UAE - Al Ain

Of Jebel Hafeet, Sheep Farm and Zakher Lake in Al Ain

March 27, 2017

Our Aunt came to Dubai from the Philippines just recently  for a visit. And of course, we were happy to play tour guide to her. We drove to Al Ain for the first tour. Auntie got to :

  • have a photo with camels, 
  • experience sandstorm, 
  • a quick sit at Mubazzarah Park, 
  • cool air at Jebel Hafeet,
  • visit a sheep farm,
  • climb up a dune for a good view of Zakher Lake

Weather was gloomy with rains in the past days, and each morning we check of any chance of sun for the day. Sunday looked a little better by around 10am so I rung my cousin and told her we could pack some quick food to bring with us to Al Ain. My cousin fried some hotdogs and I packed rice with meatloaf. It's the quickest we can prepare for a late advise from Mr Sun.

Driving on along Al Ain Road, the sky was sort of hazy and a sandstorm was looming.

If you have a tourist with you, a photo ops with a camel should not be missed. We saw camels across the desert and stopped as soon as we saw an opening that the car could get in (most of the road side is fenced if not barriers that cars cant pass). Sand were flying and uncomfortably getting into our eyes, but then again, it's not always that we can find camels loitering ready for that tourist's photo.


 Next Stop: MUBAZZARAH PARK

It was time for lunch and we headed to Mubazzarah Park and found a gazebo where we laid out our food. The kids ran and played. Riane loved the slides and swings, while Kalel and his cousin went ran up the hill. The falajs where the warm springs flow were dry the time we were there so no wet feet this time.

Next stop: JEBEL HAFEET

An Al Ain visit with a tourist is not without going up Jebel Hafeet. The drive up the 1300 meters high rock mountain is a chance to see a vista of nearby Al Ain from atop. For me, among those that gets me in awe is the rock lining at one side of the foot of Jebel Hafeet.

The air is cooler at the top and the sky seen is clearer at this level.

At the top! Jebel Hafeet is 1300 meters above sea level.



Next Stop: ZAKHER LAKE

This is probably our sixth drive to Zakher Lake and we never miss to visit the sheep farm each time. Note though: a four wheel drive is needed to get in past the dunes. The herd of sheep was set out of the fence when we arrived. I asked permission from the caretaker that we were there to take photos. The kids were excited we had to remind them not to get to close the herd. The herd of sheep seem to be afraid of us, running or keeping a distance from us. Seeing them gather together is just amazing. They had such a unity following each other each time one of them starts running away from us.

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We drove back to the dunes after visiting the sheep farm. We settled on top of one of the dunes giving us an impressive view of the lake. The kids excitedly rolled over the orange sand apart from running, sliding and shoveling sand in the desert.

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The sun has set when we left, and from playing tirelessly, the kids had a good sleep as soon as we reached back home in Dubai.

Motiongate's Green Hornet's High Speed Chase Rollercoaster

March 18, 2017

As a family, what we look for in an amusement park are attractions that all four of us in the family could enjoy.  Having two kids six years apart in age, they do have different interests. Or maybe sometimes, the Little Sister would like to feel as big as her brother. However in some instances, for safety's sake because of her age and height, she would not be allowed to what her brother may be enjoying.

That said, when she was allowed to ride Motiongate's Green Hornet High Speed Chase rollercoaster when her height was almost short of a few ticks to the minimum allowed height, we were all jubilant.

The Green Hornet's loops were fine for the Little Sister but not boring for the Brother, so all are happy :-)

By the way, for us the best time to enjoy any of Dubai Parks and Resorts' theme parks (Motiongate, Legoland, Bollywood) is during the less busy days, when there are less or no queues. Less queues mean more rides, less boredom and more energy :-)

Here is a video taken by the husband, at that day it was just the three of them as I was at work. I joined them riding the Green Hornet on another day.

Dubai Attractions

Motiongate Dubai's Zombieland Blast off Ride 58 meter vertical drop down

March 17, 2017


Zombieland's Blast-off ride is a thrilling drop tower ride at Motiongate Dubai that should not be missed as long as height and other requirements permit. 

This amusement ride seems not to miss riders who start screaming as the gondolas are slowly pulled high up and shrieks even louder as they drop to a fast free fall.

Apparently at Kalel's age, he took pride that he queued for 10 rides for the day. On the other hand, the getting-old woman in me was initially scared to experience the ride myself. It took me the 3rd visit to agree in riding. But lo! It was not scary after all. It just takes some technique to turn it into a unique experience.


My experience riding the Blast-off drop tower


I sat between Kalel and a another dad with his son. From the looks of it, the dad was like me forced by the son to give him company. I felt I did not have the liberty to show my fear so I decided to stay calm, avoid screaming. I did! 

