Things to do in Hurghada with the family

In recent years, Hurghada has become Egypt’s premier beach destination thanks to its year-round sunny weather and amazing diving sites. Having been to both Sharm el Sheikh and Hurghada – i would say that Hurghada is more authentic in culture and much cheaper!

My family and I visited here in 2011 by accident. By ‘accidnet’ I mean that we travelled to Egypt so that we could go to Gaza Strip, Palestine. Once we got there, the Israeli/ Egyptian authorities closed the border so we were stuck in Egypt for 2 weeks. We decided to book a stay in Hurghada Marriott Beach Resort. Obviously the situation was far from ideal and we would have loved to have spent Ramadan with our family back home, but we had to make the best of our situation. With some last minute research, we discovered some of the main things to do in Hurghada.

Relax on the beach! 

The best thing to do in Hurhgada is to relax on the amazing beach and swim in the Red Sea. To this day, I still remember the fun we had on the beach and how we spent hours just talking and chilling in the warm sea. 

There are also plenty of sea sport activities you can do!

Take a Submarine Boat Trip

As the Red Sea is one of the main attractions in Egypt, it is definitely worth going underwater (either by diving or submarine) to see its colourful fish and bright corals. We toured with a company called Sindbad Submarines and they took us down 22m underwater. After submerging, a diver swam alongside the boat in order to bait attract wrasses, groupers and parrotfish. It was really fun! 

Ride a Camel

When in Egypt, you can’t miss the chance to go camel riding and experience the desert landscape from the back of a camel!  Even though its not the comfiest of rides, it was a fun experience.

Go Quad Biking in the Egyptian Desert

We went on the Quad Biking Safari tour mostly for my brother and fathers sake – but it ended up being so much better than i though. We were taken by minibus to the desert and then met with the other tourists. We were then shown to the ATV, how it works and then we went off in a convoy together.

We drove across the dunes of an Egyptian desert by Quad Bike and saw a desert mirage.

Having Dinner at a Bedouin Camp

After the ATV ride, we went to a Bedouin camp and learnt about life there. It was just in time to watch the sunset before dinner. 

The local Bedouins then sang and danced around the camp fire. 

El Dahar (Hurghada Old Town) 

North of Hurghada’s luxury resorts lies the Old Town of El Dahar where you’ll find the city’s most authentic restaurants and shops. One of the highlights of the trip is visiting a traditional Egyptian souk that’s crammed with shops selling leather, copper, shisha pipes and spices. 

Accommodation:

We stayed at Marriott Beach Resort and it was a great stay – luxurious yet affordable for a family.

Do you have any questions about travelling to Hurghada that I didn’t answer? Be sure to leave them in the comments, and I’ll get back to you as quickly as possible 🙂

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Highlights of Alexandria, Egypt

Alexandria has a very complex and impressive history beginning with its founding by Alexander the Great in around 331 BC (hence its name Alexandria). For several centuries, It was one of the great cities in the ancient world – second only to Rome. During the Hellenistic period, the city was home to several treasures of the ancient world including the Library of Alexandria, the home to ancient scripts and knowledge and the Pharos (Lighthouse of Alexandria), one of the official Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Unfortunately, both of these wonders are now gone, having succumbed over the millennia to fires, earthquakes, wars and reconstruction. This was also the case for all of Alexandria’s monuments – many of which are no longer visible, yet its history remains.  

Together, their history just highlights Alexandria’s importance and to the role it played in ancient, Hellenistic civilisation. Interestingly, Alexandria was the setting for the stormy love story between Julius Caesar, Cleopatra and Marc Antony. 

Many people visit Alexandria as a cruise stop or as a day trip from Cairo. As we were staying in Cairo for a few days and had some family friends living in Alexandria, we wanted to go and pay them a visit – and they very kindly took us on a quick tour around the city. There is a great inexpensive train service from Cairo and Alexandria which takes around 2.5 to 3 hours. 

Even though the city lost some of its grandeur of the past, with a bit of searching, you can still find bits of Alexandria’s glorious past. Saying this, I do recommend a balanced approach during your visit. Even though you can still enjoy the surviving sights, what I really enjoyed doing and what made this city memorable was its laid back and welcoming atmosphere. By this I mean – walk the city streets, enjoy a gentle stroll along the seaside promenade and explore its markets.

