The sky, clouds, snow on the land masses, and waters were beautiful as I landed at the Ted Stevens International Airport. It was 11:18 pm, and still very light. A friend in Wasilla shared with me that the sun had set at 12:01 am, the night before, May 30. I was anticipating enjoying these long summer days in Alaska–more time to see things, and “more light to read by” as Jeanette Walls wrote in her book The Glass Castle.
My friend and host Chris met me at the airport and we headed toward my unique motel. As we drove he pointed out the many places of worship along O’Malley–Alaska Baptist Convention (Southern Convention), St. John United Methodist, Christian Church of Anchorage, Holy Transfiguration, Greek Orthodox, Wat Dharmma Bhavana Buddhist Center (Maha Nikaya), American Grace Lutheran, Hillside Baptist, Christ Church Episcopal, New Grace Christian, Hillside-O’Malley SDA, Holy Spirit Retreat Center, Resurrection Chapel, and the Chapel of the Cross Nazarene–fourteen just along O’Malley and Hillside. Chris writes a blog called Church Visits. His passion is to visit and learn about church services and their welcoming practices. Then he writes about his experiences and encourages pastors imams, priests, rabbis, and congregations to make their personal interactions with visitors, their websites and signs, inviting to visitors. His column was carried in the Alaska Dispatch News from 2014.
Soon I was welcomed to the home of new friends–yes, at midnight–for good talk, lovely drinks, fruit, cheese and crackers. Then I bedded down in their classy R-pod camper trailer. It was about 50 degrees and I declined the offer of a heater, and snuggled under warm comforters with a heated “rice bag” at my feet. I slept well, then woke very early in the morning, too early, donned a sleeping mask–they are found at most bedsides in Alaska–and slept again.
Morning. Coffee. Breakfast, then a drive. In just a few minutes we joined Hillside Drive, then Upper Huffman Drive, and then turned onto Toilsome Road. We were climbing, climbing, then Chris said to look up to the right, and there was Flattop Mountain, said to be the most climbed mountain in Alaska.
Flattop Mountain is 3,510 feet (1,070 m), located in Chugach State Park (chew-gatch), the 4th largest state park in the U.S., and within Chugach National Forest, which is the 2nd largest national park in the U.S. The trail up Flattop is said to be steep and rocky and still offers routes for “all abilities”. There are many other hikes, and Flattop Mountain Shuttle provides transportation from Anchorage to the trailhead and back. We parked the car and walked to the Glen Alps viewing area, likely the best viewing area to see Anchorage, the distant mountain ranges, and the expanse of Cook Inlet. It stretches 180 miles (290 m) from the Gulf of Alaska to Anchorage.
The day was bright and beautiful, still, a bit of a haze in the distance kept me from getting very clear pictures. I’ll share them as they are. There are many mountain ranges across the horizon, but I best remember the mountains in this photo: Mt. Susitna, “Sleeping Lady”, and to her right, the hunter looking for her (my memory device), Mt. Hunter, then Mt. Forager, and then the spectacular Mt. Denali, majestic even at this distance of 250-miles. This year Alaska is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the year the mountain became a park. The first recorded ascent of Denali was on June 7, 1913. Naturalist Charles Sheldon led the interest in finding ways to protect the Dall sheep. The area was named “Mt. McKinley National Park” in 1917. Debates about the name have raged; and, in 2015, through the efforts of Pesident Barack Obama and Secretary of State Sally Jewell, the name was changed to Denali. Various of the five Athabaskan languages translate the name to “the tall one” and “mountain-big”. It is pronounced deen-aalee.
The next Alaska blog will be: “Totems, Christian Totems, and Ancient Stained Glass”
Guemes Island is a 7-minute ferry ride from Anacortes, Washington. Twenty vehicles filled the open-deck vessel the sunny Saturday we set off to visit this tiny close neighbor. The ferry has a small passenger cabin, but I enjoyed walking between the cars, feeling the gentle breezes, and taking photos from the deck. This is a very different ride from the one most folks experience leaving Anacortes on one of the 800- to 2500-passenger ferries going to the San Juan Islands or Vancouver Island.
Approaching the other shore we were surprised to see bales of hay on a golden field next to the Anderson’s General Store/Gas Station. We’d thought to stop there to visit the little cafe, but it was closed; we’ve learned it’s soon to open with new management. We’ll try again another day. The fella who sold us our tickets ($12 round trip for two seniors and the car) said the General Store was closed right now and there was a resort with food available on the “other side” of the island.
