Muscat’s Marble Jewel

066Last week , I decided to cross the border for a quick get away to Muscat, Oman, a city five hours away from Dubai. Being my first visit, with not much time to explore, I toured the city’s main attraction The Royal Opera House.  The Opera House took 4 years to complete and opened it’s door in 2011.  The entire exterior of the building were carved and built from Omani marbled stone, while special wood trimmings and accessories were imported from country such as France and New Zealand.  At the start of the tour, we were lead through the main entrance way for the locals, tourists and later down the red carpet to were the Elites enter into the main hall. While in the hall, we were not permitted to snap photos of the stage, but we were given permission to capture the seating area as well as the encased musical instruments.  We soon made our way to the VIP sections, which overlooks the hall, to get a chance to embrace the scenery from the balconies. As this was my first visit to an Opera House, I was quite impressed with creativity of the wood carving and stained glass presentation, structure and ambiance.

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Donated antique instruments were savaged, saved and restored.
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The entry for the Royal Family and other Elite guests.
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The screen monitors subtitle in both English and Arabic.
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The Opera House shines at night!!
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Muscat’s crown jewel!!
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The concert hall was astonishing!!
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The VIP section of the hall which includes dining services, their own private rooms and security.
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My view on the way out.

068   048My visit here has won me over, I’m sold!!

I plan on making time to enjoy many jazz concerts, world winning stage performances and musicals this fall!!

The Camel Market

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About an hour and half outside of Dubai, nestled in the quiet city of Al Ain, in the back of one of the largest shopping centre, you’ll find The Camel Market. The camel is a key part of the UAE’s rich heritage. The Arabian Camel, the Dromedary, is a large even-toed ungulate and has one hump.  Historically, these camels were used for transportation, food and milk, which you can still be found on shelves in the diary department throughout the Middle East.  For just 10,000 Dirhams, you can buy you very own desert bred baby camel to have for a pet. The stalls are set up for you walk around and pet the camels from outside the cage and the keepers are friendly, in the beginning, when you walk up to inquire about the prices.  I’ve taken pictures near camels before, but for some reason I was nervous about the venture, since there was so many in the cage at one time.  When you walk up to a cage, the keeper will rush toward the rope, as the camels will walk towards you at one time, hoping to be freed and taken away to a home.  The market felt more like an orphanage for camels, than an actually market, the prices range from 10,000AED for a small child camel to 1 million Dirhams for an adult prized racing camel.

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Camel skin is used locally to make shoes, bags, water containers. In the Arab world, it’s wool is used for tents and rug-making.
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In the Arabic culture, a camel is assigned a new name every year. This camel responded immediately when the keeper called his name.

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At a glance, some of the body features scared me a bit.  I’m told by a  keeper, that they can be a bit selfish like people when it comes to eating the right foods and sharing. They hardly ever leave the cage, if so, they are transported to a track not far from the market to exercise to remain looking healthy and profitable.

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YES!!  I finally got him to turn around for a prize shoot!!

Sweet February featuring “Miss Sharifa”

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Miss Sharifa is a student at United Arab Emirates University majoring in Primary Education. U.A.E. University is one of the largest educational institutions in the Middle East.

Since starting my blog over a year ago, I’ve been fortunate to have visited and experience places around the world I’ve only read about in magazines and history books as a child. I also manage to take the time to speak to the local residents, who are quite friendly, to learn more about their culture and experiences.  A great meeting could start with a short tour around the villages, to studying different art pieces and clothing and ending with an opportunity to sample great food items happily prepared by a member of a family. In my short time here in the United Arab Emirates, I’ve met many interesting people and learned more the history of Dubai from listening to their stories than from visiting the museum.  Being the cultural junkie I am, I enjoy sharing my addiction and decided that outside of sharing the amazing photos of different places, it’s now time to share their stories.  Just off the brink of winning the Expo 2020, the city of Dubai, as well as other neighboring emirates, celebrated with a spectacular fireworks show and displays that let up the skies to let the world, WE HAVE ARRIVED!!  I was very excited for the city and hope to be around to enjoy the experience, but I know the feeling of the local residents were much more exuberant. I love chatting with many of my local friends here in Dubai when I’m out for coffee or strolling along the creek. To began my conversation series with these “Special Gems”on the rise, I decided to have a quick chat with my colleague Miss Sharifa, a future educator born and raised here in Dubai:

What brought you to the field of Education?

I enjoy teaching and like to help people. I want to become a part of a team of looking to help the education systems in the U.A.E. I am also working to build a strong career for myself by focusing on gaining knowledge and climbing high on the academic ladder to achieve a Phd.

