Abu Dhabi's single most worthwhile attraction, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. There are almost 19,000 reviews of the mosque on Trip Advisor to give you an idea of why we wanted to visit it! We were phenomenally lucky to take the day's last tour at literally the last moment.
Though the main prayer hall can hold an astounding 7,000 plus worshipers, when we were there, there was a sense of absolute tranquility and serenity throughout the mosque as few people were present.

Of all the thousands and thousands of pictures I took on the trip, the following would certainly make my Top Ten List.

The mosque's unique lighting system was designed by lighting architects to reflect the phases of the moon. Beautiful bluish gray clouds were projected in lights onto the external walls and get brighter and darker according to the phase of the moon.
We couldn't stop thinking how incredibly lucky we were having just made it on time to visit the only two places we wanted to do that day, the Falcon Hospital and the Mosque. Visiting the Grand Mosque was an unforgettable experience. If ever there was a 'must-see' place to visit, this was it!

The next day we got hopelessly lost while driving to the Sheikh Zayed Heritage Festival and ended up at the Camel Race Track. What a great place to get lost at!

What made the Heritage Festival especially appealing was that it wasn't just about Emirati culture. Also included was an array of displays, interactive performances featuring traditional cuisine and heritage showing the daily lives of people in Yemen, Egypt, Sudan, Morocco, Algeria, India, Russia, China, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Serbia and Bosnia/Herzegovina. I was totally mesmerized watching the men and boys dance; just a riveting performance with no discernible break in the music or dancing. It just continued on and on with men joining in or leaving when they apparently felt like it.

Unlike a 'real' rodeo here in the States that only professional rodeo riders participate in, the announcer in the camel ring seemed to ask for men willing to sacrifice life and limb by trying to catch and then take down one of the camels by one leg!
On December 10th, we drove north toward Dubai, no doubt the most well-known city in the Emirates. We couldn't help but admire first Abu Dhabi's very intriguing Aldar headquarters building. It's described as the first circular building of its kind in the Middle East and also described as the world's first circular skyscraper.
Our first stop as we neared the city was at Gurudwara Guru Nanak Darbar, the largest Sikh place of worship in the Gulf serving over 50,000 worshipers. The majority of Sikh expatriates in Dubai come from Punjab in northern India.
We had thought we would just wander around the temple on our own for a few minutes before heading onto Dubai itself. However, a wedding was about to take place and we were kindly invited to join in the festivities. So, join in we did even though though we didn't have on our wedding finery! The bride was escorted into the hall by her family and a number of women, possibly her bridesmaids, attired in beautifully colored outfits called salvar kamees.

December 12th: The first of several shots of the gargantuan Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building:
It was fascinating to learn that Dubai is now officially the tallest city on the planet. Considering the city only built its first real skyscraper in 1979, that's a stupendous achievement. The city now boasts 28 of the world's 200 highest buildings compared to New York and Hong Kong who, by comparison, have just 13 and 11 respectively.

A close up of the Burj Khalifa which, at 2,717 ft tall, obliterated all previous records for the world's tallest man-made structures past and present. It smashed the previous record for the world's tallest building - formerly held by the Taipei 101 in Taiwan at 1,670 ft - by a staggering 984 ft! It opened in January, 2010, only six years after excavations began. Up to 13,000 workers toiled day and night, at times putting up a new floor in as little as three days!
Since Dubai is split in two by the Dubai Creek, it can be crossed at several points by either an air-conditioned water bus or in one of the city's traditional abras, the open boat below. I had read that the five minute abra ride was one of the most authentic and inexpensive experiences available in all of the United Arab Emirates. No way were we going to miss that experience!
What a blast it was traveling across the Creek at a high rate of speed in the packed abra that was only inches above the water.
Once we landed on the Deira side of Dubai, we entered the Old Souk. The commercial heart of the old city still largely resolved around the souk.
We wandered around the Spice Souk, then made it to the Gold Souk where a hundred or so shops were lined up under a wooden roof. The store windows just overflowed with vast quantities of gold jewelry ranging from very intricate designs to more understated pieces. After visiting gold souks in other Middle East nations this trip, neither of us want to see any more gold shops for a very long time!
Steven and I couldn't get over Dubai's stunning architecture. One of the city's supersized attractions overlooking the Arabian Gulf was the sprawling Jumeirah Beach Hotel or JBH with its wavelike shape.
Towering over the coastline just beyond the JBH was the stupendous Burj Al Arab Hotel that opened in 1999. Also known as the Tower of the Arabs, the luxury hotel is the fourth tallest hotel in the world. The hotel's defining feature was its shape of a huge, billowing spinnaker sail of a J-class yacht. It was constructed from Teflon-coated glass fiber that was a dazzling white by day and lit up with spectacular light displays after dark.
Burj Khalifa at night:
On December 13th, we drove to the city of Sharjah, about 45 minutes up the road from Dubai. We explored the city's souks before spending time at the historic Al Hisn Fort, the most important building in Sharjah and built in 1823. The fort recreated the days when it was used as the seat of Sharjah's government, the residence of the ruling Al Qawasim ruling family and a jail. 
Later, we headed to the grand Sharjah Art Museum, located close to the Heritage Area. We've never been to any other art museum where most of the galleries only had just one or two of paintings. 

