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Friday, December 31, 2010

Rain!

How symbolic.  It's raining on New Year's eve in Kuwait.  Well, it's morning on Dec. 31st, but it's still symbolic to me.   I've been here almost 7 months and almost forgot the smell of rain.  What a treat on this day... Washing away the old and in with the new!  Have a Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Taba Heights, Egypt Vacation

I was so excited about going to Egypt for the first time.  I had some awesome highs and some big ass lows;  Mainly due to travel and transportation FAILS.  In my last post, I was at the Cairo airport with the husband waiting for 5 hours to the connecting flight to Taba. We flew in using Egypt Air.  First mistake.  Never again will I use that crappy ass airline.  Customer service sucks.  The flight attendants didn't look happy.  Smiling at your customers goes a long way with me.  And they seemed annoyed when asked questions.  What's up with that?  I mean, the condition of the plane was shabby and old.  The seat I was in had some dirty ass looking ashtray still on the armrest.  I felt squished in like a can of sardines.  In my opinion, I was one step above  flying with the chickens and goats.  After 3 hours, we landed in Cairo and I was happy to stretch my feet.

                                      
After 5 hours of trying to stay awake in the ghost town airport, we hopped a tiny plane to Taba.  In a little under an hour, we arrived at Taba airport!  Hurray!  Well, not so hurray!  I thought there'd be an Egyptian welcome wagon... sort of like Hawaii.  You know, instead of hula dancers with leis, there'd be smiling attendants eager to show us to baggage claim and loads of taxis to take us to the resort.  Not!  It was a one room weigh station.  We got our bags in minutes and headed outside with the rest of the pack.  We were literally in the middle of the desert. (Click on the pictures for a larger view.)



 Desert mountains and rocks as far as the eye could see.  There were a few buses and one van outside.  To make a long story short, the van that was supposed to take us to the Taba Heights resort left us.  Apparently, our name wasn't on the list and even though we were holding our hotel confirmation, the driver refused to load our luggage and take us.  I was pissed.  We tried calling the number on our confirmation and it was the wrong number!  My cell phone was on the fritz, there was no internet, no pay phones.  I got scared then.  Everyone spoke little or no English.  For a moment, I thought we had come to the wrong airport. I had a hissy fit and started to cry. A security guard came to our rescue and after making some calls, he was able to find the number to the hotel and arrange for a car to pick us up.  A few tears and 30 minutes later, we were off to the resort.  I was in a terrible mood... for about 15 minutes.  Then I saw my first glimpse of the sea on the Sinai Peninsula.

After miles of desert and mountains, I was so excited to see the beautiful ocean!


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We asked the driver to stop so we could take pictures of this beautiful site.  We ended up in this cove a few days later, on a snorkeling excursion.  About ten minuets and an armed passport/checkpoint later, we arrived at the resort.  
The Sofitel main entrance

 I would rate the Sofitel at Taba Heights a 4 star hotel on a 5 star location.  Here's a  video peek at the main entrance and lobby.    

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The check-in counter was to the right of the lobby fountain, behind th glass doors. When we got there, the manager had heard about our ordeal at the airport and he was very apologetic.  Even though, the problem was had because of my travel agent, he treated us to an ala carte dinner at the Asian restaurant there.  The hotel is all inclusive, however, some people tire of the buffet choices (We didn't!) so there were 3 restaurants at the hotel offering ala carte menus.  Also, there was a free shuttle running to the other four hotels on the island.  Many choices for food and excursions.  And all the alcohol you could drink!

Our room itself had a great view.
Click to see my room video here.

The Plaza Room view from the enclosed balcony.  You can see Saudi Arabia just off the horizon.


We lucked up on the room with the best view!  Room 308

Pool side looking towards hotel restaurant.

Poolside overlooking the sea and Saudi Arabia in the distance.
I was impressed at how beautiful the scenery was.  It was like I was walking in a picture from a travel magazine.  Nature painted a perfect backdrop for this amazing hideaway.
A view from a walk up trail

A great view of the entire Taba Heights resorts

This walk up trail is next to the Hilton which was next to the Sofitel.

