United Arab Emirates (UAE) Experience

United Arab Emirates (UAE) Experience

Alpine skiing is a winter sport but not in the Middle Eastern country of the United Arab Emirates where you can ski downhill any season of the year regardless of soaring temperatures and extreme humidity. One would not associate “snow” with the Emirates. However, with the opening of the indoor Ski Dubai Resort in 2005 the urban sport scene has changed! Actually in 2005 it snowed in this desert country for the first time in living memory and blanketed the peak of its Jebel Jais mountain cluster of Ras al-Khaimah. The country’s residents were stunned!

Located at the Mall of the Emirates in the city of Dubai, the Ski Dubai Resort with 22,5000 sq. meters of indoor area served by 5 runs (ski trails) and 2 lift system (1 tow bar and 1 quad chairlift) is currently the world’s biggest indoor ski slope resort. Adjoining the slopes of varying steepness and difficulty for skiing and snowboarding is a 3,000 sq. meter-snow park for sledding and tobogganing. For 2 hours the rate is 200 dirhams (CAD$58.39) and for a full day it costs 275 dirhams (CAD$80.28). Included in the admission price are winter clothing (ski jacket and pants, socks, skiis, and poles and snowboard equipment for snowboarders. However, you cannot purchase a ski ticket unless you are an experienced skier or have taken enough lessons to take the chairlift, make turns and be able to stop or break on your own. My 35 years of skiing serves as an asset!

Experience Dubai skiing in January to coincide with the Dubai Shopping Festival, an annual month-long tax-free retail event that kicks-off in January to revitalize and promote retail trade in the city.

With a population of 2.106 million (450,000 are Filipinos), Dubai has long attracted visitors from all parts of the globe. Known as the “Venice of the Persian Gulf”, modern Dubai fames for its international ambience and exotic cosmopolitan style.Its most famous landmark is the iconic 321-meter high sail-shaped luxury hotel, the “Burj al-Arab”. Started in 1994 and completed in 1999, Burj al-Arab, with 202 rooms in its 27 floors, stands on an artificial island connected to the mainland by a private curving bridge. With the royal suite priced at US$24,000.00 per night, the hotel is frequently described as the “world’s only 7-star hotel”. Former Philippine President Gloria Arroyo stayed here in 2008 when she came for a visit to promote Philippine investments. Whether the Philippine government paid for this or someone else is unclear. We have to make a reservation at one of the hotel’s restaurants or bars for an afternoon tea to get inside and admire with awe its lobby of enormous gold pillars, dancing fountains and aquarium walls. It’s worth paying so much for the lipton tea and dainties!

We drive onto the trunk of the man-made Island of Palm Jumeirah with its huge residential beach-villas and apartments and then take a boat (“abra”) ride across the Dubai Creek ending up at the spice and gold “souqs” (markets).

The world’s tallest building is also in Dubai, the “Burj Khalifa” with 163 floors accessible by the world’s fastest elevator. At the top of the tower is the observation deck and inside are 900 residences, restaurants, corporate suites, fitness and recreation annex and outside are 11 hectares of parks with 6 water features and 3000 underground parking spaces.

Dubai is one of the 7 emirates (principalities) headed by a ruler called “emir” that form the federation of the UAE (United Arab Emirates) established in 1971. The other 6 emirates are Abu Dhabi, Fujairah, Sharjah, Ajman, Ras al-Khaimah, and Umm al-Quwain.

Abu Dhabi is the capital city of UAE and the commercial centre together with Dubai. Abu Dhabi is referred to as the “Manhattan of Arabia” for its profusion of ultramodern glass skyscrapers, gleaming white mosques and elegant high-rise apartment dwellings.

On city arrival our first destination is the Womens’ Handicraft Centre where we admire the skill and dexterity of local women making traditional handicrafts and then proceed to the city’s oldest building, “Al Husn” Royal Palace built in the 18th century and follow the Corniche Drive to the breakwater to enjoy the magnificent view of the city before reaching the “Al Bateen Dhow” yard where wooden boats are still being built using simple tools.

Our east coast tour of the country brings us to another emirate, the once fishing village and the only mountainous emirate of Fujairah to visit its sand-coloured oldest fort, the Fujairah Fort perched high on a hill. The emirate is also home to the oldest mosque in the Emirates , “Al Badiyah” believed to be built in 1446 solely of mud and bricks.

After our UAE tour we fly back from Abu Dhabi to Paris for a one-day and night stay to visit the Louvre Museum and the Eiffel Tower, then back to Winnipeg via New York.