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A runner with an appetite for adventure!

A Tribute to Za’atar April 8, 2011

Filed under: Dubai,Food — Kelocity @ 11:20 am
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I grew up eating Za’atar. We used to eat it multiple times a week for breakfast growing up. My friends used to gag just looking at it, but it is SO good!

Zartar is an arabic word, so when it translates into english, there are multiple spellings: (Arabic: زَعْتَر‎, in english: zaatar, za’tar, zatar, zatr, zattr, zahatar, zaktar or satar).

What is it? It’s a mixture of thyme, oregano, basil, savory, salt, dried sumac and sesame seeds. We used to eat it baked onto pita bread with olive oil or butter.

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My grandparents always had it at their house (my grandfather is Lebanese).

Another variation, that we called sim sim, was also a household staple. This is a mixture of honey and sesame seeds baked into a pita. We’d always have a slice of each for good measure.

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It’s hard to find really good Za’atar around here. You have to find a really good Lebanese or Arabic market. I’ve found it a few times in LA before, but nothing quite like the bakery back in Boston.

And then I went to Dubai. Oh. My. Gosh. Za’atar EVERYWHERE! I had many za’atar croissants when I was there. I got awkwardly excited when I saw them! I even had a Za’atar mojito one night at the Burj Al Arab.

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We did a bus tour of Dubai one day that included a walking tour of the spice souks. Our guide stopped and showed us different spices and let us smell and taste some of them.

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In one particular stall, on a whim I asked “do you guys sell Za’atar?” The man smiled and said “of course!” and showed me a giant bag of my beloved spice, it must have been 1 pound or so. I was so excited! I’ve never seen it sold in that quantity before! I kept saying “oh my gosh! are you serious?” I turned to Irving. “Do you see that? They have Za’atar! Look at all that za’atar!” I don’t know why I was so shocked to see it. I mean, they do use it a lot in the middle east. I was practically jumping up and down. I asked “How much?” and he told me 120 dirhams. I didn’t do the math in my head very well, but I said “well, what if I buy three bags?” He said “oh, well if you buy 3 bags, only 100 dirhams each. Sounds like a deal! I said ok, I’ll buy three. And I made Irving fork over all the money we withdrew from the ATM that day. “Irving, I can’t believe we found it! What a good deal!”

(keep in mind, my entire tour group is watching this happen inside the little store!)

Irving smiles at me, maybe a little concerned over how excited I just got over seeing za’atar sold in bulk. He whips out our currency converter (which I highly recommend by the way) and tells me that I’ve just spent about $80 on za’atar. WHHAAA????

I mean, I love za’atar, but not THAT much! By now, our tour has moved on and we’re walking through the open market. I start bawling in the middle of the street. “How did I spend $80 on za’atar? I thought it was a good deal? What was I thinking? How did I just get ripped off? I’m so stupid. What a dumb traveler I am. Such a rookie mistake!”

I ended up going back and returning one of the bags. In the end, I spent about $45 on two bags… I gave one bag to my mom and grandparents for Christmas last year (You guys better eat that by the way!) and I kept one bag for myself.

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And today, I opened up my za’atar for the first time, and inhaled deeply to smell the sweet aroma.

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I decided to try my hand at making my own za’atar bread using authentic middle eastern flatbread. just kidding. I used Trader Joe’s brand.

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I mixed it with some a lot of olive oil to make it a pasty texture.

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I also brushed some olive oil on the bread, but I don’t think I needed to do that.

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All ready to go in the oven!

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I only baked it for 10 minutes, but next time, I’ll do it a little longer. The perfect breakfast! (as long as you floss your teeth after!)

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So there you have it. All you needed to know about my love affair with Za’atar. If you see it at the farmer’s market or in an Arabic restaurant, don’t be afraid to order it! It’s delicious.

 

Around the world: A Video! January 22, 2011

Filed under: Cairo,Dubai — Kelocity @ 2:37 pm
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I’ve been working on a little video from our trip to Egypt and Dubai.

Enjoy!

 

Video is 6 Minutes Long.
 

