Sunday, November 21, 2010

DUBAI TRIP - A TRAVELOGUE - PART 3

Dear Friends,

Hope you all had a wonderful time during the Eid-Al-Adha (Bakrid) holidays. Here is the third (final) part of the travelogue of my Dubai trip.

Ancient Dubai:


When we talk of a place, we are interested in knowing its ancient history as well. Though there are not much details about the history of Dubai, the first human settlement seems to be traced to approximately 3000 BC. It seems that a Persian Dynasty called Sassanids were ruling the area of Dubai creek from 224 AD till 6th Century AD and were driven out by the Umayyads who brought Islam to this area. During the period they had been mainly engaged in the pearl diving activity and trading of pearls with China for obtaining silk and porcelain from them.

One of the buildings excavated in Jumeirah (9th - 12th Century AD)
Later during the 16th century the Portuguese attempted to control local trade, but then they retreated due to similar attempts by French, Dutch and British attempts to take over them. Finally, British gained control over the sea trade routes by 1766. By 1833 the Bani Yas tribe from the Liwa Oasis moved to Dubai and settled down there, forming the Al Maktoum dynasty which rules Dubai till date.

There has not been much information regarding our ancestors moving to Dubai or any traditional element found to prove it. It seems that after oil discovery in Dubai during 1966, many Indians have moved in for earning their living. However, it is worthy to note that Indian Rupees was in usage in the country until the Federal Government introduced UAE Dirhams in 1972. This could be due to the British rule during the preceeding 150 years in Dubai.

There is only one Hindu temple in Dubai, however it seems to be established to cater to the Hindu community residing in Dubai, and doesn’t seem to have any ancient history behind it. I was unable to visit the same due to the tight schedule of our sightseeing plans.

Dhow Cruise:

After a wonderful city tour during the day on 11th Sep 2010, we had the scheduled trip in the dhow cruise in the evening. Dhow is a type of a traditional Arabian vessel which was used for fisheries and pearl diving earlier. Currently it is one of the tourist attractions of Dubai. The tourists are taken on a sailing trip in the Dubai creek in a dhow for around two hours in the night and the tourists are able to enjoy both the beautiful city in the glittering lights and at the same time enjoy the nice dinner in the dhow.

Dhow
We reached the boarding point at 19.30 hours and it was a beautiful scene to see the dhows decorated with serial lamps. We were welcomed by the staff of the dhow with 'kawa' and dates. Kawa is a traditional Arabian drink almost like a black tea. We went inside the dhow and saw it was neatly arranged with dining tables and decorated inside with dim lights and looked quite romantic. Not just our group, but there were other tourists also in the dhow; there was a ground level and first level, filled with tourists. As soon as the reserved seats were occupied, the dhow started off with a slight jerk and then moved slowly and smoothly, as if a swan was swimming in the lake. 

Inside the dhow - ready for dinner
We were enjoying the sight of the city through the glass panes and simultaneously started enjoying the starters  served to us. It was a buffet dinner and the menu included tomato soups (with bread crumbs), vegetable salad, naan, khuboos (Arabian bread) fried rice, paneer butter masala, fruit salad and a few non-vegetarian dishes (I am not good enough to mention the names, they are alien to me :-D) During the sail, music was played in the speakers both melodious numbers and foot-tapping numbers. Even while the dinner started also, a gang of guys started to dance for the songs. Some of the songs were in Arabic, some in Hindi, some in English and some of them were just instrumental. But once the dinner was over, most of the guys including those in our group joined the dance. The dance movements started slowly and then quite soon, the music and the enjoyment of people dancing, caught hold of others watching too. Many of them came up to dance and kids were enjoying well with their dance steps. The dance reached its peak, when the song 'Appadi podu' from the movie "Ghilli" was played. Later the ladies in our group also joined the dance. It was fun to sing, dance, applaud, appreciate and what not!!!

Dance in the dhow
Almost after two hours of our sailing trip in Dubai creek the dhow came to a halt. We were too tired and it was time for us to get back to our rooms and take rest.

Mall of the Emirates:

Mall of the Emirates
The next day, i.e. 12th Sep 2010, we got ready and assembled at 09.30 hours for sightseeing. Our scheduled trips in the tour package had finished and so we decided to spend our time by ourselves. We had decided to visit the Mall of the Emirates, one of the largest shopping malls in Dubai. Our main attraction there was Ski Dubai, an artificial snow park. We reached the Mall of the Emirates at around 10.00 hours and straight away went to the Ski Dubai, without bothering to do any shopping.

Ski Dubai - Outside view
We took the entrance tickets and when we went inside, we were provided with jerkins, track suits, gloves, boots, socks and helmets for safeguarding us from the cold climate. Once we got ready with them, we all looked like as if we were going to space in a rocket. We went inside and were amazed to see the beautiful snow park; it surely is a boon to a desert country like Dubai. The temperature is maintained at -3 degree celsius inside the park.

Children ready to go inside Ski Dubai
There were lots of games inside like skiing, snowboarding, sliding, snow balls, travel in winch, etc. As we were a bit hesitant about taking the camera inside, considering the cold climate, we were not able to take any pictures.