Driving straight ahead from the ferry ramp we passed several small farms with outbuildings set on grassy fields. A bright yellow traffic sign with the graphic of a child on either end of a teeter-totter warned us to slow down, and soon we saw children playing tennis at Schoolhouse Park. There are said to be 605 people, 292 households, and 180 families on the island.
Small deciduous trees and tall evergreens framed our drive, and within just a few minutes we were at the North Shore area. We followed the road to the left and one of the public beaches was on our right with picturesque beach grasses, small boats, driftwood, and a lovely sky.
Small older homes, beach cottages, and newer homes were close to the road; some with lovely gardens and creative fences and art.
In another few minutes we turned right into the Guemes Island Resort and continued into a parking lot for Young’s Park. A sign informed us the whole island was the location of the Samish tribe’s traditional winter villages from about 1873. Because they lived near the only natural spring, they were forced off the island in 1912 by their white neighbor’s. Guemes was discovered by the Spanish explorer Francisco de Eliza in 1791 and named for the Viceroy of Mexico.
There have been several name changes: “Lawrence Island” in honor of American naval officer James Lawrence who named Guemes Channel and “Hornet Harbor” in honor of the USS Hornet; the name changed again when a British captain reorganized the British Admiralty charts, putting aside the “pro-American” names and affirming pro-British and Spanish names.
The shape of the island has been construed as a dog drowning, and the “Dog Days of Summer Show (said to be a “howl” for all) is held annually in August at Schoolhouse Park. There is also a “Dog Island Run” to benefit the Guemes Island Library, last held in June of 2016. You will find many interesting aspects of the “dog island” nickname at Google’s “Images of Guemes (Dog) Island.” Geocaching locations are available at geocaching.com. The original reason for the island’s “dog island” name is said to be because of the extinct Salish Wool Dog (Canis lupus familiaris) developed by native peoples. The dog was said to resemble the Spitz and was used to create the “Salish blanket” used when there were no sheep available. Learn more about the “History of the Salish Wool Dog” at: dogknowledge.net/general-dog-info/dog-history/history-of-the-salish-wool-dog.php
We will be going back again–for the 7-minute ferry ride, the beaches the old farms, the quiet roads, and to try Dig’s kitchen–a food truck parked near the resort. Maybe this time we can also try the quaint General Store and see all it has to offer.
PS There are other “Dog Islands” in Florida and the Carribean.
PEARLS are treasured by many; and, the pearling industry has been a basic part of the economy of Dubai from its earliest days. Archeology sites date their use 7000 years ago. Trading of pearls, pottery, fabrics, spices, and gold have been and are vital to the economy. Currently international business and tourism is replacing OIL as the primary source of income since it’s discovery in 1966
The reigning Al Maktoum family has ruled since 1833; and, under their guidance and progressive leadership, the economy grew. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum has been Ruler of Dubai, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE since 2006. His grandfather set the stage for the current duty-free zone, a major reason for Dubai’s growing business success. Dubai is one of seven countries in the UAE. Celine Malek reported in TheNational/UAE (Feb. 9, 2015) that oil makes up 39% of UAE’s gross domestic product, and recognizing the value of clean energy and the likely depletion of oil serves, the plan is that nuclear energy will cover 25% of UAE’s power needs within the next twelve years.
In 2003 construction began on a feature 4 km off the coast in the Arabian Gulf called The World; it will be made up of 300 man-made, white sand islands. There will be green areas, hotels, and restaurants featuring the foods of each region, with guest workers from each regions as servers. Kleindienst Properties acquired six of the islands and is creating “The Heart of Europe” holiday destination; currency used in that area will be euros instead of dirhams. The first to be completed will represent Germany. There will also be three-level FLOATING SEAHORSE VILLAS inspired by private yachts, with the master bedroom below sea level. The first villa is to be completed in October 2016. The current purchase price is Dhs 10-12,000,000; rental is Dhs 10-12,000 per night. One dirham (Dhs) was US$ 0.27 in February of 2016. There is a a short story and a delightful photo in the Idea Section of the June 6, 2016 issue of TIME.
