Travel and holiday fitness and exercise: Is it worth it? Yes or no?

By Marina Aagaard, MFT

Do you have to work out when on vacation? Perhaps.
Does it pay off to work out when on vacation? Absolutely.
Does working out take time away from your vacation time? Not necessarily.

Do you have to work on vacation?

Yes. It is very often a good idea because an active vacation is usually more fun.
You get around and experience more and working out boosts your mood (even higher).

Maybe. If you are stressed out, a vacation acts as rest and recovery. But in stressful times it is important to choose the right holiday exercise; some benefit from intense physical activity, while others get more stressed by it. In the latter case, gentle forms like walking, yoga, tai chi, qi gong, swimming or free diving with breathing exercises are recommended.

Does it pay off to work out when on vacation?

Yes. Apart from the fact that holiday exercise mostly makes the holiday even more enjoyable, it increases energy consumption, so you can enjoy ice cream or a cool cocktail without gaining weight. Movement makes a difference; improves mood, health and weight maintenance – also on vacation.

Maybe. Exercise should improve the holiday experience, so activities should be selected so that they are perceived as fun and easy without stress and hassle. No matter what kind of physical activity it pays off ‘calorie expenditure wise’, though.
Also exercise can prevent holiday stress, back ache and headache.

Does working out take time away from your vacation time?

No. As a general rule. For many travellers exercise – or rather physical activity such as hiking, biking, running, swimming, stand-up paddling (SUP), various forms of ketcher- and ball games and much more – has become a natural, integral part of the vacation.
As there are so many different offers, that there is something for everyone and all ages.

Maybe. But time investment can be very limited, maybe around 20-30 minutes 1-3 times during the holidays (week) as desired or needed.

If you want formalized fitness, it may require facilities, equipment or space and maybe even a real gym for those wishing weights and / or machines.

Vacation workouts can be short if you want them to be. Intensive resistance training workouts can be completed  in just 15-30 minutes and one may even settle for 5-10 minutes. Cardio workouts start at 10-15 with interval work. And everything counts.

Happy travelling.
Enjoy your workout.

Flying back north: DBX via AAS to AAL Travel

By Marina Aagaard, MFT. Photos: Henrik Elstrup and Marina Aagaard

Travelling, transport from one place to another can considered time-consuming and bothersome. You can also choose to be mindful and enjoy the ride while it lasts.

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4:30 the mobile alarm sounds. Rise and shine. Half an hour to dress and pack. 5:00 get a taxi on the street by the Hotel Sofitel, The Walk, JBR, Dubai.

At this time of day, traffic on the six-lane highway through town is still smooth and the trip only takes about half an hour, so we reach the airport DBX well in advance.

No queue at check-in, super. We have checked in online, so we just need two show our passports and check in our luggage, two old, worn, dirty Samsonite suitcases, which have served us well.

After check-in we go through the passport control. Super, no-one there, no queue. We go to straight to the inspector behind the desk. He looks without words in our passports and then on us. He gets up, still without words, and gives a sign; we must follow him?

So we trot along behind him. He leaves us by a long counter where an officer now inspects our passports very thoroughly. Without any exchange of words finally he hands us the passports and points toward security. We have apparently been cleared.

For two relatively talkative persons, the silence felt eerie. Still, we felt no urge to persist, we nod our thanks and go to the security scanner.

Here you have the usual stripping seance; shoes, belts and jackets off. Wallet, phone and watch on the tray, pc out of the bag, and then through the scanner. Pain-free, though.

We go to the departure hall. Find a chocolate café (with sockets for pc’s). Then we order an ultra-unhealthy breakfast: coffee, americano and latte, a muffin and a croissant. The price is astronomical, but then we also get a piece of ‘free’ fine chocolate in the bargain.

dubai_dbx_rullebaand_img_7451DBX smart: Conveyors with an overtaking lane, but not everyone discovers this feature …

We go to the gate. We meet the same couple, we met on the way out and have a chat about Dubai and the city’s attractions. Then we boarder the KLM plane, again a Boeing 777’er. Lovely. Ample space to stretch your legs and do some “onboard fitness” …

dubai_img_6215The 777 in the morning sun with glimpses of Dubai in the background.

7:55. Soon after take off a meal, an later another meal, and snacks and drinks on request. Extensive entertainment system. The 6 ½ hour flight-time passes quickly. Especially, when you also have to take the many, many mandatory pictures out of the small windows. Preferably with airplane wings in focus.