The Arabian Game: Round II November 17, 2010

Filed under: Dubai — Kelocity @ 9:15 pm
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It sounded like everyone loved the Arabic Signs game, we got a lot of great responses!!!

Here we go for Round 2! Same Rules apply: Email me at kelocity@gmail.com with as many answers as you can figure out by November 21st. (Don’t leave a comment with any hints, we want to see how many people can guess correctly!)

On November 22nd, we will reveal the answers and randomly pick a winner. We’re not sure what the prize will be yet, but we will send the winner something.

Ready, Set, GO!

1.)
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2.)

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3.)

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4.)
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5.)
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6.)
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7.)
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8.)
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9.)
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Good Luck Everyone! Have fun! Email me by November 21st with your guesses!

 

An Arabian Game….with a Prize! November 10, 2010

Filed under: Dubai,Europe — Kelocity @ 2:00 pm
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We are having an amazing time in the Middle East. We love it here so much, we wanted to invite YOU to have a little fun with us!

Below are some common companies and logos that you know in English, but can you figure them out in Arabic?

Email me at kelocity@gmail.com with as many answers as you can figure out and on November 14th, we will reveal the answers and randomly pick a winner.
(Don’t leave a comment with any hints, we want to see how many people can guess correctly!)

We bought a sweet prize in Egypt that we will mail to the winner. Good luck and have fun! Ready, Set, GO!

 

1.)
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2.)
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3.)
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4.)
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5.)
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6.)
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7.)
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8.)
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9.)
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10.)
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11.)
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12.)
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13.)
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14.)
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15.)
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Good luck! You have until November 14th to email us your answers!
The winner will be announced on the blog on November 15th.

 

Skiing? In the Desert?

Filed under: Dubai,Food — Kelocity @ 7:00 am
Tags: , , ,

Originally 10/29/2010…

We saved one of the Dubai Highlights for the last day of our trip:
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Ski Dubai is one of the largest indoor ski slopes in the world. It is inside the Mall of Emirates.
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It’s crazy how it can be 110 degrees outside in the desert, and about 20 degrees inside. It’s so cold inside that you have to bring hat and gloves and they provide you with snow suits to wear!
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How many ski slopes have you seen with an escalator to the ski lift? haha
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Since the slope is inside the mall, you ski past stores and restaurants, it’s so strange!
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The lighting is a little dark inside, it almost feels like skiing at twilight.

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Up the lift we go! (Notice the snow making vents on the wall?)
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The conditions were surprisingly good. If it was an outdoor mountain, I’d call them perfect. Not too icy, not too powdery.
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There are two main runs, one is a little crowded with beginners who have likely never seen real snow before. The other side is for “experts”, but all that means is that it’s a little bit steeper. Both were really good runs.
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Halfway down the mountain is a ‘ski lodge’ where you can get snacks and hot chocolate.
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We ordered hot chocolates just for fun. They were probably the most expensive hot chocolates we’ve ever had, but look at this thing!
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It had real whipped cream, cocoa powder, m&m’s and marshmallows!
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We were FREEZING by this point, and it was SOOOO good!
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We bought a 2 hour lift ticket, and with only two runs, it was more than enough time to enjoy it.

While we were skiing, there was a photographer snapping photos of everyone, and then after you’re done, you go look at them on a screen and you can buy them if you want. We didn’t intend to purchase any, but we went to look anyways. While we were scanning through, Irving pointed a photo and said, “hey, haha, doesn’t that one look like Tom Cruise?” I laughed and said “yea, that does look like him a little”. Well when we got home, we realized it WAS him! He was in Dubai all week while we were there since he was shooting the new Mission Impossible movie!!! We JUST missed him! Crazy!
He even had on the same ski suit we all did!!

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After we were finished, we were desperate for some desert heat to warm us up. We headed to the Ibn Battuta Mall via metro. We heard this mall was strange. Even our tour books called it weird and a little quirky. It’s divided up into five sections, each one represents a different country (kind of like Epcot Center?)
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The inside was really decorated, even though the stores inside were just mediocre.
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This one was the “Egypt Section”. haha
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And China!
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This one had a full scale boat inside the food court…
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It was definitely strange, and I’m not sure I’d recommend this mall, but it was pretty funny to look at.

