When I explained to my taxi driver that I needed Armenian Drams (AMD) - he stopped at the grocery store. I kept thinking I would be ripped off and the driver would get a commission from the store. I could not have been more wrong.
SAS is a modern chain of grocery stores and their location on the central street of Tumanyan Street has a foreign money exchange kiosk inside - with excellent rates for major currencies. I was impressed. They also have an HSBC Bank ATM as well.
All SAS Grocery stores are open 24/7. I am not sure of the foreign exchange hours, but regular business hours are not in doubt.
The Palestinian territories or occupied Palestinian territories are made up of the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and the Gaza Strip. The lands were captured by Israel from Jordan and Egypt in 1967.
Palestinians regard East Jerusalem as the capital of the future Palestinian state.
People who live in or who come from Palestine are called Palestinians.
See My Travel Page for more information.
Mr. Ali Azerli is a very interesting man with many stories to tell you about Azerbaijan and many sights in and near Baku. He also has a very interesting story to tell about himself. Ali was imprisoned by the Soviet authorities for his political views when Azerbaijan was part of the Soviet Union. I met in the small square near the Seyid Yahya’s Mosque, not far from the Maiden’s Tower. He his happy to offer you a guided tour of places like the ‘James Bond’ oil fields, the mud volcanoes, Fire Mountain and even take you to the base of a semi-active volcanoes. The last one you can climb to the top and – carefully – walk across the warm crater at the top.
If you just want a city tour, or trusted collection form the airport, Ali is your man. You can ring him and make arrangements before you get here. He speaks very interesting English which turns colourful if he encounters a bad driver. In fact in a country that prides itself on extremely dangerous driving, Ali is actually very safe.
3 important things to remember.
1. Ali’s prices are negotiable
2. Baku has bad traffic, so it does take a while to drive to some of the sites
3. Ali has a Danish flag on the dashboard of his car (a gift from a happy customer)
Official Name: Republic of Yemen; Land Area: 203,850 square miles (527,970 square kilometers); Population 24,133,492; Capital: Sana'a; Largest City: Ta'iz
Sana'a Old Town, or Alqadeemah in Arabic, is one of the great sights of the world. It was declared a World Heritage City in 1984 by UNESCO, and the Arab Cultural Capital in 2004. It is noted for its unique, ancient architecture which involves mud brick and elaborate friezes. Due to its importance not only to Yemen but to the world, preservation measures are underway, by both international agencies and the Yemeni government.
There are over 6,500 houses in Sana'a Old Town. They are multi-storied, and can be considered the first "skyscrapers" in the world. The houses, many of which are more than 400 years old, are made of mud brick and have decorative whitewashed friezes and intricately carved frames around their windows and doors. And many have brightly colored stained glass windows.
Sana'a Old Town is surrounded by mud-brick walls 20 to 30 feet (six to nine meters) high, in which massive medieval gates allow entry onto the quarter. A maze of narrow streets criss-crosses the area. In addition to houses, there are 15 hammams, or steam baths, which were probably introduced by the Persians. There are numerous mosques, and their tall, thin minarets pierce the sky throughout the quarter. There are several caravansaries, no longer in use, which were inns that catered to merchants traveling in camel caravans. The ground floor housed the camels, horses, and other animals, while the people slept on the upper floors.
And there are many different colorful markets, each specializing in different merchandise or crafts, including cloth, grain, silk, raisins, cattle, meat, coffee, caps, carpets, salt, brassware, silver, and firewood.
Official Name: United Arab Emirates; Land Area: 32,000 square miles (82,880 square kilometers); Population: 5,148,664; Capital: Abu Dhabi; Largest City: Dubai
The United Arab Emirates is located in the northeastern corner of the Arabian Peninsula, and about 65 percent of its territory is covered by the Arabian Desert. The Arabian Desert in turn is part of the Saharo-Arabian Desert, the most extensive arid region in the world.
Many people imagine sand dunes when they think of the Arabian Desert. Although a large part of the desert does consist of sand dunes, the desert also includes mountains and hills, deep valleys (or wadis), flood plains and alluviums, coastal scrub, salt flats, and salt marshes.
And the dunes themselves vary, depending on which part of the desert they are located. Many are white calcareous dunes, but most are red ferrusiliceous dunes, such as those pictured here.
Travelers to the United Arab Emirates can visit the desert, usually with a tour company specializing in off-road adventures or sand-skiing. I visited most of the desert habitats while searching for birds.
