Today I was going to visit the city of Al Ain located 120 kms south of Dubai. The fourth largest city in the UAE. Al Ain is known as the Garden City due to it greenery nature and it oasis. Al Ain is also the birthplace of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the first president of the United Arab Emirates.
The minibus from Dubai to Al Ain was 20 AED (£3.75) and the journey took one and half hours to two hours.
I was keen to visit the cultural sights that make up the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Al Ain. The citation of the Al Ain entry in the UNESCO World Heritage Site list describes Al Ain as having multiple locations for it citation. That being the examples of construction, agricultural use and water management in the desert since protohistory.
The designated Al Ain World Heritage Site is a serial nomination of 17 locations.
First on my sightseeing was the Al Jahili fort.
The fort has no admission fees. A lone security guy sits on a chair in the shade.
The fort is open everyday except Monday. The fort is also closed on Friday mornings.
At the time of my visit, there was no other visitors and except for the lone security officer sitting on chair, I had the fort all to myself.
in the northeastern corner is the two-storey building which was used for receptions and guests of the Sheikh.
The Al Jahili fort is one if the UAE most historic buildings. It was constructed in 1891 to defend the city and protect it palm groves.
In 1951, the fort was the headquarters of the Oman Trucial Scouts that protected the mountain passes and kept inter-tribal peace.
The scouts were renamed the Union Defence Force (UDF) upon the formation of the Unitied Arab Emirates in 1971.
In the southwestern corner of the fort is the round tower.
The round tower consists of four concentric tiers.
In the 1980’s the fort was handed over to the Department of Antiquities and Tourism which carried out restoration work to restore the fort to it original status.
I went for a walk outside the fort.
Another restoration phase in 2007-8 by the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (ADACH) saw the fort houses a Visitor Information Centre with a shop and cafe, facilities for outdoor cultural events and wider exhibition spaces.
After my sightseeing at the fort I then went to the Al Ain Palace Museum.
The palace is the former home of the late UAE founder, Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan.
The palace was built in 1910 and in 1998 the palace became a museum.
The palace has no admission fees.
The Al Ain Oasis is the largest oasis in Al Ain. The oasis is 3000 acres and contains over 147,000 dates palms.
It was easy to get lost inside the oasis.
The oasis is known for its underground irrigation system “falaj” which brings water from boreholes to water farms and palm trees.
The falaj irrigation is an ancient system dating back thousands of years.
Other crops grown here are mangoes, oranges, bananas and figs.
Inside the oasis there are remains of an old fortification and an mosque.
Heading back into the city centre, I passed the mosque.
I decided to go to the market.
An assortment of fresh fruit and meat is available here.
Next on my sightseeing was to visit the Al Ain National museum.
Al Ain National museum is the oldest museum in the UAE. Opened in 1971, the museum features displays on the city’s exclusive heritage and history.
The museum is housed in the same compound as the Sultan Bin Zayed Fort (also known as the Eastern Fort) which was built in 1910 and is well conserved.
The museum is 3 AED (£0.60) admission. As with other attractions in Al Ain, the museum is close on Mondays and closed on Friday mornings.
The Eastern fort was constructed a 100 years ago by Sheikh Sultan bin Zayed Al Nahyan and served as a residence to his family since then and until he succeeded as the ruler of Abu Dhabi in 1922.
It was converted to a museum and opened to the public in 1971.
The fort is quite small and is only 35 metres in length on each side.
After my sightseeing, it was time to head back to Dubai and my luxury *ahem* hotel.
Tomorrow, I was going to go scuba diving on the east coast of UAE and Oman.
To be continued….
For more information about the UAE please visit:
I am back from my six days visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE). I was able to do some sightseeing and cross over the border to Oman for scuba diving.
In summary, I spent two full days in Oman and three full days in the UAE sightseeing and shopping.
It was hot at this time of the year. The temperature was 39 degrees Celsius whilst the sea temperature was 29 degrees Celsius.
My hotel was in the old part of Dubai known as Deira and was near to Dubai Creek.
Dubai itself is a city famous for its modern architecture and luxury shopping malls. The city has expanded at an enormous rate over the last few decades and the population now stands at 2.5 million (mostly expats and immigrants). In the 1950s the population was 20,000 people. With the discovery of oil, the city rapidly expanded and it wealth has led to ultramodern projects such as the Palm Jumeirah artificial archipelago project. Many of the construction projects in Dubai are now on hold due the 2008 banking crisies and the current decline in oil prices.
When I arrived, my first sightseeing was to Dubai Marina. This is a residential district of Dubai where many westerners expats live.
Many of the skyscapers here are residential blocks.
Having known many expats living here over the years, a lot of these residential towers were built by dubious developers and many expats have lost their investments to these crooks. That is typical of how things are done in Dubai. So becareful if you are considering investing here.