Everyone, whether children or grownups, all of us had a fabulous time playing in the snow. And finally when it was around 12.30 hours, we had to leave the place since we had our return flight to Kuwait in the evening. We came back to our hotel apartments half-heartedly and after our lunch, started our packing.

Back to Kuwait:

Once we reached our rooms, we had just enough time to have our lunch and pack up our things for the flight in the evening. We packed, got ready and waited for our vehicle to pick up. During the time of wait, me and two of my friends crept out to the bookstall opposite to our hotel apartments and purchased a few books like ‘A Quiver full of arrows’ by Jeffrey Archer and a few story books for the kids. Once done, we found our vehicle had arrived too and started off to the airport. Since we had sufficient time in the airport, we made a window shopping in the airport.

Dubai International Airport
We took the flight back to Kuwait and reached at around 01.30 hours the next day i.e. 13th Sep 2010. We did miss to visit the famous Burj Al Khalifa, dancing fountain, the only Hindu temple in Dubai, and a few other places, due to the limited time. But yet we had a wonderful time during the trip and realized that it is all the more fun when we go in groups rather than only with our family. This trip made many of us friends and some of us quite close and now we have regular contacts with each other than before. 

Hope you all enjoyed my travelogue and would be interested to visit Dubai during your next vacation/holidays. Wish you all a very nice trip to Dubai!!!


Friends, I shall get back with yet another interesting post soon... Till then, take care & bye.

Monday, November 15, 2010

ஸ்ரீ இராஜராஜ சோழன் எனும் அருள்மொழிவர்மன்

இன்று ஐப்பசி சதயத் திருநாள்தென்னகத்தின் மாமன்னனாம் இராஜராஜ சோழனின் பிறந்த நாள்ஆயிரம் ஆண்டுகட்டு மேலாகியும் வருடா வருடம் இம்மாமனிதனின் பிறந்த நாள்ஒரு பெரும் விழாவாகத் தஞ்சைப் பெருவுடையார் கோவிலில் கொண்டாடப்படுகிறது என்றால்அந்த உயர்ந்த ஆன்மாவின் புகழை நாவால் அளவிட்டு சொல்லிடவும் முடியுமோஇருப்பினும் பொன்னியின் செல்வனைப் பற்றி பேசவும் எழுதவும் இதையே தகுந்த சந்தர்ப்பமாகக் கொண்டுஅவருக்கு என்னால் இயன்றதொரு காணிக்கையாக இப்பதிவினை சமர்ப்பிக்கின்றேன்.

இராஜராஜ சோழர்
இராஜராஜ சோழரின் காலம் தமிழகத்தின் பொற்காலமாகக் கருதப்படுகிறதுஅவரது ஆட்சிக்காலம் கி.பி. 985 முதல் 1014 வரை ஆகும்இருப்பினும் அதற்கு முன்பே தனக்கு எளிதில் கிடைத்திருக்கக்கூடிய ஆட்சியை தனது சிற்றப்பா உத்தம சோழருக்கு அளித்து வரலாற்றிலும் மக்கள் மனதிலும் நீங்காத இடம் பெற்றார்உத்தம சோழரின் ஆட்சியின் போதிருந்தே சோழ நாட்டின் கப்பற்படையை பலப்படுத்தினார்உத்தம சோழரின் ஆட்சிக்குப் பிறகு மன்னனாகப் பொறுப்பை ஏற்றுக் கொண்டார்தான் ஆட்சி பொறுப்பேற்ற பின்சேர மன்னன் பாஸ்கர ரவிவர்மனையும்பாண்டிய மன்னன் அமரபுஜங்க பாண்டியனையும் போரில் வெற்றி கொண்டார்இலங்கை மீது படையெடுத்து அதன் தலைநகரைக் கைப்பற்றினார்மேலும் குடகு நாடுகங்கப்பாடிநுளம்பப்பாடிகலிங்கநாடு ஆகிய தேசங்களையும்கடல்கடந்த இலட்சத்தீவுகடாரம் போன்ற நாடுகளையும் சோழ நாட்டிற்கு  செலுத்தும் சிற்றரசுகளாக்கினார்.

இராஜராஜரின் நிர்வாகத்திறன் வியக்கத்தக்கதாகும்அவரது ஆட்சியில் நாட்டில் அமைதி நிலவியதுசெல்வம் கொழித்ததுஅற்புதமான நீர்ப்பாசன முறையால் உணவு உற்பத்தி பெருகியதுநிர்வாக வசதிக்காக சோழ நாடு மண்டலங்களாகப் பிரிக்கப்பட்டதுமண்டலங்கள் கோட்டம் மற்றும் வளநாடுகளாக பிரிக்கப்பட்டனஅவ்வப்பகுதி மக்களே அதன் நிர்வாக அதிகாரிகளைத் தேர்ந்தெடுக்கும் குடவோலை முறை மேலும் தொடர்ந்து செயல்பட்டது.