More new things coming to Dubai: 1) The world’s largest indoor theme park, The Worlds of Adventure, owned by The Ilyas and Mustafa Galardi Group (IMG), is scheduled to open August 2016; and, 2) work is already underway for The World Expo 2020, including a new airport being created specifically for that event.
The next time we are in Dubai, we plan to visit more museums: Hatta Heritage Village in the Hatta mountains, The Antique Museum, the Heritage House Gallery, Emirates National Auto Museum, Juma al Majid Heritage and Cutural Center, and the Dubai Heritage and Diving Village which features pearl diving opportunities as well exhibits of pottery, weaving, and other crafts.
1) Choose carefully the time of year you travel to Dubai; the peak temperature June-September is 48C (118F).
2) Check with the US State Department re: travel safety.
3) Keep your hotel business card with you at all time; it will be helpful finding you way back when using taxis, bus, and the light rail system.
4) Download from the Internet useful phrases “Hello” and “Thank You” in Arabic, Hindi, Urdu, and Tagalog. It’s fun; it’s a good exercise. Even though English is widely understood, it’s the kind thing to do to greet and thank people in their own language whenever you can.
5) Check the “Travel Tips” tab at the top of this page.
From previous posts you’ve learned that guest workers make up 75% of the population of Dubai. Our hotel was in a multi-ethnic neighborhood, and at the Grand Hotel two blocks away the employees at the main desk, gift shop, and restaurants reflected this fascinating diversity. We checked out a lovely Indian restaurant on the main floor, then chose an Indian buffet on the mezzanine. Our personal attendant once we were seated was a Filipino. “Magandang hapoon” (good afternoon in Tagalog). “We lived in your country for three years, in Barrio Baesa, Caloocan City, and in Silang, Cavite…” He told us he was from Cebu City–and we shared that Dale had travelled there by ship with students from our university. We had a wonderful conversation and very good service!
Next we explored some of the shops nearby specializing in shoe repair, auto repair, and shops creating specialized steering wheels, beaded comfort pads and slip covers for car seats. There was a dress store, a shoe store, and the only business which was operated by folk who seemed native to Dubai was the tailor.
At each intersection we decided which direction looked most interesting and headed to a new adventure. At one corner there was a familiar sign: two circles, pink and brown, with the letters “B” and “R”. We looked at each other: “No, it can’t be!!!” But it was: A Baskin-Robbins Ice Cream Parlor! We’d just eaten, but, no matter–we needed an ice cream cone. Inside we met the most delightful young woman–a Filipina! Well, of course. Now we have learnedthat 21% of the population of Dubai are OFWs–Overseas Filipino Workers. Again, we shared our story of living in the RP; she told us that she had recently arrived in Dubai to begin a two-year contract. There are 50 Baskin-Robbins outlets in Dubai. Ah, yes, I saw that Merle Norman cosmetic stores are there, too. Likely there are many brands we know in the Dubai Mall’s 1000 shops.
After that delightful interlude, we continued our neighborhood walk, and my husband shared an idea that had been percolating in his mind: he wanted to explore a public library. We looked for someone who could tell us where one might be and went into the Abeer Al Noor Polyclinic. Interesting: many ethicities in the medical staff, too–physicians with the name of Moidu, Geetha, Kumar, Pallavi, Aravind, Bhaskar, Ayesha, Bindu, John, Thasnim and Fasna. The kind receptionist Googled the library and printed a map for us–it was just a few blocks away. And we said, “Shukran.”
The signage outside the Dubai Public Library included a photograph of the Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. We were welcomed by the receptionist and went in to explore the stacks, looking especially for books on the history of the region and on religion. As we left we saw that there were books available for the taking, we did took three–one on art and architecture in the UAE, one on Sheikh Maktoum, and a graphic health booklet for children. Delightful!
My next blog post on Dubai will include reflections on it’s history, the current focus on tourism, and our experiences.
“Magandang umaga” was my greeting to the desk clerk at the Tulip Inn al Qusias Dubai Suites. That phrase is “Good Morning” in Tagalog–she was a Filipina. We’d lived in The Philippines for three years and remembered basic pleasantries. The young man beside her at the desk was from Nepal; most of the other staff was from India.