The Corniche

The first place our family friends took us to was to the Corniche, the waterfront promenade which stretches for 10 miles between Montana Plaza and Citadel of Qaitbay. I just loved stretching my legs after the train journey and taking in the sea air. We did as the locals and found a spot to sit down, enjoyed the serenity and did some people watching. 

Citadel of Qaitbay

The Citadel of Qaitbay was built where the famous Lighthouse once stood in 1480 AD by the Mamluk Sultan al-Ashraf Qaitbay. It was one of the most important defensive strongholds for Egypt along the Mediterranean Sea. It was upkept by the subsequent rulers due to it strategic location and importance against Ottoman attacks. However, it was seriously damaged by the British during the Urabi Revolt in 1882.  The fortress wasn’t used or renovated until King Farouk turned it into a royal palace in 1904. After the Egyptian revolution in 1952, the palace was restored and turned into a maritime museum, where it remains today to explore. 

Eat the Local Seafood

Alexandria is best known for its seafood. We went to the Balbaa Grill and Fish Village and guys – I cant recommend this place enough. It was just so delicious!  Its located in the Sidi Bishr neighbourhood and can seat up to 300 people. Its surrounded by locals but because the restaurant is so popular, they also operate several other restaurants in the city. Be sure to visit the original one! 

Balbaa serves delicious grilled fish, pigeon and liver. 

Al-Haramlik Palace

This is the most popular palace in the city – the large Al-Haramlik Palace (aka Al Montaza Palace). This was built by Kind Faud I in 1932 as a royal summer palace. It was also used as a residence for Egyptian presidents post 1952 revolution. The gardens are open to the public for a fee although the palace itself is not. 

Pompey’s Pillar

The Pompey’s Pillar is an architectural wonder, located amidst the ruins of the Serapeum in Alexandria. Its another very popular tourist attraction in the city. It is the largest Roman triumphal column constructed outside Rome or Constantinople. The full column stands over 26m tall.

So there is the list of things to do in Alexandria Egypt!

Do you have any questions about travelling to Alexandria that I didn’t answer? Be sure to leave them in the comments, and I’ll get back to you as quickly as possible 🙂

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Inside the GAZA STRIP

I wasn’t going to write this blog post. As a Palestinian, this is something personal to me that I wasn’t sure if sharing with my readers would be the best idea. 

But I wanted to share my experiences of travelling to the Gaza Strip for a few reasons. Politics aside, I wanted the world to know that behind these complex political and ideological issues – there is a reality of life that isn’t often shared. The reality of ordinary human beings who live their daily lives the best way they can, considering the lack of basic necessities, that we in the western world take for granted. 

Millions of people travel to Israel and those who are fortunate enough to travel to Palestine would have travelled to West Bank. No one goes to the Gaza Strip, mostly due to the fact that Israel imposes a blockage on the territory, restricting the movement of goods and people in and out. 

The only way a foreigner can get into Gaza is if they apply for a special visa /travel permit at the Israeli or Egyptian embassy. To have a visa granted, there needs to be a very specific reason as to why they are travelling to Gaza – e.g. diplomatic or humanitarian missions, or very important business reasons.  In other words, they are not allowed to physically travel there for tourism or private purposes. 

I have a Gazan ID card, so we usually go in through the Rafah border (Egypt). The whole process of getting into Gaza is extremely tedious and unpredictable. There was one time we visited and we were stuck in the border for 3 nights!

Home to 2 million people, Gaza is a small piece of land, roughly 40km from North to South and 6km from West to East. Its geographically separated from the West Bank by Israeli territory. 

Of course, I had to be very selective with the pictures I put up due to safety concerns but here are a few things I got up to in my one month travel back home:

  • Visiting Family

The main reason i go back is to visit my family. Life over there is all about gatherings and meeting with your friends and family – we would go from house to house meeting relatives, having SO much food and just enjoying each others company – people in the Strip are simple, friendly, hospitable and warmhearted. There is also a sense of trust and solidarity between neighbours and random people which i love. If you do visit Gaza though, expect inconveniences like power cuts and water issues a few times a day.