Official Name: Sultanate of Oman; Land Area: 82,031 square miles (212,460 square kilometers); Population: 3,027,959; Capital: Muscat; Largest City: Muscat
The Musandam Peninsula forms the northernmost tip of the Arabian Peninsula, and forms one side of the Strait of Hormuz, one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. It is separated from the rest of Oman by part of the United Arab Emirates. Until just a few years ago, the Musandam Peninsula was a miltary zone, strictly off limits to travelers. However, now that Oman is opening up to tourism, the peninsula is becoming a popular part of the country for diving, fishing, boating, and travel into the rugged mountainous interior. Many consider this to be the most beautiful part of Oman.
The Ras al-Jebel Mountains are the dominant physical feature of the Musandam Peninsula. They rise to 6,847 feet (2,087 meters), and slope steeply down to the sea, forming long fjord-like inlets. In the interior there are many wadis (canyons carved through the mountains by prehistoric rivers 10,000 to 2,000,000 years ago) and acacia-dotted gravel plains.
I have just done a one week trip to the United Arab Emirates with my daughter aged 13 and my baby who is one.I staying in Abou Dabi.
People love children in the UAE.
Abou Dabi is a very interesting town. I visited the great Mosque. My son didn’t understand how sacred the place is so he took great pleasure in walking and running bare foot on the biggest carpet in the world. They don’t complain. On the contrary, children are really loved over there.
I also visited the Heritage Village with Christine, a guide at www.yourdest.com. You can see the Bedouins villages, the tents, the houses in the mountain, life in the oasis. There too, everything is adapted for children. They go into tents and run around on the carpets they watch the camels, falcons… I was particularly interested by the Emirates Palace visit because the guide explained the future project of the Louvre, the Guggenheim museum and the Zayed museum.
For Dubai, if you wish to go to the Buri Khalifa Tower, I would recommend buying the tickets in advance on internet http://www.burjkhalifa.ae/observation-deck/ticket-information.aspx. Take the tickets with the date and time, it is much less expensive. I went with my children, a friend and her grand daughter.
In Dubai you can go to the big aquarium and walk around with your children at the creek and take a boat trip
You will really enjoy the trip, and so will your children!
Have a good trip !
Do not forget to check out the visa requirements before you leave. All of those countries require visas for Europeans. Some of them, you can get on arrival, but the Syrian visa must be sorted out before you leave your country.
If your intention is to travel overland, you will have to cross Israel to reach Egypt from Jordan. When I did a similar route, you could get an Egyptian visa on-arrival but only if you came by air. Crossing from Israel to Egypt overland required a visa that we had to get at the Egyptian consulate in Eilat. We were stuck there a couple of days more than intended, since the day we went to the consulate was a Muslim holiday and it was closed. Also, having several stamps from Islamic countries in our passport, the Israeli border officers did not make our life very easy and we had to wait for several hours before they finally let us in. They seemed to be most concerned about Syria, Yemen and Iran.
If being on a tight budget means that you can't afford flying the longest distances and occasionally hiring a car with driver, I agree that including Egypt and/or Turkey is not a good idea for just four weeks.
Want a quick border adventure not far from Dubai? The town of Wilayat Al-Buraimi is just over the border in Oman. You can drive here from Dubai and actually walk over the border. You could drive, but I was not insured, so I parked the car on the U.A.E. side and walked over the border to see the restored Al Khandaq Fort. Be careful of traffic! The great thing is that there is NO BORDER CONTROL here, so no visas or passports are involved! They do have a border point, but is in a different town. So go for a day trip in Oman and run the border. Or walk.
Just drive down the modern highway to the oasis town of Al-Ain on the U.A.E side. It's a great day out on both sdies of the border.
This border is now controlled. Some nationalities can get a visa at the border to go for the day. Check with your local Omani Embassy.
Locally known as Monar-e-Jonban, this simple shrine was built to honour a local hermit and holy man. The shaking minarets at the top of this shrine are famous all across Iran. The whole open plan structure was built around 1316 to cover the grave of Amu Abdollah Soqla (pictured). The minarets were added later, probably during the Safavid dynasty (1501-1722). The shaking of the minarets to entertain visitors has taken place so often and for so long, that it has caused significant structural damage. Another set of shaking minarets in Iran lost two thirds of their structure because of such displays. That’s why now it usually only one minaret shaken once per day. Timetable? Who knows. Just go in the morning and ask politely at the gate. Go down the road about 3 kms to visit the Sun Temple if you need to kill time.
So why do they shake?
The minarets were built with local sandstone which contains feldspar. Feldspar is a mineral that dissolves over time and this leaves the stone flexible – resulting in the shaking ability. The minarets were not known to shake at all originally, so it somewhat proves the theory.