Give me 2 words that describe you.

Friendly and Tenacious

What was your most memorable moment in Dubai.

I remember when my organization won the reward as the best medical institute in the Middle East, it was a great accomplishment for my city and we were all very proud.

What is you favorite place to visit in the U.A.E.? Why?

The Al Ain Zoo. You have to visit this place to understand that it’s not just a zoo but a wild life resort.

If you were to give advice to someone visiting the U.A.E. for the first 1st time, what would it be?

My advice would be to explore the Old Town part of the city before enjoying the nightlife and malls.  If you are here for a short time, visit some of the cafes to have tea and dates and chat the people in the community.

How do you plan to prepare for the Dubai 2020 Expo?

I am thinking of starting my own business, so it could grow internally and I could promote it internationally at the expo.

Good luck to you Miss Sharifa, we at Sandy Treasures are wishing you all the best!!

Lights, Learning & Laughter

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The “Solar Sisters”, students from the Ikobero Secondary School.

LightsIts been a while since I post news about my shining light, Everlyne Vutage, a student I’ve been sponsoring in Africa for almost a year. I just received some great news about her and the students in her village.  For Christmas this year, Everlyne along with 60 others students in her community were given solar lamps and a bag of flour as presents.  The solar lamps were created specially for students in African villages, whose families can’t afford to buy kerosene to keep light going late for students who study at night. The lamps also protect their huts from danger of a fire and carbon monoxide poisoning.  The flour giveaway is similar to a traditional past-time we conduct in the US with Turkeys around Thanksgiving. The agency was very fortunate to have enough resources to give to the families of every student who attends the school. Everline V2014 The students, I’m told,were very excited although they tend to hide their emotions.  Some have already begun a daily routine of reading to their siblings, who cannot attend school due to the family lack of funding this term.  Of course I’m very elated to hear that my contributions are making a difference in someone life, my tenacity will continue to draw me to projects that help people and the world.

Celebrating Diwali!!

Had I been in the Chicago during this time, I would get excited about Thanksgiving being just a week away.  This is the time where I would find myself fantasizing about my mother’s cooking, having a long weekend to rest, watching American Football, taking up free city festivals and finally watching my city transform from a pumpkin patch pilgrimage to  a scene out of a Hollywood Christmas theme movie.  I have to admit some neighborhoods in Chicago really embrace their spirit for the holidays through outstanding front yard theme displays, an outrageous stream of blinking lights, blow ups characters and beautiful window decals.  Don’t get me wrong, I still get excited about celebrating American holidays that part of my life and teaching will never leave me no matter where I am in the world.  However, I have found a new appreciation for learning about other cultures and their holiday celebrations, such as one I learned more about a few weeks ago called Diwali!088

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A perfect ending for a great celebration!!

While driving home from the gym one night, I noticed large building from a distance decorated in array of lights from top to bottom.  I took a quick detoured through a neighbor in the Asian community, Bur Dubai, and noticed nearly every building had some sort of display of blinking lights and colorful cloth designs hanging from their balconies.  The community had just begun to celebrate Diwali, a celebration for the Hindu New Year!  087 072 075During this period, many events take place in the homes of family and friends such as the baking of Indian sweets and the lighting of small candles.  Ten days before the actual holiday, Hindus perform a special dance called, “Garba” and they burn small candles “Dewa” for each night, while decorating their homes with bright lights.  On the 10th day, the main day of Diwali, friends and relatives invite each other over to their houses to perform “Euja”, a prayer perform on the last day.  During this time, fireworks displays blanket the desert night skies for days and fresh bakes sweets could be smelled for miles. It was something to see, hear and taste and my friends made sure I was well-educated on their cultural traditions as they enjoy learning about ours.  With Thanksgiving just around the corner, I must admit I am very thankful for my educational journey, the more I know the further I go!080

Dubai Goes Pink!!

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The Burj Al Arab, the world’s only 7 Star Hotel.

In honor of Breast Cancer Week in the U.A.E., the skyscrapers of Dubai have gone pink!! On my back from a training for the pink run, an annual race to support breast cancer survivors, I decided to share photos of the Sandbox pink skies at night.

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The Fairmont Hotel on Sheik Zayed Rd. downtown Dubai.
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The Grand Hyatt Hotel in Dubai Healthcare City.
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The Crown Plaza and Intercontinental Hotel in Festival City.
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Festival City Mall near Al Badia Golf Course.