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We land almost exactly on time in Amsterdam and quickly go through security via an advanced new scanner; here you do not have to take your pc out of your bag.

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We continue through Schiphol, a modern airport with art, internet center, spa, champagne bars and cafes with delicious, healthy snacks. More over there are a lot of shops.

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We have some hours before we have to fly onward, so we find a café (with sockets) and answer e-mails and enjoy a couple of smoothies and rustic eco sandwiches. It’s not that hunger is overwhelming, but the products on display are too tempting.

At four o’clock it is time. We board and fly the final stretch from Amsterdam to Aalborg with a smaller KLM aircraft. The trip only takes about 1½ hours and time flies …
We land safely and on time 17:15 in Aalborg. And surprisingly our luggage is almost first out on the conveyor belt. We quickly head for the car park (where parking is free; brilliant).

After a 1 1/4 hour drive (plus a two hour visit for dining with a friend) we are home again in cool, rainy, pitch black Djursland after an eventful week in a warmer climate … but on second thought some fresh, Danish countryside air is not that bad.

At 22:00 o’clock we turn off the light and go to bed.

Going for a drive: From Oman to Dubai

By Marina Aagaard, MFT. Photo: Henrik Elstrup and Marina Aagaard.

The journey is an experience in itself. Today a long road trip in the desert awaits. No problem. It is 450 km sightseeing. In a fine driving machine. 

It is morning. We train, eat breakfast, pack the car – say goodbye to Coral Muscat Hotel – and drive out of Muscat city. We are heading back for Dubai.

Mosques dominate the landscape in Muslim countries and they come in all sizes.
One of the larger Mosques is the Great Mosque in Oman. So on the main road out of Muscat, we make a stop.

Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque

Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is the main mosque of the Sultanate of Oman. It was built from 1995-2001, 6 years and 4 months, and inaugurated by Sultan Qaboos of Oman.

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The building made of 300,000 tonnes of Indian sandstone is impressive from the outside and the inside. The mosque can accommodate 20,000 tourists or worshipers at a time.

The central building, prayer hall (Musalla), is 74.4 x 74.4 square meters. In the middle a large dome, 50 meters in height. Additionally there are four small minarets of 45.5 meters, and a large one at 90 meters.

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The highly polished lint-free stone tiles are shining; the mosque is reflected in them.

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Outside of the central building there are squares, colonnades, halls and a garden with flowers of all colours and small fountains.

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Between the arches and gates you can catch glimpses of the mountain range Al Hajjar Mountains. Everywhere in the otherwise flat landscape you see the dark mountain peaks forming a jagged pattern against the blue sky.

Before entering the mosque, we take off our shoes and put them in small wooden compartments by the entrance. We are wearing full body-covering clothing and ready to step inside.

First we enter the women’s prayer room; a rather dark floor with brown wood paneling, red-brown carpets and large glass chandeliers.

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Then we enter the men’s prayer room, the central part of the mosque … … …

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In this very large prayer hall there are several crystal chandeliers; in the center of the great dome, there is a 14-meter giant work of art created in Italy by Faustig.

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Even greater is the prayer hall carpet in 28 colors and many more shades: Made of 1.7000000000000 knots and weighing 21 tonnes. It took craftsmen in the Iran Carpet Company four years to make the carpet; the second largest carpet in the world (Wikipedia): Impressive 70 × 60 meters, covering 4,343 sqm.

The pillars, too, are unique: Huge, yet elegant, shaped as a number of smaller columns.

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A myriad of patterns and color combinations. Islamic art is like a One Thousand and One Nights story, enchanting, and as far from minimalist Scandinavian design as you can get.

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You want to continue looking. But now the head-guard becomes insistent. We must leave the mosque. A small army of workers have already started removing the protective blue dress from the floor, the marked ‘tourist routes’, and rapidly remove the many stands with ‘stay-out-ribbons’, which has prevented tourists from entering the carpet.

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The watchman ushers the last stubborn photographing tourists out. It is time for prayer.

A mosque visit? Remember to check opening times, festivals, holidays and prayer times.

Out in the heat again. We find the car, put the roof down, drive out onto the highway again in the direction of Dubai. We get the last glimpses of the perfectly straight, flower flanked Oman roads and massive roundabouts and monuments.

