Skip to Content

Category Archives: Middle East

DAY 7 Wahiba Sands

From turtles to camels, from sea to sand, welcome to Wahiba Sands.
Arriving to the Desert night camp it’s like arriving in an other world.
Given that Oman is one of the safest countries in the world we didn’t think twice to leave a Mercedes behind by itself in the middle of nowhere. The camp’s driver drove us inland to the desert camp by a comfortable 4×4. Later we arrived to a place where time stood still even though the small camp had luxurious and modern yet bedouin style tents which were more like little houses air conditioned, spacious and decorated with beautiful Arabic designs. The whole ‘camp’ ground was pristine clean, from the accommodation to reception and indoor/outdoor restaurant areas. We only saw two kind of animals in the camp, camels that were kept clean as well and one camel spider. As an aragnophobic when I saw one running through the bbq area and the staff was already onto it I wanted to find out about insects and their poisonous nature. Camel spiders are fairly big creatures but harmful while scorpions are venomous but they are seasonal. Lucky they were not in season while we were there so I had no problem laying on the bean bag outside underneath the stars with a light breeze at night. Like in any desert temperature goes high from about 10am and starts cooling down at sunset so all the activities are either at sunset or between 6-10am in the morning. We had to leave the camp early the next mornig so we asked whether we can do sandboarding in the afternoon. They arranged a driver for us who took us up on the dunes for another private experience however the brand new sand boards needed a lot of wax to be able to slide well in the hot sand.
Other activities at the camp include dune bashing, sunset camel riding, souk, bedouin village visits, etc.
They are pretty much all private programs. Staying in the Desert Night Camp will give you the real desert experience, it never gets crowded. In the whole camp we had 12 people altogether spread out. Dinner was delicious, had a nice variety of meals and bbq. Which is all part of the package. Alcohol can be purchased separately, but no shisha. It was a great dining experience with live music in the desert after watching sunset from the top of the sand dunes. Next morning the weather was cooler and foggy and after breakfast we were ready to jump on those humps of the camels. We were guided by a cute little boy and his brother. When we were ready to depart the driver was available right away to take us out of the camp, back to the car. Will be back for a longer stay next time! If you are after quality and real private experience in the desert look no further than the Desert Night Camp.

READ MORE

DAY 6 Muscat, Oman

Our day started in the early afternoon as we needed to get a little sleep after our delayed early morning arrival in Muscat.
We were greeted by a friend, a local Omani who was very generous to share his country’s history and culture with us. He showed us around Muscat starting with the Muttrah souk and its many handcrafted ancient artifacts. He explained about the meaning of the many ‘accessories’ Omanis wear as a form of respect. This respect even without seeing people at special occassions shows. It adds to their gentleness, kindness, humbleness and generousity.
After the souk we visited the old city which is also picture perfect, and gives home to Sultan’s Palace. Surrounded by 4 forts that were left there by the Portugese.
Driving through the well structured city we took a quick look at the Al Bustan Palace which is today the Ritz Carlton hotel. It is somewhat similar to the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi, however it was built 20 years before the one in Abu Dhabi.
Since every tourist attraction has morning visitations only we headed to a beautiful coastal place for sunset. The previously prepared land by a Dubaian investor looked moonlike indeed, by the water, beautiful rock formations and surrounded by majestic mountains.
Our friend had a great idea frankincense, we were greeted by hostesses in traditional Omanian clothing. Their energy was so beautiful. The evening then flowed into a series of traditional dishes. It’s certainly worth going there to meet them and experience the food. It’s quite possibly the most characteristic and elegant restaurant I have been to.

Ras Al Jinz was next on the tour. We travelled for 3 hours along a coastline we could not see. Once arriving at the Turtle Reserve at 1am to an un-attended reception, (The Omanian’s always go above and beyond to help. The reception team in the morning were very apologetic and kindly gave us some food for the road)the security guard helped us find our room to retire for a few hours ready for the pre dawn turtle experience.of introducing us the food culture. He took us to the new Omani traditional restaurant at the exquisite Opera House, Al Angham. Walking in to the freshness of frankincense, we were greeted by hostesses in traditional Omanian clothing. Their energy was so beautiful. The evening then flowed into a series of traditional dishes. It’s certainly worth going there to meet them and experience the food. It’s quite possibly the most characteristic and elegant restaurant I have been to.

Ras Al Jinz was next on the tour. We travelled for 3 hours along a coastline we could not see. Once arriving at the Turtle Reserve at 1am to an un-attended reception, (The Omanian’s always go above and beyond to help. The reception team in the morning were very apologetic and kindly gave us some food for the road)the security guard helped us find our room to retire for a few hours ready for the pre dawn turtle experience.

READ MORE

DAY 5 – Musandam, Sultanate of Oman

Before leaving UAE we made sure our car was clean not just for the car commercial we had planned to shoot but also for Oman where a clean undusty car is a must, otherwise you can be penalized.