Later that night, we had reservations at the Burj Al Arab. This is supposedly the world’s only 7-star hotel, and the only way to look around the lobby if you’re not staying there is to eat at one of the restaurants.

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When we arrived at the front gate in our taxi, at first they didn’t have our name on their guest list, and we got a little nervous, but one phone call later and they found it. We were in!
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Since we arrived early, we spent an hour walking around the hotel grounds, looking at all the fountains and gold plated walls.
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From the front of the hotel, you can see the Jumeirah Beach Hotel. Very pretty as the sun was setting.
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We wanted to walk on the white sands, but they wouldn’t let us. Apparently you have shell out the $2,000 a night for that privilege.

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It was just stunning to see the Burj Al Arab up close as the sun set below the gulf.
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We originally went back and forth deciding on which restaurant inside we should eat at. They have a bunch of different options. In the end, we decided on the “Skyview Bar”.
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The interior really does have gold plated walls. It also has the world’s tallest atrium in the lobby.
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Even the floor has some gold on it!
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Time for dinner!
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The Skyview Bar was at the top of the hotel, and we were hoping for some great views of Dubai…but they seated us at an interior table, with not much of a view. I was kind of sad because that was the whole point.
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But after asking each of of four waiters, we were finally relocated to a great window seat overlooking the bustling city of Dubai.
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We ordered two drinks to start. I had a Zartar Mojito! It was a virgin drink muddled with Zartar leaves and ginger. If you have never had Zartar before, you don’t know what you’re missing. Even Irving liked it.
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Then we each ordered some dinner. Irving had the Angus Burger with Fries and I had a Cheese, Tomato and Basin Panini on an Olive Bread. They were both fantastic (and outrageously expensive).
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But now we can say we ate on the top of the Burj Al Arab (cross that off the bucket list, right?!)
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It was the perfect way to end our vacation in the United Arab Emirates.

We loved everything about Dubai. Everyone was friendly, polite and hospitable. The city was clean, organized and has so much to offer. We will definitely be back someday.

But now… onto Egypt! Stay tuned for more!

 

The Marina to the Creek November 9, 2010

Filed under: Dubai — Kelocity @ 2:00 pm
Tags: ,

Originally 10/28/2010…

We started the day with breakfast inside the Mall of the Emirates. There’s a coffee shop called ‘Costa’ and they had Zartar Croissants!!!!!! Guys… Zartar Croissants. This pretty much was worth the entire trip to the UAE. (Anyone who doesn’t know what Zartar is doesn’t know what they are missing!)
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First, we headed by Metro to the Dubai Marina. This is an up and coming area with lots of construction and high rises. But it was still really pretty.
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We met a nice Iranian man who was a contractor on some of the buildings there and he gave us a nice history of the area. We noticed there were very few Americans or Aussies in Dubai, mostly British and Italians. When people found out we were from the States, they asked us a million questions. They were just curious about our life and our culture. That was different from most other places we’ve seen.
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Then we took the metro to the Deira area (near the Dubai Creek). We took an Abra (small boat) across the river. It was 1 UAE dollar (which is about 30 cents) to get across.
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Once on the other side, we walked to the Al Maktoum House. It was a nice walk along the creek, but it was scorching outside. This was our hottest day yet in Dubai. maybe 90 degrees with high humidity.
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The Maktoum family ruled Dubai for many years, and this was one of his estates.
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Those sticks at the top were the wind tunnels that allowed the cool breezes to come inside during the summer months.
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Then we walked back along the water to a small cruise port for a tour of the creek.
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It was stunning to see old Dubai being overshadowed by all the new skyscrapers.
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Docked up the creek is the Queen Mary 2 cruiseship. Dubai bought it and is in the process of turning it into a floating hotel.
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For dinner, we went to the grocery store inside the mall. It was fun to walk around and see what they have and how the locals eat.