Another five minutes' walk north along the Corniche brought us to one of the city's highlights, the superb Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization, originally built in 1987 as a traditional Arab market or souk.
A model of Al-Jazari's water clock from around 1200. The sophisticated water-powered mechanism was hidden inside.
The need for accuracy in Islamic religious observations and calendar keeping was a major push in the development of Islamic astronomy. 
The museum's most outstanding feature was its majestic, gilt central dome located above the rotunda. It was decorated on the inside with an intricate mosaic depicting the night sky and the signs of the zodiac.
The 10 dirham per person entrance fee to the museum - all of $2.50 - was an absolute steal for one of the best and most enjoyable museums we've had the pleasure of exploring. It had absorbing displays of medieval Islamic scientific discoveries and superb Islamic arts and crafts including beautiful historic manuscripts, ceramics, glass, textiles and jewelry. It was one of the few museums we've explored that we, or perhaps just I, could easily have spent another couple of hours to take in the breadth of the collections!

Coming across these huge copper coffee pots around Sharjah was so odd but weirdly neat at the same time. Just wish we could have learned why they were there.
The Sharjah Heritage Museum was dedicated to the emirate's traditions, customs and culture. Sharjah was hardly on our radar before going to the UAE but the city turned out to be an unexpected delight and highlight of our time in the Emirates.
On December 13th, after a lonnnnng flight from Dubai, we were back in Copenhagen again, a city we first visited together two years ago on our way back home after our trip to Eastern Europe, Turkey, Jordan and Israel. Then, we only had one night compared to this time, when we had a full day to explore some castles in nearby towns as a kind of 're-entry' to our lives back home. We'd forgotten that the sun set so early, about 3:30, in the winter. It was so dark just minutes later.

On December 14th, we decided to follow noted travel writer Rick Steve’s suggestion and see the highlights of Zealand, the island where Copenhagen is located. We took the morning train for the short 40-minute ride to the cute little town of Hillerod, which was near Frederiksborg Castle, our first stop of the day.

One of the castle’s most jaw-dropping rooms was the Great Hall whose walls were lined with stunning tapestries and royal portraits.

We walked back through town to get the train to Helsingor, a town northeast of Hillerod, to tour Kronborg Castle. Also called Elsinore, the Anglicized version of Helsingor, Kronborg is a sight famous for its tenuous ties to Shakespeare.

The castle's Little Hall included a series of fine tapestries depicting Danish monarchs.
The most famous ‘resident’ of the Kronborg casements, an underground system of corridors and rooms, was Holger Danske, a mythical Viking hero revered by Danish children. 
Our final stop of the day AND of our entire trip was the town of Humelback, site of the acclaimed Louisiana Art Museum. I say tongue in cheek that, luckily for us, we were able to view one of the museum’s favorite item, French sculptor Cesar’s ‘The Big Thumb’ – simply a six-foot-tall bronze thumb – because every time it was removed, museum patrons complained!

I could certainly appreciate why 'The Half Circle' by Spanish artist Juan Munoz was a very popular work at the Louisiana. It was impossible not to be drawn in to the large group of figures. I don't think anyone seeing these laughing figures could ever leave the room not being uplifted.
A perfect last photo: Even after four plus months traveling another good chunk of the world together, we were both still smiling and having fun.

I sure never imagined when we returned home six months ago tomorrow it would take me this long to write the last post. However, it's been a real hoot reliving our travels and a great excuse going through the posts to come up with what I think qualified to be in the Highlight Reels. 

In 2016, Steven and I were incredibly blessed to discover so much more of this fantastic world and especially to be able to share our love of traveling with each one of you. We can't thank you enough for following us on our travels as that kept me going many a time when I thought of giving up the blog.

In early September, God willing, we'll be hitting the road again to South America until just before Christmas. You can follow our journey to yet another continent by reading our posts at

Wishing you happy and safe travels until we meet again.

Posted on June 14th, 2017 from Beaumont, Texas.