Thursday, February 20, 2014

Beautiful Sharjah

I first read/heard of Sharjah in my early stamp collecting days when it featured the hard-to-obtain  Beethoven stamp which I collect until this day (There are more than 200 stamps of Beethoven and I have at least 150 of them). In the 70's when the UAE was not yet rich as it is today, novelty stamps would be featured by that country to raise some extra revenues.  I got their novelty Beethoven stamp on gold and silver foil which was issued in 1970. This stamp cost around P500 today.  During those days, I memorized all the 7 emirates by heart never had I imagined that I would be visiting 4 of them someday.  

Sharjah is a beautiful city less than an hours drive from Dubai.  I stayed at Hilton hotel at very cheap rates at Booking.com which I booked a month in advance. I have booked through this site in my previous travels to Paris, Yogyakarta and Siem Reap and they give "secret deals" to frequent "bookers".  I was lucky to have gotten this deal.  The nice thing with Booking.com is that you can cancel any reservation at least a day prior and they don't charge you a cent. At the Hilton, the mostly Filipino staff  were very friendly and helpful and made me feel at home. The Hilton view was magnificent overlooking a lake and the wonderful city skyline.  The city center is just a few meters away and bustles with more activity at night.  I had a blast taking pictures and the scenery really brings night photography to a whole new level.  I was glad I brought my reliable and super-lightweight Sirui tripod. I took several pictures of the mosque, cityscape and lake-views and enjoyed every minute of it!  I didn't realize it was almost midnight (4am RP time) and after a few minutes walk, I was back in my cozy hotel.  The next day I ventured to Al Ain, an ancient city of Abu Dhabi emirate.

I had a memorable time in Sharjah, far away lands on my stamps, now I am treading on.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Cultural Sites of Al Ain

After an hour and a half drive from Dubai, one arrives in Al Ain, a small but vibrant city which is a part of Abu Dhabi, one of the the seven emirates. It borders Oman so a few more steps and you are in another country.  Tourist beware though of taking pictures near the border because the Omanis are strict and you can be reprimanded.  Always bring your passport wherever you go around UAE because you might be crossing borders without being aware of it.  The serial property of The Cultural Sites of Al Ain, with its various component parts and the regional context in which it is situated, provides testimony to ancient sedentary human occupation in a desert region. Occupied continuously since the Neolithic, the region presents vestiges of numerous prehistoric cultures, notably from the Bronze Age and the Iron Age.

Al Ain is situated at the crossroads of the ancient land routes between Oman, the Arabian Peninsula, the Persian Gulf and Mesopotamia. Very diverse in nature, the tangible elements of the property include remains of circular stone tombs and settlements from the Hafit and Hili periods, wells and partially underground aflaj irrigation systems, oases and mud brick constructions assigned to a wide range of defensive, domestic and economic purposes. This expertise in construction and water management enabled the early development of agriculture for five millennia, up until the present day.