Posted by: Rasma R | April 25, 2017

Fascinating Fes


Fes is an exotic and fascinating city located in northeastern Morocco. It is often referred to as the cultural capital of the country. There are many architectural wonders and historic buildings to delight in.

fes tanneries

One of the most iconic sights in the city and the most unbelievable scents come from the Chaouwara Tanneries. Here world-class leather is produced making use of methods that have changed little since medieval times. In the mornings you can see pits here full of colorful dye. To see it all the best way is to enter any one of the many leather shops here that have been built into the wall that surround the site.

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At Art Naji is the place to go for ceramics and this is where you can get the distinctive blue pottery or intricate mosaics and much more. Guides will be glad to show you around. The clay used to make the pottery comes from the surrounding hills around Fes. All the pieces made here are of the finest quality and lead-free.

Medersa Bou Inania

The finest theological college in Fes is the Medersa Bou Inania built by the Merenid Sultan Bou Inan between 1351 and 1357. It has been restored with intricate tiles and carved plaster, lovely cedar and massive brass entrance doors. Instead of just having a prayer hall the Bou Inania is home to a complete mosque.

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The mihrab (niche facing Mecca) has an impressive ceiling and onyx marble columns. There is a lovely green-tiled minaret.

fes neijani museum

The Nejjarine Museum of Wooden Arts & Crafts has found its home in a lovely restored fondouq or rooming house. At one time a caravanserai for travelling merchants who lodged above and stored and sold their goods below. The rooms with displays are centered around a courtyard. You can se traditional artifacts of craftsmen’s tools, chunky prayer beads and Berber locks, chests and musical instruments. There is a rooftop cafe offering spectacular views. No photos here.

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Jnan Sbil (Bou Jeloud Gardens) these lush gardens offer a respite from the city streets. There are leafy trails to walk along, fountains to admire and you can sit by the bird-filled lake. It is particularly lovely at dusk.

fes royal palace

The Royal Palace grounds are not open to the public. Visitors can view its impressive brass doors and carved cedar wood. To one side are lemon trees and tour guides will lead you around.

fes synagogue

Ibn Danan Synagogue is a lovely 17th century synagogue what was restored with the help of UNESCO in 1999. There are many interesting details here including a mikva or ritual bath in the basement. The original 17th century torah scrolls are made out of gazelled skin and stored in a wooden cupboard. Sign posts will lead you about.

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Walk along Rue des Merinides to see impressive wooden houses with wrought-iron balconies. Lots to see and like while strolling along this street.

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Fes el Bali is the medina area and the oldest neighborhood in Fes.

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The main gate into this area is Bab Boujloud. Approaching the gates you can get a fantastic view of the famed landmark Medersa Bou Inania minaret. The winding streets are divided into two districts separated by a river. On the left bank are historic monuments and on the right bank shopping souks.

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Among the interesting buildings on the right bank are the Al-Andalus Mosque dating from 1321 and known its green and white minaret. The Old City is a great place to explore as you wander about along cobblestone lanes.

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The Batha Museum has found its home in a lovely 19th century summer palace and became a museum in 1915. Here you can see a great collection of traditional Moroccan arts and crafts. You’ll see historical and artistic artifacts among them fine woodcarving. There are also Fassi embroidery, colorful Berber carpets and antique instruments. The highlight here is a fantastic ceramic collections that dates from the 14th century to the present.

The Andalucian-style garden offers a place to relax. By a spreading Holm oak you can listen to open-air concerts during the Sacred Music and Sufi Culture Festivals.

fes borj nord

The Borj Nord was built by Sultan Ahmed al-Mansour in the late 16th century. It sits on level with the Merenid Timbs and offers a place to super views. In 2016 it became a national armory museum. Among its highlights are elaborately decorated sabres and muscats, traditional leather powder drums and interesting old photos. All signage in French and Arabic. No photos.

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Henna Souq is one of the medina’s oldest marketplaces. It is dominated by a huge plane tree that shades the stalls that sell ceramics and traditional cosmetics, including henna. It is a great place to stroll through and see the variety of products. Now no longer in use, the mohtassib (price controller) once had offices here and you can still see the large scales.

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Palais Glaoui is an 18th century palace that has fallen into disrepair. It was built by a pasha from Marrakesh and the family living here were its guardians for 100 years. The main house was built in the Andalucía-style and still has a well preserved 20th century  bathroom still used today. There is a large kitchen with cooking pots and out back is a modern-art gallery.

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Merenid Tombs are in various stages of ruin. They are worth the climb up to see awesome views of Fes. At dusk is a great time to see all the lights come on.

fes national taza

Some 113 km from Fes you’ll find the Tazzeka National Park and Taza. Taza was founded by the Berbers in the 5th century. At one time it was a fortress. In the old town there are cereal markets, souks for mats, jewelry and carpets as well as the remains of the old kasbah. Inside Taza’s Great Mosque you see one of Morocco’s most beautiful bronze chandeliers with 514 oil lamps.

fes national caves

Outside of town are the Frouato Caverns which reach down to a depth of 180 meters with stalactites and stalagmites creating miniature sculptures. In the national park you’ll find a vast forest of cork, oak and cedar trees. For spectacular views climb to the summit of Djebel Tazzeka (1,980 meters) to see wooded countryside and the snow-bound peaks of the Middle Atlas.

fes sefrou

Sefrou is a walled town just 29 km southeast of Fes. It was once a major point on the caravan trading routes. It has become a sleep and lovely town. There are wonderful old buildings and an ancient kind of charm.

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Posted by: Rasma R | April 22, 2017

Casablanca, Morocco


In our armchair travels we are now going to take a look at Africa which is the world’s second largest continent. The continent is surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, by the Suez Canal and the Red Sea along the Sinai Peninsula to the northeast, the Indian Ocean to the southeast and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. Africa has been referred to a mysterious, as dangerous and of course for travelers as the place for safari lovers. Well as much as there may be places where you would be unsure of traveling to these day we can still take a look at all the wonders this continent holds. Then you can put it on your travel list for future consideration.

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We will first journey into North Africa and begin with Morocco and the city of Casablanca. This city always makes me think of the classic film by the same name starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. Only today their characters Rick and Elsa would not be saying a romantic and tearful good-bye in a  small, dark airport because today Casablanca is home to Morocco’s primary international airport and has become the main gateway to the country. So get comfortable, sit back and let our journey begin.

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Beyond the northern tip of Casablanca’s medina or old city on the shoreline you’ll find the Hassan II mosque which actually dominates the entire city. It was finished in 1993 and is the second largest mosque in the world. It also has the world’s tallest minaret at 200 m high. 25,000 worshippers can gather together in the prayer hall and the courtyard with its retractable roof can easily accommodate another 80,000.

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Everywhere you look you can see intricate decoration. The mosque sits right on the tip of a rocky bay above the ocean. Guided tours are available for non-Muslims beginning at the western entrance several times per day.