Here’s what we got:
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We got:

-Pasta Salad
-Tabouleh
-Stuffed Peppers with feta
-White Rice
-Indian Butter Chicken
-4 bottles of water
-Pita Bread
-Fruit Salad
-A Vegetable Samosa
-Garlic Cream
-Zartar Bread

…..For a total of $10.27 (US Dollars)
ISN’T THAT INSANE! Who says Dubai is expensive?!

Then we headed back to the Dubai mall (world’s largest).
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We were there to see the Burj Khalifa at night.
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Our tickets to go to the top weren’t until 9pm, so we stayed down below and watched the water displays while we waited.
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The show is similar to the one at the Bellagio in Vegas, only bigger (Dubai wouldn’t have it any other way. lol)
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Then we went to the 124th floor again to observe the city from the sky.
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We weren’t sure if it would be a waste to go up the tower twice, but the views were just stunning. It’s a very photogenic city.
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And bonus: We got to watch the water show again from the top!
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It  didn’t feel like we did too much today, but we were just exhausted when we got back to the hotel. The heat coupled with all of our walking definitely wore us out.

Til tomorrow!

 

The Lost World of Atlantis!

Filed under: Dubai — Kelocity @ 8:00 am
Tags: , , , , ,

Originally 10/27/2010…

We dedicated a full day to the Aquaventure Waterpark at Atlantis. I had been to Atlantis in the Bahamas and I knew we would both love to do it together. Atlantis Dubai is on the tip of the ‘Palm Island’ (the manmade islands shaped like a palm tree).
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Irving was the Ultimate Tourist. HAHA
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On the other side of Atlantis is the Arabian Gulf (or Persian Gulf). It was really pretty.
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We arrived three full hours before the park opened. We thought that we could walk around the grounds and take pictures, but this wasn’t really the case. We had to beg our way into the hotel so we didn’t have to wait outside. We passed the time looking at the giant aquarium inside.
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We also finagled our way into the hotel lobby (which is supposed to be for hotel guests only).
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There was a gorgeous Chuli sculpture in the middle. I think the Bahamas Atlantis had one as well.
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We still had a couple of hours to kill, so we had a leisurely breakfast in a café overlooking the hotel pools.
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Finally it was time to buy our wristbands and get into the park! The bands have a computer chip in them that you connect to your credit card and you can use it to unlock the lockers, and buy food and drinks. cool, huh?
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Our first stop was the beautiful white beaches along the gulf.
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I remember learning about “The Gulf” in school, and it was so cool to actually be there and put your toes in the water. Or jump right in!
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You can see the Dubai skyline from the beach. Just gorgeous.The land in the foreground is one of the ‘palm island’ leaves.
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Then we headed to Aquaventure.
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We started out on the lazy river to get a lay of the land. It takes you around the park on an innertube.
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The coolest part about Atlantis are the Water Coasters. They are actual waterslides but they have jet propulsion that shoot you down AND up like a waterslide! And you don’t ever have to get out of your tube to get to the top. There is a conveyor belt that takes you up automatically!

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After doing a few coasters, we had lunch… mmm burgers!
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Then it was time for Irving to try the leap of faith!! This is a huge freefall slide that ends inside a shark tank (protected by acrylic). It was made popular in a season of “The Amazing Race”. A girl was too afraid to go down and it they got eliminated because of it! I did the slide in the Bahamas, but I was too chicken to go down again here. Irving was brave and went straight down!
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A closer look:
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Then we did a little more of the lazy river, this time we tried the rapids!
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We did a few more slides and then ended the day swimming again in the Gulf. Behind Irving is the famous Burj Hotel (the world’s only 7-star hotel…the one Tiger Woods hit the golf ball off of).
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As the sun set, we could see the Burj Khalifa in the background. the sun was hitting the windows and all you could see was the sun’s reflection!
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After that, we spent an hour or so in the “Lost Chambers”. This is the aquarium in Atlantis that is set up like a giant ship wreck. They have a decent collection of strange fish.
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These guys were HUGE! Almost as big as me!
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By the end, we were fried and headed back to our hotel. Another fabulous day in Dubai.

 

 
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