  • Reyad El-Alami Centre for Palestinian Heritage

The IWAN Centre of the Islamic University in Gaza and the Palestinian office for Development and Education signed the agreement for restoring the ancient House of Reyad El Alami. Uncle Reyad was my mum’s uncle and he has the oldest house in Gaza. My uncle took us on a tour of the museum. The gentleman in the photograph in the second picture is of my great-grandad – a very powerful man in Gaza.

  • Gaza Old Town

The Old City is the central part of Gaza and is about 1.6 square km. It is roughly divided into two quarters; the northern Daraj Quarter (Muslim Quarter) and the southern Zaytun Quarter (Jewish/Christian Quarters). Its incredible that the structures that remain dates from the Mamluk and Ottoman era, with some building being built on top of earlier structures. The older buildings uses the ablaq style of decoration which features alternating layers of red and white masonry, prevalent in the Mamluk era. The Daraj Quarter has two main points of attraction – The Great Mosque of Gaza and the Market.

  • Omari Mosque – The Great Mosque of Gaza

The Omari Mosque is the oldest and biggest mosque in the Strip and was built by the Mamluks in the 14th century. What was really interesting is that it incorporated elements and features of the religious buildings that was there from previous epochs. e.g. St John Basilica

  • Qaysariya and Al Zawiya markets

Adjacent to the mosque above and bordered north of Al-Wihda Street, there are two main markets that are very popular in the Old City. The first market is the Qasariya market, also known as the Gold Market. Many Gazans come here to buy the dowry for the bride before a wedding. The market is a narrow alley with vaulted roofs and shiny windows.

The second market is the Zawiya market which is an open-air souq in Gaza where you can find everything – from vegetables to household items. You can even buy cattle from here! This place is a heaven for Palestinian merchants. Please do remember to wear conservative clothing if you come here!

  • Qasr al-Basha

Otherwise known as Al- Pasha Palace, the elegant manor used to be the residence of local Mamluk and Ottoman governors. When Palestine was mandated under the British, it was transformed into a police station in which the cells and execution chamber can be visited today. Now, its a public archaeological museum with artefacts found in the Strip. It was a really interesting visit.

  • Restaurants

There are plenty of options for every wallet: from street food and cafés to posh restaurants. My family and i used to love visiting Lighthouse cafe which had a great atmosphere, music and nice views.

  • Gaza Beach and the Port of Gaza

All beaches are public in Gaza and can get very crowded. In the summer, you can see Gazans swim and fish despite the sea being polluted with sewage water. For most of the 2 million people in this overcrowded strip of land – the beach and sea are the only affordable form of recreation. Israeli-led blockade prevents spare parts from being obtained to carry out essential repairs. This is not helped by the daily power cuts and fuel shortages which means that they have little equipment to actually make it work. My grandma used to love coming to the beach and one of my last memories of her is of me sitting on her lap while she’s telling me stories. This is a picture of my cousins and i having shisha and coffee on the beach.

You can also walk along the pier to take nice photos of the traditional fishing boats with the city in the background.

  • Diwan Ghazza

My friend from university told me that i should meet her friend, Yasmeen in Gaza. I am so glad i did because not only did i meet such an inspiration woman that i am still close with today, but she also opened up my eyes to what the new generation are doing in Gaza. Yasmeen and her friends were fed up with the way the world views Gaza in the media and the negative aspects of it. The media disregards the beautiful, the educated and the inspirational. According to Yasmeen, “Gaza is a city no less capable than other cities, and the fact that we have gone through so much should add to our credit. Gaza breeds thinkers, and the only thing it teaches them is that they should do the thinking themselves. There are no cultural centers, theatres, cinemas or –updated- public libraries in Gaza, but that wasn’t going to stop us”. So they all set up Diwan Ghazza – a community of young thinkers where they have a book swap club and attend different cultural events in Gaza. I have no words guys… this is truly amazing.

I am so grateful that i met Yasmeen and she allowed me to see just how mentally strong young Gazans are. Given their extremely difficult and unbearable situation, they put their efforts and energy into education and learning. I get butterflies just thinking about it, but this is such an amazing initiative and i pray that it continues to grow and inspire people. It would be so easy to fall into violence in such a dire situation – but they don’t. They continue fighting the occupation by other means – I love it!

  • Horse-Riding with my cousin!

