Friday, September 30, 2011

Friday Feature-Jebel Hafeet and Green Mubazarrah

Asalamu alaikum,

Related to last week's "Friday Feature", this week it's Jebel Hafeet!

In Al Ain UAE, there is a mountain called Jebel Hafeet, at the base is the Green Mubazarrah. The Mubazarrah is a great place to relax, and have a picnic, have a bit of a hike, and do a bit of swimming.
View of the park from the top of a little hill.

There are hot springs that pump water down through the park in channels that form pools at the base. There are also indoor pools with separate buildings for ladies, and men and children(the indoor pools charge a fee, but are cleaner than the out side).

Pools at the base of the park. The water is cooler here, but also sometimes
dirty(especially if you go on the weekend).

We usually end up at Jebel Hafeet after our "Border Runs."

There are picnic pagodas setup all around the park, with grills on the side. We bring a picnic blanket and setup in a pagoda, and start grilling. Some times we have a bit of a hike on the hills first, to give us an appetite. There is also play equipment for the kids. We don't like to go on the weekends so much as there are really big crowds.

Us at the top of a hill, taking a rest. The walk back down is always so easy!

After eating, we go and play around in the channels. The water is only about 6-8 inches deep. The further up hill(closer to the pumps) you go the hotter it is.
Saad was a bit afraid of it at first, he doesn't even like to take warm bathes in the house, so the warm water freaked him out at first. After he got used to it, he was like a fish, and didn't want to go! If you go, do be careful, there is some algae or something that makes it slippery.

You can see the lights on the road up the mountain, snaking back and forth in the background.

There is a road that leads to the top of the mountain, we have visited it before if you want to take a look, the post is here. The view from the top is pretty cool at night(we've never been during the day, too hot!), and there is a little cafe, if you want a snack while up there. When we went a couple weeks ago, there were signs saying the road to the top was closed because of construction work, so I am not sure when they will open it again.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Friday Feature(Opps late!)-Oman Border Run, FUN!

Asalamu alaikum,

So we have been here in the UAE for a bit more than a month now. Since we are still working on the residency visa for me and Saad, we had to go on a "visa run" to Oman. I have posted a couple times before about this you can see older posts here, but I thought I might write up a little outline of how the whole process works.
Saad shows off his new water bottle on our recent trip.

Americans, and some other nationalities are granted visit visas that are good for thirty days on arrival in the UAE. So if you want to stay longer than that you have to exit the country and re enter to get a new thirty day visa. The whole process takes a couple hours. For us the easiest way to do it is to drive to Al Ain(about an hour from where we live, and about two hours from Abu Dhabi).
A truck full of goats, one was particularly curious.

From Al Ain you go to the Hilli Border Post, at the gate you show your passport and tell the guy you need an Exit stamp, then he will point you to the left where there are a couple of buildings. Go inside and tell them you need an exit stamp, they will check your passport, charge you a Dhs 35 fee for leaving the country, ask how many people are in your party(all must have passports and if they are normally resident their sponsor must accompany them) and write it down on a little slip of paper, possibly ask where you are going(for border runs we just say"visa renewal"), then he'll stamp your passport and you go get back in your car.
I love the sand dunes on the way to Al Ain.

You drive back towards the gate that leads to the UAE, and turn left behind the buildings and back around behind the first gate you came through, give them your slip of paper and they will wave you through to Al Buraimi.

Al Buraimi is a border town, technically in Oman, but the Omani border post is actually about 45 minutes away. So drive through town, if you feel like a snack, they have lots of little "refreshment" places where you can get a snack and a cup of chai.

Once you find the main road out of the city, just stay on that road and drive. Currently they are re doing the road so there is a lot of construction. After a break in the mountains that looks like stairs, there is a roundabout from which you make a left turn. Keep going until you reach the "Wadi Al Jizi Border Post". Go inside and get on of the little forms from the counter and fill it out.
Wadi Al Jizi Border Post, just so everybody knows I took this photo before we got to the
"No Photography" signs

Take your passport up to the counter and tell them you want "Enter and Exit". The guy will take your passport, and scan it, type a bit, then you have to pay. The fee is 20 Omani riyals(Dhs 200), but you should bring a credit card as they are starting to not accept cash. If you don't have a card, you should stop in Al Buraimi at an exchange and turn your dirhams to riyals, as they might not be able to make change.
Four types of currency in my purse! We got the Omani riyals at the border, because they had no change for dirhams, the rest is US dollars, Pakistani Rupees, and UAE dirhams.

