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Cappadocia and Dubai

Well, Della and I had hoped to post about Cappadocia, our last stop in Turkey, before we left but that didn’t happen before we were sucked into the (hot) whirlwind that is Dubai! So this will be quick and dirty because we expect Sri Lanka, our next stop, to be equally as intense.

First off, Cappadocia! Della had this to say….

Where is it? It is a region in the middle of Turkey. Why is it so cool? Because the nooks and valleys all over the area are full of awesome rock formations and riddled with caves and pigeon cotes. Cappadocia has a really long and interesting history, but what I find the most interesting is how Christians fleeing Rome’s persecution in around the fourth century came here and established a community of houses, monasteries and churches all carved into caves!

On our first and third days in Cappadocia we hiked in Rose Valley and Love Valley. They were both very fun.  In Rose Valley we encountered a couple of odd shops in the middle of nowhere, some caves, and lots of pigeon cotes, but my favorite hike is Love Valley. Love Valley gets its name from the unusually shaped rocks that look suspiciously like part of the male anatomy.

On one of our days in Cappadocia, we did a cooking class. A nice man named Tolga picked us up from our hotel a drove us to his home, where we met his wife Tugba and mom, Havva. We made manti, which is like Turkish ravioli, rolled grape leaves, and a delicious dessert called dolaz, which is made from flour, oil, egg and milk, with their own honeycomb on top. Yum! It was really nice to meet a local family and learn some new recipes.

Halloween came to pass while we were in Cappadocia. My fabulous mother talked with the hotel owner and arranged a trick-or-treat inside the hotel. We found a couple costume pieces at a tourist store, and hodge-podging it with what we had, we created costumes. We also found a small, yellow pumpkin in an empty field on one of our walks and carved it. On the night of the 31st, we donned our costumes and collected our treats. Our new favorite candy? Frutto Bonbons.

We tried and failed to go hot air ballooning while we were in Cappadocia. The weather was too drizzly. Also, waking up at four o’clock in the morning two days in a row is two days too many.

Thanks Della!

Then there’s Dubai. Before we left on this trip we heard tell of friends of friends who lived Dubai and loved it, and folks who had travelled to Dubai and hated it. I’m not surprised this place would polarize anyone, it is a city if extremes. It’s in a desert, yet has fountains that can be seen from space, it’s hot but you can ski in the Mall of the Emirates. Throw in the the world’s tallest building, the biggest mall, the largest man made island, and you start to get the picture.

We were just in Dubai for a short stretch. In the beginning we stayed in a neighborhood called Diera, because it was near “old Dubai” and the Gold and Spice Souks, so I thought we might find it more atmospheric than newer, flashier Dubai. Ha! It turns out, there is very little that is old or atmospheric in Dubai, short of the Heritage House, which has been preserved to show us how Emiratis lived before fossil fuels, and the old fort that is now the Dubai Museum. We checked out some fabulous gold wedding necklaces/breastplates, and wandered through the Textile Souk where Miles was a target of shop keepers wanting to play dress up, and I hideously overpaid for a shawl (I’m kicking myself, such a rookie mistake!)  In nearby “Hindi Lane” we peeked into some of the shops around the Hindu temple selling bindis, and sandalwood paste and wonderfully gaudy pictures and figurines of the pantheon of Hindu deities. I have a soft spot for them, I confess- to me, Hinduism is to Protestantism, the faith of my upbringing, what technicolor is to black and white. I’m partial to Ganesh, who has a sweet tooth, like me.

We also went on a “safari” heading out to the desert, then driving up and down and round and round the sand dunes like crazy. The coastal dune preserving environmentalist in me cringes at the name “dune bashing” but I admit, it was fun. We also watched a falcon hunting demonstration, rode a camel, ate dinner, saw a belly dancing performance. It all felt like an Arabian flavored luau.

For our last night, lured by the call of their water park, we went to the Atlantis, our splashiest splash out to date. It was fan-tastic. The most complex lazy river system I’ve ever seen, great water slides, perfect air and water temperatures. Certainly the most multicultural water park I’ll ever go to- Emiratis in full body bathing suits, Russians in bikinis and everything in between. The hotel was beautiful, perched on the edge of the famous palm leaf island. I made the mistake of reading aloud an article about an airport strike in Colombo that got the kids hoping we might get to stay longer, but no such luck. When in Dubai, I highly recommend.

Of course, we wouldn’t have experienced Dubai without a few hours in a mall, and the Mall of the Emirates was a stunner. Gleaming luxury shops, the ski slope, a gigantic Carrefour it would have taken me a week to grocery shop in. As we sat eating dinner at the IHOP (some of us have missed pancakes) I kept thinking I could’ve been anywhere in the world but for the folks in UAE traditional dress (the long white kandoora and red checked head scarf for men, the women in long back abaya) sprinkled in amongst the western dressed crowd.

Incidentally, for that desert luau we shared the car with a nephew and uncle pair, the uncle in town to visit the expatriate nephew, and he raved about living in Dubai. He and our driver, a Dubai native, both told me they loved it there. My jury is still divided (I feel like I didn’t see enough) but it was a good stop, and now we head to steamy, hot Sri Lanka for more adventures!

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