We’d had breakfast there at our apartment/hotel and wanted her to tell us about ideas for lunch. She said: “You’ll be going to the Dubai Mall, right? There will be many places there.” It’s reported there are 1200 shops and 160 restaurants. We told her we had just this one more day in Dubai and we’d decided to walk the neighborhood, learn about local life, and have lunch nearby. That was quite a surprise to her; she smiled and said there were many shops and restaurants just two blocks away. We wanted to experience a typical neighborhood and were expecting a mix of business and ethnicities. We’d learned that 85% of those living in Dubai are Guest Workers: 50% from India, about 25% from Pakistan, many from The Philippines, and from various African countries, especially Kenya. We started walking; it was a fascinating day.
At a branch of the National Bank of Dubai we obtained more dirham at US.27/1 AED (dirham) from their ATM. Then we took an overpass and visited a super market. Delightful to find Snickers with the description in Arabic and English. The clerks and shoppers were a fascinating ethnic mix.
Next we explored the Dubai Grand Hotel lobby, gift shop and restaurants. We purchased a leather bracelet and a camel. Of course!
More neighborhood walk next post…
The oldest existing building in Dubai City, the Al Fahidi Fort, houses the Dubai Museum, opened in 1971. We were able to examine the oldest wall known in Dubai before entering the museum. Exhibits in the courtyard took us back to the 1780s.
Our guide led us to a doorway in the courtyard, and we walked down stairs and through hallways filled with exhibits, and then realized we were under the courtyard. Suddenly it felt as if we were walking in the streets and alleys of the ancient city, enjoying the colorful dioramas and literally walking through many of the exhibits of life-size mannequins engaged in marketing, working, creating, repairing dhows, talking and governing. Some items on display are from archaeological digs and date back to the third millennium BC.
Our next stop on the tour felt like part of the exhibits–we boarded a dhow, a simple wooden boat, fashioned after the ancient transports, but motorized, and were taken across The Creek, which begins in the Arabian Gulf and divides the city. Our guide told us that merchants live on the battered ships we saw along the warfage and market products to and from Africa, Asia and many points in the Middle East.
We walked down stairs and through a beautifully-tiled tunnel to enter the markets–the Spice Souk, the Fabric Souk, the Gold Souk–and were mesmerized by the cacophony of sounds and the stunning mix of colors and products and people.
We have just returned from eight weeks on holiday visiting family in Perth, Australia, and getting acquainted with Dubai, The United Arab Emirates. Our Emirates Airlines return trip took us over Iran, Russia, the North Pole, and Canada on our way to Seattle and our home on Whidbey Island. The plane’s cameras and route information made the trip more interesting.
My plan on holiday was to write each week about the people we met, the places we visited and and the fascinating things we learned. However, our circadian rhythms slowed us down on both ends of the trip, our sleep/wake cycle shifted days and nights for us. We read a lot of books before our Australian family was up in the morning, and sometimes after they were sleeping. My biologist husband walked in the cool of many mornings and added to his bird list. The time changes also means we are slow getting back into the swing of life now we are home.
Most of our time was spent with our daughter and her family in Perth, including several meaningful celebrations: three family birthdays, our grandson’s primary school graduation and his role in the school play, and and the baptisms of both grandchildren officiated by their father. We loved the art drawn and colored and the LEGO creations by our grandchildren, reading to the kids, playing games, cooking, and helping the family settle in, and helping them paint portions of their new home. They took us to beaches and restaurants new to us.
Here’s the skinny about writing abroad–not complaining, just describing: It’s harder to stay on topic and on time than you might think. So, take good notes, do extensive research, and don’t expect to get it posted or printed in a short time. Energy is limited–my own and the Internet’s; iPads have their limitations; computer crash; international rates for iPhones are costly but worth it.. Also, I was reminded that posting photos including anyone other than family at school events is forbidden. Writing from abroad is challenging–but very worth it. I have already posted about our trip from the States to Australia, and about the very frightening bushfires we experienced.
Upcoming posts about Australia will include: The Welcome Wall and the Maritime Museum in the port of Fremantle, Perth history, downtown restaurants and music, shopping for food and eating out, and more about bushfires.
Our time in Dubai was fascinating, and I’ll write about our enjoyment of the Dubai Museum, Hotel Burj Al Arab on the Persian Gulf, the Jumeira Mosque, the spice market (souk) and the gold market, food, tours, the Dubai Public Library, and the ethnic make-up of Dubai (85% are contract workers from other countries).