As the gondolas were hoisted up, I started to "release" myself to the air, loosening my body from reacting. And it was the best feeling high up the air! If I could stay longer there to meditate and be at awe of the surroundings.

Then came the fast drop -- I just "let-go" and just consciously enjoyed the feeling that my bottom floated away from the chair! 

So am ready to take on the challenge for drop towers higher than Motiongate's Blast-off of 58m. Probably yes. Let see :-)


Camping

How to Start Camping as a Family

March 14, 2017


Overnight camping in the desert or at the beach is a regularly activity we do as a family. It gives that wonderful chance to smell fresh desert air or the salty sea breeze, as well as that feeling of waking up to a healthy early morning sunshine dose.

The UAE is about deserts and beaches, and as a family with two kids, one way we make the most of this these physical features is by driving to great camping spots, pitching our tents and sleeping under the moon light.

To date, we experienced camping in Bassa Beach in Musandam, at Jebel Ali Beach, in Um Al Qwain Beach, at Dibba Beach in Fujairah. We frequently camp at Lahbab desert with friends. And the most epic desert camping we probably did was at the world's tallest dunes at Moreeb Dunes in Liwa, Abu Dhabi.

How to start camping

Camping as a family with little kids may sound scary and uncomfortable for some families with uncertainties like fear of the tent being attacked by animals, or having kids get sick in the middle of the night, no access to food and to facilities, and you can name more.

We started camping alone, and the first advice we can give is -- just start camping. More often, you will learn in the process and realize that while it may be tedious, it is not really scary.

 Here are some things that can serve as a guide to help you with in gaining the confidence of starting family camping trips here in the UAE:

1. Camp with friends

This gets you to overcome the fear of being alone in a far camp site. Also, you can agree with friends to share in bringing camping gears that are non-personal that can be shared like stove, water heater, barbecue stands. If you camp with friends who had previous experience in camping, they could share their experiences that you could learn from.

2. Search for camping spots that campers frequent

If you would camp by yourselves, start with familiar camping sites where you would have other campers for company. For example, start at the beach, than in the mountains. 

Our first camping experience was in Musandam, Oman when our son was five years old. It was a holiday and we camped along Bassa Beach with about 40 cars lined up, mostly with families with happy kids running and playing around.

Our tent during our first outdoor camping at Bassa Beach, Musandam, Feb 2011

3. Start camping with locations nearer to the city

To build your confidence while getting a feel of what it's like to sleep under the moonlight, a location that is around one hour drive from home is a good one to start with.

4. Where your car can accommodate you, consider sleeping there too.

During winter, the car encloses you in warmth than when you are at the tent.
Summer nights would be nicely spent inside the tent. But during the hotter nights, a less ventilated tent can be uncomfortable so tents with nets where air can circulate through is one's bet. But during humid nights, the car is our best bet yet with the air-conditioner on.

5. Dont be overwhelmed with things to bring. 

Preparing the essentials for overnight camping can be overwhelming as when one starts buying the tents and all. To lessen this, start with sleeping in your car first when the space allows. This way you can assess what type of tent you eventually will need to buy (we had two tents, we had to buy a second one that is a bigger to accommodate all four of us, and is high enough to let us stand inside).

Also, when you camp with friends who already have their essentials, you may observe what you really need to buy. Our camping friends have their portable cooking stove to barbeque grills. But to keep us mobile and with lack of space in the car, we decided not to buy any of these, and instead bring cooked food with us.

The staples in our camping list include medicine kit (paracetamol, kids' nasal spray), toiletries, cooked food, folding chairs, sleeping gears, extra clothes.


6. Get a feel of the place

Camping in Liwa's Moreeb Dunes where the highest dune in the world is, was one of our dream camping trip. It was overwhelming just thinking about it at first, however we finally did it on our second visit when we already knew what to expect, and this time drove and camped there accompanied by family friends. We arrived late at night surrounded by darkness, but knowing the place and having another car with us somehow made us more confident.
We woke up to thick fog at 8am on top on Moreeb Dunes in Liwa. We arrived before midnight earlier that we were yet waiting to see what was actually around us.


BASIC CAMPING GEARS

The camping gears requirements may differ by family. Deciding which gears to bring may also depend on the flexibility of the campers. The more things you bring, the more convenience you would have in the camp in terms of the availability of your things, however it means using more space in the car, and requires more time to prepare.

For our family, the basics we bring include a camping tent, folding chairs, folding table, folding mattress, pillows, blankets, flashlights, food that doesn't easily get spoiled, basic medicine kit, toiletries, extra clothes. Our friends also always bring with them their barbecue grills, camping stove, kettle.

A good way to search for these items to start with is checking and comparing options online on Souq.com:


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