The Torch Tower had a twenty storey fire last February. At the time of construction I had spoken to many expats who purchased off plan into this tower and many expressed concerns about the poor construction of the tower including lack of fire protection coatings. Their concerns proven to be correct.
All over the marina, new towers are still being built.
I took a small RIB boat from the Marina to visit the artificial archipelagos.
Taking the boat out, I saw the Palm Jumeirah artificial archipelago project and also the Burj Al Arab hotel. The hotel was opened in 1999 and it is a symbol of modern Dubai.
This hotel is the world’s only 7 star hotel. Living on my £145 per month army pension, I was not able to afford to stay here for my holiday.
With gold plated toilets and personal butlers to chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce services, this hotel has been repeatedly voted the world’s most luxurious hotel.
From the marina, I had to cross the famous Sheikh Zayed Road to get to the metro station.
I took the metro back to the old city.
Whilst on the metro, I passed the Burj Khalifa tower. This is the tallest tower in the world, standing at 829.8 m (2,722 ft) tall. The building gained the official title of “Tallest Building in the World” at its opening on January 4th, 2010.
Arriving in the old city of Dubai, I first went to see the Creek.
Dubai Creek is the old part of the city and was originlly a small port for numberous dhows that traded with East Africa and India. It is still used for trade using the traditional dhows.
A short walk later, I came to the Al Fahidi fort.
The fort was built in 1787 and is the oldest existing building in Dubai. It is now a museum and is 3 AED (£0.60) to get in.
After my sightseeing, I went to do some late night shopping.
The Dubai Mall is the world’s largest shopping mall based on total area. Opened in 2009, it has over 1200 stores.
In March this year, more than a hundred foreign labourers protested in front of Dubai Mall due to overtime wages not being paid. Despite all the ultraluxury developments in Dubai, there is a lot of poor pay within the city.
The Mall comes with a interior aquarium so that shoppers can stare at the fish whilst shopping.
The Mall of the Emirates has over 700 stores and a ski slope! The Middle East’s first indoor ski resort and snow park.
After buying my sexy gal a sexy skirt and several dresses, I headed back to my faulty air conditioning hotel room.
The next day I was going to visit Al Ain, the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
To be continued….
For more information about the UAE and Dubai please visit:
Today I was going to visit the Acropolis of Athens, a World Heritage Site listed by UNESCO.
The Acropolis of Athens is an ancient citadel located on a high rocky outcrop above the city of Athens and contains the remains of several ancient buildings of great architectural and historic significance, the most famous being the Parthenon.
While there is evidence that the hill was inhabited as far back as the fourth millennium BC, it was Pericles (c. 495 – 429 BC) in the fifth century BC who coordinated the construction of the site’s most important buildings including the Parthenon, the Erechtheion and the temple of Athena Nike.
It cost 12 Euros to visit all six sites of the Acropolis of Athens and the ancient Agora.
The slopes of the Acropolis has many statues and monuments.
The theatre of Dionysus is at the base of the Acropolis and it was used for festivals in honor of the god Dionysus. It has seating for 17,000 spectators.
The Parthenon is a former temple dedicated to the goddess Athena, whom the people of Athens considered their patron.
The Erechtheion is an ancient Greek temple on the north side of the Acropolis of Athens in Greece which was dedicated to both Athena and Poseidon.
On the north side, there is another large porch with six Ionic columns, and on the south, the famous “Porch of the Maidens”, with six draped female figures (caryatids) as supporting columns.
In 1801 one of the caryatids and the north column of the east porch together with the overlying section of the entablature were removed by Lord Elgin in order to decorate his Scottish mansion, and were later sold to the British Museum (along with the pedimental and frieze sculpture taken from the Parthenon). The new Acropolis Museum holds the other five figures, which are replaced onsite by replicas.
From atop I could see all across Athens including the ancient Agora down below.
The ancient Agora was the central spot in ancient Athens. The Temple of Hephaestus is located at the north-west side of the Agora.
The ancient Agora has a small museum.
I headed to a viewpoint to look across the ancient Agora.
It was mid-November and warm enough for me to wear t-shirt and shorts.
Next on my sightseeing was the Panathenaic Stadium. The stadium is a multi-purpose stadium used for several events and athletics and hosted the first modern Olympic Games in 1896. Reconstructed from the remains of an ancient Greek stadium, the Panathenaic Stadium is the only major stadium in the world built entirely of white marble.
In the 2004 Olympic Games, the Panathenaic Stadium hosted the archery competition and the finish of the Marathon.
It could once seat about 80,000 spectators on fifty rows of marble steps and currently holds 45,000 spectators.
The next day, I headed to the mountains surrounding the city of Athens. I came across a wild tortoise in the forest.