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Border bother

At the border again. Great success; the border is open and no queue. We drive past the first gate and continue to the next of the five controls; great: only a few cars in front of us.

When it is our turn, we are waved away from the queue and into a parking lot. We need to go to the passport office to have passports and visas checked. In the office we wait patiently for our turn; the afternoon is still young.

When we get to the inspecting officer he looks deadpan up from our passports and we get the laconic message: I need a stamp from the Oman checkpoint, you must turn around, go back to the Oman checkpoint and get it sorted out.

Frustrating. Back in the car. Turn around. Back to the first checkpoint to get a stamp. It would have been nice, if there had been some kind of sign with information about this …

After this mission is accomplished, we return to checkpoint number two, where the queue of cars now has grown considerably. We move slowly forward car by car. This takes a while. At the checkpoint we are again waved over to the side and the parking lot. From there we go back into the passport office and wait again.

In the room we meet more people, who have had the same experience, so it is not just us, who are completely new to the border crossing technical finesses.

Finally our documents are approved and we can go back to the car and drive on.

A true desert

The first part of the trip, before we came to the border, we were driving north towards Sohar parallel to the coastline, so behind the flat, brown landscape with low buildings, we caught some glimpses of  the glittering, blue sea.

Later we turned west and drove through a rugged landscape with dramatic mountains in the background. For a small part of the trip we were driving in the mountains in the late afternoon sunlight.

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We drive at a leisurely pace of 120 to 140 km/h. There is a bit wind and the sand from the desert is blown onto the road and forms small dunes of sand.

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When we get a little closer to Dubai we see a convoy of large, white Toyota Landcruisers on their way to a desert jeep safari. It looks impressive. But …
In the distance we see more cars drive around in the large desert sand dunes, but we also see car parts by the roadside. Desert driving requires an experienced driver.

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Suddenly we see blue flashing lights, signs with information about a detour and parked cars in three lanes. It obviously is not an easy drive today. We turn around and drive for several kilometers to find another way. This route is closed, too. We turn around again and third time is a charm. We roll down the ramp and onto the six-lane Dubai highway.

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It is completely dark before we are back in the apartment in JBR, Dubai. Since it is too late to go out to dinner, our friend and friendly host suggests takeaway de luxe from restaurant Paul nearby. Eating in has its advantages.

Suddenly we hear loud noises. Fireworks? In Denmark it is only allowed for a few days around New Years Eve, so this is unexpected. In Dubai Marina, there are fireworks several nights of the week during winter season. A festive finale to a long day.

Arabian Peninsula Visit: Muscat, Oman

By Marina Aagaard, MFT. Photos: Marina Aagaard and Henrik Elstrup

Muscat. The name spells Middle-East mystique, sun and plenty of sand … in the desert as well as along the long coastline.

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Today three tourists in Muscat, Oman. We stay at Coral Hotel on the outskirts of the city. After a hearty breakfast we are ready to experience the capital.
It bodes well: Sun is shining from a cloudless sky. The country is one of the hottest in the world during summer, but winter, early spring, temperature of 25 to 30 degr. C is o.k.

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There are no railways or metro in Oman, on the other hand there are cheap buses, Baiza busses, or taxis, which operate at a moderate price, especially if you agree on the price by the hotel and do not let the driver get the impression you know nothing about prices.

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We order a taxi from the hotel to the center of Muscat, the capital of Oman and a port city with a strategic location at the mouth of the Persian Gulf.
The urban area has 1,560,000 inhabitants (2015).

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We only just get to say “red bus stop”, before the taxi driver puts a laminated card with over 20 attractions in front of us. He insists, that he can take us to many more sights and at a more reasonable price than the official bus tour.

Despite the drivers long promotional talk we decide to decline the offer. For two reasons: Our friend would rather be in an open bus than confined in a taxi. And personally we have both good and bad experiences with taxi-sightseeing; it can end up unpleasant and costly.

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So after a few minutes we are in the town center by the famous souk and busstop of the local tour bus Big Bus Muscat. I am inattentive, while the guys inquire about the price. I hear “30 OMR” (about 500 DKK) and thinking it is for the three of us. It turns out to be per person! The most expensive bus ride ever! Surprisingly, Considering that similar tours in European capitals are priced at half of that.

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Otherwise it is an excellent tour, which gets around in the city and to corners, from north to south, many places with beautiful boulevards with lush, well-trimmed lawns.

