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Arabian Sea & Suez Canal Cruise on the Celebrity Constellation

4/22/18 to 5/7/18


Pre-Cruise in Abu Dhabi, UAE

Day 3
After a good night’s sleep, we were ready to continue our exploration of the area.  We had booked an afternoon desert safari tour, so we had the morning and early afternoon free to do whatever we wanted.  The Abu Dhabi Louvre had just opened in November 2017, after almost ten years in the making.  I was so glad that it had been completed in time for us to visit it.  We took a cab there.  Since the Louvre is fairly close to downtown, the cab fare was only 20 dirhams or about $5. 

As we approached the building, we could see its unique floating dome roof.  The building itself appears smaller than I expected; but it actually had 86,000 square feet of galleries. 

Even though the temperature was relatively mild, when in the sun it was quite hot.  Fortunately, there was a partially covered walkway from where the taxis drop people off, so it was most appreciated.  We quickly checked out the grounds and exterior and headed inside. 



Since we were there early, there was no line for tickets, so there was no delay.  From what I have read, the lines can be quite long, so it pays to get tickets ahead of time online.  With Carol using a mobility scooter, we were able to get free entry; but we did need to show Carol’s handicap placard and paperwork.

The first display room was rather unusual with a. depiction of a river on the floor and few objects displayed.  We did find it unusual that the descriptions of the items throughout the museum were put below the objects near the floor.  It did make it difficult to read what the object was. 


The next room had more objects which were widely spread out.  Most of the rooms had plenty of room for expansion.  The museum felt like they needed to acquire more items to fill it up.  I am not going to try to describe each room’s contents; but will show many of the pieces I liked. 










The items the museum had were quite special and beautiful; but this Louvre is much more about cultural exhibits than paintings; which is probably good, since they can’t compete with the Paris Louvre.  What they did have was quite special though.  There were several rooms with antique books on display.  Many of the books were religious ones of importance from many of the religions of the world.  They were nicely displayed, but I don’t go to museums to see books normally.




The few paintings they had appeared to be more like wall decorations than objects they were highlighting, since most were in rooms with other artifacts.  The paintings they had, that I assume were loaned to them by the Paris Louvre were minor works by the most famous artists.  There were a few well know paintings, but not many. Below are the ones by Whistler, Van Gogh and Da Vinci.



After seeing all the main exhibit halls, we went out into the auditorium plaza, where we could see the dome from below.  It is a most interesting design. The web pattern dome allows light to filter through it to make it look like sun shining through date palm fronds in an oasis.


We then went into the last area, which was for a special exhibit, Globes: Visions of the World.  It was as described, a whole lot of globes, along with some other displays.


Upon exiting the museum, I liked the views around the building’s exterior. 


The Abu Dhabi Louvre is a very nice museum; but after being in some of the great museums of the world, including the Louvre in Paris, I had higher expectations for this Louvre, primarily in the paintings.  So, we were a little disappointed; but we did see some outstanding items there.  I probably should have read more about the museum’s collection before we went, so that I would have appreciated them more.

For the afternoon, we were taking a Desert Safari tour.  Once again it was provided through EA Tours.  Our guide, Shihab, picked us up first before the other two couples that would join us in the Toyota Land Cruiser.  Shihab was great, we really enjoyed him.  He took very good care of us and helped us to have a good time. 


One of the couples was from Russia and couldn’t speak English.  The other couple was from Germany and the wife spoke a little English, so there wasn’t a lot of talking during the tour in the car.  On the way out of town, we could see the leaning building in the distance.  It is a strange sight.

The safari includes dune bashing, a dinner and a dancing show.  The drive to the desert area, Al Khatim, took about an hour. 

Since Carol had no desire to do the dune bashing, we dropped her off at the camp, where the dinner and show would take place later in the afternoon.   A couple of camels were sitting down not far away.  They would be working later.

The rest of us headed to a sand dune where about 45 other land cruisers were parked.

Everyone was walking around or climbing up the sand dunes.  I decided to climb up the one in front of us.  I felt like Lawrence of Arabia, at least for a little while.  Then I felt like the old man I am as I huffed and puffed to the top to take photos.  Climbing sand dunes is not easy.  I really had to keep pumping to keep from sliding back down.  The view was nice from the top though. 


We got back in the cars and we headed for the dune bashing.  All the cars went in a line; which was really nice, since we could see what we would be doing before we did it. It also allowed me to take photos of the other vehicles bashing, since I couldn’t get one of ours.  It is not easy to take photos while doing this; but I did get some.  Part of the problem is that it is hard to snap a photo while you are holding on for dear life.


It was so much fun!  We would ride along the top of a dune and Shihab would just turn his wheel and we would slide down the other side.  Since his wheels were accelerating during the turn, sometimes the sand would fly into the windshield.


Other times, he would climb up a dune and just plunge down the other side.  It was a hoot!  I just loved it; and I was so glad that Carol hadn’t come along, since she would have been hysterical.


