We arrive in time for lunch and sample another of Australia’s set ups in the region, the Meat Co. Great food and again friendly locals wanting to make sure we sample all of the local delicacies.


After lunch we headed off to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, arguably the most beautiful so far, with all the chandeliers made from Swarovski crystals and the mosque being able to take 40 000 worshippers at any one time. Then, off to the canal area to check into our home away from home, the Ritz Carlton Grand Canal. Let the celebrations begin, box seat position for the fireworks to see in the New Year.


01 January 17 – Happy New Year!! We are off to Masdar City zero carbon village with renewable energy urban planning, an insight of what our cities of the future might look like. Buildings that are being built like the Romans did, using Terracotta and other substances to be able to withstand the harsh heat of the UAE summer, at any one time up to 55 degrees celsius. We were even able to travel in a battery powered driverless car, unreal!

Travelling around Abu Dhabi it reminds us of the status of the capital, the largest of the Arab States that make up the UAE and somewhat sedate, the quiet achiever without all the glitz. We were able to do a complete circle of the city during our day out incl the famous Formula 1 race track, Ferrari, and the newest man made island, Sadiyat. The island will house the Louvre Abu Dhabi and the the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Museum.


Abu Dhabi is very cultural and a wonderful family destination for a stopover. Plenty to do and see, and our drive back to our hotel was delightful along the Cornice.

It’s time to hit the road to Dubai, about 1.5hrs away – and along the way we visited to the amazing Falcon hospital. Each day the team of Vets care for approximately 100 Falcons, most of them captive. Why captive you ask?  Well the Falcon is the national bird of the UAE and they are cared for like any other pet, but worth much more, with the average cost being EUR40 000 per bird.


We were able to witness operations like feather replacement, claw clippings like a mani/pedi without the polish, as well as the implant of a homing device, as no owner would want to lose their pride and joy. Each bird has a passport, as Falcons can travel around the gulf states in aircraft. Of course, their owners have to pay for the seat and they mostly fly business class. An amazing morning witnessing these beautiful creatures.


On to Dubai by road, and it’s time for lunch at the Waterfront Restaurant nearby the Burj Al Arab and Madinet Jumeriah, before exploring the Palm Island. Construction is still going on at a frantic pace in readiness for Expo 2020 which will start in November 2020 and go through to May 2021, ideal timing over the winter months for visitors from all over the world to enjoy.


Our home away from home is the beautiful Palace Hotel in the downtown area, superbly located for all the action of the dancing fountains, the Dubai Mall (the largest in the world). It is also across the lagoon of the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building currently at 829.8 metres, and adjacent to a local Souk, the Al Bahar Souk.


Dubai is by far the most colourful city of all of our visits, with the biggest and best everything!  As Australians’ we know it well as it’s now the major stopover for Qantas to Europe and the codeshare operations of Emirates and there is definitely something for everyone.

Jumeirah offers beachside hotels, shops and restaurants and indeed the Burj Al Arab, the building most revered by locals as it represents the beginnings of Dubai, fisherman and pearl divers.


Families can swim with dolphins, visit the new Dubai Land theme park, ride a camel, get wet at the water park, snow ski at the Emirates Mall and so much more.


There is plenty on offer in the realm of culture; embrace historic souks, (like we did one morning as we ventured into Deira Creek, wandering the textile souk and the gold souk and taking the abra (water taxi) from one side to the other). You can also take a visit to the very well presented Dubai Museum. We enjoyed the Sheikh Mohammed Cultural Centre where our final questions were answered by educators on anything we thought of, a great tour to teach us more of the culture of the UAE and indeed the early days prior to the oil find of the ‘60s.


 While in Dubai, we most certainly didn’t go hungry. Everything from 5* cuisine to local tastes as this city caters for up to 200 nationalities, a foodies heaven where you can eat anything you wish for.


We also managed to get in our fair share of adventure. We wandered off into the desert, about 1hr by road, to 4×4 in 1950s Land Rovers across the dunes, we also witnessed a falconry display – an amazing bird, a chance to ride a camel and eat one, to try a sheesha pipe, to eat like the Bedouins and to learn a bit more about simple village life.


We managed to venture on a seaplane experience to view Dubai from the air, a wonderful bird’s eye view of the amazing city over the Marina, Jumeirah, downtown areas and out to see the Palm by air and The World, although The World islands at this time have no development on them.


Sadly it’s time to say ‘ma salaama’ – goodbye to the Arabian Peninsula, a journey that was indeed interesting but also enlightening in a good way, about Islam and the way Muslims live, and to wing our way via Doha to Singapore for the christening of the new ship, Seabourn Encore.