Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The View from the Top!

We finally made it to the top of the world!  After opening in January this year, we've done nothing but stare at the tallest building in the world in our backyard, while we waited for my parents to arrive so we could all go to the observation deck together.  Finally 11 months later, the moment had arrived to join the Guinness Book of  World Records and become one of the many visitors who have been to the worlds tallest observation deck.  The deck is on the 124th floor and the elevator gets you there in a little under one minute - which is pretty amazing.  The building has 36 more floors above where we could go, for a total of 160 floors.  Floor was 160 is residential -can you imagine?

I don't consider myself afraid of heights, but even I was afraid to get near the windows!

Here's a list of all the World Records the Burj Khalifa currently holds:
  • Tallest skyscraper to top of spire: 828 m (2,717 ft) (previously Taipei 101 – 509.2 m/1,671 ft)
  • Tallest structure ever built: 828 m (2,717 ft) (previously Warsaw radio mast – 646.38 m/2,121 ft)
  • Tallest extant structure: 828 m (2,717 ft) (previously KVLY-TV mast – 628.8 m/2,063 ft)
  • Tallest freestanding structure: 828 m (2,717 ft) (previously CN Tower – 553.3 m/1,815 ft)
  • Building with most floors: 160 (previously Willis Tower – 108)
  • Building with highest occupied floor in the world: 160th floor
  • World's highest elevator installation, situated inside a rod at the very top of the building
  • World's fastest elevators at speed of 64 km/h (40 mph) or 18 m/s (59 ft/s) (previously Taipei 101 – 16.83 m/s)
  • Highest vertical concrete pumping (for a building): 606 m (1,988 ft) (previously Taipei 101 – 449.2 m/1,474 ft)
  • The first world's tallest structure in history to include residential space
  • Highest outdoor observation deck in the world (124th floor) at 452 m (1,483 ft)
  • World's highest mosque (located on the 158th floor)
  • World's highest installation of an aluminium and glass fa├žade, at a height of 512 m (1,680 ft)
  • World's highest swimming pool (76th floor)
  • World's highest nightclub (144th floor)

 The tunnel ride from Dubai Mall to the base of the Burj is illuminated with a ton of projectors which tell the story of Dubai.

Welcome to the base of the Burj.

The bird's eye view is meant to look like this...a cross section of the hymenocallis or spider lily, a desert flower.
The view looking East down Sheikh Zayed road.  This is the Dubai financial and business center.
Great view of Sheikh Mohammad's palace.
Looking East towards our neighboring emirate Sharjah.
There's still 36 floors above us!
The iconic Emirates towers, one of my favorite buildings in Dubai - I used to work on the 49th floor.
Taking in the view.  Can I see Iran from here?
Glad to enjoy the moment with Mom and Dad!
The view looking West towards the Marina.  You can only slightly see the Burj Al Arab - we had a hazy day!
Looking down our our neighborhood.  Our building is in the upper right hand corner.
The top of Dubai Mall, Souk al Bahar, the Palace hotel and you can see the Dubai fountain mechanisms.
The crescent moon pool at the Address hotel
It's hard to believe that just last weekend we visited the world record holder for the tallest building for the last 4,000 years!  The Great Pyramid at Giza held the title for 4 millennia before more modern structures took over.  Let's see how long the Burj Khalifa holds on!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Let's Talk Turkey

One of my favorite days of the year got a lot more special when I got the chance to host my parents for Thanksgiving in Dubai.  It's been tough not having a traditional Turkey Day for the last three years, but with the arrival of my parents and the full encouraging of my husband and sister I decided it was time for an all out Thanksgiving experience.  Sure it was 80 degrees out, nobody here knows what the heck 'stuffin' is, and instead of watching football my Dad sat on the couch watching Al Jazeera news - but it was as close as we were going to get!

Never ever underestimate how fabulous supermarkets are in the US.  About 10pm on Wednesday night I would have given my left arm for a Wegman's visit!  My Mom and I made do with our local Waitrose and 90 minutes into the shopping trip we were still searching for cranberries and Italian-style dried breadcrumbs (neither were found).  As an added bonus we bumped into a few other Thanksgiving-weary Americans who we got to know as we all marched up and down the same aisle looking for cornmeal and baking soda.  (They've got all the curry spice and jarred gerkins you can imagine, but I have to excavate for baking soda?!)  Added to the hosting duties, I woke up Wednesday morning with an Egypt-contracted stomach virus and fever; being put on a five day therapy of antibiotics really puts a damper on on the whole 'drink wine while your cooking' thing, that I was so looking forward to!

Thursday morning, however, it all came together.  The illness subsided, I found a jar of cranberry sauce, and Matt was able to stream-live the Macy's day parade - AND my parents were here!  It was Thanksgiving!