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Medina is Casablanca’s old city district offering visitors twists and turns along alleyways with many things to discover. There are tradesmen selling their creations to shoppers. It is a neighborhood that is a delight to discover wandering about on foot. It is a wonderful place to see how the people of the city live. In the southern section you can find some holy men koubbas or shrines.

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The city’s central plaza is known as Place Mohamed V and is home to many important official buildings like the main post office,

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Palace of Justice, Prefecture, French Consulate and the main Bank of Morocco. All of the facades reflect the Neo-Moorish style.

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The square has a central fountain and lovely well-kept gardens. In the evening people enjoy coming here for evening strolls.

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Corniche is the beachfront district located in the Ain Diab suburb. Along the shoreline you can see luxury hotels and restaurants.

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There are beach clubs here and those wishing to sunbathe can choose to swim in the club swimming pools or in the ocean at the public beach. You’ll find many people here during the weekends enjoying their time on the sand, having picnics or strolling along the shore.

 africa sacre couer

Cathedral du Sacre Coeur was built in the 1930s in a mix of European and Moroccan styles. It is a building worth taking a look at.

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Nearby is the Notre Dame de Lourdes a church that has a vast stained glass window which covers over 800 square meters.

africa notre dame stained glass

This amazing stained glass window is the artwork of Gabriel Loire, a famous French artist.

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The place to really see the city and its people is at the bustling central marked right in the center of the city. Here residents come to buy and sell. You can find most everything here including Morocco’s famous slippers.

When visiting Casablanca it is also worth it to venture beyond the city and see some of the other places nearby.

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Mohammedia is a quiet seaside city 28 km from Casablanca. It offers some fine beaches and is home to Morocco’s second largest port. It is a lovely little city to wander in with grand palm-tree lined boulevards.

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The beaches are along the coastline. It is great to relax at the cafes and restaurants here on summer weekends.

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102 km south of Casablanca is the small town of El Jadida where you can also find lovely beaches. In the Citadel area, built by the Portuguese you can climb up the walls for spectacular sea views. Also in this area are atmospheric cisterns, dating from the 16th century and were used as a filming location in the famous Orson Welles movie “Othello”.

africa qualidia

182 km south of Casablanca lies the charming seaside village Qualidia. It offers visitors a beautiful beach and many admire the Saadian era Kasbah or fortress district. This village is all about oyster and its oyster beds are famous all through Morocco. The restaurants offer oysters and lots of other seafood fresh from the sea.

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Finally 237 km  south of Casablanca is the port of Safi. It was already an important port in Roman times. The Portuguese occupied the city in 1508 and built the Dar el Bahar Fortress on the shoreline. It is Morocco’s most famous ceramic center. The two main highlights here are the Pottery Souk and the National Ceramic Museum.

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Posted by: Rasma R | April 17, 2017

Amazing Beauty and Adventure in the Canary Islands

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Leaving Bahrain behind on our armchair tours it is so simple being like a pinpoint on a map. I looked on the map to see where we were at the moment and realized we had never toured the beautiful Canary Islands. So sit back, relax and off we go.


The Canary Islands have a lot to offer visitors. There are lovely beaches, everywhere you look the beauty of nature surrounds you and you can visit picturesque colonial towns. This archipelago includes seven large and six smaller islands located 200 kilometers off the northwest coast of Morocco and Western Sahara Africa. The largest island is Tenerife. You’ll find UNESCO listed heritage sites and UNESCO Biosphere Reserves.

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First we’ll make a stop at the colonial city of Sancristobal de la Laguna on Tenerife Island. This city is the former capital of this island. It is a lovely historic town with an impressive cathedral, Renaissance and Neo-classical churches and grand mansions built by wealthy families in the 17th and 18th centuries.

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The town’s parish church Iglesia de Nuestra La Concepcion was built in 1496. It is an architectural gem both outside and inside.

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Dating from the 17th century is the lovely Iglesia de Santo Domingo de Guzman. The facade has Plateresque details and an ornately designed Mudejar ceiling. In the interior you can see paintings by Canary Island artist Cristobal Hernandez de Quintana.

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To discover the history of this region head for the History and Anthropology Museum. This museum introduces visitors to the history and culture of Tenerife Island through the centuries.

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Those who wish to sunbathe can choose between three beaches:

Al Apio Beach has a sandy and gravelly shore with moderate waves.

El Navio Beach is great for those interested in water sports and windsurfing.

Arenisco Beach is near the lighthouse and visitors here love to take scenic walks along the coast.

You’ll find the island of Gran Canaria about 90 miles off the African coast. There is amazing natural beauty here and practically half of the island has been protected as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. The island has dramatic cliffs to the north and beautiful beaches to the south.

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Las Palmas de Gran Canaria is a lovely sun filled seaside town. It was influenced by a Spanish colonial past dating back to the 15th century as well as the culture of the aboriginal Guanche people.

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An architectural highlight here is the impressive Cathedral Las Palmas de Gran Canaria dating from the 16th century with Neo-classical features. The interior is Gothic with unusual palm-shaped columns. In the south wing you’ll find the Diocesan Museum, displaying a collection of religious art and ceremonial objects.

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Take the time to explore the Museum of the Canary Islands with an impressive archaeological and ethnographic collection. It shows visitors the pre-Hispanic culture of the island.

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Art lovers will enjoy the Nestor Museum which exhibits the art work of Nestor Martin-Fernandez de la Torre, one of the most renowned Spanish Symbolist painters. Here you can see portraits and landscapes as well as drawings, sketches and craftwork. The museum belongs to the Pueblo Canario or Canaries Village that was built by the artist’s brother in the Neo-Canarian style.

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Las Canteras Beach offers a wide sandy shore with gentle waters due to a natural breakwater formed by volcanic rock. Here for the comfort of visitors you’ll find public toilets, umbrella and lounge chair rental, water sport rentals and a play area for children. There is even an area for scuba diving.

La Playa Jinamar is a small beach with a dark sand shoreline and moderate waves.

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Visit the beautiful Jardin Botanico Viera y Clavijo or Canary Gardens. This lovely botanic garden lies in a valley. There are stone paths that will take you through the slopes of the valley and you’ll see a landscape with plant species native to the Canaries.

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Santa Cruz de Tenerife Tenerife Island is a picturesque seaport that has been built with broad avenues, lovely squares, exotic gardens and impressive architecture.

Among the visitor highlights is the Museum of Fine Arts with a wide variety of paintings by many different artists. It also displays the art work of Canary Island painters like Gaspar de Quevedo, Cristobal Hernandez de Quintana and Gonzalez Mendez.

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To find out about the native people of Tenerife head for the Museum of Nature and Man. You’ll find out about the original inhabitants before the arrival of European settlers.

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The most famous event here is the annual Carnival Festival with people in colorful costumes and amazing processions.

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Among the beaches the best choice is Las Teresitas Beach with golden sand and two breakwaters giving way to gentle waves and waters safe for swimming. It is also popular with snorkelers. There are public toilets, sun lounges for rental, water sport rentals, a snack bar and play area for children.

Brujas Beach offers a lovely sandy shoreline that is surrounded by beautiful scenery. This is not good for swimming due to strong waves.

On Fuerteventura Island you’ll get to know the religious heritage of Betancuria which was the capital until 1834.

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This town has an impressive cathedral the Catedral de Santa María de Betancuria which was originally built in Norman-Gothic style but later renovated in the 17th century in Baroque style. In the interior the sanctuary is lovely especially the choir and baptistry.

Other important religious buildings include the Hermitage of San Diego and the Franciscan Convent Church.

To take a look at spiritual art visit the Museum of Religious Art.

The Pilgrimage of Peña takes place on the third Saturday in September. It is held in honor of Nuestra Senora de la Pena (Our Lady of Pena) who is the patron saint of the island. Taking part in the festivities you get to see the folklore of the island and their religious customs.

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Also on Fuerteventura Island is Corralejo Fishing Port and beaches. Corralejo is a fishing port located in northern Fuerteventura. It is surrounded by impressive desert landscape of sand dunes. The town happily combines traditional seafaring culture with tourism. Around the port visitors will find picturesque houses with many restaurants and cafes. There is a beautiful waterfront promenade that ends in a small urban beach.

Outside of the town are lovely beaches like El Pozo Beach with a nice shoreline. There are many kiosks renting water sport equipment, beach chairs and sun umbrellas. It is great for swimming since the waters are mild.

El Moro Beach has white sand shoreline and crystal clear blue waters.

El Rio Beach also has white sand and at the end is a rocky promontory with a lighthouse.

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You’ll discover that the biggest tourist attraction on Lanzarote Island is Puerto del Carmen. Once an old fishing village it has been transformed into a beach resort with many modern hotels and restaurants. There are over six kilometers of sandy beaches with calm waters.

Visitors enjoy the Fiesta de la Virgen del Carmen during the first two weeks of August. It is a religious festival honoring the patron saint of the fishing village. There are traditional processions and decorated colorful boats.

Visitors enjoy exploring the surrounding countryside. Volcanic activity created Lanzarote Island and it has a dramatic landscape of craters, canyons and valley. It is a UNESCO-listed Biosphere Reserve.

 These are just some of the beautiful and amazing things you can do and see on these islands. There is plenty more and you can be sure that you won’t run out of things to do. For other activities you can visit:

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Cactuaidea Park Gran-Canria the largest cactus park in Europe where the tallest cactus measuressix meters in height. It is located in La Aldea de San Nicolas in the west of Gran Canaria. You can find over 1,200 cactus species here. There is a cactarium with palm trees, aloe vera, peacocks and a tortoise.

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Not only the cactuses will delight you but there is a lot of babbling water and just past the amphitheater you’ll find an erupting artificial volcano that leads visitors to the beautiful garden. A stone path takes you around and you can see the peacocks, ducks, tortoises and donkeys. You can also visit a cave, have tapas at the outdoor bar and buy souvenirs.

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Whether you are visiting with children or not you have got to see Holiday World in the southern part of Gran Canaria. There are lots of activities for children like pony rides, parrot shows and a 4D cinema. For the older crowd there is a Ferris Wheel and even a roller coaster as well as a 20m free-fall Sky Drop. All of this is located in a shopping center. You’ll even find tenpin bowling in a U.S. style bowling alley that offers hot dogs. If you wish to indulge yourself there is a children’s entertainment service and you can head for the spa or gym.

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Visit the friendly and delightful animals of Loro Parque  one of Tenerife’s most popular attractions. You can see wonderful dolphin shows and see sea lions do tricks. There are jumping orca whales and parrots chattering to one and all.

Visitors delight in over 300 species of birds, gorillas, chimpanzees, tigers, sloths, jaguars, meekats, giant tortoises and so much more.

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This adventure park is located in Puerto de la Cruz. They have even recreated Antarctic conditions for Planet Penguin and you can see the penguins happily jumping off ice blocks into freezing water.

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Sharks swim through the tunnel in the aquarium and birds fly free in Katandra Treetops at the jungle recreation. There are plenty of swinging bridges and walkways leading you past cockatoos, emus and kookaburras.

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Posted by: Rasma R | April 15, 2017

Manama, Bahrain


Our armchair travels have taken us to Bahrain. This is a nation that consists of over 30 islands in the Persian Gulf.

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The King Fahd Causeway is a series of bridges and causeways that connects Saudi Arabia to Bahrain. The causeway was built to improve the links and bonds between these two countries. It was officially opened to the public in 1986.

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Its modern capital Manama has left a lot of history behind for visitors to delight in instead of creating an ultra-modern city of steel and glass. The modern nicely blends in with the ancient history.

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The Bahrain National Museum is the country’s most popular attraction. Visitors can get a great introduction to its history here. The highlights are the archaeological finds from ancient Dilmun, the reproduction souq covering Traditional Trades and Crafts on the first floor and the satellite photo of Bahrain which takes up most of the ground floor.

Among the other exhibits are a Hall of Graves, Customs and Traditions, the Islamic era and Documents and Manuscripts. There is a wonderful museum shop, a cafe and some gallery spaces used for contemporary exhibits of art and sculpture. Most everything is labeled in both English and Arabic.

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Adjacent to the museum is the impressive National Theater of Bahrain. This is the third-largest theater in the Middle East. It appears to float up onto the water. It was built according to tradition and has interwoven aluminum strips allowing air to penetrate through the roof and the interior of the auditorium suggests the sea-going dhows of ancient Bahrain. The auditorium seats 1001 paying homage to “The Thousand and One Nights”.

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Al Fatih Mosque is the largest mosque in the country and can hold up to 7000 worshipers. It was built with marble from Italy, glass from Austria and teak from India, carved by local Bahraini craftspeople. Guides lead visitors through the mosque. The tour begins at the small library right inside the main entrance where women are given a black cloak and headscarf to wear while visiting the prayer hall. After the tour visitors can get free booklets in the Discover Islam series.

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Bab Al Bahrain the “Gateway to Bahrain” was built by the British in 1945. It is the entrance to Manama Souq. This is a great place to mingle with people of all nationalities, colorful street vendors, shoppers and a large variety of many different kinds of goods at the market. On the first floor you’ll find the Tourist Department.

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Beit Al Quran museum is a wonderful example of modern Bahraini architecture with its carved Kufic script. This is home to a large and impressive collection of Qurans, manuscripts and woodcarvings that are a good introduction to Islam and Islamic calligraphy. Of particular interest are the miniature Qurans, with the smallest dating from 18th century Persia. All exhibits are labeled in English.

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La Fontaine Centre of Contemporary Art showcases regional and international contemporary artists. It also has regular exhibits. It’s located in an impressive 19th century Bahraini town house with many features typical of Gulf Islamic architecture among them covered colonnades, archways and a signature fountain. In the complex you’ll also find an amphitheater, restaurant and one of the best spas in the city.

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World Trade Center was built in 2008 and rises 240m high. This 50 story office tower is one of Manama’s most recognizable modern landmarks.

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The Sail Monument is an amazing sculpture that overlooks a busy roundabout. It is dedicated to one of Bahrain’s most important industries, pearl diving.

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Gulf International Convention Centre is a landmark building to the south of the city center.

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Financial Harbor is something to see. It is the city’s highest building at 260m high with 53 floors.

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Al Areen Wildlife Park and Reserve was established for the conservation of wildlife in the Middle East. It protects such rare Arabian species like the Oryx, Adax and Reem Gazelle.

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The park has 100,000 flora and trees and over 45 species of animals, 82 bird species and 25 flora species. Here visitors can see springbok, saluki dogs, impala, fallow deer, Chapman’s zebra and desert hares. Among Arabian species are Nubian ibex, wild goats, barbary sheep and Asiatic onager.

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One section is open to the public and the other is a protected reserve with two surface reservoirs for flora and fauna. Further renovations plan a falcon stadium and a pet park.


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Posted by: Rasma R | April 11, 2017

Muscat, Oman


Our armchair travels have taken us to Oman, a nation located on the Arabian Peninsula. It has a terrain encompassing desert, riverbed oasis and long coastlines on the Persian (Arabian) Gulf, Arabian Sea and Gulf of Oman. Wahiba Sands is known as a region of dunes inhabited by Bedouins.

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The capital Muscat is a port city that sits on the Gulf of Oman surrounded by mountains and desert. It has an amazing history and has become quite the modern city.

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To get a good look at the people and a feel for the city head for Mutrah Souq. This is the best you can do to see a traditional Arab market housed under modern timber roofing. Shops here sell Omani and Indian artifacts along with antiques, traditional textile, hardware and jewelry. Bargaining is the name of the game here and cash will get you the better deals. At the entrance to the souq you’ll find the traditional coffeehouse from days gone by which has become a locals-only meeting point for elderly men.

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Mutrah Corniche attractively stretches along latticed buildings and mosques. It is great to stroll here at sunset when the late afternoon light casts shadows across a serrated crescent of mountains and you can see the lights and lovely fountains. If you prefer you can also take a bike ride.

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The restored Portuguese Watchtower sits on a promontory out to the sea, halfway along Mutrah Corniche and offers a wonderful view of the ocean and Mutrah’s waterfront. This is a fantastic place to catch the evening breeze and is decorated with colorful fountains at night. In the evening you can get a free bike hire.

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Mutrah is the city’s main port area and here you can feel like you’re in a fishing village. Watch  the daily catch being delivered to the fish market. This is the permanent home of Shabab Oman, the country’s impressive fully-rigged training ship. The harbor is also home to His Majesty’s dhow, visiting cruise ships, the high speed ferry to Musandam and assorted naval vessels.

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The Grand Mosque is an amazing example of modern Islamic architecture. It was a gift to the nation from Sultan Qaboos, marking his 30th year of reign. Visitors are impressed with the main prayer hall. You can see the Persian carpet that measures 70m by 60m wide and is the second-largest hand-loomed Iranian carpet in the world.

The mosque accommodates 20,000 worshippers, including 750 women in a private musalla (prayer hall). This is an active place of worship especially for Friday prayers. There are tours available.

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The Sultan’s Palace rises up with interesting mushroom pillars in blue and gold. On the island side, an avenue of palms leads to a roundabout that is surrounded by grand royal court buildings and the new national museum. The palace can be photographed from the outside but is closed to the public.

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Bayt al Zubair is a beautifully restored house which has become a popular privately owned museum exhibiting Omani heritage in thematic displays of traditional handicrafts, furniture, stamps and coins. The museum is the cultural center of Muscat and hosts many international exhibitions of contemporary art in Gallery Sarah on the museum grounds. There is a modern cafe and a souvenir shop.

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The Royal Opera House Muscat was built in 2011. It has a marvelous marble exterior, an interior of inlaid wood and Arabesque designs. You can do some shopping in the adjacent Opera Galleria arcade. Tours are available.

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The Ghalya Museum of Modern Art is a delightful little museum which encompasses both a modern art gallery and an old furnished house. The house is wrapped around a tiny central courtyard. The exhibits on display many preserved from the 1950s to mid-1970s are all centered on the private memorabilia of the family who once occupied this house.

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Al Jalali Fort guards the entrance to the harbor to the east. It was built during the Portuguese occupation in the 1580s on Arab foundations. The fort is accessible by way of a steep flight of stairs. It was a prison for many years and now has become a museum of Omani heritage. Entrance here is by permit only and you have to apply to the Ministry of National Heritage and Culture. During palace military occasions bagpipers perform from the fort battlements and the royal dhow and yacht sail into the harbor in full regalia.

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The National Museum has found its home in a new building right in the heart of Old Muscat. It is right opposite the Sultan’s Palace. This is a contemporary museum with space, light and height to enhance the selective displays that showcase the heritage of Oman. You’ll see giant screens, Arabic brail and high-tech devices that all bring the artifacts to life.

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For some relaxation head for Al Riyam Park. This park offers leafy shade and

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fine views of the harbor from the giant, ornamental incense burner. Local residents enjoy the small fun fair on weekends. The park is on the path of a popular hike that used to link Mutrah with Muscat proper.

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Al Mirani Fort was built around the same time as nearby Al Jalali Fort. It is closed to the public but it looms large over the harbor and contributes to the iconic view of Muscat that has been captured in 19th century lithographs. It has a special place in history as it contributed to the fall of the Portuguese.

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Al Bustan Palace sits among lush gardens. Today it is a grand hotel with an amazing domed atrium. It is well worth to see the interior and the location.

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The modern Clock Tower has become a prominent landmark.

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Posted by: Rasma R | April 8, 2017

Doha, Qatar


The wonder of our armchair travels is that we can always explore something new while sitting comfortably by our computers. Now if someone suggested that they wanted to take you to Qatar you might have the same reaction I had while exploring where we would be traveling to next. What or where is Qatar? The countries where most people travel to are well known and when someone suggests traveling to one of them people always express their preference. It is the countries that are least traveled to which surprise people. Well if at any time you might get the chance to travel to this country at least you will know something about it. So sit back, get comfortable and let us take a look at the capital of Qatar.

Qatar is a peninsular Arab country whose terrain includes arid desert and a long Persian (Arab) Gulf shoreline with beaches and dunes.

On the coast you’ll find the capital city Doha which is a modern city with a waterfront that offers many parks and a wonderful and impressive skyline.

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Souq Wagif is a wonderful marketplace that counts as the highlight and social heart of the city. The marketplace has been here for centuries and the Bedu used to bring their sheep, goats and wool to trade for essentials. This marketplace has been redeveloped so that now it resembles a 19th century souq with mud-rendered shops, exposed timber beams and beautifully restored original Qatari buildings.

qatar bird

If you want to see something really different take a look at the Bird Souq. You’ll find it right behind the spice section of Souq Waqif. There is a collection of caged birds such as pigeons, parrots, cockatiels and budgerigars.

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The Museum of Islamic Art has found its home on its own purpose-built island and sits surrounded by a landscape of lawns and ornamental trees right off the corniche. The museum is shaped like a post-modern fortress with minimal windows and a “virtual” moat and spectacular views across the water. It has the largest collection of Islamic art in the world that has been collected from three continents.

qatar islamic art

The museum was designed by IM Pei (architect of the Louvre pyramid). The entrance is lined with palms and inside light and space is brought in by the dome. The art collection takes up three floors. The permanent collection is on the first and second floors. When you want to take a rest you’ll find the cafe downstairs. There is an excellent museum shop. You can get a free 40-minute guided tour in English and Arabic.

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If you want to see some heritage take a look at the Falcon Souq. It’s located in its own traditional arcaded building off Souq Waqif. Most of the amazing falcons are hooded in black leather as they perch upon open railings. The best time to take a look at these birds is in the evenings when you can see customers taking a closer look at the falcons and talking to the shopkeepers about the finer points of falconry. Right next door is the Souq Waqif Falcon Hospital which you can arrange to take a look at as well.

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Not far from the Falcon Souq are horse stables that are home to magnificent Arabian horses. You can take a closer look at these animals.

qatar al corniche

Close to the Museum of Islamic art you’ll find the beautiful Al Corniche. Right on the waterfront of Doha Bay this is an attractive looking crescent. In the background you can see spectacular views of dhows on the water and skyscrapers in the distance. On late afternoons on Fridays the beach fills up with families of all nationalities.

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On the northern end of Al Khor Corniche is 10km stretch of beach known as Al Thakhira. Much of this seashore is sabkha (salt flats) which can become like quicksand and can be treacherous when wet but also provide much adventure. This beach offers visitors a lovely old shoreline, mangroves, outcrops, desert and many birds. It is favored by bird watchers.

qatar omani market

Omani Market is a small market that offers many different things like Saudi dates,  hand-woven baskets, Omani dried fish, tobacco, incense and so much more.

qatar MIA

MIA Park is a lovely green space near the Doha waterfront. This is where you can see Richard Serra’s vertical steel sculpture that is known as “7”.

qatar MIA sculpture

It is the first public piece of art that was displayed by this celebrated artist in the Middle East. On the first Saturday of every month from October to March you can find stalls here that sell arts and crafts, clothing and souvenirs.

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Gallery Al Riwaq is located at the edge of MIA Park. It is a modern gallery space that offers wonderful temporary exhibitions with participating artists like Damien Hirst and Takashi Murakami.

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Katara Beach is a great place to cool off and swim close to the city. This 1.5 km beach is located at the Katara Cultural Village. You can also enjoy dining and a show at the adjoining arts center. Children under six have free admission to the beach. There’s a ladies-only section and one piece swimming suits are advised.

qatar DohaFort

Doha Fort was built during the 19th century Turkish occupation. It has been used as a prison and as an ethnographic museum.

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One of the largest parks in the Gulf region is Aspire Park and is one of Qatar’s finest landscapes. Big crowds gather here on weekends. It is a wonderful place to get away from the city for a while and even have a picnic.

qatar aspire torch

Here you can see the Torch Tower which is also known as the Aspire Tower. This is an amazing 300m high building which served as a giant torch for the 15th Asian Games. Today it is a lovely hotel and well worth a look at.

qatar pearl monument

The Pearl Monument stands at the northern “sea” end of the corniche. It marks the entrance to the dhow harbor. It is a great spot for photos.

qatar clock tower

The Clock Tower is an important landmark and a great way of knowing where you are in the city.

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Barzan Towers rise high into the Arabian Sky and offer great views of the sea. It was built to serve as a watchtower. The tower is a rectangle building with three levels and an external staircase. All around is an unusual oasis of greenery, palm trees, a brook and animals just behind the towers.

Alborj Alshargi (The East Tower) has been fully restored. It was built in the early 20th century by the Qater Emir to keep a watch over pearl divers and to use as an observatory to inspect moon phases and to look at ships approaching the coast.

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A visit to Doha Film City can make you feel like you’ve stepped into an American west ghost town. It is like being on the set of a Hollywood movie right in the middle of the Arabian Desert. The Film City is located on the RasAbrouq Peninsula some eighty km from Doha. You will see a mini Arabic town with traditional mud-brick houses with wooden doors, there is a mosque, lots of gates and a look-out.

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About thirty minutes from the city center you’ll come to the Doha Zoo. Today the original zoo has been renovated and now has been converted into a safari park. This is home to some rare species like the Oryx which is presently an endangered species. The Oryx is the country’s national animal.  It is a member of the antelope family with large straight horns.

qatar zoo oryx

The zoo has different areas like Asia Woodland, Africa Safari and South American rainforest. Visitors will be able to get to see animals from all three of these places.

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Posted by: Rasma R | April 3, 2017

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia


Our armchair travels have taken us to Saudi Arabia which takes up most of the Arabian Peninsula and the Red Sea and Persian (Arabian) Gulf as coastlines. This is known as the birthplace of Islam and is home to the cities of Mecca and Medina.

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Riyadh the capital is the main financial hub and sits on a desert plateau. It has many amazing modern buildings that offer spectacular views of the city.

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Masmak Fortress is completely surrounded by sand and was built around 1865. This fort was the site of Ibn Saud’s 1902 raid at which time a spear was thrown at the main entrance door and the head of the spear is still lodged there by the force.

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Some of the highlights here include maps and interesting photos of Saudi Arabia from 1912 to 1937. These are displayed in galleries that have been converted from diwans or living rooms.

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Al Faisaliah Tower was designed by British architect Norman Foster and built in 2000. It is famous for its enormous glass globe made of 655 glass panels near the top. It has 44 floors including a five-star deluxe hotel and four exclusive restaurants, offices, apartments, the Sky shopping mall and an awesome viewing platform – Globe Experience. The needlepoint pinnacle has a crescent tip and rises 267m above the ground.

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The National Museum is a state-of-the-art museum and one of the finest in the Middle East. It offers two floors of eight well-designed and informative galleries that give visitors a look into Arabian history, culture and art. You can see films in English through headphones that are shown on 180-degree screens. There are also great interactive displays.

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Riyadh Zoo is the largest zoo in Saudi Arabia which started in 1957. At first it was a small zoo that was home to animals that had been gifted to members of the Al Saud ruling clan. After renovation it reopened in 1987 and among its highlights i the Houbara bustard. This bird is almost extinct in the wild in Saudi Arabia. Opening hours vary with prayer times. Children can take mini train rides.

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The zoo is located in the heart of Malaz in Riyadh and has over 1500 animals from 40 different species. At the gates the flamingos will welcome you and are a great attraction. All of the animals are living in natural habitats.

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You can see Bengal tigers which are also an endangered species native to India. At the Australian bush you can see kangaroos and emus.

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Owais Souq is an Arabian market that has many great flea-market stalls and you can buy anything from gold jewelry to beautiful fabrics. It’s a great place to bargain.

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Kingdom Center is a landmark tower in Riyadh and an amazing piece of modern architecture.

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It rises 302m high and its most distinctive feature is the steel-and-glass 300-ton Sky Bridge that connects the two towers. High speed elevators take you up to the 99th floor from where you can get spectacular views.

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Other important landmarks include the Clock Tower

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and the Water Tower.

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King Abdullah Malaz Park stretches for more than 318,000 square meters and is the largest park of its kind in the Kingdom. A 12-meter wide pedestrian pathway takes you around the lovely landscaped hills and greenery. Here you’ll find several children’s playgrounds, sport areas, specially shaded areas and a big restaurant. There is a spacious square overlooking the lake.

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The lake features the park’s main attraction as the sun goes down – dancing water fountains with colorful lights. There are benches scattered all through the park and you can even have a picnic if you like. Other facilities include an events center, VIP building and the park exploratory.

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Posted by: Rasma R | March 30, 2017

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates


The impressive and modern capital of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi sits off of the mainland on an island in the Persian (Arabian) Gulf. There is much to delight the eye here and is one of those cities where as you see one site you want to see so much more. So get comfortable and sit back in your armchairs and let’s begin the tour.

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Set among lovely gardens and visible from every one of the bridges that join Abu Dhabi to the mainland is the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. It was the idea of the first president of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed and is also his final resting place. This is an incredible mosque that can accommodate 41,000 worshipers and is among the few that is open to non’Muslims.

It was built of Macedonian marble and has become one of the most popular tourist sites in the city. The mosque combines Mameluke, Ottoman and Fatimid design elements. After 20 years of construction the mosque was finally opened in 2007. It is the biggest mosque in the UAE.

abu grand mosque prayer hall

The Prayer Hall features the world’s largest loomed carpet. Its medallion design with intricate arabesque motifs took 1200 craftsmen two year to complete.

Free 45 to 60 minute tours are available in English and Arabic. As you approach the entrance to the mosque you can see Sheikh Zayed’s mausoleum where prayers are continually recited by attendants. No photos are allowed here but other parts of the mosque can be photographed.

abu saluki

Arabian Saluki Center is the place where you can see these amazing dogs that originated in China. The saluki is thought to be one of the first breeds of dog to be domesticated. They are prized for their hunting skills and speed over distance. For centuries saluki’s have been man’s best friend to the Bedu. Many of these dogs are bred to race and according to the Guinness Book of Records, a saluki holds the record for four-legged speed clocked at 68.8km/h in 1996. Salukis are also prize winners and you can see these wonderful, shaggy-eared dogs in action by visiting the ten day Al Dhafra Festival. This breeding and training center is in the Falcon Hospital Complex.

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The Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital is a working veterinary hospital for injured and ill falcons. There are guided tours available. You can get up close with these birds of prey in the wards and an on-site museum explains the history of falconry.

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You can even have the chance to take a photo with a falcon perched on your arm or you can feed one.

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Ferrari World is a theme park that brings the thrill of Formula One racing to Abu Dhabi. This is a must for thrill seekers. Children can test out their driving skills on the Junior GT track. You can thrill on the Flying Aces roller coaster; clocking speeds of 120km per hour on a 52-meter loop (the world’s tallest). Visitors can see a collection of Ferrari cars, take a Ferrari factory tour and learn more about this car.

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The Abu Dhabi Corniche is a waterfront that always impresses with its white sand beaches and great promenade for strolling. It stretches the entire length of the northwest shore of the city. From the waterfront you can have iconic views of the high rise tower blocks lining the seafront. Here you can also find cycle path and landscaped gardens to walk in. On the public beaches are refreshment stands. During the day you can explore the various parks and at night enjoy the cafes along the waterfront.

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You’ll be amazed by the luxury hotel the Emirates Palace with its domed gatehouses and flying ramps. There are 114 domes and a 1.3km private beach. It has 1002 crystal chandeliers and 400 luxury rooms and suites. It also doubles as the city’s cultural hub. It hosts opera and renowned orchestras during the Abu Dhabi Classics concert season and film screenings during the Abu Dhabi Film Festival. In the Barakat Gallery you can see excellent fine art from ancient China, Egypt, Africa, Greece and Rome.

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In the foyer they serve the ever-popular afternoon high tea and as amazing as it might seem there is an ATM that dispenses gold bars.

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Near the airport you’ll find Masdar City which is the world’s first carbon-neutral, zero-waste city powered completely by renewable energy. This is like a science community with a graduate-research university and companies, focusing on sustainability, clean tech and renewable energy. You can see some impressive architecture here.

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You can ride on a pod-like driver-less Personal Rapid Transit or PRT vehicle. You can relax at the cafes and restaurants.

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Yas Island is one of Abu Dhabi’s top luxury hotel destinations. Here you can see stretches of sandy beaches. This is also home to the Yas Marina Circuit where the Abu Dhabi Formula One racing takes place every year.

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The iconic Qasr Al Hosn fort is featured on the back of the Dh1000 banknote. It is the oldest building in Abu Dhabi. It dates back to 1760 as a watchtower that safeguarded a freshwater well. It became the ancestral home of the ruling Al Nahyan family in 1793 and remained as a royal residence until 1966. The interior has been renovated and modernized and used as a museum. Here you can find an exhibit of photos, archaelogical finds, models and other objects charting the history of Abu Dhabi and its people.


Corniche – Al Khalidiyah is a lovely beach for strolling, sunbathing and swimming. It is hard to believe that at one time this was a dhow-loading bay for cargo and passengers until th 1970s. Today the western end of this corniche offers the most facilities. Along the waterfront are parks, fountains, cycle tracks, walking paths and beaches. You’ll find plenty of benches and shady spots even exercise stations. For refreshments there are cafes.

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Emirates Park Zoo is well worth a visit especially if traveling with children. It is about thirty minutes from the city. Here you can see a variety of animals including rare white tigers, giraffes, elephants, a herd of zebra and a Siberian bear.

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There is also a primate section with lots of different monkeys and a flamingo park with a sea lion enclosure. Children love the petting zoo.

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Abu Dhabi Global Market is home to more than 40 international companies. All of them are clustered in this glass-and-steel monolith on Al Maryah Island right in the heart of Abu Dhabi’s new financial center.

The Galleria Mall at Al Maryah Island in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Here is also the Galleria Mall and a couple of five-star hotels. From the waterfront you can get spectacular views of the city skyline. Points of interest are the Cleveland Clinic with its catwalk podium

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and a suspension bridge the Sheikh Zayed Bridge.

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Al Maryah Island Promenade stretches for 5.4km long the western shore. This is the place for the lavish Christmas market and New Year’s fireworks. There is an assortment of bistros and cafes.

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Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Library has rare collections of Arabic calligraphy and copie of the Quran dating back to the 16th century. The collection is in the mosque’s minaret, giving great views over the magnificent domes and outlying islands.

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Miraj – The Museum offers visitors a look at lovely objects from around the Islamic world, including Persian carpets, calligraphy, ceramics and textiles. This is a private collection that also has some pieces for sale.

Lulu Island Development Plan; Abu Dhabi; United Arab Emirates; 2

Lulu Island is a magnificent man-made island with sandy beaches, date palms and dunes. It is just a short boat ride away from the marina on Breakwater.

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The Sky Tower is an observation tower that offers 360 degree panoramic views. At the top is the Colombiano Coffee House and Tiara a revolving restaurant.

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Khalifa Park is a large and leafy park that offers people different kinds of attractions. There is a football field and there are fountains, ponds and waterfalls. For children there’s an amusement park and a small train to take them around.

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Musical Fountains on Yas Island are enjoyed by most everyone especially at night when they are set to music.

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The Abu Dhabi Louvre was designed by Jean Nouvel. It was set in the shading of palm trees. It has a filigree dome with geometric openings meant to represent interlaced palm leaves, used in traditional roofing. The gaps are meant to create a shifting “rain of light” in the galleries that display world-class collections of paintings, sculpture and objects from antiquity to the present.

The artwork will be coming from the Louvre’s vast repositories and other loans from other leading French museums.

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Street Sculpture five concrete monuments can be found on an traffic island between the World Trade Center and Etisalat Buildings. They are a date cover, incense burner, rosewater shaker, coffee pot and fort, symbolizing the traditions of hospitality and Bedouin culture.

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Capital Gate – looking skyward toward the southeast you’ll notice a 35 story, dramatic listing skyscraper. It holds the Guinness world record as the world’s most leaning building (18 degrees westward). It is home to the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Center and a Hyatt Hotel.

Dhows in harbor

Dhow Harbor is a great place to sit and watch the lovely dhows or traditional wooden cargo boats go by. You can watch fishers mend their nets, pile up lobster pots and unload fish. This is the spot where you can even imagine being in an small fishing village if you forget about Abu Dhabi’s very modern backdrop.

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The UAE Pavilion is shaped like two parallel sand dunes. This is an award-winning building that was designed by Sir Norman Foster and partners. It was designed for the 2010 Shanghai Expo. It is used as an exhibition space for touring cultural shows. Every November it hosts the Abu Dhabi Contemporary Art Fair.

abu burj

Burj Mohammed bin Rashid is a 92 floor, 382m giant tower block that is part of the World Trade Center and has become an important landmark. It is the city’s tallest building and has an indoor terraced garden on the 90th floor. This is the tallest of two matching towers that look incredible when lit at night.

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UAE Flagpole is a giant 122m flagpole. The Emirate flag makes a great landmark. The small promenade beneath the pole is a great place for taking photos of the surrounding skyline.

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Aldar HQ is a futuristic landmark building that is referred to as “The Coin” due to its distinctive penny-shaped architecture. It is the world’s first circular skyscraper and home to the modern design house Aldar, one of the largest property developers in the Emirates.

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Posted by: Rasma R | March 26, 2017

Ultramodern Dubai


Imagine you’re a pinpoint on a map and think of where you would like to travel to. Our armchair travels now take us from Turkey to the United Arab Emirates or the UAE. Sometimes known as just Emirates. This country is a federal absolute monarchy in Western Asia at the southeast end of the Arabian Peninsula on the Persian Gulf. The UAE borders with Oman to the east, Saudi Arabia to the south and shares maritime borders with Qatar to the west and Iran to the north.

Our first stop is the ultramodern city of Dubai which is known for impressive architecture, luxury shopping and a lively nightlife.

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The Dubai Museum is the city’s best museum. It has found its home in the Al Fahidi Fort dating from around 1800. This is considered to be the oldest structure in the city. Exhibits show the emirate’s turbo-evolution from fishing and pearling village to global centre of commerce, finance and tourism. There are walk-through mock souk, exhibits on Bedouin life in the desert and a room that highlights the importance fo the sea in the days before the discovery of oil. The last room highlights archaeological finds from nearby excavation sites.

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Al Fahidi Fort was once the residence of local rulers until 1896. It has been used as a prison and a garrison and became a museum in 1971. A teak gate leads into a central courtyard with bronze cannons, traditional boats and an areesh (a palm-frond hut which served as a summer home for most locals until the middle of the 20th century). Around the courtyard are rooms displaying instruments and weapons.

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An impressive architectural creation is the Burj Khalifa. It has two observation decks on the 124th and 148th floors and a restaurant-bar on the 122nd floor. This counts as the world’s tallest building rising high into the sky at 828m.

The At the Top observation deck on the 124th fl. has high-powered telescopes to put the city into focus on clear days and they simulate the same view at night and 35 years back in time. Heading up to the deck you’ll pass by various multimedia exhibits.

On the 148th fl. you find the world’s highest observation platform At the Top Sky. Here you experience a VIP experience with refreshments, a guided tour and an interactive screen where you experience “flying” to different city landmarks by just hovering your hands over the high-tech sensors.

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The Dubai Fountain is a spectacular dancing fountain in the middle of a giant lake against the backdrop of the awesome Buri Khalifa. The water from the fountain rises up as high as 150m, all syncopated to classical Arabic and world-music soundtracks.

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It is visible from many different vantage point including some of the restaurants at Souk Al Bahar, the bridge that links Souk Al Bahar with the Dubai Mall and its waterfront terrace. For a real close-up view you can book a cruise on a wooden abra (a traditional boat) that sails between 5:45 PM and 11 PM.

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Madinat Jumeirah is one of Dubai’s most impressive and attractive developments. This is an interpretation of a traditional Arab village including a souq, palm-lined waterways and desert-colored hotels and villas complete with wind towers.

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It is particularly lovely at night with the gardens lit up and the Burj Al Arab shimmering in the background. You’ll delight in bougainvillea, banana trees and soaring palms.

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In the center of it all is Souk Madinat Jumeirah, a maze-like bazaar with wood-framed walkways and shops. Made to give the feel of an authentic Arabian market where you’ll find crafts, art and souvenirs or take a look at what you can see at the Madinat Theater.

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The Burj Al Arab luxury hotel was built to reflect the sails of a dhow (traditional wooden cargo vessel). It has become an iconic landmark that sits on an artificial island. It has its own helipad and a fleet of chauffer-driven Rolls Royce limousines. In the lobby you’ll see a most attractive fountain. The lobby is decorated in red, blue and green with pillars draped in gold leaf. If you make a reservation you can enjoy yourself at the Skyview Bar.

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Impressive in snowy white is Jumeirah, Dubai’s most beautiful mosque. It is open to non-Muslims for the one-hour guided tours. Cameras aren’t allowed.

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The Etihad Museum is where you can find out the story of the formation of the UAE in 1971, the discovery of oil in the 1950s and the withdrawal of the British in 1968. There are interactive displays, photos, artifacts and personal accounts. All displays are in English and Arabic.

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Take a walk in the Al Fahidi Historic District with its narrow walking lanes lined with sand-colored houses topped by wind towers. Altogether there are around 50 houses among them museums, craft shops, cultural exhibits, courtyard cafes, art galleries and two boutique hotels.

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Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo has made its home in the Dubai Mall. The top attractions here are the sharks and rays. The is a walk-through tunnel for spectacular views.

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Upstairs is the Underwater Zoo with its star attraction a 5.1m long Australian croc named King Croc. He’s 40 years old and weighs in at 750 kg and is joined by his female companion Queen Croc.

You’ll also see African lungfish, archerfish, spooky giant spider crabs and sea dragons.

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Heritage House is a courtyard house dating from 1890 which once belonged to a wealthy pearl merchant. It was built from coral and gypsum and wraps around a central courtyard flanked by verandahs. Most of the rooms have audiovisual displays and make use of dioramas to recreate traditional daily life.

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Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary let’s you enjoy pink flamingos here in the winter. There are over 170 species of birds among the salt flats, mudflats, mangroves and lagoons. This sanctuary borders Dubai Creek and is an important stopover on the east African – west Asian flyway. You’ll find two accessible hides or platforms with sharp binoculars.

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The Flamingo hide is on the sanctuary’s western edge. On the southern edge the Mangrove Hide overlooks the mangrove forest.

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For families traveling with children there is the museum Children’s City. This is an amazing cluster of colorful Lego-style buildings in Creek Park. There are dozens of interactive and inspiring learning stations for kids between the ages of two and fifteen. Among the most popular exhibits is a stimulator where kids can fly on a magic carpet or ride a camel. The signs are in English and Arabic.

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Everyone no matter how young or old enjoy sending messages from the giant computer. Toddlers have a special play area. There are educational workshops and planetarium shows.

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Creek Park is a large and lovely park with many attractions for families from playgrounds and carousels to pony and camel rides. You can explore and relax in the gardens and have a family barbeque. One popular feature is the 2.5km cable-car ride from which you can get great views of the park and the waterfront.

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Ibn Battuta Mall is a mall worth taking a look at for its amazing architecture which follows the journeys of 14th century Arab explorer Ibn Battuta. It is built around six country-themed courts of which

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the most impressive is the Persian Court, topped by a lovely hand-painted dome.

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China Court has a full-sized Chinese junk, the India Court includes an 8m-high elephant.

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The Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum is a grand courtyard house which was the residence of Sheikh Saeed, the grandfather of the current Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid. Here you can also see an excellent collection of pre-oil boom photos of Dubai. There are also some private images of the ruling Al Maktoum clan.

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Za’abeel Park is a sprawling park that is popular with families. It has many activity zones among them a lovely lake with cascades. There are interactive themed areas like a Technology Zone, a Barcode Garden, an Alternative Energy Zone and a Space Maze. From the 45m-high Panoramic Tower you can get spectacular views.

Every Friday you can find a farmers’ market at the park and a flea market the first Saturday of the month from October to May.

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Lost Chambers Aquarium offers visitors a look at rare albino alligators Ali and Blue. This is an awesome labyrinth of underwater halls, enclosures and fish tanks that all recreate the legend of the lost city of Atlantis. You’ll find some 65,000 exotic marine creatures making their home in 20 aquariums among them rays, jellyfish and giant groupers.

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The highlight here is the Ambassador Lagoon and for an extra fee you can snorkel or dive with the fish in this 11.5 million liter tank.

Majlis Ghorfat Um Al Sheef, Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Middle East

Mailis Ghorfat Um Al Sheef this is a rare vestige of pre-oil times away from Dubai Creek and was built in 1955. At one time Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed al Maktoum spent his summer here where the room were cooled by sea breezes. This is a traditional two-story structure built from gypsum and coral with a palm frond roof, a wind tower.

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Emirates Towers was designed in an ultramodern style. You can see the twin, triangular, gunmetal-grey towers rise high up from an oval base. They are among the world’s tallest.

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Posted by: Rasma R | March 23, 2017

Ankara, Turkey


Ankara is the cosmopolitan capital of Turkey located in the country’s central Anatolia region. There is much to do and see here and many landmarks and ruins to admire.

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The Museum of Anatolian Civilisations is a wonderful place for visitors to learn about Turkey’s ancient past. There are impressive curated exhibits with artifacts from every significant archaeological site in Anatolia. The central hall has reliefs and statuary and the surrounding halls will take you on a wonderful journey through history from Palaeolithic, Neolithic, Chalcolithic, Bronze Age, Assyrian, Hittite, Phrygian, Urartian and Lydian periods. Downstairs is a collection of Roman artifacts.

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Anit Kabir is the monumental mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (1881 – 1938), the founder of modern Turkey. It sits high above the city in marble splendor. This complex consists of the tomb, museums and a ceremonial courtyard.

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Head for a walk into the Citadel neighborhood through the main gate – Parmak Kapisi.

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The Citadel is a most interesting neighborhood with a well-preserved quarter that has thick walls and fascinating winding streets that were shaped in the 9th century A.D. The inner walls date from the 7th century.

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Once you have entered on the left you’ll see Alaettin Camil the citadel mosque dating from the 12th century.

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There is a steep road that leads to a flight of stairs, leading to the Sark Kulesi from where you can get panoramic views of the city.

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More fine views can be gotten from the Ak Kale or White Fort tower to the north.

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The Ethnography Museum has found its home in a white marble post-Ottoman building dating from 1927, which served as Ataturk’s mausoleum until 1953. There is an equestrian statue in front and the mausoleum is preserved in the entrance hall. On the walls are photos of Ataturk’s funeral.

Here you’ll find and excellent collection that displays Anatolian jewelry, rugs, Seljuk ceramics and early 15th century doors.

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Haci Bayram Camii is Ankara’s most revered mosque. Haci Bayram Veli was a Muslim saint who founded the Bayramiye dervish order around 1400. The mosque was built in the 15th century. The surrounding shops sell various religious paraphernalia.

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The Painting and Sculpture Museum showcases the best of Turkish artists. The artwork ranges from angular war scenes to society portraits. It demonstrates that 19th and 20th century artistic developments in Turkey, paralleled those in Europe.

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For a bit of relief from the city streets head for Genclik Parki right in the heart of the city. Families come here to relax. This is a classic Middle Eastern-style park with lovely tea gardens, many water fountains in bright colors and some unusual plastic dinosaurs.

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For family fun there is the Luna Park which provides such amusements like wild rides.

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A landmark and symbol of Ankara is Kocatepe Camii, one of the world’s largest mosques. It was built between 1967 and 1987 Amazingly in the basement you’ll find a supermarket.

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Cer Modern is a huge artists’ park and gallery, exhibiting modern and challenging art from across Europe.

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On the site you’ll also find an excellent cafe and shop. Cultural events are also staged here.

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The Column of Julian was erected in honor of the Roman Emperor Julian the Apostate’s visit to Ankara.

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It sits proudly in a square surrounded by government buildings and usually topped by a stork’s nest.

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There is not much remaining to the Temple of Augustus and Rome except for some walls. It was built in 25 A.D. to honor the Roman Emperor Augustus.

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Another place to get away from the noise of the city streets is in Kugulu Parki located at the southern end of Tunalt Hilmi Caddesi.

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It is wonderful to see all those swans and the beauty of nature all around.

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The Victory Monument is a large equestrian statue that was erected to honor the soldiers of the War of Independence. It is one of the city’s landmarks.

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