UAE, Greece, Jordan – November 2010

Our latest adventure was a trip to the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Greece and Jordan for a month in November. We have wonderful friends in Dubai with a magnificent house and guest room so their place became our base for seeing Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and the northern part of Oman, and from which we headed off for longer forays to Greece and Jordan.

Dubai has to be seen to be believed. Everything is on a grand scale and thankfully some of the crazier projects have been put on hold as a result of the global financial crisis. Still, it is like a city on steroids, like something out of a science fiction movie. Lots of interesting, unusually shaped high-rise buildings, an ultra-modern above-ground railway, an indoor ski slope (!) and malls that look like palaces. There is still an old part of town near the Creek, with its port and spice, textile, gold and other markets – fascinating! The Burj Khalifa, currently the highest building in the world, is an elegant spire, quite breathtaking in its beauty.

A highlight of Abu Dhabi was the amazing Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Great Mosque. It is a magnificent building and no expense has been spared in embellishing all its surfaces with the intricate patterns so typical of Muslim architecture. There are plans for a major cultural centre at Abu Dhabi, including a Guggenheim Museum, Louvre, Performing Arts Centre and Maritime Museum, which will make it a magnet for tourists in the years to come.

We enjoyed the wild coastal scenery of the Musandam Peninsula in Oman from a tourist dhow we had all to ourselves and Suesy took us “wadi-bashing” up a rocky and inhospitable gorge. In Sharjah we took in the Museum of Islamic Civilisation and the Blue Soukh as well as a traditional courtyard home and school, preserved as museums.

We’d visited Greece in 1975 and this time around we found that some things had changed and others hadn’t. There are still a lot of ruins! In Athens they’re still restoring the Parthenon and other buildings on the Acropolis, but have completed a magnificent new Acropolis Museum down below – truly outstanding. We visited several museums in Greece and found that just about all of them are watched over by middle-aged lady attendants who spend the whole time talking (loudly) on their mobile phones. Most annoying!!

Athens was fascinating – we stayed in Monastiraki, near the Acropolis- and we were surprised to see how many tiny little shops there still are in the narrow streets. We enjoyed shopping at the food markets and walking or catching the new Underground to the various sites.

Then it was off to the Pelopponese – Mycenae (Mykenai), with its magnificent Lion Gate (sans lions) and impressive walls , a lovely little village called Dimitsana overnight and then through many more picturesque villages to Olympia. Alas the Olympic Games site from antiquity was closed due to elections (Bah!). Back through more rugged and scenic country to Nafplion – a beautiful historic town, at one time Greece’s capital, situated on a wide bay. The next day we looked at the theatre of Epidaurus before driving to Delphi – what a beautiful setting on the slopes of Mt Parnassus! Spent many hours looking at the remains of the temples, treasuries, stadium , gymnasium and theatre there, and the museum, before driving to Meteora, much further north. Here there was a magnificent sunset over the monasteries perched on their granite tors, but alas, the next day the whole area was shrouded in cloud.

Back to Athens and a flight to Crete, where we stayed at Archarnes near Heraklion (in a lovely restored old courtyard apartment), visiting the Minoan palaces of Knossos and Phaestos, the Archaeological Museum and driving through the truly picturesque autumn countryside, full of orchards, vineyards and olive groves. Crete as a whole is rather rugged and the southern coastline particularly so. Chania in the northwest is a beautiful historic port; we stayed a couple of nights near the cathedral in the town centre and wandered the streets on foot (not really a place for cars!)

We returned to Dubai to regroup and spend a lovely day and evening with our friends before flying to Amman, for the last leg of our trip. We met our very friendly and competent driver /guide Wa’el and after a night in Amman, set off on our seven day tour of Jordan. Highlights included Salt, the Jordan Valley, Umm Qais with its view to the Sea of Galilee and the Roman ruins of Gardara, Jerash (another Roman town spectacularly preserved), three massive castles from Crusader times perched on steep arid hilltops (Ajlun, Kerak and Shawbak), the churches of Madaba and Mt Nebo with their early Christian mosaic floors, the Dead Sea (where you can float without effort and have mud baths!), Wadi Rum with its spectacular desert scenery.

But the jewel of the tour, of course, was Petra. What an amazing place! Everyone has seen pictures of El Khazneh (the so-called Treasury) which is a breathtaking sight at the end of the gorge known as the Siq, but there is so much more to explore beyond, a whole city in fact (mostly hollowed out or built by the Nabataeans and later added to by the Romans.) And the cliffs are such spectacular colours and patterns! We could easily have spent longer than the one and a half days (including one evening) that we had allowed. Alas, it was not to be. Back to Amman, Dubai, Brisbane and home to the greenest we have ever seen this part of the world – full dams and lush growth- lovely!