Here's a video from the beach... sorry, it was a little windy that afternoon.

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The only thing that bothered me was this smell that would come from bathroom after the water was run in the sink or shower.  Needless to say, we brushed our teeth with bottled water the whole stay.  I didn't come for the water in the room anyway.  We came to have fun and fun we did!

We went to Colored Canyon and hiked an amazing trail.  Although we were surrounded by canyon sand and almost no plants, the air was free from dust and smelled fresh like clean air should.
I was surprised to see vegetation in the canyons.

The canyon textures were stunning to see.

A camel!  How'd they do that?

Colored Canyon

A view of Colored Canyon

A Bedouin home.  That camel was real!  He looked so thirsty and dry that I thought it was a statue at first.


One of my favorite times was on a quad bike excursion through the mountains.  I felt like Laura Croft on Tomb Raider!

After almost drowning on my first attempt... I'm not a very good swimmer... I learned to snorkel (with a life vest) and saw beautiful fish and coral.
We snorkeled around Pharaoh's Island.  This is the fortress of Saladin.

This fish came right up to the camera!  Doesn't it look like its smiling?

Underwater pictures and video taken with my Olympus Stylus Tough 6020 camera.
5m/16ft Waterproof.

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I'm still trying to figure out what kind of fish this was.  An eel of some sort?
It kind of scared me so the video is only about 10 seconds.





An Indian Lion fish.



A sea cucumber.

This is the coral that the fish eat.  Coral is a living organism that takes years to grow.  I avoided touching or damaging it when taking these pictures.


  On our last day in Egypt, our flight back to Kuwait had a 10 hour layover, so we decided to tour the Great Pyramids and the Sphinx.  We even took a camel ride.
I avoided the stinky gifts they left on the ground.

Say cheese!

The city near the pyramids was crowded and dirty/dusty.  Don't wear your nice shoes here.





The Great Pyramids of Giza


The Great Pyramid 


The original entrance (North Side)to the Great Pyramid that is sealed.

The second entrance that visitors may now enter.  To learn more about these entrances of the Great Pyramid go to http://www.guardians.net/egypt/gp1.htm



It was surreal standing on the stones of this pyramid.
You can see the original sealed entrance above and the intrusive entrance below it.



View of the Sphinx from the street.
The Sphinx and the Great Pyramid of Khufu

 Once we got back to Kuwait, I could have done without Egypt Air losing my luggage and being rude about their oversight.  We did manage to get it 24 hours later.  We had to go back to the Kuwait airport to get it, though.  If I wasn't clear about it before, let me say it again... Egypt Air sucks!  Now that's all said and done I will say that I'm grateful for being able to visit this place that I've always wanted to see.  I enjoyed my Egyptian adventures and my lazy time at the Taba Heights resort.  I recommend bringing along a very good world phone when traveling to another country.  A GPS with additional travel guide and information would be good too.  Although the problems I had worked out in the end, I will be more prepared next time.  I'm looking forward to venturing out to other areas of Egypt... any recommendations? 

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Life List, Egypt... Check!

I had the most fantastic Thanksgiving at LOL's.  We cooked and stuffed turkey together and invited an array of international friends.  From Germany, Canada, Ethiopia,  Scotland, Spain. It was really cool to share our American tradition and mix it up with an international flair... and boy, could LOL's friend from Germany, cook!

Now, I'm sitting here at the airport in Cairo, still with a full stomach from Desert Girl's post Thanksgiving barbecue, earlier last night.  What a wonderful way to end a great week with friends. Great food, hilarious company, and now I'm putting a big fat check mark on my to do's life list... Egypt!