My grandad treated my sister and i to a horse-riding lesson at Faisal Equestrian Club, Gaza’s only riding club. I had no idea they even did horse-riding in Gaza! Despite the Israeli blockade and its awful economic consequences – its actually quite a popular sport. My sedo explained how the prophet (SAW) taught us there are three sports that we should learn and perfect – horse-riding, archery and swimming. He explained how its Arab honour to be able to ride a horse and is a huge part of our culture.

Faisal Equestrian Club started with a few Arabian horses that were bred in Gaza but then other horses from Egypt and Syria were later imported through the tunnels. My cousin, Mai Al-Alami is a Palestinian show jumper and is so talented and what she does.

  • Bayara (vineyard)

My memories of Gaza is usually revolved around our Bayara, which is similar to a vineyard with a house and swimming pool. We would have chickens in the hut where we’d collect the eggs every morning, and collect different fruits from the tree. The whole family would gather here in the weekend to have a BBQ, swim in the pool and chat. I have such fond memories of this place and just really appreciated the simplicity of life here.


Fast Facts (according to the UN):

– The population of Gaza is 2 million, with over 50% under 18.
– 38% of Gazans live in poverty.
– 26% of the Gazan workforce, including 38% of youths, is unemployed.
– The average wage declined by over 20% in the past six years.
– 54% of Gazans are food insecure and over 75% are aid recipients.
– 35% of Gaza’s farmland and 85% of its fishing waters are totally or partially inaccessible due to Israeli military measures.
– 50-80 million litres of partially treated sewage are dumped in the sea each day.
– Over 90% of the water from the Gaza aquifer is undrinkable.
– 85% of schools in Gaza run on double shifts.
– About one-third of the items in the essential drug list are out of stock.
– Since the beginning of 2010, 64 Palestinian civilians have been killed and 621 injured by Israeli forces; over 60% of casualties occurred in the access-restricted areas. Another 60 civilians were killed and 137 were injured in tunnel-related accidents.

Have you ever visited Palestine? What are your thoughts?

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Dubai Miracle Garden – The Floral Wonderland

I read about Dubai Miracle Garden on someone’s travel blog and It looked so much bigger and grander than any other botanical garden I’ve been to. Fortunately in March 2018, I had the chance to visit during my trip to Dubai. The botanical garden opens every year between mid-November to mid-May. Im so glad we came as this place is not just a huge garden with lots of flowers – it has impressive art installations, sculptures an exhibitions. You can literally see flowers EVERYWHERE.  

The garden is huge – 72,000 m2 to be precise and has 45 million flowers. I believe Dubai Miracle Garden holds a Guinness World Record for being the highest vertical garden, which is pretty impressive. 

The clock below actually works and its hands move – the blew me away!

The image below is an Emirates A380 replica and was constructed in the park with more than 500,000 fresh flowers and living plants covering it. What i assumed was a collaboration with UAE international airline, Emirates – this life-sized plane is just so magnificent (and slightly over the top). I later found out that when its in full bloom, the structure will hold 5 million flowers and weigh over 100 tonnes! WHAT THE HECK.

 

The Emirates logo alone requires over 9000 flowers and the large wings requires 100,000. I loved how the wings were supported by ‘tree-trunks’. It took 200 people working 10 hours a day for 180 days to build this aircraft structure. Isn’t that just mind boggling! 

The amount of effort that would go behind sustaining this garden is just unthinkable – especially with Dubai’s warm weather. 

Have you been to Dubai Miracle Garden? What are your thoughts? Be sure to leave them in the comments, and I’ll get back to you as quickly as possible 🙂

Is Dubai Worth Visiting?

Dubai was a very last minute decision for me. I was in situation where I felt like I had to just press pause on my everyday routine and go somewhere, by myself. So, I booked my flights three day prior to me going and just hoped for the best. I had no fixed plans as such – I just packed my bags, brought my passport and boarded a flight. There was so much to discover in Dubai but I just wanted to go with the flow. 

Truth be told, I was never a huge fan of Dubai. I never liked how superficial it all seemed and how it lacked culture and history – the two things I adore most about travelling. But I was pleasantly surprised. My cousin Hassan showed me the beauty of Dubai in a way I never quite appreciated before. Its quite easy to forget that this place is actually a desert that has been reclaimed and built over, with structures that are as grand and sprawling as any of the sheikh’s palaces. Hassan showed me that even though the main city is extremely modern, there are still areas where one can appreciate the “old Dubai”. These are some of the most mesmerising locations where every traveller to Dubai should visit.

  • Burj Khalifa

Of course, the first thing people think of Dubai is the Burj Khalifa – the tallest structure in the world. You could ride the elevator to the 124th floor for breath-taking city views extending to all the way to the Persian Gulf. There are also special telescopes that shows scenes of the city from different points in time, which is really cool as it allows you to experience every stage of Dubai’s history. I just walked around the structure and appreciated the view from the outside. 

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  • Jumeriah Beach

My cousin took me here at the break of dawn to appreciate the beach while its quite and to view the sunrise. Ancient Dubai was deprived from water but modern Dubai has beaches all around. There are plenty of water sports you could do here and it is also equipped with a children’s playground. This was one of my most favourite days in Dubai as I just spent the morning swimming, walking on the beach and reading my book, while my cousin went to work. There is also Jumeirah Mosque close by, but I didn’t go there as I didn’t adhere to the traditional dress code. However, I would strongly recommend a visit here for its educational value and cultural significance.

  • Burj Al Arab

Between Jumeriah Beach and the Palm Islands, there lies an architectural beauty called the Burj Al Arab which opened in 1999. I didn’t realise before I went that its actually one of the tallest hotels in the world and houses the tallest atrium at nearly 600 feet high. I didn’t go inside, but for those of you who aren’t staying in the hotel itself, you could still gain entry by grabbing a bit at one of the on-site restaurants. Whether you go inside or not, get a snap of one of Dubai’s most photographed structure. 

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  • Dubai Mall 

Dubai Mall is the largest shopping centre in the world and houses 1200 stores and 800 brands in one roof – CRAZY. I spent half a day just shopping in here and people watching! There are other attractions in the mall including an ice-rink, a movie theatre and an aquarium that houses more than 33,000 underwater creatures. Hassan took me to Reel Cinema, located in Dubai Mall and this took the cinema experience to a whole new level! The VIP experience allows visitors to be pampered with upscale amenities, personalised butler service and never seen before luxurious seats with a private lounge. It was amazing but WAY over the top haha.

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  • Dubai Fountain

The Dubai Fountain is located at the Dubai Mall and was designed by the same architects of the fountains at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. My cousin and I passed by this walking to Dubai Festival City and just managed to catch the 3 minutes fountain show. It was quick and not very elaborate – which is surprising for Dubai. I was disappointed but maybe because I wasn’t feeling the song. There were restaurants with outdoor patios located around the fountains too but we just carried on walking. 

  • Festival City

We went to Dubai Festival City which is a shopping mall with over 500 brands and stores. It’s the home of Ikea and Zara flagship store! Hassan took me for a quick wonder around here but then we passed a sign for the Helipad Cinema. It was such a great coincidence as it was showing a free open air movie by the Festival Bay in the condition that you buy something from the mall. We went to buy a few snacks from the shop and came back to get the free tickets! We ended up watching Florence Foster Jenkins movie which was about New York socialite (Meryl Streep) dreams of becoming a great opera singer even though she couldn’t sing. It was just such a great evening, lounging on bean bags, watching a movie with the best views and company!

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  • Atlantis, The Palm

There is actually more than one palm-shaped island in Dubai, but the famous one has to be The Palm where the grand Atlantis Hotel is at. We drove to The Palm but you can’t really tell thats its palm-shaped when you are on it. It does look pretty cool though when you’re tracking location on an offline map app.

  • Dubai Miracle Garden

This is a huge botanical garden in Dubai and is one of the most visited tourist attraction – especially by nature lovers. I’ve written about my experience of visiting this here. 

  • Global Village

This is also another popular tourist destination. We just drove past here but it is a collection of different pavilions each offering a cultural attraction of varied countries. My mother bought my Palestinian henna party thobe from here! There are also different stage shows you can attend and different country’s cuisine.