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Huge Muscat teapot and cups as a fountain. Authentic; “Like!”. 

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Below snapshots through Big Bus pane; poor photo style, but provide an impression of the capital of Oman from its best side with sky and sea and more in various shades of blue.

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On the Big Bus tour we see Muscat highlights, Mosques, churches, temples, forts, museums, harbor areas and the newest attraction, the Royal Opera House.

Eight stops, 1½-2 hours, unless you jump on and off.

The Great Mosque is missing on the trip? The reason is the location far outside the city.

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After driving past Oman’s Parliament Building in Al Bustan, we stop briefly at stop number 5 to photograph the harbour from above (with a star-shaped flowerbed in the foreground).

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At the next stop, number 6, we jump off to walk around in the old town of Muscat.

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The colorful 200 year old ceremonial palace of Sultan Qaboos of Oman; Al Alam Palace.

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We walk around and it is very quiet.

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Friday is a public holiday and this means that all museums and attractions are closed. Therefore, one should choose another sightseeing day, if you want to get inside. If on the other hand you with to take photographs from outside, Friday a good day.

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The city has several fortresses and watchtowers. There is a lot to see for history buffs and photography-loving tourists.

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We walk through one of the gates and down past a landmark on top of a hill in Al Riyam park, the Riyam monument, a huge incense burner, ‘Frankincense Burner’ named after a special local incense.

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We ontinue along the Corniche, Al Bahri Road, promenade with its elaborate granite benches, stone sculptures and golden pavilions, which provide shelter from the sun.

The whole city is completely clean and free of debris, impressive; Regrettable, that you can be impressed by that, but dirt and garbage mars many places, even in Denmark.

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Some hours later när we return to the starting point, the stop is just outside the big Mutrah Suq, attraction number 1, near the harbor in the modern district, As Sultan Qaboos Port.

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We go into the souk, Oman’s oldest marketplace: It looks small from the outside, but soon branches out into a veritable maze of narrow alleys packed tiny specialty shops with colorful crafts, glittering fabric by the meter, clothes, shoes, bags, chests, jars, jewelry, fragrances; a mix of tasteful and tasteless souvenirs.

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Camel riding is a personal favorite, the desert ship provides a wonderful soothing means of transport, so who can resist these souvenir camels, I can (almost) not.

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Camels, daggers and teapots in all sizes are popular Oman souvenirs.

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Late in the day we are having lunch at a tiny restaurant beside the souk. The chef welcomes us, but with modest enthusiasm. The food is very good, though. The guys go for mixed grill with five kinds of meat, while I settle for falafel and grape leaves with rice. It turns out to be plentiful portions, so for once I cannot finish it …

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Nightfall at the corniche.

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Fortunately our costly Big Bus ticket is still valid, so instead of taking a taxi to the hotel, we jump back on board the familiar red vehicle for one stop – a couple of kilometers.

We jump off right by the hotel. It is late afternoon. Now there’s some time to check mails and work a little, then a workout and later a light evening meal.

Another day passed and it proved once again, that you can see a lot in a short time. And diligent photography means there is documentation, if memories are blurred.

A great day, I think just before we fall asleep.

 

Cool Car Cruise: Drive from Dubai to Oman

By Marina Aagaard, MFT

Oman. A country on the Arabian Peninsula. Deserts and beaches. It smells a bit of adventure. A visit is called for. So is a drive in the desert.

From the holiday base in neighboring Dubai, it is possible take a trip to Oman.
On the map it looks like a quick trip. But when you look closely, there are several hours of driving to the border and from there to Oman’s capital Muscat. You should set aside approximately a 7 hour drive depending on the route you choose.

The Sultanate of Oman is an Arab, Muslim country on the southeast coast of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered to the north western to the United Arab Emirates, western Saudi Arabia, the southwest to Yemen and shares maritime borders with Iran and Pakistan.

It has 4,441,448 inhabitants (2016). Additionally, the country is visited by a growing number of tourists, who stay at the capital Muscat (second best city in the world to visit according to Lonely Planet 2012) or the northern part of the country to practice outdoor sports. Jeep Safari, read Nissan- or Toyota-safari in the desert and picnic in an oasis, Wadi, are also popular.

Another side to the desert

Early morning, it is still quite cool. We, our friend, Henrik and I, drive by car from the city of Dubai out into the desert and head south-east. Far from a spectacular desert landscape as in the tourist brochures; here it is gray-brown, dirty sand with bushes and shrubs and a forrest of power pylons and power lines. Not exactly idyllic.