Right after we crossed the border to the Musandam Peninsula a rather challenging and beautiful coastal mountainous drive presented itself. Roads are perfectly paved sometimes in line with sea level. We drove on these roads for a few hours on the Easternmost point of the mainland. These fascinating rock formations cut into the sea so close to the other mainland that Iran is reachable less than hour by boat.
It provided the most perfect location to film a car commercial which came to a sudden and intriguing end when the drone tracking the car lost connection and crashed into the mountains on the way back to the home point. The mission to search started and after about an hour walking in scorching heat in the sand Ashleigh miraculously spotted the drone half way up the mountain. I made sure that my travel agent’s number is on speed dial and I started climbing. Horus (the drone) was alive and in one piece, only the battery was missing that I found a few meters down the mountain a bit damaged bit still working. She proved her physical strength and agility. We both knew we would find her as our intuition drew us to her exact location.

In the mountains of Khasab we grabbed some snacks from the supermarket and I spotted my favorite Himalayan minty fluoride free toothpaste that I haven’t been able to find in the UAE in the last few days. I was so happy that I bought a year supply. An Omani shop assistant came out after us to take a picture with us. I wasn’t sure whether it was our effect or all the toothpastes I bought.

The drive continued and somewhat later we arrived to the turn off to the Khawr Najd. There were two gates, one was open, one was closed and the sign saying Access is prohibited – Omani’s secret project. It looked like an oil rig or explorations from above. I was very happy that we decided to go through the open gate and headed up on a steep unpaved road. The view of the Omani Fjords was just breathtaking. Now that we had a working drone again with some battery charge left we did a bit more filming.
By the time we made our way down the mountain there was only one inquisitive goat around that was fascinated by what we were doing.. Or maybe it just wanted food.

Running behind time we followed the instructions what they told us at the UAE border that we have to go back the same way to get to Muscat which is a huge de-tour.
A few hours later we arrived at the checkpoint only to find out that we are not allowed to cross the border without original car registration papers (car rental companies keep originals and give copies). Oddly we were redirected to the Hatta border crossing one hour through the mountains to come into Oman. The question is why were we not let through at the first border post yet the second one we were allowed through with no problems. 8 hours later than expected we arrived in Muscat at 4am with only a street name as reference for the hotel (as they don’t use standard address system, only point of references). We pulled over at the side of the road by a large building to ask the local security guards that were working there for their guidance. In true Omanian character they immediately dropped everything and were more than happy to help us. One of them jumped in his car and said follow me.

READ MORE

DAY 4 – Ras Al Khaimah / Jabal Sais

 

DAY 4

From civilization to ‘desertization’ today we arrived to the Headland of Small Huts – Ras Al Khaimah. When we saw mountains emerging through dust we were reminded our day’s itinerary – Jabal Sais – the arid planes and dramatic rock face mountains. When we pulled over and tried to remember the correct spelling of the mountain to put it into the GPS a car pulled up next to us asking whether we needed help. Another example how friendly people are here.

First we sent Horus – the All Seeing Eye up to look around while the sun was setting then we realized there is a road leading up to the top so we maneuvered up quickly on the twisty-turvy roads while there was still light. I was testing the wheels on the car while Ashleigh made good use of the sun-roof while getting some amazing footage.

The Waldorf Astoria Hotel majestically greeted us upon our return. The mistaken location for dinner resulted in a personal guided tour of the 3 year old, soon to be 7 star hotel. We both felt the welcoming Arabian energy and instantly fell in love with it. After we had dinner in the correct location, we went back to the Waldorf Astoria’s 17th floor 17 Square Lounge bar to enjoy a drink.. It was a great location however we chose to take the outdoor ground floor option with Shisha. On the way down we met a rather animated and characteristic local that was ‘slightly intoxicated’. A friendly man with a jolly chuckle.

Once outside enjoying our Mojito and Singapore Sling with cherry shisha our dear friend was telling us that draught beer was no good and gave him a head ache in very broken English. The beautiful warm Arabian night with low light, stars above and a warm breeze was filled with laughter and great repetitive conversations with our friend. As the traditional generosity continues, he proceeded to invite us to join him for ‘drinky drinky drinky’ and food. As friendly and harmless as he was, we chose to retire for the evening ready for the next day of adventure, windy roads and the following location on the xpedition.

READ MORE

DAY 3 – Emirate of Dubai

We said goodbye to Abu Dhabi this morning from the guinness record holder furthest leaning tower Hyatt Capital Gate then we drove to Dubai. We arrived at the Dubai Marina where we stepped out of the crisp 22 degree air conditioning into the swealtering 42 degree summer at “The Beach”. The short lived experience was concluded with an ice cold beverage before we disembarked to the elegant Palm island’s most outter reaches by the Persian Gulf. Waving at the 7 star Burj Al Arab on the way we headed to Madinat Jumeirah – a traditional souk selling beautiful authentic persian gifts.