I am sure the price increase has been slow and steady while we were in Pakistan, but the last time we did this(October 2009) it was 6 riyals or 60 dirhams. That is quite the increase!

Anyway, after you get your entry and exit stamps you can head back to Al Buraimi. While there you could buy some live chickens! This is my brother in law's favorite part, he loves chickens and keeps several in our yard.

After checking out Buraimi a bit, head back to the Hilli border post, to the same building where you got your exit stamp. Hand over your passport, get your stamps, tell him how many in your party, get your ticket and passports back and head out the exit to Al Ain.

Yay! All Done!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Friday Feature- Where is "home"?

Asalamu Alaikum,

When I say "I want to go Home"(capital H), I mean I want to go to the States. But really I have no home there, no address of my own. Any mail goes to my mom's house, and that's probably where we'll stay when we get back, inshAllah. Mom hasn't seen Saad since he was about four months old, so she is threatening to chain me up when we get there anyway!

When we left America to come to the UAE, I came to a place that was so unfamiliar that it took me close to six months to settle in and call it "home". Shortly after I started to feel like it was home, we moved out of the large apartment building we had been staying in downtown, and moved to a little villa type place out in Baniyas(sort of a suburb of Abu Dhabi, about a 45 minute drive into the city).

I got used to it a lot quicker, and soon it felt like home. Another eight months and then we had to leave for Pakistan.

During our first visit to Pakistan, I never felt settled enough to call it "home", even though we were there almost six months. It was a pretty hectic time, with my sister in law's wedding and all the shopping/sewing/cleaning/etc. that had to be done.

When we came back to Abu Dhabi, it felt like coming home. I thought at the time that we would be staying a while, but we were here only about a month and a half. Then it was back to Pakistan for another wedding(BIL's in law's family). I thought that we would stay for a couple of months and then back to Abu Dhabi, but I was wrong again. We ended up staying almost two years. By the time I had been there a year, I felt like it was "home", even with all the difficulties.

We have now been back in Abu Dhabi about a month. I don't know how much longer we will be here. We could be here another week, or a couple of months(I am hoping for the latter).

But until we are ready to head back to the states, after our time here is up (here is something I never thought I would say), we will go Pakistan.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Eid ul Fitr Day 2-Part 2

Asalamu Alaikum,

Day 2 part 1 is here.

So after a quick google on Bhai's Ipad for a local park, we found this one-Saqr Public Park, Ras al Khaimah.

We ate lunch, then sat around in the grass while the kids played on the slides and stuff.

Saad and I went on the bumper cars, with my sisters in law Saad with me and one of my nephews with one sister in law. Our ride was cut short though, Saad's nose hit the steering wheel and we got off real quick. The attendant let one sister in law and my nephew have a second go to make up for ours. Saad spent a lot of the rest of our time in the park complaining how the "bad gari(car) hit me". He was fine, no blood, just a little bump, but it did put a bit of a damper on the rest of the park.

After a while he was feeling better so we all went for a ride on the train that goes around the park.

Just before we left my three sisters in law and I decided to go on one of the other rides, the one with chairs on long chains that spin around and up. Big mistake. I think the park could really use more attendants, and possibly some classes on safety issues. There was only one guy to run the ride, no attendant at the gate, which was just wide open, people were inside the fence rather than waiting outside. Several young girls walked right under the people spinning around, while talking on their mobile phones, and paying no attention to the ride or the attendant shouting at them to get out of the way before they got kicked in the face. I was wondering if they might get hit by a flying shoe or something, but alhamdulillah, nobody was hurt while we were there.

Since there was only on attendant, every one would rush the ride as soon as it started to slow down, to grab a seat. People saved seats for their friends, and would pass off the seat back and forth, not letting anyone else on. One group of teenaged boys rode three times before getting up. There was pushing, and shoving, it was just like a bunch of dogs fighting over a bone. Horrible experience. The park itself is nice, clean and lots of fun, except for some of the rides. If you go I recommend you avoid the more popular rides, and stick with the train and slides/swing sets.