For a break in the action, we stopped at a camel farm, where it was feeding time.  I really had to watch where I walked, since the ground was covered with dried camel dropping pellets.  We had to watch out, especially for the fresh ones.


After the short break, we headed back to the cars for the last of the dune bashing before heading back to the camp.  Near the end of the bashing, I realized that I should have taken a video of the experience.  I was able to get a little bit of the experience; but not the best part, since the last part was on the camp road.  Hopefully it will give you a little bit of an idea of what it was like.


When we got back to the camp, we saw the stage set up with tables around it.  We would be sitting on cushions.  Carol had found a different area where she could sit on a regular chair.  However, Shihab had already staked out a table right next to the dance floor for the six of us, so that is where I was going to sit.  The food serving area was close by.



I walked around the camp to see what activities were available.  There were quite a few things to do.  I had originally wanted to ride a camel; but they only had the two original camels that I had seen earlier.  So, when I saw the long line waiting to ride them, I passed on it.  The ride itself was only about 2 minutes long, since they just went around in a very small circle.  From what I saw, it wasn’t worth the effort to climb on and off the camel for that short of a ride. 

Some people were having their photos taken with a falcon and others were getting henna tattoos. 


They also had an area where you could get dressed up in Arab clothing for photos.  Another section had hookahs set up if you wanted to smoke one.

There were also four wheelers that could be rented to do your own dune bashing.  It must have been expensive, since I only saw one person discussing it with the vendor.

The desert sunset was supposed to be worth watching.  The sun would set behind a large dune that was also being used for dune surfing.  It did look like fun. 

With there not being any clouds in the sky, the sunset wasn’t as dramatic as I had hoped for; but then again, I have never gotten a photo of the sun setting behind a sand dune.

As the sun went down everyone was waiting to be called up to the food line for dinner.  They had a nice variety of Mediterranean food, including grilled lamb and chicken along with various salads, vegetables, fruits, hummus and pita bread.  The food was pretty good for the most part, that is if you like Mediterranean food. 


After dinner was a show that included two dancers.  We have seen many belly dancer shows in our travels; but this one was by far the best.  She put on a long show that was about 15 minutes in length. 


I have included a short video showing some of her performance.


The next dancer was a whirling dervish.  He was amazing, while he spinned around for over 15 minutes, he was doing different things with various props that kept us mesmerized.  I was so involved in his performance, I forgot to take photos for a while.  When I did take some, they weren’t that good, since he was constantly moving.  Near the end when he illuminated his outfit, I did take a short video; but it doesn’t really show how wonderful his performance was.  You really needed to be there to appreciate it.


It had been a busy, enjoyable and exciting day.  We were very ready to get back to the comfort of the hotel.


Day 4
For our last full day in the UAE, we were going to visit Dubai.  Our guide was Mazier with AE Tours.  During our drive to Dubai, we saw many mosques, with one being quite different from the others.

Mazier talked about how strict the immigration laws are in the UAE.  He said that he could never become a citizen of the UAE and have a UAE passport.  If he were to lose his job and not be able to get a new one quickly enough, he would be sent back to India.  He pointed out the tall fences along both sides of the road to Dubai.  He said that it prevented people from getting into mischief. 


As we approached Dubai, I was disappointed that the visibility was not very good.  Since we had booked tickets to go up to the viewing deck on the tallest building in the world at 2,722 ft., the Burj Khalifa, I was worried that our viewing might not be as good as hoped for.  We would just have to wait and see.

As we got closer in to town, we began to see many skyscrapers.  

We stopped near a marina where I could get out and take photos without having to snap through the car windows.  One building, the 75 story Cayan Tower, was quite unique in that it made a 90 degree twist.


Continuing our drive, we saw more buildings and some lovely mosques.


Our first destination was to the man-made island, the Palm Jumeirah.  It is quite a large development with a main road, and with roads shaped like palm leaves spreading out from it.   I put a screen shot from Google Maps to show you what it looks like.  There didn’t seem to be much free land for developing, since it looked like solid buildings everywhere we went.


At the end of the main road was an Atlantis Resort.   It is actually just off the crescent road that goes around most of the development. 

There is a wide walkway along the crescent that would be good for jogging or bike riding.  It is also a good breakwater to protect the development in case of a bad storm.  From there we could see the most expensive hotel in the world, the 7-star Burj al Arab.  It is in the shape of a sailboat.  Way in the distance, we could see the Dubai skyline, but it was quite a hazy view.



There were lots of beautiful new hotels along the crescent road.  We could also see more skyscrapers as well as a large Ferris Wheel. 


I got a kick out of the highway support structure built to look like tree trunks.  The Palm Jumeirah is quite a place.

We stopped at a market called the Souk Madinat Jumeirah.  Since we hadn’t planned on doing much shopping, it was primarily a restroom break.  We did however find time to try some Arabic ice cream.