தஞ்சைக் கோவில் கல்வெட்டு
இராஜராஜரின் ஆட்சியில் தான் முழுவீச்சிலான தணிக்கை முறைகளும் செயல்பட்டனஅரசு சார்ந்த நிர்வாகத்திலோகோவில் நிர்வாகத்திலோ மற்றும் எந்தத் துறையிலோ ஒழுங்கீனங்கள் இல்லாதிருக்க தணிக்கை முறை செயல்படுத்தப்பட்டன.

மேலும் நாட்டின் நடப்புகள் கல்வெட்டுகளிலும்செப்பேடுகளிலும் பொறிக்கப்படும் முறை முன்பே இருந்து வந்தாலும் அவற்றில் ஆட்சி ஆண்டு போன்ற முக்கிய தகவல்கள் சேர்க்கப்பட்டு இன்றளவும் சரித்திர ஆராய்ச்சியாளர்களுக்கு உதவும் வகையில் அந்நாளின் செயல்பாடுகளுக்கு ஆதாரமான ஆவணங்களாக உள்ளன.

ராஜராஜ சோழன் திரைப்படத்தில் தேவாரப் பாடல்களை சேகரிக்கும் காட்சி
அப்பரும்திருஞானசம்பந்தரும்சுந்தர மூர்த்திகளும் அருளிய தெய்வப் பாடல்களின் மீது பற்று கொண்டு அப்பொக்கிஷத்தை தில்லையம்பதியிலிருந்து மீட்டு நம்பியாண்டார் நம்பிகளின் மூலமாக அவற்றை தேவாரத் திருமுறைகளாக தொகுத்து தினமும் கோவில்களில் அவற்றை பாட ஓதுவார்களை நியமித்துஇன்றளவும் நாம் அவ்வினிய தெய்வீக பாடல்களை அறிய வழிவகுத்தவர் திருமுறை கண்ட சோழனாம் இராஜராஜர் ஆவார்.

கஜ சம்ஹார மூர்த்தி - யானை உரி போர்த்திய மூர்த்தி
மேலும் இராஜராஜரின் ஆட்சியின் கீழ் பல்வேறு கலைகளும் மறுமலர்ச்சியடைந்தனஆடல்இசைநாடகம்சிற்பம்சித்திரம்கட்டுமானக் கலை, ஆகிய அனைத்து கலைகளும் வளர்ச்சியடைந்தனஅற்புத கலைப் படைப்பாக செப்புத் திருமேனிகள் விளங்கினநாடெங்கிலும் மக்களுக்கு பயன்படும் வகையில் ஆதுரசாலைகள் (மருத்துவ சாலைகள்நிறுவப்பட்டனஇராஜராஜர் அனைத்து சமயத்தினருக்கும் ஆதரவு அளித்துஅனைவரும் ஒன்றுபட்டு வாழுமாறு வழிவகை செய்தார்.

தஞ்சைப் பெருவுடையார் கோவில்
இராஜராஜர் தனது பெரிய பாட்டியாகிய செம்பியன் மாதேவியின் விருப்பத்திற்கிணங்க பல்வேறு கோவில்களுக்கு கருங்கல் திருப்பணி செய்ய ஆணையிட்டார். பிரம்மனுக்கும் விஷ்ணுவுக்கும் அடிமுடி தெரியாதவாறு உயர்ந்து நின்ற ஈசனுக்கு உயரமானதொரு கோவில் எடுப்பிக்க வேண்டுமென்று ஆவல் மனதில் குடிகொள்ளதஞ்சையில் பெருவுடையார் கோவிலை எடுப்பித்தார் சிவபாதசேகரன் என வழங்கப்படும் ஸ்ரீ இராஜராஜர்ஆயிரம் ஆண்டுகள் கடந்துபல்வேறு இயற்கை சீற்றங்களையும் தாண்டிபல்வேறு மனித ஆக்கிரமிப்புகள் மற்றும் படையெடுப்புகளையும் தாண்டிஉயர்ந்து நிற்கும் அற்புத படைப்பாக தஞ்சைப் பெருவுடையார் கோவில் விளங்குகிறதுநெடிதுயர்ந்திருக்கும் துவாரபாலகர்கள்அற்புத சிலா வடிவங்கள்விரலளவே உள்ள சிற்பங்கள்ஈசனின் பெருமைகளையும் அவனது பக்தர்களின் கதைகளையும் கூறும் அற்புத சிற்பங்கள்கர்ப்பகிருஹத்தை சுற்றியுள்ள இருண்ட குறுகிய கூடத்தின் கருங்கற்சுவரில் ஃப்ரெஸ்கோ ஓவியங்கள்பரதநாட்டிய கரணங்களின் சிற்பங்கள் என தஞ்சைக் கோவிலே ஒரு அரும்பெரும் கலைப் பெட்டகமாக விளங்குகிறது.