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For once, not 1000 photo stops. The first part of the trip is visually unsightly, albeit an experience full of impressions from a completely different nature than the European.

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From here we head into the mountains, which from a distance in the mist looks magical, serrated and dark. More closely they look more like piles of gravel, more interesting than beautiful. But mountains are mountains and always exciting when you come from a country without any mountains at all (Denmark).

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By the border

We reach a small border crossing. It is open and local cars drive straight through it. Not us. We are stopped and asked to choose a different route. No explanation (perhaps inability to present visas). 180 degree turn, return, new route. O.k., so we got to see some more of the country.

After a half hour drive we get to a very large border, Khatmat Malahah, with five checkpoints. Passports are checked and we are motioned forward.
At checkpoint number three there is no-one at the control booth, so we drive past it. So far so good. But at post number four, we are asked to turn back; we must go back and find a passport office.

The passport office is in a small oblong container-like yellowish building a little away from the road. On the door is posted a cardboard sign with Passport written on it and a sign showing that photography is prohibited.

From the brilliant sunlight outside, we enter a semi-dark room, only illuminated by natural light from a single window and the light from a row of bare neon tubes.
The brown walls have no decorations apart some some worn bulletins in Arabic.

The narrow, oblong room is divided by a desk with glass with small holes for the exchange of documents – and credit cards. Behind the counter glass, there are three men dressed in uniforms and traditional white dress. Apart form us five others, all men, probably local truckers, are waiting for clearance.

So far on the whole trip, in all cars, in control posts and in the passport office, I have only seen men. I am glad, that I am in the company of two of those …

There is busy traffic back and forth behind the glass pane, while the documents are being processed thoroughly and quickly without any kind of conversation with us tourists.
In 10 minutes we are ready to go. However, first we must pass the last two checkpoints, before we are in Oman.

Neat and tidy

From the border we drive towards Muscat. A flat, yellow-brown landscape dotted with low-rise buildings in white and yellow colors. Here and there are patches of green. In the distant background glimpses of the mountain tops in the Hajjar mountain range.

Oman’s highest point is 3,028 meters, the mountain Jebel Shams 240 km outside Muscat; a popular area, which we did not have time to visit this time.

Fairly quickly the landscape changes. The two lane highway becomes a three lane highway with a lush median strip with green grass and flowers of all colors.
The road is perfectly straight and as clean as if it has been vacuumed.

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The long straight highway is interrupted at intervals by very large roundabouts with monuments and sculptures.

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A small rest is in order. Humans and Maserati’s get hungry. We stop for fuel; gasoline and nuts, water and ice cream with pistachio and pecans …

A trip to the restroom anyone? We are looking for the toilet, but it is hiding.
The gas station attendant is helpful. On gas station grounds there is a tiny mosque and behind it there are facilities for Ladies and Gentlemen.

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Cool Coral

We drive on and finally we see water and city. The satellite navigation guides us in the right direction and – after a few detours – we find the hotel.
Actually the navigation gets us to the hotel on the first attempt, but we overlook it and drive around for a bit. How could it happen? The hotel is hiding behind a mall facade; you have to put your head far back to spot the sign on the very top of the building.

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Photo: Coral Muscat Hotel & Apartments

Our friend booked the hotel, Coral Muscat, according to the criteria: New, clean, wifi and fitness centre. The last two are also personal hotel criteria, especially wifi as bodyweight training can take place anywhere.

On the minus side. The hotel is just off a highway junction and a couple of kilometers away from the city center, so you do not just step out the hotel door and onto the corniche, promenade. The coveted pool was in maintenance, meaning that the pool was empty for three (or more) days.

On the plus side: The hotel is super nice and modern. The staff is friendly and helpful and speaks English, French and Arabic. The rooms are tiptop, the restaurant is nice and the roof terrace on two floors are very nice with elegant booths for private companies.

We live in a great apartment suite with a living room, kitchen and toilet and two huge bedrooms with bathrooms.

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The fitness center is light, modern and well equipped. There is not a lot of equipment or machines, but there is more than enough for a complete workout for most travellers:

Floor space, free weights,balls, step benches albeit small, treadmills and other cardio machines, Kinesis, advanced and super versatile cable system for countless exercises, and a Technogym multi-gym machine.

