September 14, 2014

Aquarium Fun

We have a new co-worker that just joined our team, so we wanted to show him around downtown and to one of our favorite places, the aquarium :). We started the morning getting coffee. Ben kept running away, and Caleb thought it was fun to keep catching him and brining him back. Every time Ben left, Caleb would put his hand over his face and say, 'not again!' It was hilarious.
 In the aquarium, the hedgehog and turtle was out. The boys like petting them, and today they got to feed the turtle breakfast.
 The penguins were active and all came out to say hello.
 Ben loves to stare at the fish.
 Lots of fish!
 I think this stingray looks like a cute old people smiling.
 On the other side of the aquarium is the science center. We didn't go in that day, but the boys had fun talking to each other through the pipes.
 It was a fun morning showing our new friend one of our favorite places in Kuwait.

September 10, 2014

Zoo, Park, and Spikey Hair

This past weekend (yes, I know the week is already half-way over), we ventured out to the zoo on a warm morning. We were one of maybe 3 other families there the entire morning. The boys had the place to themselves.
 Before we went home, the boys had some well-deserved juice and ice-cream.
Another day this weekend, we ventured to a falafel stand we heard was good, and found a new park. The kids at the park enjoyed playing with the boys, a lot.
This morning, Caleb woke up and told me he wanted spikey hair for school. Here's the final product, and two happy boys on the way to school this morning.


September 5, 2014

Dubai

Last week, we visited Dubai over the Labor Day weekend. It is a destination that we have wanted to see before leaving the region, and it only a little over an hour flight away. A few quick facts about Dubai. It is the most populous city and emirate in the United Arab Emirates, and the second largest emirate by size, after Abu Dhabi, the capital. Dubai is a very modern and global city, attracting people from all over the world. It is a business hub of the Middle East and Persian Gulf region. Dubai's economy was initially built on the oil industry, but now also receives a lot of revenue from tourism and other business industries. 
We arrived in Dubai in the mid morning, and went straight to the hotel. Our hotel was located on the Palm Jumeirah, which is a man-made island that began construction in 2001 and completed in 2006. It is the world's largest man-made island. 'World's largest' is a theme we saw throughout our stay.
We were greeted at our hotel with a beautiful beach and view of the city skyline. The weather was quite comparable to Kuwait, and felt refreshing with the nice beach breeze.
The boys loved exploring the hotel, and we'd frequently catch them holding hands walking or chasing each other down the hallways.
One thing Dubai is known for are the enormous and extravagant shopping malls.  We are not really mall people, but we wanted to see the Dubai Mall, which is the world's largest shopping mall. This is not just a shopping mall, inside is also an huge aquarium and ice skating rink!
Outside of the world's largest mall, was the world's largest skyscraper, the Burj Khalifa. It was lit up beautifully at night, and at the base of the building there was an great light show, similar to the Bellagio in Las Vegas.
video
The next day we went to the Palm Atlantis Hotel to look around, and we discovered the hotel had a great aquarium!
Later that day we went to another famous mall, Mall of the Emirates, which is known for it's indoor ski slope.
The boys really wanted to play in the snow, but as Nathan put it very well, where we come from snow is free…not $100/ticket. It was impressive to see the slopes, snow tubing, sledding, and to people watch, even if it was only through the glass.
The next day we got a little bit of local culture and visited a couple of souks. We wanted to visit the traditional souk, but our taxi driver did not understand and took us to the gold souk instead. We walked around for a little while, as you would expect there was lots of gold. Then we found the spice souk, which was really neat. Lots of great smells of middle eastern spices on beautiful display.
The old souk was across the Dubai creek, and we were glad to have the chance to take the ferry boat ride across. The creek divides the city into two main sections, Deira and Bur Dubai, and in the early 20th century was used as a minor port for dhow boats coming from India and East Africa.
video
From the boat, we saw a restaurant on the water, and we stopped for lunch before exploring the souk. We all enjoyed falafel, hummus, pita, and cold waters. Good old middle eastern staples :).
Their souk was very colorful and lively. People were friendly, and as usual Ben made friends with some shop owners. One thing that really annoyed me though,  was the harassment to come to people's shops, and everyone assumed that I wanted a knock off purse, shoes, watch, or scarves.
Ben also made friends with kids at the hotel. We are learning that Benjamin is definitely the more extroverted child.
We enjoyed swimming almost every day. The hotel had a great kids water play area, a few nice pools, and beach access.
Benjamin floated all by himself with his floaties, for the first time on this trip. The boys love jumping in off the side of the pool and splashing and floating in the water.
They had a lot of fun looking for seashells and playing by the shore. On our last day, Caleb even found a couple of starfish in the water and he liked holding them and sending them home in the sand.
We had nice sunsets every night.
On our last full day, we visited the Jumeirah Mosque, which is one of only three mosques in the UAE open to non-muslims.  The center for cultural understanding has been organizing visits of the mosque to promote cultural understanding and insight into Islam. The mosque was built under Shaikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, and it can accommodate up to 1,3000 people.
During the tour, the guide spoke about the five pillars of Islam, gave a demonstration on how Muslims pray, and talked about the purpose of wearing abayas and dishdashas.
The prayer hall of the mosque had many columns, and beautiful  lanterns hanging from the ceiling. The rug had patterns to guide the worshippers in rows to pray, five times a day, facing the direction of Mecca. On Friday during the noon-time prayer, the mosque's Imam delivers a sermon. In the UAE, the topic of the sermon is distributed to all mosques across the country, so the same topic is discussed across mosques, each week.
This mosque was special, it even had a kids play area. Ben stayed in his stroller and listened to most of the tour, but towards the end, he just wanted to play with Caleb. Kids room turned wrestling ring….
One thing Ben loves is to get thrown high in the air. Well, high he flew…holy smokes!
It was a very interesting day, and we were glad to visit.
Later that night, we explored the Dubai Marina. This was quite an impressive display of modern skyscrapers and boats. There was a nice boardwalk that curved along the water.
Our final morning, we swam, took naps, then headed to the airport.
It was a fun and relaxing weekend away, and we were thankful for the opportunity to explore a new place together.