After the park, we decided to head for home since it was getting late. The traffic on the way from RAK to Abu Dhabi was horrible(it's EID, people! everyone is out having fun!). Just outside Sharjah one of my sisters in law was getting a bit car sick so we to the next exit and ended up in the "Heart of Sharjah". We stopped at the King Faisal Masjid, to wash up, pray and rest for a bit.

After praying we went for a walk around the Central Souq which was just across the street.

Outside the souq, Saad was a bit tired.

After checking out the souq, we got back on the road and headed home(again), but got side tracked again in Dubai. We stopped by the water and my father in law decided to treat us to a ride on one of the water taxis.

He hired one of the water taxis to take us on a one hour ride, up to one of the bridges(the one with blue lights), and back. It was lots of fun, and I do recommend it if you get the chance.

So that was the end of day 2. We got home shortly after three in the morning, and spent all of Eid day three sleeping and just relaxing.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Friday Feature-Of Children and Chicken Feathers

Asalamu aliakum,

A while back while we were still in Pakistan, I was sitting down stairs and Saad comes up to me quietly, with his hands behind his back. Usually this is the sign that he has something he shouldn't, but on that day he just came right up instead of trying to skirt around me with his hidden treasure. He told me in a very proud little voice, full of dramatic little pauses- " a......", and then with a big dramatic flourish, he brought his hands forward and said-"FEATHER!!!"

It was a very pretty light green feather, that he had found on the stairs. He was so proud of having brought me this gift, and it was such a pretty feather, that I made a huge deal out of it. I profusely thanked him and made a big deal of saving it in my journal.

After that he brought me every single feather he found, from the pretty colorful ones to ratty old crow feathers. I made a bid deal of every single one, he was just so sweet, proud of his gifts for Mama. My collection of feathers in Pakistan grew very rapidly.

Here in Abu Dhabi, my brother in law keeps several chickens. After we got here Saad started to collect chicken feathers. It was not long before my two little nephews started to bring me feathers, and I kept making a big deal out of them.

Saad even found several feathers when we went on our little trip after Eid. In 24 hours he found feathers for me in three different Emirates(RAK, Sharjah, and Abu Dhabi).

My sisters in law have several students that come daily for Qur'an reading lessons, they are all less than nine or ten years old. They do not speak very much English, and are very shy when they do, so they don't talk to me a lot. It was not very long before they noticed our feather collection fun. I have no idea what they think of this little game, but now they too have started bringing me feathers. They are so sweet, so I thank them for each one and keep them in a plastic cup in the window.

Now comes the question. What the heck am I going to do with so many chicken feathers?!?!?!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Eid ul Fitr-Day 2, Part 1

Asalamu alaikum,

So for day 2 Tariq and his brother had a plan. Khasab in Musandam. We packed up overnight bags, sleeping bags, fishing gear, another pulao dish(chickpeas, easier to eat on the go), marinated chicken, a grill, dishes, spices, and anything we might need for a two or three day camping trip. We gathered all the passports, and packed all that stuff, along with eleven people into the van. My brother in law had received a GPS and an Ipad from his job(hard work bonus!), so he entered in the coordinates, and off we went.

On the way we stopped at a gas station to fill up the tank, and I prayed inside the little masjid(just about every gas station not in the cities has a little attached prayer area, with a section for men and one for women, I love this).

Ladies section, gas station masjid, somewhere outside Dubai.
Inside, pretty blue carpet.

I liked it so much here is an up close picture. Pretty pretty.

Driving on we saw Dubai, from a distance.

We saw a lot of sand, camels too, unfortunately no pictures.

We even saw Sheik Zayed, on at least three or four cars.

We drove on to the border point, and we hit a snag. One person's residence visa had expired the day before. So if we left, they couldn't come back. We left the border, and went to a local masjid to wash up and pray zuhr.

The masjid was right on the edge of the water!

Ladies side of the Masjid by the water.

Another pretty rug.