திரிபுராந்தகர் - ஃப்ரெஸ்கோ ஓவியம்
கோவில்களுக்கு அளிக்கப்பட்ட நிவந்தங்கள்காணிக்கைகள் ஆகியவற்றை கல்வெட்டுகள் மற்றும் செப்பேடுகள் மூலம் ஆவணப்படுத்தினார் அருள்மொழி எனும் இயற்பெயர் கொண்ட இராஜராஜர்தான் அளித்ததை மட்டுமின்றி அரசகுல பெண்டிரும்பிற அதிகாரிகளும்பொது மக்களும் யாவருடைய காணிக்கைகளையும் முறையாக கல்வெட்டில் பொறித்திட செய்தார்தஞ்சைப் பெருவுடையார் கோவிலில் நாட்டியமாட அமர்த்தப்பட்ட 400 நடன மங்கையரின் பெயரையும் கல்வெட்டில் பொறித்திட செய்தார்.

சிவபெருமான் - செப்புத் திருமேனி
இராஜராஜரின் சிறப்புப் பெயர்களாவன:
1. அபயகுலசேகரன்
2. அரிதுர்க்கலங்கன்
3. அருள்மொழி
4. அழகிய சோழன்
5. இரணமுகபீமன்
6. இராஜாச்ரயன்
7. சோழேந்திரசிம்மன்
8. இராஜ மார்த்தாண்டன்
9. இராஜேந்திரசிம்மன்
10. இராஜ விநோதன்
11. உத்தம சோழன்
12. இரவிகுல மாணிக்கன்
13. இரவிவம்ச சிகாமணி
14. இராஜகண்டியன்
15. இராஜ சர்வக்ஞன்
16. இராஜராஜன்
17. இராஜகேசரிவர்மன்
18. திருமுறை கண்ட சோழன்
19. தெலிங்ககுல காலன்
20. நிகரிலி சோழன்
21. நித்ய விநோதன்
22. பண்டித சோழன்
23. உத்துங்கதுங்கன்
24. உய்யக்கொண்டான்
25. உலகளந்தான்
26. கேரளாந்தகன்
27. சண்டபராக்ரமன்
28. சத்ரு புஜங்கன்
29. சிங்களாந்தகன்
30. சிவபாத சேகரன்
31. சோழகுல சுந்தரன்
32. சோழ மார்த்தாண்டன்
33. பாண்டிய குலாசனி
34. பெரிய பெருமாள்
35. மும்முடிச் சோழன்
36. மூர்த்தவிக்கரமாபரணன்
37. ஜனநாதன்
38. ஜெயங்கொண்ட சோழன்
39. க்ஷத்திரிய சிகாமணி
40. கீர்த்தி பராக்கிரமன்
41. சோழ நாராயணன்
42. தைல குலகாலன்

பல நாடுகளை வெற்றி கொண்டும்மாபெரும் சோழ சாம்ராஜ்யத்தின் சக்ரவர்த்தியாக இருந்தும்கூடமிகுந்த தெய்வ பக்தியோடு எளிமையாக வாழ்ந்தவர் ஸ்ரீ இராஜராஜ சோழர் ஆவார்தனக்கு ஈடு இணையாக தனது மகன் இராஜேந்திர சோழரையும் உருவாக்கி ஒரு சிறந்த அரசனாகவும்ஒரு பாசமிகு தந்தையாகவும் தனது கடமைகளை சரிவர நிறைவேற்றினார்.

இராஜராஜ சோழர்
அத்தகைய மேதகு ஸ்ரீஸ்ரீஸ்ரீ இராஜராஜரின் புகழ் சூரிய சந்திரர்கள் உள்ளவரை இவ்வுலகில் நிலைத்திருக்கும்அவர் ஆட்சியின் கீழ் இருந்த இடத்தில் பிறந்ததே யான் பெற்ற பெரும்பேறாக கருதுகிறேன்அத்தகு உயர்ந்த மாமன்னனுக்கு நாம் செய்யக் கூடியது ஒன்றே ஒன்று தான்அவர் வளர்த்த கலையை பாதுகாக்க வேண்டும்அவ்வாறு பாதுகாக்க இயலாவிடினும் அவற்றை அழித்து விடாது இருப்போமாக!

வாழ்க ஸ்ரீ இராஜராஜரின் புகழ்வளர்க அவர் வளர்த்த கலைகள்!!!
படங்கள் உபயம்: இணையம்

Saturday, November 13, 2010

DUBAI TRIP - A TRAVELOGUE - PART 2

Dear friends,

Thank you for your valuable comments and feedback. Hope you all enjoyed reading the first part. Now, here I come with the second part of the travelogue.

City Tour:

On the next day, i.e. 11th Sep 2010, we had a delicious breakfast at our hotel apartments and our group was ready for sightseeing by 09.30 hrs. The travel agent introduced us to the travel guide Mr. Wijay. He was a middle aged person, a Srilankan living in Dubai for almost 25 years. 

Breakfast at Le Meridien Hotel apartments
We started from our hotel in a coaster and Mr. Wijay informed us that we were going to visit the Dubai Museum first. On the way, he was explaining that Dubai was the most popular country in the world and it is one of the Emirates of the UAE. There are totally seven Emirates which form the United Arab Emirates, being, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm-Al Quwain, Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah. Dubai’s population consists of 82% of expatriates and 18% of local people. On the way to Museum, we went through the Bur Dubai area, which is very famous for textiles and retail markets and the area where the Indian population is more.