I'm stuck here in Cairo's ghost town airport for 4 hours.  On my way to Taba.  I'm excited to see what Egypt has to offer... ready, set go!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

It's Better Than Cirque Du Soleil

Last night, I had the time of my life hanging with LOL, Desert Girl and Slapperella at my first Kuwaiti wedding.
I got the girls all gussied up at my house.... slumber party style. Lots of giggles and roll on the floor laughing.  I loved how my hubby made us a fruit tray and bought us pizza; then  he disappeared to let us do our thang.   A-plus baby,  for becoming invisible and deaf to our howling laughter and fabulously inappropriate girlie talk!  Afterwards, we snapped some pictures and we donned our abayas.  We rolled out the door covering our stylish and sexy dresses.  We were running a little late, so Desert Girl was behind the wheel clipping corners like she stole it.  Picture me flopping around the back seat trying to finish pinning LOL's hair up while miss lady was fish tailing.  Hilarious.

When we got to the location, the ladies at the entrance greeted us so nicely.  Actually, it was mostly family in the lobby and we got to meet the bride before she made her grand entrance.  I was in awe of all the glitz and glam.  White makeup, sparkles, eyebrows snatched back more perfect that Ru Paul's...  This definitely ain't no Western wedding, I thought.  No men around, so yay!  The abayas came off and we made our way to the seating.  All eyes were on us.

The music was roaring with traditional tunes sung by live singers. The room was decorated beautifully.  I was expecting to see crazy textures and colors that didn't match, but the decor was quite elegant and tasteful.  From the velvet wall coverings to the daintily covered chairs.  Not too long after we sat down, the bride made her entrance.  I remembered sitting up straighter  and oooing and aahhing like when I was a kid at the circus.  I turned to Desert Girl and shouted over the roaring speakers that this was better than Cirque Du Soeil.  I mean, it really was.  It was like the most spectacular, extravagant, drag-queen royalty parade you ever saw!  Now I see that the queens in the states are probably trying to mimic these girls.  And the hair!  I so want to buy like ten bags of weave and practice one of those Grecian x 3  hair-do's.

After the family danced around the bride during her walk to her seat on the throne, we decided to dance. Well, me Slaps and LOL did.  Desert Girl sat and cheered us on.  The ladies on the dance floor were kind enough to show us a couple of moves and we joined right in.  I don't know how to Arabic dance, but I do know how to salsa and rumba!  A little shimmy here and a little shimmy there... waving my arms a bit, I sashayed my ass  up and down the runway.  I had so much fun laughing at myself and enjoying the music.  I think most of the women there were proud of us for joining in and trying.

There are two negative things that stood out, unfortunately.  And it's a shame too because I know a lot of thought and money was put into the decor.  Although, the dress I got from Debenhams was glamorous and elegant... the spanks rolling down underneath were not.  I had to take a "powder" moment in the bathroom to give those suckers a pull up.  I KNOW you ladies who wear them know what I mean.  Slaps and LOL went along and boy what a trifling mess that bathroom was!  Soaking wet floors and wet tissue all over the place.  I thought maybe I would use the restroom too, but decided against it because there was no dry tissue anywhere except the half dry nasty balls of tissue all over the floors.  Then I thought, OK let me walk to the back so I could hike up my spanks... I walked towards a stall holding my dress up so it wouldn't touch the floor.  I was looking down to watch for water puddles and uggggh!  What is that??!!  Remember that caterpillar toy from when you were a kid?  Well, some nasty ass woman decided to take a dump on the floor and it looked like this except it was brown.  Seriously, lady?  The toilet was right there!

 I mean, WHO does that kind of shit?   No pun intended.  Well, maybe a little pun.  Anyway, the other thing that was a turn off was the food.  I am a germaphobe in case you didn't know.  I had no plans to eat any of the buffet, but I didn't want to appear rude when one of hosts of the party waved us over to come and eat. Me and LOL went to the buffet.  The place where apparently grace and manners go out the window.  Pushing, bumping, stepping on dress tails.  First we couldn't find any clean plates and when we found a server girl she had a crate of freshly "cleaned" plates.  Before she handed each of us one, she wiped them with a corner of table cloth!  I had to consciously close my mouth.  We went around throwing a few things that looked good on our plates and proceeded to stand in the middle of the buffet room and nibble so our hostess would see us eating the food.  But after I saw like 10 women taste testing and eating with their forks out of the serving dishes, I thought I was going to be sick.  We left our plates on an abandoned table and bolted back to the dance hall.

