Sheikh Zayed Palace Museum

There’s something about visiting historic landmarks, of walking the same ground, of sharing the same space as people of long ago. This experience was no different. Except for visitors, the Sheikh Zayed’s palace, situated near the Hili Oasis in Al Ain, is empty now, but I imagined the life energy that once inhabited it—the Sheikh and his family, the workers, the visitors.

Historic decisions were made, yes, but the plain old stuff of everyday living happened as well and I felt it all, or maybe I just imagined I did. Either way, I was moved as I traversed the halls, stepping inside the majlis (meeting rooms) and visualizing the discussions that took place between the leaders and elders.

I was moved as I imagined the children studying then playing in the courtyards, the women having tea or coffee and tending their children, the cooks stirring those oversized pots as they prepared meals fit for a king.

I pictured the Sheikh driving his Land Rover back to the palace as he returned home from his regular visits with the Bedouin.

I imagined the aroma of frankincense, myrrh, cassia, and cinnamon as its fragrant white smoke wafted from the burners placed throughout the palace.

I imagined, too, how hot it must’ve been and wondered if I could’ve survived the 100+ degree heat there in the desert.

It was all there, and I felt it…or maybe I just imagined I did.

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Our desert safari

Our safari afternoon began when we met our driver at Al Jimi Mall. For the next half hour or so, we admired the dunes and date trees along the highway.

Off the highway, we caught sight of a caravan of camels crossing the desert road ahead of us.

At our desert oasis, we kicked off our shoes and walked barefoot in the sand and despite the heat, the sand was cool between our toes.

During the dune bash, our driver took us on a high-speed ride up and down the sand dunes—some steep, some not so steep—sometimes taking us to the very edge of a dune where it looked as if we might fall off!

During the ride, we stopped to make photos and climbed atop a dune. My niece and her friend, not allowing the thought of the climb back up to deter them, decided to run down the other side. And yes, the walk, which was more of a crawl for one, was indeed a struggle!!

The girls went quad riding while sis and I stayed behind to photograph them.

Camel rides were available, too, but we declined. Bellowing its displeasure, one of the camels made it clear that he wasn’t up for giving any rides, and the one person who insisted was not so politely disembarked.

Another highlight of the afternoon was the henna painting. I’d seen others wearing henna tattoos, but I’d never had one myself. Now, I’ll be sporting mine for the next several days.

Before dinner, we were audience to a falcon show. Our host gave us the history of the falcon, which is the UAE’s national bird, before the trainer demonstrated the falcon’s hunting procedure.

A highlight, too, was being photographed wearing the traditional abayas, burqas, jeweled headpieces, and necklaces.

After sunset, we convened to our tent for dinner then watched a “rags to riches” documentary about the history of the United Arab Emirates while sipping chai under the stars.

What an adventure!

To market, to market and a few other things

We left mid-afternoon Sunday to grocery shop, a task we procrastinated doing Saturday. After a day spent seeing Hili Archeological Park and Hili Oasis, our visit to an Emerati home, the mall, and dinner, we were simply too pooped for the market.

Our first stop was the Souq Al Zaafarana marketplace in Al Jimi where they sell everything from fruit and vegetables to shoes and handicrafts. We purchased produce from several independent venders who were all selling pretty much the same thing. The cabbages were huge and the ginger root so beautiful it made me swoon!

From the Souq, we went to Lu Lu Hypermarket where they sell everything…except maybe grits and baking soda, this time anyway. Ava has purchased grits there before. The advice is if they have that thing you like, you’d better stock up because they may not have it again for a while.

I looked for my beloved baby Lima beans but didn’t find any so I decided to try their broad beans. I haven’t cooked them yet and neither have I drank the camel milk I purchased.
I will, though.

We arrived around 3 pm but didn’t leave until 7:30! Yes, it was that kind of shopping—from home goods to electronics and groceries. We also spent about thirty minutes catching up with a colleague of hers.

Included here are a few pics I snapped at the market. Some are of products I’ve seen in the U.S. but with a twist here. Others I’d never seen.

Fragrance is big here, too—citrus, rose, and lilac scented tissues, for example. I passed on that, though, and purchased my usual: tissues with lotion. Downy fabric softener is marketed with fragrances that make you “Feel Elegant” and “Feel Relaxed”. Hmmm, I wonder if that’s while doing laundry or after?

Also included are photos of Hili Oasis and Hili Archeological Park.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New friends, gardens, beehives, and barbecues

After visiting an Emerati home this afternoon, sipping coffee and chai tea, eating dates, guava, and sfenji (donuts sprinkled with sesame seeds and soaked/dipped in honey), our host showed us his herb and vegetable gardens, his pomegranate, guava, and lemon trees, and his beehives. We left with hands full of fruit and an invitation to return for a barbecue before my visit to the UAE ends.