Mom and I spend all day in the kitchen to prepare the feast:
Ginger-infused vodka and champagne punch with candied orange rinds
Cheese board with water crackers and cheese straws
Hot Italian sausage and breadcrumb stuffed mushrooms
Homemade cornbread and biscuits
Pumpkin soup severed in bell pepper
Cranberry sauce
Turkey served with mire poix, grilled pumpkin and squash and giblet gravy
Caramelized onion stuffing
Sweet potato puree topped with brandy
Lisa's famous mac 'n cheese
Mashed potatoes
Green bean casserole
Apple crumble
Cherry pie
Pumpkin roll

We did it!  Maybe a little too well actually, turns out I probably had enough food for 40!  Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
The day started with a lot of chopping, dicing, and slicing.
Ready for the guest to arrive!
 Dad and Lisa enjoy the cheese tray and the champagne punch.
 Mom was impressed with my stuffed mushrooms - first time for this recipe!
 Pumpkin soup on the way!
 My special little bowls.
Mom did the honors of carving the turkey.
 We even had some time for a long distance Thanksgiving call with the Muellers.
 Serving the turkey with enthusiasm!
 We wish our two brothers were in this family portrait.
At the end of the night nobody had any energy to sit at the table!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Walk Like An Egyptian!

Mom and Dad are here!  My parents have been in town for the past 2 weeks and we've been very busy tour guides.  To capitalize on all of our time together, we planned a very special trip last weekend.  We had a long weekend off of work for the Islamic holiday Eid al Adha, and we weren't going to let a day go to waste.  So 48 hours after they landed in Dubai we got Mom and Dad back on a plane for our first trip to Cairo, Egypt!

Let's start with the drawbacks.  Cairo is easily the filthiest city I've ever visited.  Waterways are choked to death with trash, there is garbage lining most streets.  It also is home to the worst traffic I've ever seen in my life, we couldn't get anywhere, any time of day, without sitting in 90 minutes of traffic (to go 12 miles).  The monuments are stunningly crowded, and not always well cared for.  And a certain level of corruption and kick-backs dominates the tourist experience.

On the flip side - you're standing in front of artifacts that have survived over 5,000 years of human history.  The story of ancient Egyptian civilization is riveting and if you can swat off of the pick pockets and panhandlers long enough to catch your breath (however smog filled) and enjoy the view, you can allow your mind to take you back to those early days of this amazing civilization.

Unfortunately cameras weren't allowed but the sculptures, contents of King Tut's tomb, and royal mummies at the Egyptian Museum were truly a one in a life step experience.  It was fantastic to explore the only remaining Wonder of the World from the original seven with my parents.  The Pyramids of Giza are an amazing site to behold.  This was definitely on the bucket list!
A visit to the hallowed grounds of the ancient city of Memphis.  This is a huge 3,000 year old limestone statue of Ramses II.

Over 4,500 years old!  The Step Pyramid of Zoser at Saqqara.  This is Egypt's oldest permanent pyramid.  The architect Imhotep was the first to build a pyramid that wasn't made out of perishable materials.
Taking a quick lesson on carpet weaving.  An art form that I totally admire and respect.
The Great Pyramid of Khufu at Giza has 2.3 million blocks and each weights 2.5 tons - this is just ONE of them.
The front of the Great Pyramid.  Truly amazing.
I couldn't help it - I walked like an Egyptian.  (Matt indulged me).
The pristine Solar Boat was found in pieces at the base of the Great Pyramid in 1954 and reassembled.
The Great Pyramid.
A beautiful shot of the Pyramid of hafre, Khufu's son.  Originally all three pyramids at Giza were encased in lime polished limestone, you can still see this on the top of Khafre's pyramid.
The only spot where you can see all three pyramids at once!
I couldn't resist.
The Sphinx!  An awe-inspiring view!
We stuck to the local delicacies for lunch like kushari, falafel, hummus, kofta and lentil soup, but dinner we treated ourselves.  Here we are at the revolving restaurant on 41st floor of the Grand Hyatt hotel.  It makes
one 360 degree rotation every 75 minutes.
In front of the Egyptian museum built in 1901.  I assure you no animals were hurt in the shooting of this picture.  Matt is lovingly playing with one of the plentiful stray kittens. :)
To conclude our trip we took a Nile dinner cruise on the Nile Maxim boat.
A whirling dervish!
 We bribed a bell boy to sneak us on top of the roof our our hotel (do not try this at home).  Just so we could capture what the area surrounding the pyramids looks like - yup traffic circles and cinder block buildings.
We had a packed full few days.  By the end of the trip I caught these two resting like mummies!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Abu Dhabi F1 - If You Don't Go for the Cars, Go for the Concerts!

The only way to make sure that your time was well spent at the Abu Dhabi F1 is to make sure you are coming home with a significant amount of ringing in your ears - whether the cause be car or concert.

This year we skipped the time trials and when straight to the after party and however cliche this may sound, dare I say it was the party of the year?

The folks that run the Sky Bar in Beiruit put their event management and planning skills to work and brought us the "Sky Bar" positioned within it's own inflated dome, stadium-style risers for the VIP table service and a T-shaped stage built up in the middle.

The party was fantastic!  The headliners where Rudy, Basement Jaxx, Tinie Tempah, and Kelis!  (Click on the link to hear Kelis tell us all about her milkshake!)

Just when we thought the concerts couldn't get any better a rumor started circulating amongst the crowd that they were expecting a surprise musical guest.  We had no idea who we could be anticipating while the stage crew was setting up the set and when the lights went up - Prince danced out on stage!  The crowd went absolutely nuts!  He did a 90 minute set with his band and it was unlike any concert I've ever experienced.  He gives new clarity to the term 'musical genius'.  He also made a point of telling the audience "this is real music, by real musicians."

As if you needed any other mark of a good night - we arrived up as the sun was breaking through the clouds.  Anything for his highness!