The Kaisariani Monastery is an Eastern Orthodox monastery built on the north side of Mount Hymettus, near Athens.
The monastery was probably established in Byzantine times in ca. 1100.
I took the metro back to Athens city centre.
Shopping in Athens is a favorite pastime for tourists and Athenians and one of the best places to buy just about anything is the Monastiraki Flea Market.
After my shopping I headed to the marina on the coast.
I was invited by the Qatar’s former Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani to have dinner on board his supersize yacht (that was probably paid for by taxes and corruption). At dinner we discuss FIFA 2022 World Cup bribery and rigging. We decided that Germany will win the cup in 2022. The Al Mirqab yacht is one of the largest motor yachts ever built at a length of 133 metres. The yacht is normally moored at the Faliro coastal area of Athens.
It was time to head back to Britain and to put up my Xmas decorations.
– The End –
For more information about Greece please visit:
For my rest of my trip to Russia I was going to fly from Moscow to Saint Petersburg.
It is located on the Neva River at the head of the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea. It is Russia’s second largest city after Moscow with 5 million inhabitants.
Saint Petersburg was founded by Tsar Peter the Great in 1703.
The historic centre of Saint Petersburg constitute a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city has 221 museums, 2000 libraries, more than 80 theaters, 100 concert organizations, 45 galleries and exhibition halls, 62 cinemas and around 80 other cultural establishments – obviously I was not going to see all of them.
Saint Petersburg is also home to the Hermitage, one of the largest art museums in the world. It was founded in 1764 by Catherine the Great in 1764 and been opened to the public since 1852.
The collections occupy a large complex of six historic buildings along Palace Embankment, including the Winter Palace, a former residence of Russian emperors.
Its collections comprise over three million items including the largest collection of paintings in the world.
Next on my sightseeing was the Church of the Savior on Blood. This Church was built on the site where Tsar Alexander II was assassinated and was dedicated in his memory.
The Church is situated along the Griboedov Canal.
Construction began in 1883 under Alexander III, as a memorial to his father, Alexander II. Work progressed slowly and was finally completed during the reign of Nicholas II in 1907.
The church never functioned as a public place of worship, having been dedicated to the memory of the assassinated tsar. The church is now one of the main tourist attractions in St. Petersburg.
The Church contains over 7500 square metres of mosaics.
During the Russian Revolution, the church was ransacked and looted. During WW2 the church suffered significant damage. It has now been restored.
The next day I was going visit the sites of the Russian Revolution.
To be continued….
For more information about Russia please visit:
Yesterday, I flew back from Moscow in Russia. I spent eight days in Russia as the head negotiator of a Unitied Nations peace talks to discuss the Crimea crisies with president Putin. Would he listen to the monkey? I also had time to do some sightseeing in both Moscow and Saint Petersburg.
It was cold when I flew into Moscow but not as cold as I was expecting.
After checking into my hotel, I headed to the Red Square.
The Red Square is the heart of Moscow and together with the Kremlin was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1990, due to their inextricable links to Russian history.
The buildings surrounding the Square are all significant in some respect. Lenin’s Mausoleum, for example, contains the embalmed body of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, the founder of the Soviet Union.
The Red Square get its name from the Russian word красная (krasnaya) which can mean either “red” or “beautiful”. It is the latter that implies the Red Square. Many tourists falsely thinks the Red Square get its name from the red walls of the surrounding Kremlin walls.
The Red Square hosts the annual military victory day parade. Russian military vehicles are paraded through the square. Last years parade is here:
Next on my sightseeing was to visit the Kazan Cathedral on the northeast of the Red Square. This is a reconstruction of the orginal cathedral built in the 17th century.
The orginal cathedral was destroyed in 1936 under orders of Stalin.
The new building is an exact copy of the orginal cathedral.
Next on my visit was the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on the walls of the Kremlin just next to the Red Square. This tomb contains the remains of unknown soldiers killed in the Battle of Moscow 1941.
Since 1997, a Guard of Honour of the Kremlin Regiment guards the tomb.
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was unveiled to the public on May 8th 1967.
The changing of the guards attracts a large tourist crowd.
Next on my visit of the Red Square was Saint Basil’s Cathedral. It is no longer a church but now a museum.
As part of the program of state atheism, the church was confiscated from the Russian Orthodox community as part of the Soviet Union’s anti-theist campaigns and has operated as a division of the State Historical Museum since 1928.
After visiting the cathedral I went to the exclusive shopping mall next to the Red Square known as the Glavnyi Universalnyi Magazin (GUM). With the collapse of communism, nowadays the GUM is very exclusive and the rich and famous shop here for top end fashions and jewellery.
