Welcome to my Yemen blog

3 06 2008

Welcome to my Yemen blog. I hope you will enjoy following along on my adventures here over the next three months.

So far, I have been in Yemen several days now and have been through much tribulation. I have finally gotten everything resolved now, I think, and have leisure to begin this blog. But let me begin at the beginning….

I left Utah on a red eye flight to New York’s JFK airport on Wednesday, May 28. The flight was supposed to leave at 12:30 AM, but was delayed two hours so I sat around the airport until 2:30 AM. Being thoroughly exhausted from spending the day packing and making final arrangements, I spent about half that time asleep. I was also able to sleep for another 3 hours or so on the flight.

Because my flight from Salt Lake was delayed, I was really stressed out that I would not have enough time to claim my bags from Delta and change terminals and check-in with Emirates Airline. When we landed at JFK, we seemed to spend forever taxiing around the airport then waiting for another plane to move so that we could pull up at our gate. I was very impatience to get my bags and thought about what I would do it wither of them was lost or delayed. Fortunately, everything was fine. I was able to get to the international terminal easily and checked in for my flight almost two hours before departure time. I had just enough time to go through security again, buy some breakfast and talk to Mom on the phone a few minutes.

When I booked my Emirates flight, I requested a window seat about half way back on the plane. Just as I was boarding the plane, I looked at my ticket and realized that they had changed my seat to a middle seat farther back. I resigned myself to it since there was no time to argue with anyone, but just as I sat down, a stewardess asked me if I was willing to move to an isle seat further to the front so that a child was not separated from its parent. Of course, I was quite willing. A window seat would have been better, both for the view when landing and to have a wall to lean against to sleep, but I was satisfied.

The flight was nice. Emirates has nice amenities. They severed lunch/dinner a couple of hours after departure, a substantial snack part way through the flight, and breakfast an hour or so before arrival. Dinner and breakfast were both large, multi-course meals that were excellent. They were both big enough that I couldn’t eat it all in one serving and saved bits to eat a while later.

The best part, however, was the on-demand entertainment. It was great to pick what I wanted to watch from literally hundreds of choices of movies and TV shows. I could start the show whenever I was ready and pause it whenever I needed to, such as when my row-mates needed to get past me or when the stewardesses were serving meals etc. This way I never missed a bit. Despite these great distractions, I was able to sleep several hours, I think. (I’m not actually sure how long because changing time zones so much made it hard to me to keep track of when anything was happening.)

We arrived in Dubai at about 7:30 AM. I took my carry-on baggage and made my way hesitantly through the airport. As interested as I was in seeing Dubai, I was feeling much less adventurous and excited being alone. It would have been so much better if I was traveling with someone. Once I made my way though passport control and customs, I went to look for the shuttle to my hotel. I followed to signed but never found an area with various hotel shuttles, much less my own hotel. So I back tracked a bit and grabbed a taxi instead.

My first impression of Dubai was that it reminded me of Athens. The roads were lined with narrow, individually owned shops specializing in something like soap and lotion, or cell phones, or kitchen appliances, etc. Your local neighborhood whatever store rather than big chain stores seems to be the norm outside of the US. (I remember that when I first arrived in Athens, it reminded me of Jordan, so I shouldn’t have been surprised by a similar impression of Dubai.)

I made it to my hotel around 8:30 AM. Check-in time is officially 3 pm, so I wasn’t sure if they would let me check-in and leave my bags so early in the morning, however, there was no problem at all. It didn’t phased the clerk at all. I went up stairs to my room, freshened up a bit then went back down to the lobby to begin site seeing. The hotel (or at least the clerk at reception) seemed to have a connection with a particular tour company and he had offered to book a daytime city tour or an evening desert safari for me. After preparing myself, I decided to go for the city tour. I had instructions from a friend from Dubai for a self-guided tour, I also had information of a tour bus route that you could get on and off at the major attractions and stay as long as you want. In the end I decided to go with the hotel recommended tour however, because it was easiest (they pick you up and drop you off at your hotel) and it meant I was with a group rather than having to do everything entirely alone.