I can't remember if it was before or after the meal, but when the time for the husband and men came, we all had to put on our abayas. It was a fun ad festive entrance as the men danced and threw money up in the air for the couple.  It reminded me of the baller style dudes in a strip club... Make it rain!  As the men and the groom's family danced along the runway/dance floor.  The music was so festive and lively.  I thought it was a shame that all the covered ladies barely tapped their feet.  Oh, the difference from a moment ago.  LOL had said how sad that the men couldn't see how beautiful all the women looked and I agreed.  Afterwards, a nervous looking bride was escorted out to live at her new family's home.  We all danced again till my feet and legs hurt.  The ladies on the dance floor got more comfortable and chatted with us as we danced.  Mostly, just wanting to know who we were married to and where we were from.  It was funny to see as we got nods of approval and hearing them go off in Arabic about what they thought of us. Smiling and nodding.  I wondered if it was all good.  But I really didn't care, I had just gone to my first Kuwaiti wedding!  


Friday, October 29, 2010

The Atlantis in Dubai

The hubby and I had the most wonderful time in Dubai.  We were so busy trying to do everything that I had to come back to home to Kuwait and take a vacation from my vacation.  We stayed at the Atlantis and flew in using Emeriates.  Let me just say that I love the purple colors on the plane.  The seats and aisles were more roomy and  I enjoyed the personal video monitor at my seat.  
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It was so cool to watch the the front view (what the captain was seeing) and the belly aerial view of the flight.  We even got a meal even though the flight was just a little over an hour.  The flight was indeed more pricey than the other airlines, about $100 more per person.   But we wanted to ride in style and it certainly was an upgrade. 

The hotel entrance was classy looking, filled with sea shell and ocean themed pieces. 

 The first thing that grabs your attention is the enormous geyser fountain in the middle of the lobby. 


The decor and finish in every part of the hotel was grand.   With the sound of  the water fountains, to the aroma of essential oils and softly playing music;  the experience of strolling through the hotel was utterly relaxing.  

The outside views were just as amazing.  It was truly a five star experience as far as the overall appearance and upkeep of the hotel.  And the staff worked tirelessly and with a smile to keep every guest satisfied.

 The views outside were just as amazing and very well kept.  It was a royal experience.

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The panoramic view from our room was a joy to see from the terrace.  It's hard to believe that this massive oasis was man-made.



We took a stroll at night on the walkway and discovered where the water park was located.  With a quick trip from the regularly running shuttles (about 5 or 10 minutes) we were off to our water world adventure.





 As a warning, the water park will cause you to have severe laughing spells.  Those with serious sticks up their butts should avoid this experience as you will be sure to have a good time.
I am happy to say that I took "The Leap of Faith".  This slide was awesome and scary and breathtaking fun.  I highly recommend it.
After feeling like a kid and lazing around a couple of days, we swam with the dolphins... err, actually, waded with a dolphin named Cathy in shallow water since I couldn't tread water for a half an hour in the deep end. We got to kiss, hug, play, pet and dance with Cathy.  This was a highlight for me as I truly love dolphins and their playful nature.

Although we only stayed for four days, we dined at a couple of restaurants in the hotel which were divine.  And even went out for a night on the town to dine at the Emirates Towers Vu restaurant which was truly a 5 star meal.   We also managed to visit the Burj Khalifa Tower which is 2,217 feet tall (828 meters). The tallest building in the world that was just completed this year.  The observation deck was way up there with clouds... literally!  I was so in awe of the towering height that my feet were tingling.  

Our short trip felt longer because we had so much fun.  I'm looking forward to going back soon.