  • La Mer

La Mer is a relatively new development in Dubai and consists of 2.5km strip of white sands, eclectic promenade bustling restaurants, colourful graffiti and wall art. It has a very laid-back and relaxed atmosphere. This promenade is inspired by marine décor like timber and ropes, rusted metal tapes, barrels, pirate chests etc. Hassan and I actually came here in the evening to meet with our cousin Ragheb and it was so chilled – I cant even explain guys… the music, ambiance, service was just perfect. 

  • Go to a beach club/shisha lounge

We went to Barasati Beach on the first night I arrived. I was actually planning on staying home and have an early night, but my cousin had other plans for me – and boy im glad he did! I absolutely loved this beach bar from its Caribbean feel to the crowd that it attracted. We just chilled near the beach smoking shisha and catching up as it was a few years since we last saw each other. The place seemed like the ultimate hang out spot for party goers. 

SO, WAS DUBAI WORTH VISITING?

As a traveler that craves visiting different places, then the answer for me is yes. It gave me plenty of content to write about which was good. Of course, i have family living in Dubai so i would love to go back to see them again. However, Dubai would not be my top choice if i needed to get away from London – it just didn’t have much culture for my liking.

Do you have any questions about travelling to Dubai that I didn’t answer? Be sure to leave them in the comments, and I’ll get back to you as quickly as possible 🙂

Getting Local In Sharjah

I was based in Sharjah for the week as that’s where my auntie lived. Im so glad that I did because it was so much more authentic than Dubai and much more ‘Arab’. Forty years ago, while Dubai was still not much more than a seedy trading port, Sharjah was at the forefront of tourism development. However, Sheikh al-Qasimi changed his mind and decided that he actually wanted western influences for his people and so instead, enforced sharia law to his people.  

I woke up most days to the sound of the adhan. It was such an amazing way to wake up. I’d walk up to the balcony to find people parking all over the street. I even saw people park in the middle of the roundabout, run out their car and run to pray. It was rather surreal but so inspiring how connected people are with their religions here. I would love to live somewhere where you can hear the adhan. 

Here are a few places I went to during my stay in Sharjah: 

  • Sharjah Lake
  • Palm Trees Oasis 
  • Fish Market
  • Old Town Sharjah 

Sheikh al-Qasimi was also much more concerned than other leaders in preserving what is left of the area’s past. He preserved a lot of the old buildings that houses musems and a fort.  In the evening, I met with my friend from university, Abdullah and he showed me around the old parts of Sharjah as that’s where he is originally from. We sat in his car drinking karak tea while catching up. 

  • Sharjah Beach 
  • Gold Souk 

They used to unload the goods from Iran and sell them on the seafront. The souk recently moved to this soulless two-storey building in the heart of town – least to say, I was not impressed with the building. It’s a great place to shop for gold and souvenirs as the price is much lower than in Dubai! 

Do you have any questions about travelling to Sharjah that I didn’t answer? Be sure to leave them in the comments, and I’ll get back to you as quickly as possible 🙂

Scuba Diving in Fujairah: An Underwater World

Y’all know me by now – im not one to shy away from new experiences. BUT, when it comes to animals… ill pass. So when my cousin Hassan suggested we go scuba-diving, i almost choked on my coffee. Why would anyone put themselves in the middle of the sea and be surrounded by fish? 

Yet, for some reason, i found myself waking up the next morning at 6am to go to scuba diving. The drive to Fujairah was as fun as always with Hassan, being the energetic, crazy man he is – we were already blasting out renditions of old school RnB.

We drove through ever-ending deserts before arriving at the hotel. Truth be told, I never even heard of Fujariah before this trip. It was the youngest emirate and gained independence from Sharjah in 1952. It is separated from its neighbours by the towering Hajar mountains and is the only emirate not to have access to the Persian Gulf. It is however, the best place to do snorkelling and scuba-diving in the region.

Hassan gave me a quick half-an-hour safety lesson and we went through the PADI booklet. At this point, i was still questioning what on earth i was doing with my life. I have a phobia of fish guys! 😦  

After him signing the section off, we practised the main techniques in the swimming pool. I learnt the hand motions for “im okay”, and “lets go up”. I also started getting used to breathing underwater and remembering not to hold my breath. It sounds weird but it takes a long time to get used to the idea that you won’t be swallowing in water if you breath.

