#HelloParadise: Part 1

After a 4hours flight from Dubai, we still had an 1hr boat ride.

Finally, welcome to the Maldives!

Meet the welcome committee.

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Here the itinerary was filled with ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.

No filters allowed. I want you see the piercing blue water as God placed it. 

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Free Your Mind

Most mornings we went out to watch the sun come up. Most mornings I fell asleep. 

Sometimes a midday breeze is better than the AC. 

RIP. Poor thing fried to death.

Off the patio and  directly into the Indian Ocean.

#TouchTheSky Burj Khalifa

I am the power that lifts the world’s head proudly skywards, surpassing limits and expectations.
Rising gracefully from the desert and honouring the city with a new glow. I am an extraordinary union of engineering and art, with every detail carefully considered and beautifully crafted.
I am the life force of collective aspirations and the aesthetic union of many cultures. I stimulate dreams, stir emotions and awaken creativity.
I am the magnet that attracts the wide-eyed tourist, eagerly catching their postcard moment, the centre for the world’s finest shopping, dining and entertainment and home for the world’s elite.
I am the heart of the city and its people; the marker that defines Emaar’s ambition and Dubai’s shining dream.
More than just a moment in time, I define moments for future generations.
I am Burj Khalifa.

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  • The tallest building in the world.

  • 160 floors

  • Home to 900 residences .

  • Corporate suites occupy 37 floors.

  • Home to the  Armani Hotel Dubai. 

"Burj Khalifa is the Arab world’s tribute to the art and science of modern engineering and design. Burj Khalifa symbolizes the aesthetic unison of many cultures – from Arabia and the rest of the world."

MOHAMED ALABBAR  Chairman, Emaar

Observation deck on level 124.

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I like the view from the top. Taking it all in. From time to time you could feel it sway. 

Souvenirs. A wooden replica and a velvet pillow. 

Sightseeing around Dubai

Fact #1  Only 17% of the population are actual Emirati.

There wasn't a sign above this to say exactly what it was. I am assuming a Hope Chest of some sort. I thought it was beautiful and if I had a way to get it home, I would have. 

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Fact #2 The city of Dubai has a constitutional monarchy.

Crossing Dubai Creek in a traditional wooden water taxi.

Spices. Nuts. Chocolates. Dates. 

Four of us ended up in a back room on the 2nd level of a store looking for scarves. One way in. One way out.  This tiny elevator. 

Fact #3  0% crime rate. Dubai is one of the safest places on earth. Racial tension among different nationals is unheard of.

Jumeriah Mosque

Fact #4  There are no income taxes. 

Residential area.

Fact #5  December 2, 1971, Dubai gained independence from the United Kingdom. 

12 hours later....

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1/3 of the travel group

We  made it! 

Alana warned me she is a photo bomber. I didn't believe her. 

"Tell tales few can tell"  

Jetlag didn't care our rooms weren't ready.

We only had time to put bags down and change before we were off on our first excursion. 

Safari Tour in the desert.

Ride a camel. Won't do it again.  I have a close up, but scared it will become a meme. 

The rest of the evening was filled with traditional food and entertainment. #BestHummusEver

After the show ended things got a little scary. There was no plan in place to get us back to our van. For 20-30 mins we were just standing in the desert. No roads, just tire tracks. No lights, just headlights from jeeps leaving the parking area. Once we made it back to the main road, I realized we weren't that far away, just over a hill or two. 

I still think Shalimar Tourism could have done much better.  Even though I enjoyed myself, I would not recommend this tour company.

Personal Touch. Thank you Cj!

The core group on this trip are all friends from Hopkins and the rest of us are friends(family) of friends.  Even though this was a Livingsocial Deal, over the last six and a half months, it took a lot of time and attention to organize this group of strangers. Cj has done everything possible to make sure all of the I's were dotted, T's crossed, forms completed and deadlines met. The rest is up to us. 

                                      ( Left to Right) Meredith, Cj, Miriam, Nia and Maneezy

And if that isn't  enough, after we all checked our luggage, he gave the eleven of us  presents with a personalized note.  You know I love a handwritten note!  How sweet and thoughtful was that? It is going to be a great trip. 


Finally made it to New York. My little cousin Crystle and her boyfriend picked me up from the airport and took me to lunch. 

I wasn’t super impressed with the main dish, but the Grit Sticks were delicious. Like most southerners, I am a snob when it comes to my grits. We like them thick, smooth and very creamy. So when I read they were battered and fried (another southern favorite) I thought this could go really wrong or really right.  

 I also ordered a beer with some obscene name and it came in this glass. How appropriate was that? Unfortunately, they weren’t for sale. 

Fortunately, we had a very sassy waitress. She washed it so I could put it in my purse.  It’s not stealing if they give it to you.

Tomorrow we leave for Dubai!

Preparing for take off.

Before 

I leave for Dubai in 24hrs and I have not packed a thing. I've just piled things up on the dining room table with the unrealistic expectation that it would organize itself. I've known about this trip since Aug and have been meaning to get a head start on packing. Remember, I am a habitual list-maker. Unfortunately, I am also a habitual procrastinator. Even though I have not been packing. I have crossed three very important things off of my todo list.

1)      Enrolled in The Smart Traveler Enrollement Program. I encourage anyone leaving the US to do this.  Here are the benefits lifted right from the website.

  • Receive important information from the Embassy about safety conditions in your destination country, helping you make informed decisions about your travel plans.
  •  Help the U.S. Embassy contact you in an emergency, whether natural disaster, civil unrest, or family emergency.
  •   Help family and friends get in touch with you in an emergency.

2) Called my cell phone carrier only to find out that their Passport Plan does not cover the Middle East. Guess you all will have to Google Voice me. 

3) Added Travel Notifications to my debit and credit cards. I went to order a few things on LivingSocial Dubai and my card was DECLINED. I really don't need that to happen in Dubai. 

I also having been doing a little shopping. It's time I step my luggage game up a bit, starting with a new backpack.

TUMI: Calais Backpack

I still love my old backpack. I've had it for 16 yrs, but just wanted something a little sleeker.  How did I do? 

Next up is this little thing. My cell phone has a really good camera, so I've decided to use that instead of taking a Point & Shoot. The Nokia Camera Grip comes with a built in charger, making this a great deal. Amazon is selling it for $75-93.00 + tax.  I got this directly from Microsoft for $35!

Now I have 23 hrs left. Actually, I leave for Dubai on Monday, but I stop in  New York to meet the rest of group so we can travel together. Dubai was one of those places that was on the secret Wanderlist. I thought I'd never have the opportunity to actually travel to any part of the Middle East. I've read about it. I've seen it on WealthTV.  I've even kept a magazine from 2008, but I  did I think I'd acutally make it. Those vibrations are something serious.

Okay, I've procrastinated enough. 

Good Night and Thanks for reading!

Meredith