Dubai Museum:

Dubai Museum - Entrance
We reached the Dubai Museum, and the outer look was like an old fort and they have also displayed a few artilleries near the entrance. After obtaining the tickets we went around the museum. The museum invited us with several wall hangings explaining about the Dubai museum, a few pictures like the map of Dubai, the boating at Dubai creek etc. A lot of traditional boats, water tanks called Fintas were on display. We entered through a wooden door with sharp edges in it and we could see various items on display like the traditional musical instruments such as goat skin bagpipers called qirbahs, the percussion drums, the harp (tambura), rosewood pipes, wooden violins etc., the traditional arms and weapons used then like guns, leather cartridge belts, swords, axes etc., and displays of ironsmiths working. 

Displays at Dubai Museum
We came out of another door and were taken down a circular pathway to the galleries. Here we were able to see the Map of Arabia as in 1570s by Abrahim Ortelieus, the history of Dubai (both in Arabic and English) at every decade with pictures and a video clipping about Dubai’s growth in the last decade. Next, we were able to witness the various traditional trades of Dubai with displays for the sea trade, fishing business, the Suq 1950, the Carpenter’s shop, the Herb and Spice Shop, the Polisher and Blacksmith’s shop, Pottery shop, Jeweller’s shop, Cloth shop, Tailor’s shop, Food shop. There were also displays for the Holy Quran classes and celebration of Tamwina, a graduation from Quran Class. Displays about the desert life, the Dates shops, pearl diving, fishing, dhow building, and traditional ornaments were also found.

Displays at Dubai Museum
The next section was the Archeology section with displays of various models of the excavations at Dubai, including a mangrove trunk which is 6000 years old, the ancient potteries, buildings excavated at Jumeriah (9th to 12th AD), the model of Archeological site of Jumeirah etc. Near the exit, there was a glittering shop displaying various traditional items.

The Gold Souk:

Our next destination was the gold souk. For reaching the Gold Souk we travelled back through Bur Dubai, which is very famous for wholesale and textile shops and large no. of Indian population. Our travel guide Mr. Wijay mentioned though Dubai is an Islamic country, there are lot of Churches and one Hindu temple. The day we went on city tour was actually Vinayaka Chathurthi day and we could see lots of people heading towards the Hindu temple in Bur Dubai area. We were surprised to see a man walking in the streets with the traditional panchakacham with a handful of flowers towards the temple, normally a very rare scene in a Gulf country.

Water Taxi at Dubai Creek
We had to cross the Dubai creek to reach the Gold Souk. Dubai Creek is the sea water which has come inland for around 14 kms naturally thereby separating Dubai into two parts. To cross the Dubai creek, either a boat, which is famously called as water taxi, can be used or by road, it can be crossed by a tunnel which was built in 1975 and is 175 meters long. We went in the water taxi to cross the creek. Once we reached the other side, we took a walk for around 10 minutes to reach the Gold souk. The travel guide told that the climate was better that day, but we were sweating even within those ten minutes; but it definitely was better than Kuwait. Dubai has only two climates, like any other Middle East countries, summer and winter. October to March is winter and April to September is summer. In summer, the highest humidity reaches up to 87% and winter has a good weather around 22 to 25 degree Celsius. Rain can be witnessed only once in a year usually during November, the maximum being only 12 cm.

Gold Souk
We reached the Gold souk and Mr. Wijay allocated us half an hour for our shopping, the choice being ours, whether it is window shopping or actual shopping. Though the Gold souk is not a single mall, thankfully, it was entirely shaded. The guys were little reluctant to go on shopping at the Gold souk. Some women were successful in their actual shopping and some guys managed to restrict with window shopping, all purely the talent of the individuals J

Sightseeing on the way:

After Gold souk, we went near the Dubai Bus stand where our vehicle was waiting. (Nejamave Dubai bus-stand irukunga… Vivekanandhar theru dhan kedaikkalai L) While travelling from there, the travel guide showed us the Al Rasheed Port which was opened in 1979 and the Queen Elizabeth 1 (Q1) Ship and the he informed us that there is a proposal under consideration to convert the Queen Elizabeth ship into a Hotel and he also mentioned that during winter, the port is very busy with cruise liners i.e. from January to April every year. There are two ports in Dubai namely Al Rasheed Port and Jabel Ali Port.

Queen Elizabeth 1 (Q1) Ship at Al Rasheed Port
On the way, we also viewed the Height Regency, one of the oldest hotels in Dubai and the special feature of this Hotel is that there is a revolving restaurant on the top.

The British had been ruling the country for nearly 148 years, from 1820 until 1968. Indian Rupees and Qatari Riyals were used in Dubai till 1971. The Federal Government in Dubai was started on 2nd December 1971 and eventually in 1972, they introduced the UAE Dirhams.

Tunnel to cross the Dubai Creek
This time we crossed the Dubai creek via the tunnel. The tunnel was beautifully lit with bright lights and serial lamps.

After crossing the creek, we were able to see the heritage village where more than 800 people who came from Liva Oasis settled down here during the 18th century and ruled by Al Maktoum family who rule Dubai emirates even today. Currently Dubai is ruled by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum from January 4th, 2006.