Then came the `world’s biggest`- the biggest shopping centre The Dubai Mall, and the world’s tallest building Burj Khalifa and it’s dancing fountain show. Next to it is my favourite Palace hotel featuring my favorite style of timber and Arabian work.
It took us about 20 mins to escape¬†from the carpark then we needed to race to the dinner cruise. After relaxed Abu Dhabi it was a bit hectic to drive in Dubai. The boat didn’t leave without us, we had on board entertainment, delicious food and heat cruising down the Deira.

My personal opinion hasn’t changed since last year. Dubai is a futuristic city with the latest architecture designs and even though it’s really built up and often resembles a concrete jungle much of it is still a construction site. Not hard to imagine that the present will be at least tripled. All these developments up must bring a big influx of people in the city, and tourism is what the city relies on as they are running out their black gold supply. Abu Dhabi on the other hand has the oil and a healthy balance between modernity and tradition. It is a lot more structured and has a better layout with the Corniche, the underpass and the green parks.

Most travellers visit Dubai on their Middle Eastern visit. I would highly suggest to add Abu Dhabi to the list.

READ MORE

DAY 2 – Emirate of Abu Dhabi

Our second day began with navigating through the city and trying to ditch the speed cameras on the way to Pilates that was in the wrong location!

After I woke up I dressed up as if I was to go to work, I had a booking for a reformer Pilates class, would have been just perfect for my back, but no Pilates and no massage for Naomi as it turns out the studio only has floor Pilates in that beach club. Anyways, at least we had a look on Saadiyat (Happiness) island. Beautiful white sandy beaches, turquoise water. It was way too hot even for the beach. 42 degrees in the shade. Beautiful residential complexes and golf club on the island.

Since we postponed our breakfast reservation in the leaning tower we went to find our favourite local Lebanese eatery hidden in the heart of the city. I double dosed on my favorite manakish and tried some real hummus.

All ready for the day we set the GPS to the mosque, loads of search results, nearly every single street has one. The prayers emanate from in between the high rises giving the modern city a traditional atmosphere.

Driving out of the city the majestic building of Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque emerges with its white marble domes. It is open to visitors outside of prayer times, with appropriate dress codes. Women need to be fully covered up with abajas. The modern islamic mosque has tiles with traditional geometric patterns, floral designs, Swarovski crystal and 24-carat galvanised gold chandeliers.

Without interrupting the flow of beautiful architecture and tradition we drove to Emirates Palace which functions as a hotel next to the Presidential Palace on a huge property but took only 3 years to build with the cost of 3 billion dollars. These buildings have such majesty yet calmness and peace. We sat down in the centre cafe to take in the nice vibe, there was live piano in front of us while we had some dates and my special camelcchino (espresso with camel milk and date syrup).

Time flies and we didn`t have time to make it to the falcon hospital so we ended up checking out the Mall – World Trade Centre which is a shopping centre separated by a bridge. One side is the traditional souk and the other side is a modern day shopping featuring the latest brands.

Enjoy the pictures above and on Instagram – they were taken of the city from Lulu Island.

And a little teaser from the aerial videos that we shot. Stock footage are available on Videoblocks and Pond5.

 

 

READ MORE

DAY 1 – Arriving to the UAE

 

Welcome to Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates – announced the PA on Etihad Airways after 14 hours of non stop flying from Brisbane on their new Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

Got meeted and greeted by Sixt car (Engineered in Germany, made in Hungary, driven in the UAE by a Hungarian and Australian) then we indulged in a divine brunch at Yas Vice Roy and explored what Yas Island has to offer from the exquisite Marina, Yacht Club, Golf Club to the world class motorsport complex including the Formula 1 circuit and drag racing track.

The roads were like an apocalyptic movie scene. Having no cars on the roads allowed us to cross the lines while still getting used to right side driving. No humans were injured in the making of this blog and no falcons were collided during aerial photography.

With the sun setting the traffic picked up and our focus skills were tested. We munched on some delicious Lebanese traditional Manakich and Haloumi in the park at sunset along with some Arabic stray cats when the temperature was still around 38 degrees at 7pm. After that heat and sleep deprivation we just wanted to relax with some Moroccan massage. Then we booked one on the go not realising that it was for a gents spa. Strict rules apply, just like in other facilities where man are women are not allowed together.
Other than that we found people of Abu Dhabi very friendly, helpful and hospitable.

I’m ready to fall into bed after publishing this and uploading some of the still shots that were taken today.

Thanks for reading my first blog entry after day 1.
At the end of each day I will try to make an entry and post aerial photos here and some on Instagram which you can see on the frontpage Instagram feed at the bottom. I am also doing a lot of filming which will need to be edited before I upload them in the portfolio section of the website.

More discovery of Abu Dhabi tomorrow – learning about history and culture by visiting mosque, falcon museum and others…

Naomi

 

READ MORE