While continuing on our way to our next destination, the Burj Khalifa, we took a quick photo stop to let me get a better photo of the Burj al Arab hotel.

Mazier pointed out the air-conditioned bus stops along the way.  What a great idea!

As we got closer in, we could see the 163-story tall Burj Khalifa in the distance.  It definitely stands above the rest of the skyscrapers.

We also passed by a new building under construction that has a section that is shaped like a ship.

We arrived at the Dubai Mall, the largest mall in the world, and went down into the underground parking area.  With it being a pretty hot day, we were glad that the car wouldn’t be sitting out in the sun.  Our previous days in Abu Dhabi had been a milder temperature, so we were glad that we were doing Dubai on the hottest day, since we would be inside most of the time that we weren’t driving around. 

As we entered the main mall area, we came to a large atrium with thousands of silver birds hanging from the ceiling.  This looked like a special kind of mall.

The Mall is adjacent to the Burj Khalifa, and serves as an entrance to it.  Mazier took us to where we would could pick up our tickets to catch the elevator to the viewing area on the 124th floor.  

On the way to the elevators, we passed by a model of the building.  Quite a striking looking building.  The building has 163 above ground floors, with 154 of them being usable because 9 are for maintenance.  The building has 57 elevators.  It took six years to complete the construction which was completed in 2010.  It cost $1.5 billion.

The elevator ride up to the 124th floor was very fast and we were quickly on the outside viewing area.  I had thought that all the viewing would be from the inside; but this section although windowed in, was open above.  Because it was open, we could look up to the top of the building also.


But the main attraction was to look out and down, which we did a lot of.  Where we had previously looked up at the new building that looked like a ship, we could now look down on it.  I was very pleased that the visibility was very good, so we could see so much of the downtown area and look out to the Persian Gulf and the desert.



I walked around taking so many photos, many of the same buildings, but from different angles.   I liked looking down and seeing the small cars below and the huge blue pool that was outside the mall.  We were able to go back inside the building and look to the other side.  With the sun shining into the windows the view wasn’t as good, plus there weren’t as many buildings on that side.


At one point I could see the water show down below in the pool.  It is apparently spectacular at night when it is illuminated.  We could also look down at the mall building and see the full size of the largest mall in the world.


We were looking for the elevator back down to ground level when we were directed to an elevator that took us up to the 125th floor.  That viewing area was totally enclosed. It contained some shops and other things to do.  I took some photos of a different side of the building.


Back on the ground level, we met up with Mazier.  He showed us where we could stop for a quick lunch.  After lunch he took us outside where we could see the huge pool.  He also took photos of us in front of the Burj Khalifa.  I am so glad we had booked the tickets to go up the building.



They cost about $37 per person at the non-prime time we went; but they were well worth it.  Had we wanted to go to the 148th floor, the non-prime price would have been about $101.  We were more than happy with our view from 1,496 feet up.

Mazier then showed us around the massive mall.  It is a really big place with so much to see.  There is a large aquarium that can be seen while walking around the mall.  You can also buy a ticket to see other displays inside the aquarium.



In another section there is a full-size dinosaur skeleton from Wyoming.  When discovered, all 360 bones were found intact.  Apparently, no comparable specimen exists elsewhere.

The mall also has an ice skating rink.  I had to take the photo through the protective glass around the rink, so there is a lot of reflection in the photo.

In another section there is a fountain in the form of a waterfall with divers suspended in midair.


After leaving the mall, I was exhausted from walking so much.   The place is so large.  I was quite happy to just let Mazier drive us around Dubai looking at the beautiful skyscrapers.  I also got a great shot of the Burj Khalifa.  It is quite a beautiful and special building.


Mazier wanted to show us old town, where there is a large souk or market.  On the way there we passed by a huge statue of a camel.  We also drove by the Dubai Frame (  It was just opened in January 2018, so I wasn’t aware of what it was.  The 500-foot-tall frame is located between old and new Dubai.  The views are supposed to be quite nice.  Had I realized what it was, I would have gone into it rather than just taking an exterior photo.  Mazier tried to describe what it was; but since it was so new, I don’t think he knew much about it either.


When we got to the market, it was 4:30 PM and we were tired and ready to get back to the hotel, so we could pack and prepare for boarding the ship the next day.  We looked around and saw the Constellation at the Dubai dock.

On the way back through town, we saw a different building under construction that was totally the shape of a ship.  There were also two buildings that are referred to as the dolphins.  The name was appropriate.  Dubai is a fascinating place and deserves more than just one day to experience it.  But we did the best we could.


As we were approaching downtown Abu Dhabi we got a great view from the car, of the Louvre.    We had really had an enjoyable visit in the UAE.  I was so glad that we decided to spend three full days touring there.

We had another light dinner in the Crowne Plaza’s club room.  After the packing was done, we were ready to start the cruise.

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