There are two airports in Dubai being, Dubai International Airport and Al Maktoum International Airport, the latter being one of the largest airports named after Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum, a former ruler of Dubai. Dubai’s carrier is called the Emirates who have started a new budget airline called FlyDubai. The Emirates airlines was established in the year 1985 and at that time leased 2 aircrafts, but currently they own 147 aircrafts and have plans to buy another 400 aircrafts in the future. All the developments came in after Dubai discovered oil in 1966. However, Dubai’s income is only 5% from the oil, 30% from tourism and commerce and the balance from retails.

The Government has managed to make the city look greener with good irrigational facilities with drop water system (sottu neer paasanam?) The tap water is recycled sea water. Desalination plants are located in Jabel Ali providing tap water for Dubai.

Jumeirah Big Mosque
Our next stop was at Jumeirah Big Mosque, one of the largest mosques in Dubai. We missed to be on time to go inside the mosque, so we took photographs outside the mosque and proceeded towards our next destination.

During the travel, Mr. Wijay also informed us that the Government of Dubai encourages to increase the local population and hence the citizen of Dubai gets 70,000 UAE Dirhams as gift when he gets married for the first time and several other benefits like free education, free medical facilities etc. The Islam religion allows a man to get married 4 times with the consent of his wife/wives. Our guys were eager in knowing if they would get the benefit also; but alas, they were upset to learn that it is available only for the citizens and not the expatriates J. The expatriates are not given citizenship and they are only allowed residency in the country. 

There are around 40 shopping malls in Dubai, the major 5 of them being, Dubai Mall, Mall of the Emirates, Wafi center, Bajuwan center and City Center. There are around 19 parks in Dubai and they try to maintain the city green, though it is a desert. Boat race, camel race & horse race are very famous in Dubai. Gambling is not allowed there. Golf clubs are quite popular as well.

Burj Al Arab Hotel & Jumeirah Beach:

Burj Al Arab Hotel
We visited the beautiful beach at Jumeirah with very mild waves and the scene really looked awesome with water in turquoise colour. We also had a view of Burj Al Arab Hotel from outside. Burj Al Arab means The Arab Tower and is built to resemble the sail of a dhow, a type of Arabian vessel. The hotel is situated in an artificial island and it has taken nearly three years to reclaim the land from the sea and another three years to complete the construction. The hotel has 28 double-storey floors and a total of 202 bedroom suites; the smallest suite has an area of 1820 sq. ft and the largest suite has an area of 8400 sq. ft. Hmm… Just imagine the size of the smallest suite; it is bigger than a normal three bedroom flat in Chennai!!! The Hotel also accommodates a helipad for the helicopter to land on the top floor.

Jumeirah Beach Hotel
The large Jumeirah beach hotel is also nearby the Jumeirah Beach. This hotel contains around 598 suites and 19 villas and is built in the shape of waves. Wild Wadi Water Park is found beside the hotel and the guests in the hotel have unlimited access to the water park. Since we did not have sufficient time to make a visit to the water park, we headed towards our next destination after a photographic session.

Palm Island:

Palm Island (Photo courtesy: Internet)
We proceeded towards visiting the Palm Island, the artificial island built on the sea in the shape of a palm tree, resembling the tree trunk and 17 branches and a surrounding island like a crescent or an arch. The construction of this island was started in 2001 and completed in 2008. There are huge tunnels under the sea to visit the other side i.e. the arch, where the huge Atlantis Hotel is situated. Many Villas are found throughout the way, which are ready for sale. Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan and the famous football player David Beckhem have purchased villas in the Palm Island. We went up to Atlantis Hotel and had a beautiful sight of the sea and the travel guide showed us a spot in the midst of the sea that the world map island is being built there.

Atlantis Hotel - Palm Island
Dubai has a large number of tall buildings with most of them having more than 60 storeys. One sad thing which we could notice in Dubai was that almost every one of two buildings are vacant with “To Let” banners hanging outside; due to the economic crisis, Dubai has been affected very badly and many companies have been shut down and the expatriates had no choice but to fly back to their countries, which has made most of the buildings vacant and deserted.

With all these discussions we had our lunch in Hotel Aryaas at Al Kharama and then headed towards our hotel for rest. Yes, we needed rest badly as we wanted to recharge ourselves for enjoying the sail in Dhow cruise in the evening.

I am sure you would love to hear about my experience in the dhow cruise and other places, but please hold on till my next post. Till then, take care and bye.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

DUBAI TRIP - A TRAVELOGUE - PART 1

Finally we visited Dubai this year, during Eid Holidays. I say it finally because we had been planning for past two years, but couldn’t execute for various reasons. And this year, yes, now we had been to Dubai and I am writing this when the memories are quite fresh in my mind. My husband Mr. Murali Krishnan and his colleague Mr. Sathish, planned for it and ten families, all the heads of the families being colleagues of my husband, decided to join together and make it a memorable trip. My husband and his colleague made arrangements for the trip right from booking the flight tickets, arranging visas (except for those who were eligible to get the ‘on arrival visa’), booking the hotel, arranging for sightseeing etc. The plan was neatly scheduled before the travel with Cox & Kings.

