Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Israel and Dubai...

Finally some down time on this trip...  Just sitting down in a friends living room watching the sandstorm pass over Dubai.  So Israel was a treat.  Was not planning on going, but what the hell, I was only 30 minutes away while in Amman.  I was hearing horror stories of the crossings from everyone...  "It takes all day" "they strip search you" "You have to win Ben Stein's Money in order to cross"  Well to let you know it only took about 15 minutes.  I did however did not get my passport stamped.  I had the option of getting a piece of paper stamped instead (some nations do not allow you entrance with an Israeli stamp)  The waiting for the bus to fill up on the Israeli side was the longest wait (we ended up buying an "extra" ticket to make the bus full).  So after about 40 minutes we (Jeff, my new travel companion) arrived in the heart of Jerusalem.  Wow what an amazing city, as the bus winded down the hill there were breath taking views of Old City and the Dome of the Rock.   We got dropped off in front of the Damascus gate to Old City.  We had no idea where the hell are hostel was, and with no map, we got suckered into a expensive taxi ride for about 5 minutes...  Oh well... 
Israel is a very expensive city, but if you do it right, it can be cheap and rewarding.  After settling down and relaxing a bit and getting some Israeli money we headed out on a free "Old City" tour.  The tour lasted about 3 hours, and I learned more about religion in that time frame, then ever before.  One of the most interesting thing that I learned is that the The Church of the Holy Sepulchre (the place where Jesus was crucified and buried), which is considered by most Christians to be the holiest of churches, is actually managed by the Muslims.  That is right, a Muslim family each morning at about 6am opens it up to the public with the one and only key to the place.   At 6pm they lock it up.  I thought this was quite interesting.  This place brought about one of the more "awkward" moments of the trip.  I do not mean awkward in a bad sense, but that is how I felt.  So I come all this way, and of course I might as well go see this "rock" that Jesus was laid to rest.  Basically, it was like waiting in line for a sold out rock concert, but here, they only allow four people in at once.  Waited in line for about 30-45 minutes, and when it was my turn I ducked down into this little room about 3 feet wide and 8 feet long with a slate or table of rock.  (the moment to sum it up was kind of like waiting for wal-mart to open on black Friday)   As soon as I got in there everyone got on there knees, and started kissing the rock, and pulling out everything they had carried in with them and rubbed the rock with so much passion.  I was kind of weirded out by this, but hey this is coming from someone with pajama pants on and nails painted.
Also on the tour we wandered around all four "quarters" of the old city.  They included: Christian, Muslim, Armenian, and Jewish.  This makes up roughly about 40,000 people in this tiny area of Jerusalem.  Pretty crazy here.   I think visiting the Western Wall (holy place for the Jews) was my favorite sites of the Old City.

It was powerful watching all the people gather at this one place for prayer.
Some of the other highlights of Jerusalem was visiting Mount Olives and soaking up the views of the Old City.  Also wandering around the Dome of the Rock, which since we are not Muslim we could not go in it, but it was wonderful to see it from the outside.  Also checked out the place where the Last Supper took place, that was interesting in itself.  I came to wonder throughout...  how sure are we today, that these "supposed" places where Jesus was, are actually the exact place that these events happened.  Hmm oh well maybe it is faith that keeps us thinking that it is.  Enough about religion and belief, Do what makes you happy, now on to the rest of the story...
The rest of the time we spent in Jerusalem were used to wander the markets of the Old City and eating a lot of Hummus.  Yummy...  Oh one more thing, try to avoid jaywalking in Jerusalem, they are very uptight on that one.
We decided to check out Bethlehem (Palestine) and the "place" where Jesus was born on day three of or trip to Israel.  This turned out to be about as chaotic as the "place" of his death.  To make matters worse only one person was allowed in at a time.  We got there just ahead of the mad rush.  The one thing I enjoyed about Bethlehem was that we were in Palestine.  Wow interesting stuff, I kind of got the gist of what is going on here, from both sides of the story that is.  I was intrigued by the wall that is being built which is nearly complete but adding more daily.  Reminded me of the Berlin Wall, but 3 times as high...It is a kind of sad story here, and a shame of what is happening...
Leaving Palestine involved going through check points.  I, again heard horror stories, but it was basically like airport security.  It only took about 30 minutes.
After Bethlehem, we headed to Tel Aviv.  Not to much exciting stuff here for me.  If you are looking for a night life and nice beach, here ya go.  Jews for Jesus ambushed us on the beach, this was quite fun.  I love people who are young and do not even know a thing about life yet trying to tell you how to live yours.  Oh well we had our spat "discussion" and she said she was going to pray for us when we left.  I said thanks and enjoy.  Spent about 24 hours total in the Old Jaffa and Tel Aviv area and decided to make are way back to Jerusalem.  While riding on the bus to the boarder  I came to one solution to all world problems-  that is: Leave everyone alone, and do not think your belief is better than mine, oh and tip your waiter if the service is good.

Dubai... to sum it up in one word...  WOW...  Get off the plane and while getting a taxi, I think I was passed by 3 Porshe's, a couple Ferrari's and Bentley's and 5 Masseratti's.  Sorry I do not know how to spell Luxury.  But I can spell KIA.
I was blessed to have a place to stay in this crazy money town.  Thanks Katie (her last name is being withheld do to her celebrity status in town).  This town has grown so much in the last 20 years you cannot even explain it, you will have to see it for yourself.   To compare, lets start with the Malls...  Mall of America 520 stores...  Dubai Mall- over 1200 stores.  And to you saying well we do not pay tax on clothing in Minnesota.  Well do not want to burst your bubble, but there is no tax on anything at these malls...  sorry MOA you lose, just like the Vikings...  sorry to bash my home area, it is all in good fun.   So get to Dubai, what is the first thing someone does?   Head to the Indian Embassy woo hoo...  Which, to let you know it takes a bit to get a visa, so that means a no go to India, but more time in Nepal for me.  That is a double woo hoo. 
So the main thing I wanted to see is the Tallest building in the world.  The Burj Khalifa  also known as the Burj Dubai.  Coming in at an astounding 828m or 2717ft, it is the tallest man made structure in the world...
Since it was 80 degrees out, you would think naturally to hit the beach.  Well I did that, but I wanted more so naturally I went skiing.  Yes I said skiing.  Again only in Dubai.  There is nothing you cannot do in this city.
 Dubai is an extravagant city, and it is costs a lot to do stuff, but if you are wise about stuff, of course you can make it cheaper.  The public transport is cheap and the most effective that I have been on (sorry Singapore)  It all depends on the area you are at, if you are near the Malls = expensive, any where else cheaper.  If like me, I like to wander by foot, and that of course is free (minus the stinky feet at the end of the day).  If you have the opportunity to visit Dubai do it.  Just do not stay at the 40,000 dollar a night hotel here, but if you do, can you bring me?

1 comment:

  1. Looks unbelievable, we should get together sometime. My wife just had our little girl. She is 3 weeks old. Id love to see more pics of Dubai.

    -Joe Mayo