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After Hassan was satisfied that i will be okay to go into the sea, we got the swimsuit and equipment on and walked to the boat. Swimsuits are the most uncomfortable (and unflattering) thing ever, but i grinned and bared it.

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We got onto the boat and was joined by other scuba divers who were either taking lessons with their instructors or just very experienced scuba divers going for fun. Hassan seemed very popular and well-loved there as everyone came up to greet him and told me that im being trained by the very best. 

Finally, after the boat stopped and people were falling, back first into the sea, i kicked back my nerves and followed my cousin in.

We went down 12m and after swimming a while, we were slowly getting surrounded by fish – and A LOT of them! I was starting to panic and if i could, i would’ve been sweating buckets. My breathing was getting shorter and i was holding onto Hassan’s hand for dear life. He noticed that i was not normal and at that point, i was kicking myself for not telling him sooner that i have phobia of fish. I was trying to get to the top asap, but then he hugged me underwater to calm me down – which helped. He then took my hand and swam to the bottom so that we could kneel on the seabeds. It took a while for my breathing to be normal again and so after doing all of the hand techniques he taught me, we slowly carried on swimming around the riverbeds and looking at the different types of fish. I gotta say guys, he handled the situation SO well and i couldn’t be more grateful. 

We then went up after an hour of swimming so that we could have a break. The boat took us to another sight where there was a shipwreck and so we started exploring around the ship to see the different types of fish. It was just such a surreal experience! One thing to remember though if you do go scuba diving – make sure you go to the loo beforehand as it ain’t so easy holding it in while swimming!

After a few hours of scuba-diving, we took off the swimsuit. Its amazing how quickly time flew by. Hassan then treated me to a very authentic Yemenese restaurant where groups would sit in their cubicles and eat their dinner  in a very traditional way by sitting on the floor. The food was absolutely delicious and we definitely worked up an appetite.

It was just the most amazing experience and i would definitely do it again. Thank you so much to my most amazing cousin for letting this all happen and for of course putting up with my shenanigans.

Hassan made me feel so relaxed during this whole experience – i HIGHLY recommend you trying this out if you are ever in Dubai. Check out his page here: https://www.facebook.com/FantasyScubaDiving/

Do you have any questions about scuba-diving that I didn’t answer? Be sure to leave them in the comments, and I’ll get back to you as quickly as possible 🙂

Day Trip in Abu Dhabi

During my time visiting Dubai, I was certain that Abu Dhabi, one of the 7 Emirates and the capital of UAE, had to be on the itinerary. With only 1 million locals and 7 million expats, you still get a taste of this country’s culture and beliefs. Waking up at 7am on the second day, my cousin picked me up and started the journey from Sharjah to Abu Dhabi.

Yas Waterworld

Our first stop was the Yas Waterworld. I absolutely love water-parks, but this one was on a completely different scale. It has 43 rides and experiences. We decided to first dip our feet in the cool waters of the artificial beach, which was by far the most relaxing attraction there. For some reason, my cousin thought it would be a good idea to start of with the most monstrous drops in the park, ‘Jebel Drop’ and ‘Hamlool’s humps’. Looking back, I am still surprised I let my cousin talk me into doing this. My back wasn’t even touching the slide!

After getting my heart rate back to my normal, we continued going on the rides. These were some of my favourites:

‘Falcons’s Falaj’ – the 6-person raft ride.

Liwa Loop – looping free fall slide – bottom escapes – you just drop straight into a looping waterslide.

Al Raha River – Lazy river. We stopped half way to watch a pearl diver looking for pearls in this enclosed pool. My cousin explained at how pearl diving has been happening more than 7000 years ago where it was the city’s only commodity. Well before the money from the oil boom, UAE was thriving off the money made from pearls.

Louvre Abu Dhabi

We then drove to Saadiyat Island, a man made island on the coast of UAE where the Louvre Abu Dhabi was located. I was so excited to visit the new Louvre since it opened on 11th November 2017. The dome itself is a work of art, with its randomly perforated woven design and Arabesque patterns. It was created by French architect Jean Novel.

All in all, it was a great experience with some fantastic art from Centre Pompidou, Musee Rodin, Chateau De Versailles and Musee d’Orsay. Just try not to compare it to the one in Paris where Da Vince’s Mona Lisa reigns. Each gallery will transport you through different periods in history, and each telling its own story. I appreciated how each gallery linked smoothly to the next one.