Yes, the day of our travel dawned. On 9th Sep 2010, Thursday, we started towards Kuwait International Airport in two Coasters so that all the ten families, i.e. 25 people could fit in along with their luggage. Our flight was going via Bahrain. We reached Dubai International Airport at the scheduled time of 17.40 hrs (Dubai time). Then got the ‘on arrival visas’ for the eligible ones and their families; it took nearly an hour to complete the process. We came out for claiming the baggage and finally found that a baggage of one of our companions was missing. Again it took nearly an hour to search for it and then we gave a complaint in the Airport office.

Dar Al Sanos Le Meridien Hotel Apartments - Reception
Dar Al Sanos Le Meridien Hotel Apartments - Studio Room
When we came out, we saw our travel agent was waiting outside with a placard. He took us to our accommodation in a Van. It is called Dar Al Sanos Le Meridien Hotel Apartments. Each family was allotted a studio room with all facilities. The room was neat and compact. It had the bedroom, living, dining and kitchen - everything in a single room. The facilities included a wardrobe, washing machine, a microwave oven, a kettle, hair dryer, a few utensils, and of course, a television.

Saravana Bhavan - Bur Dubai
The time was already 20.15 hrs, so we decided to go to a hotel to finish our dinner so that we can take rest earlier and refresh before starting the sightseeing trip the next day. We were informed that there is a Saravana Bhavan at Al Karama (most of us are vegetarians!!). We formed groups and took taxis to the hotel of their choice. Our taxi driver told us there is another Saravana Bhavan in Bur Dubai, the place where our hotel apartments is situated. We, Mr. Sathish and his wife went there and finished our dinner. We were starving because we couldn’t get vegetarian food in the flights. So, we eagerly finished our dinner and went back to our room.

Dubai Mall – Aquarium & Underwater Zoo:

The next morning, i.e. 10th Sep 2010, we did not have any tour in the package. So, we decided to spend by ourselves and went to Dubai Mall. The largest aquarium and underwater zoo is present there. The way to the Dubai Mall, was full of tall buildings in different sizes, different shapes. We saw the Burj Al Khalifa, the tallest building in the world on our way. It is, in fact, next to the Dubai Mall where we were heading towards. The Dubai Mall is the largest shopping complex in Dubai. We could see beautiful interior decoration and glittering shops inside. We obtained the tickets for the Aquarium and Underwater zoo and entered in. Wow, it was just amazing!!! 

Aquarium & Underwater Zoo - Dubai Mall
Aquarium & Underwater Zoo - Dubai Mall
The entrance was like an arch and on the top we could see varieties of fish and sea animals moving around. We took pictures and moved further. Then, we took the escalator to go to the second level, where the main aquarium is present. How many varieties, how many different colours, how many different sizes… It was wonderful to watch them moving around fast. Other than fishes, we saw sharks, tortoises, snakes, penguins, snake shaped fishes, and lots more. Since am not a zoological student, am not aware of the names of many of them. But it was a treat for the eyes to watch. Neither did I have to be a zoological student to enjoy the beauty! We went around the aquarium and at the exit we found many stores with beautiful toys, mementos and t-shirts all depicting the sea life.

Ice Skating - Dubai Mall
There is an ice skating rink in the Dubai Mall and that was our next target. We saw some people trying to skate and a few courageous guys from our group came forward to give a try in the skating rink. Not to mention, that most of them were men, one boy and only two girls, rather I should say three children. Ladies did not come forward to make an attempt in our group. But we could see lots of girls trying out the skating. Of course, none of our guys had learnt it; they just went in for fun. They were provided with special skating shoes and yes, they went in and started the skating. It was fun to watch, but we could understand how difficult it was to do skating without learning or practice. A few of them fell down and tried to get up on their own and fell down again. But still, they wouldn’t give up and they managed to go two or three rounds based on their speed. We were watching through the glass and were encouraging them.

By that time, all of us were tired and hungry. It was already 13.30 hrs and our tummies kept reminding of our hunger. We all moved out and took a taxi to Saravana Bhavan at Al Kharama. When we reached, the hotel was almost empty. But within 15 minutes after we reached, we could see people thronging towards Saravana Bhavan and it was totally full. We had a good meal and headed back to our rooms. We reached our room at nearly 14.45 hrs and we had the scheduled trip for Desert Safari at 16.00 hrs. Without much time to rest or relax, we got ready for the next trip – Desert Safari.

Desert Safari:

The Australian couple who accompanied us during Desert Safari
In the meanwhile, we had four more additional people joining us for the Desert safari; they were the friends of our companions and after duly informing the travel agent, we set on for desert safari. We had 5 safari vehicles waiting for us, maximum of 6 in each vehicle. We three and another colleague Mr. Kanagaraj and his wife, we all boarded a vehicle and we saw an old Australian couple already inside. For the desert safari, we had to travel nearly 45 minutes and reach the outskirts of the city. We had a good chat with the old couple on the way. We reached the desert and were given a break of 10 minutes for capturing photos. Our safari driver informed us, that they wait for all the vehicles to reach the starting point (where we were given the photo break), and all the vehicles start together for the safari. At the desert, the mobiles do not get the signal, nor is there anyone visible around. So, in case of any trouble with the vehicle, the other vehicles would help them out and that’s why they were travelling together.