The weblink below allows you to click on the minarets and shake them yourself!
Sana’a is the historical, cultural and political heart of Yemen. It is also has the most strikingly amazing architectural landscape of any city in the world. It is dominated by the ‘skyscrapers’ of the Old Town. These buildings can be up to 1000 years old and are made of unknown mixtures of stone, mud, rocks and paint. Some even collapse from time to time. The people are welcoming and the pace frenetic. Ancient Mosques pour out worshipers on Friday afternoons right next to an internet café. Old and new seem in perfect harmony. It is also the only capital city in the world where almost ever man is armed with a large curved dagger – the Jambiya. Women wear traditional dress and children play in the streets. It is truly a city with a big heart that welcomes visitors, yet jealously guards its traditions.
Please see my Sana’a page more information on this historical must-see city.
DAO’s SANA’A PAGE
To get to Amman by a bus look at the transportation tips.
There isn't much to see in Amman. You can visit all the attraction your self in a half day. Get to the Roman Theater and visit the 2 museum (The folkloar Museum and Museum of Popular tradition) both of which are located within the theater. "one ticket for all three". If you want than you can visit the odeon which is another smaller theater next to Roman Theater "free admission".
From the Romnan Theater you can walk to the Umayyd Palace and the National Archeology Museum. You'll see The ruins of Temple of Hercules on the Citedal "again all in one ticket". It is an uphill walk and there is stairs that will take you half the way, ask the locals and they'll point you to the directions. If you don't wanna walk you can always take a taxi. The view from the Umayyd Palace and the museum is superb over Amman. You can see the Picture on my page.
The Museum of Arcahiology and Anthoropology @ the Medical School was closed for renevation 2 months ago and will remain so for until January 2009. The mosques of Amman are new and not worth a visit.
The Middle East has some of the most spectacular cities and sights on the planet. Some cities have charming old quarters while others have exciting old bazaars and souqs. The cities themselves have a lot of charisma and most travellers find some of the old Arabian cities completely different than anything they have ever seen before. After visiting most of the major centers and sights Ive chosen 'my favorite' top ten experiences in the Middle East and they are not in particular order. (Some may be re peated from the previous list)
1. Old City in Sana'a Yemen (most incredible city Ive ever seen or experienced)
2. Petra Jordan (hard to put into words)
3. Damascus Syria (the old quarter is something out of a storybook)
4. Beirut Lebanon (so much style yet so much history)
5. Esfahan Iran (I could wander around that city for days upon days and not get bored)
6. Yazd Iran (a special old city made out of clay and mud that dazzled me for days)
7. Shaharah Yemen (one of the most memorable rides of my life)
8. The corniche in Muscat Oman (I love the place)
9. The Empty Quarter running from Oman to Yemen (amazing scenery) and 9 ties with Jebel Shams, Wadi Shab and the Wahiba Sands in Oman ( I could never choose from them)
10. Palmyra Syria (unlike anything most travellers have ever seen)
After backpacking the Middle East for the past three years, Ive come up with a list excluding Israel (due to the stamp issue and my job) that highlights the spectacular things (man made structures) to see while you are in the Middle East. There is a lot of debate among people about what is the best etc and it is a very challenging to 'categorize' the best of the Middle East but in my opinion here they are and in no particular order:
Giza, Karnak Temple and Abu Simbel in Egypt
Roman Theatre in Bosra Syria
Baalbek Temple in Lebanon
Imam Mosque in Esfahan Iran
Crack des Chevaliers in Syria
Shaharah Bridge in Yemen
This is the official brief description of the UNESCO committee:
"The two castles represent the most significant examples illustrating the exchange of influences and documenting the evolution of fortified architecture in the Near East during the time of the Crusades (11th to 13th century). The Crac des Chevaliers was built by the Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem from 1142 to 1271. With further construction by the Mamluks in the late 13th century, it ranks among the best-preserved examples of the Crusade castles. It is an archetype of the medieval castle, particularly of the military orders and includes eight round towers built by the Hospitallers and a massive square tower added by the Mamluks. Similarly, the Qal’at Salah El-Din (Fortress of Saladin), even though partly in ruins, still represents an outstanding example of this type of fortification, both in terms of the quality of construction and the survival of historical stratigraphy. It retains features from its Byzantine beginnings in the 10th century, the Frankish transformations in the late 12th century and fortifications added by the Ayyubids dynasty (late 12th to mid-13th century)."
(quoted from the official UNESCO website)
This castle really is very impressive! On our trip through Syria we had camped right next to it and I still remember having breakfast with this unbelievable view! History becomes alive there!
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