It was nice to drive through the city and just look out the window. My second impression of Dubai is that everything is new. All the buildings look like they were build in the last 5 – 10 year (mainly because they were) and there was construction everywhere building new things. The tour was nice, we visited the main historical museum (but only stayed 20 mins. I could have stayed 2 hours, probably, so it would have been nice to have the flexibility of the other tour bus route, but in the end I decided it worked out better the way I did it.) We also saw the Dubai Creek, a long inlet from the Persian Gulf around which Dubai is built. We drove past the gold and spice souqs (markets), and again I would have liked to have the option to stop and walk through them, but that was a place I knew I could come back to easily in the evening. We also drove out along the beach and saw the big 5-star hotels and the man-made islands in the shape of stylized palm trees and a world map. (Check out satellite images of these on Goggle earth.) You can really only tell what they are from the air. We drove out on the trunk of one palm island, but all you can see is that the whole length of the road is lined with identical, high-class apartment buildings.

While we were looking at the fancy hotels, we stopped by a public beach to take pictures of Burj al-Arab, the hotel shaped like a billowing sail of a sailboat. Most of us took advantage of the stop to wade in the Persian Gulf. I was shocked at how warm, almost hot, the water was; really like bath water. Considering that the air temp. was supposed to be 108° F and the water was probably over 70°, it was no wonder the beach was mostly deserted.  (I’ve been corrected that the water temp. was probably closer to 90° to feel like bath water.)  The beach and swimming was no respite from the heat.

By the time we were heading back to the hotel at about 3:30 pm, I could barely stay awake. It was all I could do to make it upstairs to my room and crash on the bed. I slept for about 3.5 hours. When I woke up it was dark. I’d wanted to go to the gold and spice souqs on my own, but was not feeling that adventurous in the dark by myself. Instead, I walked the street near my hotel looking for a shwarma place for dinner. (Shwarma is the Arabic equivalent of a Greek gyro.) After a yummy dinner, I watched CNN Asia for a while then went back to bed.

Unfortunately, I was awake again by 2:30 in the morning and couldn’t get back to sleep. While I would have rather been asleep, I did enjoy hearing the call to pray at 3:30 in the morning. I had to get up at 4:30 to get ready and get to the airport for my 7 AM flight to Sana’a, Yemen, so it wasn’t so bad.

More to come soon. Hopefully I can upload some pictures soon as well. …

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6 responses

3 06 2008
Mark

Sounds like quite the adventure. I’ve seen pictures of places in Dubai. You’ll have to try the indoor ski resort.
If the Persian Gulf water felt like bath water at 108 degrees then the water temperature must be in the high 90’s. I went in our pool on Memorial Day when the water was 70 and it felt painfully cold compared to the 98 degree air temperature.

Looking forward to reading more . . .

3 06 2008
Jared

Wow. You are quite the world traveler. I get scared going to downtown Cincinnati all by myself. Look forward to hearing/reading more. Love ya.

4 06 2008
Grandma

I have appreciated getting information from your mother, and enjoy reading about your trip. That is as near I will get to seeing those places.
We are still having warm weather followed by coo days. Today is a cool day with rain, if we are lucky.
It has been nice to finally have a fence to keep the dog out of our yard. Nothing new here for me,
Take care of your self.
Love, Grandma

4 06 2008
Grandpa

Hi Celest,
You are quite a brave lady, but have had some very interesting adventures. We really enjoy hearing from you. I pray for your
well being. Have you met any LDS there? Where is your friend
Lauren, from?

6 06 2008
Grandma

The pictures were great. What a beautiful place. The water looked very inviting, especially if is it warm.
Kent drove Grandpa and me to see Evan graduate today. It was nice. The Polynesians students were all decked out with lei’s of all kinds. One girl had so many you could hardly see her face. All of Kents family have graduated from Granger High now, in fact all of our grandchildren have graduated from there.
Be careful so you don’t fall down those stairs. It sounds like it would be a long way with the risers so high.
Love you, Grandma

9 06 2008
Kent

I’m should talk to Pres. Mac about a choir tour to Dubai. Then he’d probably say, “Yeah, right.”

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