Desert Safari
We were asked to wear our seat belts and informed that plastic bags are ready with the driver if at all anyone feels like vomiting. The desert safari started slowly in the beginning, and then each vehicle was speeding up. As if in the roller coaster, the vehicles moved up in the sand dunes and came down speedily and we in the vehicle were screaming, sometimes out of joy and sometimes out of fear. My four year old son was initially enjoying it by making sounds like Woooo…. Hooo…. Wow… Later on he felt a little fear as well. As if being dragged in the waves of the sea, we were moving up and down and slanting. On our way, we were able to see one of the vehicles got stuck up in the sand and two other vehicles were helping them out. The safari driver drove very carefully and at the same time we had a wonderful time going up and down. 

We were wondering about his skillful driving and out of curiosity asked him about the procedure to get the license for the desert safari. He informed us that it is pretty difficult to get the license for desert safari driving. The person applying should have had experience in driving on the normal roads of UAE at least for 3 years and shouldn’t have any black mark as per the police reports. Once the papers are cleared, they are supposed to take up training for 20 days in the desert. Every day the desert driving classes will be in 3 or 4 sessions and the training is very costly the rate being charged for every session. Finally after 20 days, a test will be conducted for their driving skills and once they clear it, they will be given the license for safari driving. He also stated that the Government is very strict in issuing this license in particular, because most of the times, it is the tourists who come for desert safari and it is the matter of prestige and goodwill for the nation.

Desert skating
With interesting talks, comments, screams and fear we were moving ahead and our driver stopped the vehicle in the middle of the desert. He asked us to come to the top of a sand dune and it was a very beautiful scene to look around from there. It was evening time, the hot sun trying to settle down and the breeze was a kind of warm. The safari driver brought a skating board from his vehicle and asked if any of us would like to do desert skating. First our colleague Mr. Kanagaraj came up to try it. Then my husband tried out too. Seeing all that, my son Vishal wanted to go on skating also. I was a bit worried, if I can really send him. The safari driver assured me that he will not get hurt and made him sit on the board and helped him to skate. My son enjoyed the skating, laughing and clapping his hands. By that time, two more vehicles came over there, and few more of our companions joined us. Our companions’ kids Suryanarayanan aged around 11 years, Shivaranjini aged around 7 years also enjoyed by skating in the desert.

Sunset at Desert
We had a wonderful view of the sunset and then it was time to leave from that place. Before leaving, I made an attempt in skating also; yes, it was really enjoyable. No wonder, everyone loved to do that. We started from there and the safari driver took us to the desert camp, where the famous belly dance and a delicious dinner were arranged. On reaching the camp, we went on a camel ride; the camel had been trained to make a small round, and we were able to see the marks of its repeated steps in the same trail. This reminded me of the horse ride we used to go in the Marina Beach at Chennai. We took pictures over there and then entered the camp. We were offered sandwich on one side and drinks on the other. Most of the ladies, walked towards sandwich, we were tired and hungry; guys were moving towards the other side, no wonder, we did expect it. We were also informed that we can get our hands decorated with henna. But by the time we reached, the belly dance was about to begin, and we sat down to watch it.

Belly Dance:

Belly Dance
A lady dressed up (should I say half dressed?!), in white robe, came like a damsel on to the stage and she started dancing slowly. But within a few minutes, she danced so quickly with fast steps, in rhythm to the music. Some Hindi songs, some Arabic songs were played and she beautifully danced for the same. She was so flexible that every movement of hers made people clap and enjoy… Was the enjoyment really for her dance alone, well, I think only the guys could answer for that. She went near every guy and danced and posed for the photos and videos; with her belly and hips constantly moving and shaking. We were able to hear even the comments from the guys that they should have preferred to come alone, to enjoy the dance!!!

Belly Dance
After dancing for more than half an hour, the lady bid adieu and left the stage. Then the announcement came for having the dinner. We stood on two queues, one for guys and one for gals, and picked up our favourite ones from the buffet. The Arabic khuboos, the Iranian khuboos (khuboos – Arabic bread), vegetable sabjis, fried rice, non-vegetarian food, fruit salads were all present. We had our dinner there and found the guys missing around. We understood where they would have been; they were all near the drinks stall and trying to hide away from their respective wives. After a while, they came back with their plates with food. We as a group, had some chat, and then started back to our hotel, again into the same vehicles in which we came. It was around 22.30 hrs, when we reached the hotel; very tired and exhausted, as if we danced ourselves. The next day we had a city tour scheduled in the morning at 09.30 hrs and so we retired to bed as soon as we reached the hotel.

Friends, Hope you enjoyed reading the first part of this travelogue as I enjoyed visiting and writing. I shall get back with the post on second part of the travelogue soon. Till then, take care & bye.