Below are some of my fave art pieces from the Louvre.

I definitely recommend it for those who love universal arts and culture. My cousin’s friend Vanine joined us half way through and as a photographer; she enjoyed taking photographs of the masterpieces.

Sheikh Zayed Mosque

Before heading back home, we quickly stopped off the breath-taking Sheikh Zayed Mosque. This is the largest mosque in the world and can accommodate at least 40,000 worshippers. It was completed fairly recently on December 20th, 2007 in which the proponent of this mosque is the founding father of the UAE, His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyun who was also buried in the site.

My favourite part of the mosque is the marble columns with paintings of flower. They are all hand-painted individually.  Those leaf details on the crown of each column are made out of real gold – there are no words to describe how stunning and intricate they are.

abu-dhabi-mosque

The ceiling, domes and swarovski chandeliers are quite a sight to behold. My cousins friend told me how this is apparently the largest carpet in the world.

Family Holiday in Amman

I visited Amman back in 2006 as my grandparents were living there at the time. We stayed in their house for 2 weeks and during that time, we had a chance to view Jordan’s most iconic sights. Apart from visiting family and friends, these are just some of the things we got up to:

  • Camping With Bedouins in Wadi Rum

I was really looking forward to camping with the bedouins in Wadi Rum as i’ve never camped in the desert! We rode on the camels to the camp which was a fun activity in itself. We arrived at the camp and settled into our tents. I shared a tent with my brother, which i found out later in the evening to be a terrible mistake.

Afterwards, we joined our group, sat around, ate some food and then chatted all evening. At night, electricity is rationed and so there is not much to do. However, everyone in the group all sat in the a circle around the fire and we all got up dancing, singing, telling stories and drinking tea until the early hours of the morning.

Once i did get she sleep, i had a massive nose bleed in the middle of the night due to its being too hot. I had no light to see where the tissues are and so i woke my brother up (and half the tents around us). All he did was laugh, so it resulted in me throwing a strop, lying down on my back and waiting for it to stop. Apart from that incident, it was an unforgettable and peaceful experience.

  • Floating in the Dead Sea

Floating in the Dead Sea was an experience i remember to this day. Its such a unique travel experience that Jordanians are very proud of.

The Dead Sea has a very high salt content due to it being 430m below sea level, which causes it to evaporate much faster than usual. Because of this, no life can survive it and you are can’t snorkel/dive or submerge your head in the water – because you will come straight back up – the only thing you can do is float!

However, because of its very high salt levels, it will be excruciatingly painful if you have eczema. My sister suffers from rather extreme eczema and was wailing with pain, forcing her to get out.

After floating in the sea – it was time to get muddy! The mineral-rich Dead Sea mud is famous for its healing properties as it can cure hundreds of myserteous skin ailments. Even though it hurt my sister, she left it on for 20 minutes (recommended time) before heading to the sea to washout. Surprisingly, the eczema dried up and flicked right off. It really was the most amazing medicine for her.

  • Walking into Petra

I was so impressed by Petra. It took us quite a long time to arrive to the Treasury. The long, winding path is 1.2km long and took us around 40 minutes to walk it as well as taking pictures. Half way through, i was definitely questioning if we’d ever make it out as the walk seemed to be going on forever.

The Treasury looked amazing as well the groovy sandstone. There were many magical moments in Petra as its beauty came out in all its glory.

  • Smoking Shisha in the Old Town

We explored the Old Town by foot and walked through its cobbled streets. We spent most of our evenings here smoking shisha, chatting to the people around us and relax. As its much cooler in the evenings, the whole city comes alive until the early hours of the morning.

  • Going Back in Time in Jerash Roman Ruins 

Out of all the views in Jordan, my favourite was Jerash and seing the ancient city’s colonnade in the foreground with the modern city in the background. These ruins in Jerash are one of the most impressive in the Middle East but due to the fact these ruins dont have UNESCO World Heritage Status, they are almost unheard off.

Jerash was a strategic trading point with Damascus on the north, Amman to the south and Jerusalem to the west. This city only rose to prominence in the first century AD but began to decline after the Persian invasion of 614. Today, it is Jordan’s second most visited sight, after Petra.