photo Photos

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Typical Dubai skyline. Cranes and really interesting buildings. 4/11/2011 At the beach. The Burj Khalifa (currently the world's tallest building)  in the background at left - wow! 4/11/2010 Chihuly glass sculpture in the foyer of the rather overdecorated Hotel Atlantis (at the top of the Palm). 6/11/2010 Sunset from the park.  Lots of families enjoying the outdoors. 6/11/2010 The Burj Khalifa. Alas it was booked out till late that day,so we didn't go up. Next time we'll book on the Net! 7/11/2010 Dubai port on the Creek- so much going on! 7/11/2010 Spices, anyone? Spice market near the Creek. 7/11/2010 Khasab Castle in Oman. Now a museum. 8/11/2010 Cliffs on the Musandam Peninsula in Oman. Beautifully contorted rock layers. 8/11/2010 Wadi in Oman. Dry, rugged, arid, impressive. 9/11/2010 Entrance to the Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Great Mosque in Abu Dhabi. 10/11/2010 Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Great Mosque great courtyard. 10/11/10 Gloriously ornate interior of dome at the Mosque in Abu Dhabi. 10/11/10 Huge men's prayer hall, Great Mosque, Abu Dhabi. 10/11/10 Flying out from Dubai to Athens. The Palm below. 11/11/2010 View from our little balcony in Monastiraki, Athens. The Erecthion on the Acropolis. 11/11/2010 The Erechthion seen by daylight the next day. A bit of a drizzly day, but good enough to check out the sights of Athens! 12/11/10 The Lion Gate at Mycenae built around 1250 BC. The heads are missing but still impressive! 13/11/2010 The back gate - not quite as monumental! 13/11/2010 View back towards the Lion Gate and the approaching storm. 13/11/2010 One of the many villages, clinging to steep hillsides, that we threaded our way through on our trip across the Peloponnese and back. 14/11/2010 Small chapel near Karitana, tucked below a ruined castle. 14/11/10 Nafplion, a lovely place to spend a day or two. It was the capital of Greece for a short period. 15/11/10 Palamidi fortress at Nafplion. 15/11/2010 The old town is very picturesque and accessible. 15/11/10 Ancient Greek theatre at Epidauros. 15/11/2010 The ruins of the theatre at Delphi. Spectacular location on the slopes of Mt Parnassus. 16/11/2010 Delphi ruins. 16/11/2010 Then we made a mad dash to Meteora, in time for a spectacular sunset. 16/11/2010 Entrance to the courtyard of our apartment in Archarnes, Crete. How picturesque is that? Palace of Knossos, Crete. Partly reconstructed to give you an idea of its scale. 18/11/2010 Throne room at Knossos. 18/11/2010 More lovely murals (restored, of course) at Knossos. 18/11/2010 View north from the Minoan palace at Phaestos. 19/11/2010 Coastal resort of Agia Gallini. They love their bougainvillea! 20/11/2010 Beach at Preveli. Apparently it really rocks in the summertime! (Prefer it this way) 20/11/2010 Port of Hania (Chania) on the northern coast of Crete. Interesting old town. It was the Cathedral's birthday. 21/11/10 Restaurants by the harbour. Lovely atmosphere.22/11/2010 Returning to Heraklion, Crete, from the west. 22/11/2010 Back to Dubai for some R&R. This is an old mansion in Sharjah. 24/11/2010 The "Blue Souk" in Sharjah. Wow. Just as well Suesy knew her way around and could recommend some stalls. 24/11/2010 Jordan: ruins of Gardara, an old Roman town at Umm Qais. 26/11/2010 Old Roman road - even has the wheel ruts! 26/11/2010 Gate to the northern entrance of Jerash, Jordan - another Roman town, so well preserved!  26/11/2010 Colonnaded street, Jerash, Jordan.  26/11/2010 Gateway at Jerash.  26/11/2010 Columns of the temple of Artemis, Jerash, Jordan.  26/11/2010 Ajlun castle not far from Jerash - beautifully preserved from the days of the Crusaders. 27/11/10 Pediment of the main gate at Jerash. 27/11/2010 RACE - Roman Army and Chariot Experience -  in the hippodrome at Jerash - saw a rather ragtag Roman army unit doing its manoeuvres -entertaining! 27/11/10 Mosaic in the Christian church at Madaba. Earliest map of the Holy Land? 27/11/10 Wadi Mujib, Jordan's Grand Canyon. 28/11/10 Shawbak Castle ruins at sunset. 28/11/10 Shawbak Castle ruins at sunset. Looks unassailable! 28/11/10 Mountains near Petra. 29/11/2010 Starting the long walk into Petra, Day One.  29/11/2010 The narrow chasm leading in to Petra - called the Siq.  29/11/2010 Further along the Siq - paved road at times, once a watercourse.  29/11/2010 Beautifully sculpted rose-coloured rock and you can see a carved channel for the water supply.   29/11/2010 And then ... the Treasury (Al Khazneh) gradually reveals itself - stunning!  29/11/2010 There are many more carved facades and burial caves in Petra - hundreds if not thousands!  29/11/2010 The cliffs have so many wonderful colours and patterns - worth the visit alone!  29/11/2010 Day Two - walked all the way in again, for the third time (had been to Petra by Night too) - still an amazing sight! 30/11/10 "The Monastery" - El Deir or Ad Deir? Quite a hike but worth it - bigger than the Treasury in all dimensions. 30/11/10 Impressive even from a distance. 30/11/10 Wadi Rum - "the Seven Pillars of Wisdom", so named because this was the title of one of Lawrence of Arabia's books. 1/12/10 Pete did a jeep tour here (I was holed up in the hotel room with an unhappy tummy). 1/12/10 Magnificent sunset colours at Wadi Rum. 1/12/10 The Dead Sea -not quite as we'd imagined it. 2/12/10 "423 metres below sea level, the lowest elevation on the Earth's surface on dry land. " (Wikipedia) Proof that anyone will float in its salty waters! 2/12/10

Posted on April 5th, 2011, tagged with travel

2 responses to “UAE, Greece, Jordan – November 2010”

  1. Mike says:

    Great photos! That shot of Meteora is amazing!

  2. Mum says:

    Yeah, we took quite a few at Meteora, as you can imagine. Pity about the wires – it’s a little cable car that goes across to the monastery.