UAE’s birth story at Etihad Museum

December 2 is commemorated as UAE national day because of the historic unification that happened on this day in 1971. Six rulers of six emirates met to form the United Arab Emirates. The seventh emirate Ras al Khaimah joined the federation only on February 11, 1972. But what most of us don’t know is that the seeds of this momentous unification was laid on February 18, 1968, in Al Sedaira followed by a meeting between the two great rulers of Abu Dhabi and Dubai. In the meeting Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan and Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed al Maktoum agreed to create a federal system to unite the two emirates.

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This smiling picture of the two great leaders during the 1968 Ruler’s agreement adorns the walls of the Etihad Museum in Dubai. Accompanying the pic at the museum is a detailed written exhibit about the main points of the agreement.

UAE is today a country of chic malls and tall skyscrapers but if you want to trace the events that led to the birth of this ultra modern nation then the Etihad museum is the perfect place to be. Unveiled by Sheikh Mohammed on UAE’s 45th national day the museum explores the emirate’s history between 1968 and 1974 through interactive digital displays, videos and personal memorabilia.

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Designed in the shape of the unification manuscript the roof of the building looks like a sheaf of paper. Seven golden columns in the entrance symbolise the seven pens that signed the agreement. Inside there are several halls, a theatre, a library, educational areas and cafes.

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The first hall dedicated to the founding fathers has seven life size digital pictures of the rulers. Each picture has an accompanying exhibit of their belongings and an interactive screen informing visitors about their biography and family tree.

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This exhibit, for instance, showcases the golden dagger and passport of the late Sheikh Mohammad bin Hamad al Sharqi, the founding ruler of Fujairah. Several other memorabilia of the six other  rulers are also well preserved here. Young visitors to the museum get a family pack with activities to keep them engrossed in exploring the museum. The union house where the actual agreement was signed is also part of the museum and so is the 123 metre tall flagpole at the site.

Opening time of the museum: 10 am to 8 pm

Location: Jumeirah Beach Road

Ticket: Adults pay Dhs 25, Students between the age of 5 and 24 pay Dhs 10

 

 

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Al Qudra lakes

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This calm oasis is part of a desert reserve called Saih al Salam. A recently established site, maintained by Dubai government’s civic body, the Al Qudra lakes are perfect for picnic and birdwatching. We spotted several ducks and a few other exotic birds. According to the UAE birding website several birds have been introduced in the lakes by the Dubai municipality including Black-necked Swan, Mute Swan, Barnackle Goose, White-cheeked Pintail among others. The area also includes a long cycling track and trek shop selling cycling equipment along small cafeterias.

Road trip to Sur

In March we drove to Muscat and then to the scenic town of Sur in Oman. We had estimated a four hour drive to Muscat and then an overnight stopover at a cousin’s place. But ended up spending almost six hours on road owing to no particular reasons that left us wondering how on earth do all the guidebooks mention the Dubai to Muscat drive as mere four hours. The trip really took off once we left our cousin’s house in Wadi Ameerat the next day. With rocky mountains on either sides the drive instantly became picturesque. Maneuvering through a winding mountain road we first reached Wadi Daqyah Dam in Quriyat. The emerald green coloured dam water interspersed with the brown mountains creates a splendid view. The dam can store 100 million cubic metres of water and even has a small stretch of green where visitors can spread a picnic hamper and enjoy the view.

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After soaking in the beauty of the Daqyah Dam we drove towards Sur, which is over 200 kms from Muscat. Accompanying us all along on one side of the road was the blue sea and rocky mountains on the other side.
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It took us around 3 hours to reach the Ras Al Jinz Turtle reserve. We were booked for an overnight stay here to see the turtle hatching. It seemed a unique activity but soon we discovered that it was an unforgettable one as well. At around 9 pm we gathered in the hotel lobby to go for a group tour of the turtle hatching on the Ras Al Hadd beach. Packed in a mini van around 20 of us were driven through a bumpy road to a lonely stretch on the beach. Our Omani guide told us to stand quietly while he combed the beach area for nesting turtles. Waiting on the pitch dark beach in silence with the magnificent starlit sky above our heads listening to the sounds of the waves became a deeply moving natural experience for me. While I was still soaking in the beauty of the night our guide returned with the good news that he had spotted a turtle. As turtle hatching is a natural phenomenon there are no guarantees that you will get to see one on a tour. So, we were elated at our luck. In a hushed tone he told us about the nesting habits of the endangered green turtle. We were  also warned against taking any photographs of the turtles as flash lights could scare and stop the hatching process. Unfortunately, it means I have no pics of the actual turtle hatching we witnessed.

Huddled together we followed our guide who took us to a part of the beach where a lot of sand had been splattered around. Deep inside a sandpit sat a huge turtle. The turtles fling sand with their flippers to create a pit to lay eggs. Under a dim torchlight our guide showed us how the turtle was dropping eggs into the pit by the dozen. The entire experience was truly magical. We also caught sight of a few baby turtles that had hatched from other pits crawling back into the ocean. The reserve also conducts these tours at daylight when tourists are allowed to click pictures. Alas during our morning trip no turtles were sighted. But the bright sunrise and the beautiful Ras al Hadd beach made up for this as we spent some quiet moments watching these wonders of nature.

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After breakfast we drove back to Muscat and did another stop over at the Bimma  Sinkhole. Located in Najm Park the sinkhole attracts locals and tourists. Although sinkholes are created as a result of soil erosion there are many folklores associated with this one including one involving a space crater. Through a narrow staircase tourists can take a dip in the cool green waters of the sinkhole. Soon we were back on the road with wide smiles to cherish yet another memorable trip. 
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Pink Flamingos at Ras al Khor

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We captured this beautiful sight at the Ras al Khor wildlife sanctuary. A viewpoint lets visitors catch a glimpse of these pink legged flamingos amidst hectares of mangroves. The site is open on all days except Fridays.

Dubai Butterfly Garden

I am seated on a wooden bench surrounded by bright flowers and green creepers, the chirping of birds in the backdrop is music to my ears. In this natural paradise flutters in a blue butterfly. Her wings, the colour of the sky, settle on a piece of sticky banana slice kept amidst a pot full of white chrysanthemums. All around me several colourful butterflies sit pretty on flowers and creepers. I experienced this blissful atmosphere right here in Dubai at the Butterfly Garden. Opened in March 2015 it is located adjacent to the Miracle Garden. This indoor air conditioned park is spread across four domes and is open all through the year.
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Around 20,000 pupae are imported from Costa Rica, Philippines and Colombia every week. These pupae are then introduced into the garden. The life cycle of a butterfly is only for around two weeks that means the new pupae need to be introduced to keep butterflies numbers in motion.
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Although you are not allowed to touch the butterflies the park authorities do not object if the bugs willing come and sit on you.
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One of the butterfly garden domes also has a few varieties of caged birds.
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Yet another attraction at the park is a gallery with butterflies in frames. Here is one that creates the face of Sheikh Mohammed.
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Beauty of clay

On our way back from a weekend trip to Oman on the Dubai Hatta road we spotted several shops selling carpets and pottery. When we stayed in Delhi we often visited local blue pottery shops but in Dubai it’s virtually impossible to find such roadside markets. Besides giving me that desi feeling of buying something from a roadside vendor it was also a great opportunity to add some unique pots to my balcony garden. These shops sell a wide range of pottery items such as jars, flower pots, incense holders, garden accessories, cups and piggy banks. The sellers are eager to show you around and ready to bargain.

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This is what we bought. We have now painted two of the small jars and are hoping to paint the fish pot in bright hues. For now it holds a red flower plant I got from Ikea recently.

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Cafe Aroma

Enroute the churches on Oud Metha Road is the leafy Cafe Aroma. We have been here a couple of times and have always come back feeling refreshed. More than the food it’s the cafe’s ambience that impresses. Formerly called Aroma Garden Cafe like its name suggests it gives visitors the joy of sipping tea amidst a lot of greenery. There are creepers all along the walls of the cafe and around each table are several pots of assorted indoor plants. As the cafe also serves shisha, it has a separate seating area for smokers, at the entrance of which stands a lovely landscaped fountain garden. cafe

We ordered a chicken pizza, a Fattoush salad accompanied with bread and hummous with of course pots of tea

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Sharing some pics of the interiors.

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Abra ride & Spice Souk

A flock of seagulls and dark clouds accompanied us along the abra ride one evening at Dubai creek. A friend was visiting and we were on a customary souk tour. For me an abra ride is always a refreshing experience, one I never get tired of. Most tourists too seem to enjoy boarding the wooden dhow, sharing space with scores of daily travellers and most of all soaking in the sights of old Dubai, that seems so remote as compared to the high rises and glitzy malls they just stepped out of. The cool breeze and the twinkling lights from other dhows added a dash of old world magic to the short boat ride that took us from Bur Dubai to Deira in less than 10 minutes . abra The first souk we visited after alighting from the abra ride was Deira’s spice souk on Baniyas Road. The covered souk has lanes of tiny shops with Iranian traders selling sacks of colourful spices. Yellow hues of turmeric merged with the stark brown cinnamon sticks and dried buds of pink roses vied for our attention along with sacks of fiery red chilies. 20150117_181521 We bought a few spices, among them was a packet of dried lavender that can be fermented to make tea. Beyond the spice souk is the glittering gold souk. Not big fans of gold we still ogled at rows of chunky necklaces and bangles. Back home with stacks of memories and packets of spices, a mud oudh burner and chocolates that looked like little pebbles, the first packet we opened was the lavender tea and we were not disappointed. lavender tea

Trip to Khor Fakkan

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No, these are not pics from holiday spots in Maldives or Seychelles but from very own neighbouring Sharjah. Like you I too was surprised when I first caught a glimpse of the pristine Khor Fakkan beach. Clear blue waters, a white sandy beach along a lush green park with rugged mountains in the backdrop — what more could a holiday seeker ask for? Pack a picnic hamper and enjoy this view or fly high with para sailing here. Khor Fakkan, which means, Creek of Two Jaws, is just a two hour drive from Dubai.

View from Burj Khalifa at night

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Well, I finally succumbed to the urge to do the most touristy thing in Dubai. Last month I made it to the top of Burj Khalifa. Once past the long queues and the bullet fast lift the observation deck felt tiny but the sparkling views of the electrified buildings made it all worthwhile 🙂 

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