March 21, 2010

Catching Up

Looking back at my first blogs from the Mideast, I realize that I was really quite chatty early on. That changed to brief and then to none as we traveled on and met problems with Internet connections and/or total exhaustion at the end of a day of walking, climbing, learning--and, of course, eating.

So--let me try to remedy that. From Abu Dhabi, we went to Dubai, home of the Burj Khalifa, which is currently the tallest building in the world
(160 stories, half-a-mile high) and the Bourj al Araba,
a very expensive hotel shaped like
a sailboat and featuring a helipad
on which those guests
able to do so can land their helicopters.

The Bourj at sunset on the Gulf.

I've already posted about Dubai Creek and the constant cargo traffic--all loaded and unloaded by manual labor and shuttled off on handcarts--quite a contrast to the newer parts of Dubai which features modern malls (complete with ski slope) and a manmade island shaped like a palm tree. On the other hand, Dubai has seen fit to honor its past with several historic museums that show how people lived and worked and learned in former times.

Our trip was filled with contrasts and the next one took us from the sleek modernity of Dubai to the crowded, noisy, dusty city of Cairo, population around 20 million. The taxi drivers are expert at manipulating their way through the traffic and manage to make five lanes out of the three marked on the pavement. A ride in the front seat of a Cairo cab is an adventure, especially if the seat belt is dangling uselessly and the seat back is wobbly. But, as Gerry pointed out, he's never seen a Mideast cab wrapped around a tree. They do seem to know what they're doing, but I'd never want to try it for myself. Riding shotgun is enough adventure for me!

Cairo, of course, is where you go to get to the pyramids of Giza and the nearby Sphinx. Both are amazing examples of design and construction from ancient times. Seeing them in person makes one wonder how such monumental structures were accomplished without the "miracle" of our modern technology and machinery. We were in awe:

Four tall Americans dwarfed by an Egyptian tomb.