Bahrain and Dubai (United Arab Emirates) are located in the Arab Gulf, opposite Iran and next to Saudi Arabia. This is Islamic territory. In the heart of it. Some of our friends were concerned about us going there in March of 2006, because the press and TV tend to show a lot of violence from parts of the Middle East. As we all know, that's what "sells" news. I was really looking forward to seeing an old friend. I wanted to understand more about Islam and it's people to appreciate better what's going on in this part of the world. My wife wanted to do some serious jewelry shopping. She read that you can buy here only 18kt, 22kt and 24kt gold. Not the 14kt gold we have that changes color of some people's skin. You will see Persian carpets here that are just beautiful. Nowhere else to be seen. I love them. And the prices for everything are reasonable.
We had a wonderful time. We found kindness, friendliness and wonderful things to see. The locals talk to you very openly. We on the other hand, don't know much about their religion, region and people. We should. In fact, many of us are misinformed with incorrect information in emails on the Internet about this part of the world. Understanding each other is an important thing. We felt safe everywhere. Great restaurants, fabulous markets. In Dubai you see fantastic hotels, beautiful beaches and water, restaurants, facilities for the tourist, shopping centers and even supermarkets like Carrefour (a French chain and its Dubai hypermarket format is fabulous), that will "knock your socks off". Unfortunately for competitive reasons Carrefour would not allow me to take pictures inside. It was the best supermarket we ever saw.
Bahrain and Dubai make for a wonderful vacation and education that we would highly recommend. Do not take this as an endorsement of any other Middle Eastern country. We heard during the trip that some are rising rapidly as tourist destinations, but others have a way to go yet.
We are Christians. Everyone made us feel welcome. It was so nice. If you are interested to read about what I found out about Islam, just click on Islam. I am a good investigator. To understand how hateful feelings developed in some parts of this region, click on conflict. You might find this information as interesting as I did. It's important to understand the truth.
Let me show you below in pictures a sample of what we found. Pictures speak louder than words. Click on any of the small pictures and a larger, more detailed version will open. To go back to the small pictures, just click your browser's "Go Back" button. Hopefully you have a high speed Internet line for all these pictures.
Bahrain's Fort is a 15th Century fortress. The first homes constructed on this site are from 2,800 BC! Bahrain has a very long history.
Ladies, if you like serious shopping, Bahrain and Dubai are absolutely fantastic!
Absolutely beautiful, very old handmade copies of the Koran at the Beit al Qur'an museum. The fish on the right is an exquisitely made modern work totally in Arabic script (quotation from the Koran). Arabic script can be very beautiful.
We toured this very impressive place with beautiful architecture, the Grand Mosque of Bahrain. More of the Grand Mosque and Bahrain. Look at all pictures of this Web site.
Very nice friends. I felt at home.
Famous oil country, right? They know that their oil will run out in 20 years or so, and the government is doing a fantastic planning job on a number of well targeted fronts. Already 75% of their income is not from oil, but from Tourism. As you will see, it is a fantastic place to visit. And it becomes better each year.
But first, you may want to see what Dubai was like in the early 1960's. Interesting memories...
Landing in Dubai. What a huge airport!
The Burj-al-Arab hotel, the only six-star hotel in the world. It is about 1,000 feet high. It takes your breath away, it is so beautiful. This hotel was one of the most difficult engineering projects in the world, subject of a one-hour program on the Discovery and National Geographic channels. Try to catch it.
The Jumeirah Beach Hotel. It is next to Burj-al-Arab. Beautiful water and beach, an outstanding major attraction called Wild Wadi Water Park, and next door one finds an outstanding shopping area (Souk Madinat Jumeirah) that is a replicated souk ("old Arab market") in style. A wonderful place. In fact...I see a few friends in the souk! We had a great time here. The two pictures on the right are of the Dubai Old Souk. The real thing.
This is unbelievable! Ski Dubai is a fantastic indoor ski facility at a large shopping mall, the Emirates Mall in Dubai. The temperature can be 120 degrees F outside! It is so successful that they are planning a second one. Just fantastic!
This is the most beautiful and interesting shopping mall we have ever seen. The Ibn Battuta Mall. The pictures hardly do it justice. Just beautiful. It is designed in the 14th Century style of six countries, to which an Arab explorer, Ibn Battuta went (like the Italian Marco Polo). Find Starbucks in the the group of pictures in this mall. There are actually two Starbucks at this mall. It is an American chain, very successful. This has to be the most beautiful Starbucks in the world. It's beautiful ceiling is following it.
Dubai Creek: The creek divides Dubai into two parts - Deira Dubai and Bur Dubai. The creek is about 9 miles long, but very wide as you see in the pictures. It now has eight wharfages each capable of catering to 31 ships of capacity of up to 800 tons. Around 720,000 tons of cargo pass through the creek each year. Only wooden ships are allowed to enter the creek to keep its traditional feature. Countries which depend on the creek in their trade with Dubai are countries in the Gulf states, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Somalia and India. We just hired a small wooden boat (water taxi) for 90 minutes. You can't imagine how pleasant this evening was.
This is the Iranian (Shia) Mosque. The tile work is very intricate and beautiful.
This is the Jumeirah Mosque in Dubai (Sunni). Beautiful modern Islamic architectural style, outstanding external architectural details, built in the medieval Fatimid tradition in stone. I thought that the internal pastel coloring scheme was beautiful as well. We participated in a group tour here.
A composite of Dubai's beautiful architectures
There are a few more things, future projects, that you must see before leaving this page. There are three islands being constructed off shore in the shape of a palm tree and one in the shape of the world. They will be finished in the not to distant future. They are also the subject of programs on the National Geographic and Discovery Channels. Leading edge engineering and beautiful, unique concept. Other fantastic projects due are Burj Dubai, including the world's tallest building by 2008, Dubai Marina the world's largest man-made marina, Dubailand like Disneyworld but bigger, Dubai Pearl, Snowdome and many other brilliant residential developments with supporting commercial developments like shopping centers.
Example: The Jumeira Lakes residential project. To answer a question that some of you may have, water circulation is assured by design.
We made a very interesting trip into the desert. The real desert! The second picture with crystal clear water is called a wadi (big water hole - this one seems to have water in it all year long). It is much bigger and deeper than it looks, and for the old desert travelers it was vital to know where these wadi's were located. We had lunch at a beautiful spot, The Hatta Fort Hotel, right in the middle of the desert. Evidently it has a good source of underground water, because the landscaping is fantastic as you can see. And that would take a lot of water down here. We saw some huge sand dune areas. Some with people having fun riding all over them - and with RV's almost turning over, or skiing down or "sand boarding" down on them.
Bahrain and Dubai are fantastic places for a vacation.
Updated: November 21, 2006