I was looking at the exclusive yellow diamonds at Tiffany and Co. I was considering getting my auntie a yellow diamond pendant. I was quoted 14,000 Euros. On my army salary I will have to save a while.
It was now getting dark and I wanted to see the Red Square at night. The colour scheme of Saint Basil’s Cathedral is best seen by night.
After dinner, I went to the Kremlin for my first meeting with President Putin. I told him that he must not invade the Ukraine. He then pour his glass of water over my cotton fur and walked out of the conference. I have to be more diplomatic tomorrow at the next scheduled meeting.
With my failure at the first day of the peace talks, I decided to get drunk and visit a brothel.
To be continued….
For more information about Russia please visit:
Today I was going to cross the Øresund Bridge by train and into Sweden to the city of Malmö.
The Øresund Bridge links Denmark to Sweden and was opened in 2000. It is a dual railway/road bridge and is almost 5 miles in length with a 2.5 mile tunnel preceding the bridge from the Danish side. It only cost 78 DKK (approx. 9 Euros) to cross the bridge by train.
The journey time from Copenhagen to Malmö is approximately half an hour.
My day trip to Sweden was to visit the city of Malmö. This is the third largest city in Sweden and the most southernmost city in Sweden.
In recent years, Malmö has become known for it rape crime wave and has earnt the reputation of the rape capital of Europe. A sad reflection on the failings of modern politicians. Putting this aside, Malmö centre has a number of interesting historic buildings and a castle from a time when this part of Sweden was part of Denmark.
My visit to Malmö was to start in the city centre in the square.
Near the square is St Petri (The Church of Saint Peter). It is a Gothic style in which construction started in 1319. It has a 105 metre tall tower.
After seeing the church, I was off to Willys supermarket to get my sandwiches. I like Willys.
Malmö is the host for the 2013 Eurovision Song Contest. This is the yearly contest to find Europe’s worst song and then promote the song in as a song of European unity. The contest is a mismatch of awful singers who had past their time many years ago (or in some cases decades ago).
I was walking around the historic centre of Malmö.
Near the centre of Malmö is the castle.
The castle is now a museum.
The castle is near the city park.
It was getting late on the afternoon. I was wearing my newly knitted daisy wooly hat.
I was off to the harbour for the sunset.
The harbour is a major port for Scandinavian shipping.
After visiting the harbour, I watched the sunset over the harbour with the Turning Torso tower in the background. The Turning Torso is the tallest skyscraper in Sweden.
For more information about Malmö please visit:
Today I was going to see Southern Iceland on the South tour trip. Unfortunately the weather was bad but you all know me – nothing stops me getting out and doing things.
My first stop of the day was to see an icy glacier. I headed over to Sólheimajökull glacier on the Southern coast of Iceland.
The glacier views was stunning.
The ground all around me was blackened due to the nearby volcanoes.
It was cold here, so I did not stay long.
I headed to the beach to see the Puffins that are located here, but the weather was soooooo cold that even the Puffins migrated to Fiji for the summer. I saw none.
The beach was very blackened too.
Somehow, I didn’t feel like stripping off and doing a wee bit of sunbathing on this beach.
The rock formations of the coastline was weird.
It eventually stopped raining and I headed to the Skógar museum to learn about Icelandic culture and heritage.
Old traditional Icelandic houses had grass growing on it roof tops! Not sure how one is suppose to get an electric lawnmower up onto the roof top without causing injury.
Althrough the rain has stopped, it was very windy. At times I thought I was going to be blown away but luckly for me, my stitches held fine.
I went to see Skógafoss waterfall which is on the old southern coastline but now the coastline had receded about 5 kms seawards due to volcanic activity.
The waterfall is 60 metres high and I went to the top of it for a view from the top.
It is said that on a clear day, two rainbows can be seen at this waterfall.
I headed along the Route 1 highway following the coastline until I came across the Eyjafjallajökull volcano which is pronounced er… um… err-jaff-go-skull volcano. Something like that!
This volcano erupted in 2010 causing massive ash clouds all over Europe thus disrupting air travel to and from Europe. I almost had to cancel my 2010 Mount Everest trip because of this eruption as I was flying to Nepal via Bangkok from London . But as you all know, I made it to Nepal and set the record to become the first cuddly toy to conquer Mount Everest. Read about it here: https://britisharmysgtmonkey.wordpress.com/2012/01/26/my-trip-to-mount-everest-nepal-in-2010-part-1/
After seeing the volcano that is now silent, I went to see another 60 metre high waterfall.
Seljalandsfoss waterfall is a nice one to visit as it is possible to walk behind it.
I headed back to Reykjavík to warm up my wet damp cotton fur and a hot tub sauna with naked Icelandic chicks was going to warm me up quickly.
To be continued….
For more information about Iceland please visit: