Saturday, January 30, 2010

Race With Dolphins in Musandam, Oman

we were going to oman. yes, that's a whole other country! it's the most anticipated journey that mr. khairul has long planned for his family. and here we're, heading to 'musandam', oman.

bright and early morning the kiddos were ready while mr. khairul's mom packed her hot fresh nasi lemak complete with all sorts of accompanying yummies. we're going in two cars, and the kids immediately boarded radha's 4x4 as he already prepared a comfy 'nest' at the back for his son.

masuk sekali si khaleef and sofia terus sardine-packed!

radha's son rahul holding kahfi, sofia and khaleef

at about 7.30am we're off from dubai marina - and that was considered quite late already! armed with the packed food, tons of mineral bottles, towels and changed of clothings, blankets and snacks we headed towards ras al-khaimah (another state in uae), where we'd be crossing the uae-oman border.

we drove across the highway that cuts through gorgeous orange sand dunes on our left and dirt brown desert on our right. weird, but we were too excited to care! and who would've thought that ras al-khaimah would have amazing rocky terrains that seem to surround its small town?

what a view - and we were all wide-eyed and in awe - and this is only the beginning of more fantastic view that awaits!

* * *

care for a little geography lesson?

where is oman in the world map?

notice the red circle on the top of the map. that's where we went!

the location of 'musandam' is quite weird because it is separated from the rest of oman by uae and is thus an 'exclave', which means that the territory belongs to oman, but lies within uae! it faces the straits of hormuz and across it, iran, giving it a strategic location because it's the only sea passage for petrol-exporting gulf countries.

* * *

there seemed to be quite an elaborate border formalities for us to enter musandam, oman where we had to pay a nominal fee to exit uae, and few seconds later have to pay another fee to enter oman.

  • mr. khairul parked
  • everyone got off
  • entered immigration office armed with pasports
  • the officers aknowledged each of our faces and matched it with the ones in our pasports
  • pay a fee to EXIT uae
  • got into cars
  • crossed a gate, and passed by a checkpoint
  • the officers checked our passports
  • fill in forms to ENTER oman
  • pay fee for visa to enter oman - kahfi enters for free because he was born in the uae!
  • we're given a ticket
  • passed by another checkpoint
  • gave ticket to officer
  • officer checked number of people in the car
  • ...then baru lepas betul-betul ke musandam, oman!

remember its unique 'exclaved' location? (please refer to oman map above hihi) this makes it more difficult for those tourists in other parts of oman to come here as they have to exit oman, enter uae, then exit uae and re-enter oman!


the scenery suddenly transformed into the imposing 'hajar mountain' (arabic for 'stone mountain'), the highest mountain range in the arabic peninsula. i was reminded of the drive to victoria's 'great ocean road' as mr. khairul drove the winding road at foot of the cliffs that rise up from gulf waters.

while 'great ocean roads' offer views of the stand-alone-rocky-formations that seem to jut out from the sea, 'musandam' coastline offers nothing but the calm aquamarine sea, and the horizon, spanning out as far as the eye can see.


my awful shots taken from the car didn't do a smidgen of justice to the actual scenery that is so beautiful, i am lost for words!

* * *

after 30-40mins drive, we stopped by a local restaurant and wadaya know - they have mandi rice - which was as delicious (or probably because we're super hungry and dead-tired from the winding travelling!)

this was also the place where radha negotiated for a dhow (traditional arab vessel) that would take us along the musandam coast by sea for the tourist-famous 'musandam dhow cruise'.

ready nak naik bot!

we left and headed on to 'khasab', a small fishing village where we would board the dhow, passing small houses and a fort.

we were promised comfy ride on the dhow, which include a clean toilet and a sink, free-flow of ice-cold water and soda drinks, generous servings of fresh fruits, a stop at one of the many diving spots to snorkel - and the most anticipated activity of all - to spot a dolphin at sea.

our dhow was spacious! with endless line of plush red pillows on an entirely carpeted flooring. there were so many pillows that once seated down against the edge of the boat, no matter where you sat, you'd definitely be resting against a pillow.

look how spacious the dhow is!

* * *

the whole family was all charged-up and geared to go. bags placed at a corner, everyone immediately made themselves comfortable and snug againsts a pillow, ready for this breathtaking journey.

and a group photo is a must!

kiddos must wear lifejackets! khaleef insisted on puting on his own, and gladly kept it on, while kahfi was forced to, and later was too grumpy to keep it on!

lagipun susah nak tidurkan dia kalau dia pakai life jacket tu!

kahfi was so excited being let go on the dhow - running and walking - this was before it moved. once moving on water, the swinging swaying of the dhow was enough to made us fear for his life!

kang excited sangat dia ter-terjun dalam laut kang!

so the 'excited kahfi' became 'grumpy kahfi' once his opah had him in her tight clutches! he drank his milk and thankfully was asleep a few minutes once we're at sea. senang citer!

* * *

ah, what a sight!

with its imposing rocky *fjords, plunging deep into the gulf waters, it's famous for those wanting to escape the hustle and bustle of city life.

geologically, a fjord (pronounced /fee-ord/ is a long, narrow inlet with steep sides, created in a valley carved by glacial activity or the movement of the earth's crust - source adapted from wikipedia.

from my understanding, this happens way back during the ice age, where the glacier cut patterns onto the bedrock, resulting on the wonderful shapes on the rocky mountains. betul tak niraku? (haha...since she once majored in soil mechanics).

one of the small fishing dhows seen along the way

along the way, we saw little fishing boats, some carrying goods to the mainland, and most bringing tourists like us!

as the dhow moves calmly across the sea, you'd feel engulfed by the magnificent sight of tall rocky fjords that stood in grandeur all around you.

it's all blue, rocky grey, and then blue again. the sea, the fjords, and the sky.

us with mr. khairul's parents

of course we took advantage of the dramatic views - taking pictures at the foot of the dhow, with the fjords as backgrounds.

clockwise from top left : tina, sofia and rahul, asrar and me layan blues...

* * *

this is one of the many shots i take, which is also my favorite. almost like an old ship, frozen in rocks, left there for thousands of years.

mr. khairul and i took advantage of the calm, quiet sea to have an 'us' time - what a romantic way to spend the weekend!

another one of my favorite shot. Allah is great! how can water and rocks combo ever look so beautiful?

* * *

are those dolphins i see peeking out from the sea?

yes! and boy, were we super excited to see those lovely sea creatures showing up among the sea bubbles! just a glimpse of its head was enough to send us the whole family into a frenzy, high-pitched cheers!

the dhow operator actually has a special whistle to coax the dolphins to come up to the surface. once he saw them, the dhow then moves very fast so that the dolphins can follow - then we're asked to clap and cheer loudly to encourage the dolphins to jump!

khaleef was the most enthusiastic in his clapping. at one point he even sang the theme from 'lion king' aloud - and amazingly it worked because one dolphin actually jumped right in front of him!

well, i guess anyone can see dolphins swim and jump at a water park or some zoo - but the gem factor here is seeing these magnificently graceful creatures in the wild - in their own natural environment. that, is priceless!

* * *

we were served fresh fruits while waiting for the dolphins to appear, cool soda drinks and mineral water. refreshing!

* * *

after 2 hours of cruising, our dhow anchored at 'telegraph island' for diving, snorkeling and swimming - yes, 'telegraph'! - it's called that because the place was an actual station along the telegraph cable that linked britain to iraq onwards to bombay india in 1864! it was then moved from musandam to iran.

only mr. khairul's maklong and i didn't swim. and of course, khaleef & kahfi too stayed back

once the dhow stopped, a movable ladder was placed against the side of the dhow, and they can opt to walked slowly down the ladder into the water, or just dive straight down!

a qualified life-saver, mr. khairul experienced that much-needed adrenaline rush as he re-lived his school swimmer moments of diving and swimming. he and his lil bro asrar actually dived straight down right from atop the dhow!

this is said to be a good place to dive or snorkel, teeming with marine life in its clear aquamarine water. however, on a personal note, mr. khairul insisted that our very own 'pulau perhentian' has a much better underwater view of beautiful corals and unique marine life!

oh well, they had fun nontheless! i was much impressed with mr. khairul's youngest sis, sofia. hey, that 10 year old can swim, man!

* * *

senyap je - semua lapar nak makan nasi lemak!

after a tiring swim, everyone's tummy grumbled for some home-cooked nasi lemak!

mr. khairul's mom prepared the nasi lemak, complete with telur rebus, ikan bilis, sambal, timun and popadam! truly an excellent meal to enjoy in the middle of the arabian sea, with the cool breeze and excellent scenery!

siap dhow operator tu pasang lagu omani yang bunyi macam arabian dangdut!

the toilet at the other end of the dhow was, as promised, clean and comfortable to use - just mind your head going into the small enclosure! i was very glad, because a good clean toilet adds to the comfort of the whole journey!

lepas makan pun boleh basuh tangan at an attached sink! kudos for the facilities!

* * *

as parents, sometimes it's just enough to see that our kids experienced a holiday or a journey at its best, and with the most excitement.

so it was the best sight to see his eyes sparkle when he saw the dolphins, or his shrill voice when he spotted one, or when he clapped enthusiastically, or when he simply sat quietly, plopped against one of the many pillows enjoying the view, and deep in thoughts.

while kahfi was asleep during most of the dhow cruise, khaleef only slept few minutes before we docked back on land!

before leaving the dhow, we took a few last shots to remember the experience. mr. khairul and radha, while i took picture with his wife sreeja.

* * *

mr. khairul's parents, sis tina and bro asrar; us

once back on land, mr. khairul's mom, his sis tina and bro asrar all wore the traditional arab gear to blend in with the surroundings! looked great in pictures, i must say!

* * *

since oman has a coastline of 1,700 km, so forts and towers are needed to protect it from potential invaders. thus, there are over 500 of them in oman!

the one we passed by was the 'khasab fort', built by the portuguese in the 17th century, when their navy controlled the old shipping route on this side of oman.

quaint and classic - it looks like a small castle!

with with some local omanis that looks suspiciously like my sis & bro-in-law hihi

muscat may be the capital of oman, but musandam has already captured my attention as one of the gems of holiday destinations. wish i could bring abah and my sisters here. abah would definitely enjoy the sea experience and the sights of dolphins!

good-bye musandam, oman - thanks for the experience!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Sharjah Aquarium & Qanat Al-Qasbah

it's to 'sharjah' this weekend!

sharjah is one of the 7 emirates (states) in the uae (united arab emirates), others being dubai, capital abu dhabi, umm al-quwain, ras al-khaimah, ajman and fujairah.

a lot of expats (and some malaysians) working in dubai, opt to stay in sharjah for the cheaper house rent. it's just 40 mins away from dubai city center.

i think the best place to go to when visiting sharjah is the venice-like 'qanat al-qasba' - more on that later. but since we're already in sharjah, why not drop by sharjah aquarium (something like our aquaria klcc).

us at sharjah aquarium in 2008

no, don't fix your eyes - the khaleef in the pictures above is my khaleef - when he was about to turn 3 years old! we already went here during the first month i'm in dubai, before delivering kahfi.

now fast forward 1 and a half year later, here we are back again to bring mr. khairul's family for a stroll among the sea creatures.

lil bro asrar, mr. khairul's mom & dad, sis tina and his maklong : the sharjah skyline

entrance fee is 20dhs per adult - and free for kiddos under 5. it's closed on sunday so you can come between 8am to 8pm on other days - except friday of course - as you know, in uae - most businesses usually begins after friday prayers.

the view outside of the sharjah aquarium is gorgeous - the relatively tall skyscrapers, the sea, and the classic dhows resting at the port - a juxtapose of sharjah's old and new.

me, tina, sofia (front), maklong, mr. khairul's mom with khaleef, asrar and my father-in-law

once inside, we're greeted with a distinct smell of the ocean! there's a mock port complete with viewing balcony, lifesaving float, fishing nets and the works - interesting setting but they could have placed more display like little boats and old cans.

kahfi has had it, it seemed! he was wriggling like mad, and making a big fuss, so the sympathetic aunt and grandma obliged and set him free! his excitement cannot be described in words!

soon after, the path led to a small room where two benches were set in front of a screen depicting the fishermen lifestyle and history in sharjah and the uae.

alright - guilty as charge! - i got bored too soon and left to see the next exhibit with khaleef and mr. khairul's youngest sis sofia.

kahfi masih sangat-sangat excited. he even tried to catch the passing fishes in the aquarium!

next we walked into the aquarium-tunnel where more marine life can be seen, including a beautiful set-up of underwater reefs and corals. i remember khaleef being doubly excited when he was younger...

khaleef spent quite some time at the 'do's and don'ts' board - and i enjoyed asking him to interpret the pictures.

"don't touch then the shark.."
"cannot take picture.."
"don't throw into the water.."
"...and don't disturb the fish.."

smart boy, khaleef!

* * *

this is 'qanat al-qasba' - and i say it's the venice of uae because of the canal that runs through it, where visitors can have boatrides on traditional dhows (boats) and enjoy the view. not as gorgeous, i'm sure - but it's something!

there are a number of restaurants and cafes here with waterfront seats - nando's, dunkin donuts, thai restaurant lemongrass, among others.

here, as you can see from the picture, is also where you can ride the 'eye of emirates' - exactly like our 'eye of malaysia' - offering scenic view of the surrounding areas, as well as glimpse of the neighbouring dubai.

mr. khairul rode on with sis tina, sofia and bro asrar and khaleef.

before heading back to dubai, we indulged ourselves with 'mini melts' - the cutest ice-cream i've ever seen! it's ice-cream, but in little beads. you know - not the usual dome-shaped scoop - but tiny round beads of ice-cream in a cup!


Thursday, January 28, 2010

Ferrari World, Abu Dhabi

uae's capital abu dhabi has done it again. another incredible landmark in its endeavour to be on par with city-bro dubai's rapid development of unique-looking buildings.

from far it looks like a super-sonic spaceship had just landed in the middle of abu dhabi desert. red, flat, wavy and extremely broad -it's imposing size and strong color made it stand out amongst the brown sands and blue sky.

what is it?

driving alongside it, you'd be greeted with a signage - 'ferrari world, abu dhabi' - yet you still cannot believe it. ferrari world? here in abu dhabi? and you'd notice the red roof more clearly now, with red and white glass decor for its side walls.

and among the reds on the roof, it's hard not to notice one of the most recognizable car emblem ever - the ferrari horse.

mr. khairul's sis & bro

yes! it IS a building made by the ferrari dudes! and if you're thinking 'showroom' - it's not! it's actually an indoor theme-park, set to be one of the biggest in the world, the size of 7 football fields! still under constructions, it will also have the fastest roller coaster in the world - now, spare me on that one, thank you!

among the 20 extreme rides available includes the 'g-force tower' which is designed to create one of the most intense freefall experiences in the world - whatever that means - but it sound scary enough for me to stay away from!

ferrari world is located in 'yas island', thousands of hectare island, designed to be a center for entertainment and leisure - newly developed by abu dhabi, not too far from the abu dhabi airport. it is also adjacent to the yas marina circuit (much like our sepang F1).

i can only imagine the sight of the building from air - like a giant red amoeba growing out of proportion! i mean, look at the picture above - what a sight - it's like from another world!

the ferrari logo on its roof is the largest one ever made, naturally.

it's scheduled to open sometime this year, probably towards the end - so i guess the next time we come when it's open will be with 3 kiddos - one crazy-running and jumping (while trying to convince us that he's not scared of all the rides), another tagging along for a little running and jumping (trying to convince himself that what his brother fears not, he should not too!), and another one probably snug and cozy in the stroller.

ferrari world.

you have to see it for yourself to soak in the magnanimous sight of the red building. memang lawa sangat-sangat. totally red, totally huge, totally flat, totally beautiful.

when you think of ferrari, you think of speed, class and elegance. a multi-billion dollar brand, it's truly a grand addition to this 'rising playground for the rich' - abu dhabi.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Babyface is Coming to Town!

do you love to sing? who doesn't, eh? man, i love to sing.

absolutely LOVE to sing. while i iron mr. khairul's shirts, in the shower, while sauteeing my sambal, changing kahfi's diaper, or while driving. i love to sing. and i consider myself very soulful when it comes to the songs i like. hihi. perasan soulful tu!

think blackstreet, after 7, boyz to men, shai, tevin campbell, bobby brown, tony toni tone, jodeci, new edition, mary j. blidge, montell jordan and SWV - ah, the list goes on and on - you got the 'new jack swing' (a branch of R&B) sound which i really, really dig.

with shoulder works, and finger snapping, hips slightly swaying and head tipping - you can get lost in the soulful solo, the harmonizing vocals, the passion, the soul - that's what real music and honest singing is all about.

ah, they don't make good music like that anymore... usher, neyo, chris brown - these are great singers but it ain't 'new jack swing'!

malaysian singers that can be on par with these guys are probably the awesome innuendo, anuar zain and lah from VE. they have soul, they have love, and they have passion!

* * *

well, the 'father' of the 'new jack swing' sound is BABYFACE - and he's coming to malaysia for a gig in march! geramnya! i really, really wanna go! i absolutely adore babyface! his voice is not as strong as wanya morris, or as merdu as brian mcknight - but his soft, sweet, soothing voice has its appeal. lebih kurang macam ferhad or the indonesian singer glenn.

click on the picture to find out more about his coming show in malaysia!

if you like any of these songs -

  • 'when you believe' - whitney houston & mariah carey
  • 'last night' - az yet
  • 'til you do me right' - after 7
  • 'another sad love song' - toni braxton
  • 'change the world' - eric clapton
  • 'take a bow' - madonna
  • 'superwoman' - karyn white
  • 'exhale (shoop shoop)' - whitney houston
  • 'i'll make love to you', 'song for mama', 'water runs dry' and the super classic 'end of the road' - boyz II men
  • 'i'm ready', 'can we talk' and 'always in my heart' - tevin campbell

...then you have been listening to songs penned and music by the great babyface! and there are so many, many more great romantic songs by him!

enjoy this clip - one of my many favorites, from the master of love songs himself - 'i care 'bout you' by babyface, featuring k-ci & jojo, and babyface's brothers, kevon and melvin edmonds. enjoy.

* * *

on an entirely different subject, here's my latest posting on the supercool blogger mom's site - mombloggersplanet. if you think you hate writing but still wanna blog - then click on the pictures on tips and suggestions!

* * *

sigh. i've been watching babyface youtube video clip all day. is he coming to dubai?

check out these postings too!

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