We decided to try to find a park to eat lunch and then figure out what to do. Brother in law's Ipad came in handy, we surfed around a bit and found a local park.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Eid ul Fitr-Day 1

Asalamu alaikum,

Our first day of Eid started early, in fact my three young sisters in law and I did not sleep at all. Too much excitement, last minute cleaning, and I had to finish sewing my Eid suit! When we came to UAE on the 20th my father in law had asked me to help the three girls and my brother in law's wife to sew their own suits. I was supposed to just explain, while they did all the work, so they could learn. They all finished up, and I waited until last to finish mine as I could work faster. So I finally finished at 3 am! Alhamdulillah it came out wonderfully! The suit was a gift from my friend Ammena, that she had given me before she went back home. I thought about giving it to a tailor while still in Pakistan, but it is so beautiful and I was worried about how good they would do, so I sewed it myself.

Eid Mubarak!

So after finishing my suit I mendhi-d up my hair, and we tried to work on our hands too, but the cones that we had bought here in Abu Dhabi had no color. :-( We all finished up our cleaning, and prepared our families traditional breakfast dish-sheer korma. Sheer korma is a sweet dish, made of vermicelli noodles, milk, sugar, cardamoms, and a turka of ghee with slivered almonds, pistachios, raisins and sliced dry dates. Sometimes we put silver foil on the top as a decoration.

Sheer Korma, Oops, didn't get a picture before someone dug in!

After preparing the breakfast there was the traditional bathroom scuffle/race trying to get all eleven people in the family-showered, dressed and ready. I was ahead in the race, taking my shower early because I knew what would happen. Why does no one else ever seem to remember the bathroom race?

After the bathroom race we all piled into the van, we could here the calls from the local masajid, but as we drove around they were all finishing. I began to get a bit upset, we were going to miss the Eid prayer! We finally found one where they had just started, but my brother in law didn't see any women around so he told us to wait in the car, and took the kids. I started to cry, I haven't been to a masjid in well over two years, and I spent the last two Eids all alone in Pakistan as the rest of the family was here in UAE.

One of my sisters in law said not to cry, lets get out and check if we see any women. So we got out of the car and walked towards the masjid. All gents everywhere, not a woman in sight! I was getting more upset and just decided to turn around and go back to the car. As we were almost back to the car, a woman came around the corner in her car. I figured she was just headed home or something, but my sister in law suggested we wait a minute and see if she stops. So we did, we watched her pull up in back of the masjid, get out of her car and very quickly head around the other side. We ran! I was so happy, Alhamudulillah she came when she did, or we would have missed it! We followed her and found the ladies entrance, after skirting around the huge crowd of men, on the far side of the building.

I was crying during the whole prayer, and sniffing during the khutbah, I was just so happy!

After the khutbah was finished, we went out and waited for the crowd to thin a bit, and followed my father and brother in law to where Tariq had pulled up the car. As we all piled in again, Tariq looked at me and asked why I was crying, and I could barely speak.

We went home and had a huge breakfast, then all went to sleep for a couple hours. We got up and had a big Eid meal(chicken pulao for the main dish), and then just hung out all day.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Friday Feature-Ramadhan Wrap up.

Asalamu alaikum,

InshAllah everybody had a good month! Alhamdullilah I completed my goal of learning four surahs. I completed surahs- An Nasr, Al Ma-un, Quraish, and Al Fil, though the last I still have to pause a bit and picture the words on the page to remember them.

I had added another goal on the first night of Ramadhan, I wanted to pray every sunah and nafl prayer in addition to the fard prayers. Sometimes I get lazy and only do sunah and fard or only fard. I make excuses like "it will take too much time" or "I'm too tired". Alhamdulillah not this month! Almost every single day I was able to make all my prayers fully. About a week in I had a realization during Isha prayer, it doesn't really take so much time at all, why hadn't I been praying more before?
InshAllah I can keep this up, please make dua for me that I don't listen to the whispers that urge me to cut my prayers short.

My goal of completing the dishes everyday before fajr went better than expected. I was able to get everything cleaned up for about the first two thirds of the month. After that a little trip interrupted my little plan.

Which brings us to The Big News-on the 20th, we left Pakistan and came to join the rest of the family in Abu Dhabi for the end of Ramadhan and Eid. Alhamdullilah, it is really enjoyable being all together again. Little problems, but nothing out of the ordinary. So we are here for a little while anyway, don't know how long though, the situation in Karachi is not so good right now so we plan to stay for a bit more, and we'll see what happens. Eventually we'll have to go back, as we still have some work to do.

We have already had a couple little adventures here, and so I have a couple more posts in the works on what we've been up too, InshAllah I will start working on that in the next couple days.