Normally I am not crazy about multi machines, but this is a an o.k. version with a pulley system, which allows you to train chest, back and shoulders (arms) in an efficient way, with one or both arms. You can also work your legs; quads and hamstrings.

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Here we work out both days.

Man also has to eat.

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Since we are a little outside of the city center, away from the restaurant area – and the two nearest options are Burger King and KFC – we go into the hotel restaurant; it is small, light, open and minimalistic.
There is an a la carte menu and a three-course dinner menu, which we choose:

Shrimp cocktail, chicken and panacotta. As for the entree, we expect the usual:
A glass with small shrimp mixed with sauce. As a pleasant surprise – after a longer wait – in comes dishes with five, crunchy, fresh, delicious prawns with sauce on the side. Possibly the best shrimp cocktail ever.

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The main course today is fried chicken with french fries. While breaded chicken and fries are far from healthy, this is fresh and tasty, with the fries served in a paper cone on a separate rack and with a tray of tiny Heinz ketchup bottles on the side. Rather neat.

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The roof terrace bar … I accidentally said to the men. To their great disappointment as they discovered, that you (obviously) cannot buy alcoholic beverages, but only mocktails – cocktails without alcohol – and coffee and tea and snacks.
I was, however, very pleased with my non-alcoholic mojito. I like mocktails.

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After a long day on the road from Dubai to Muscat, here we are; well installed and ready for a much needed night’s sleep in our big, lovely, duvet-covered beds.

Goodnight. – Goodnight.

Sunny days in Dubai, Dubai Marina

By Marina Aagaard, MFT

Dubai Marina. A place worth returning to. If you are into water, boats, cars and skyscrapers. This is our third visit.

Dubai is sunny, hot and dry – although I like cold weather, rain and snow, enough is enough. It is ‘refreshing’ with some variety …

We arrived three days ago and after a day trip to Abu Dhabi we return. Zero sightseeing today. Only work at the PC (to keep out the sunlight) and after ‘office hours’ training and a walk. Construction is ongoing, so after a couple of years away, there are many new things to see.

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There are several hotels in the area – with rooms in several price ranges. This time, however, we stay with a friend in JBR, Jumeirah Beach Residence, a series of skyscrapers, built around 2007. Jumeirah Beach Residence: 184 meters (604 ft) high, 46 storeys.

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On one side of JBR there is the beach; near the artificial peninsula; The Palm. On the other side of JBR, The Dubai Marina area.

Below are the garages, where in addition to a few regular cars, you see Bentleys, Maseratis, Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Aston Martins and other supercars.
The cars are cruising on the streets in front of JBR; you can see them most of the day.

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You cast no discreet looks, no, you stare wide-eyed: Ultra-luxury cars such as Maybach and Rolls-Royce are rare elsewhere.

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Above street level, the view also fine. In the distance you can see The Palm and Atlantis.

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The JBR area includes the popular shopping and café street The Walk. In recent years, however, there has been established a ‘competing’ promenade closer to the water front; with cafes and restaurants with beach views.

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In addition the little promenade, there a small outdoor amphitheater with a lawn and the beach there is a CrossFit-like outdoor training area (admission fee) with a view of the coming Dubai Eye.

Dubai I later named Ain Dubai (Ayn is the 16th letter of the Arabic alphabet and can be translated to eye); the world’s largest Ferris wheel. 210 meters in height and with 48 luxury cabins, which can accommodate 1,400 guests at the same time.

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A stranded whale (as my accompanying hubby joked)? No, it’s me crawling on the beach exercising; here the wonderful, hilarious Dan John exercise getbackup, while locals and tourists around me playing in the sand and swim in the water.

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Today and the day before I had the opportunity to sample JBR stairs, vertical running, or rather vertical struggling. 46 floors, 824 steps. My normal postulate – in Denmark – is, that it is faster to take the stairs than waiting for and taking the elevator. Here and now I take my word back … although, it is still healthier to take the stairs.

The elevators in JBR comes arrive and only take 40-45 seconds to the upper floors. Maybe a minute. From basement to the top by stairs took me eight minutes! Approximately 100 steps per minute, a really bad time at the moment. Down it took 5 minutes. 13 minutes up and down. After three trips, I was done (!) after a strenuous 40-minute workout!

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Spent some hours writing at a cafe in the afternoon sun. It got dark very quickly. Time for a stroll on the promenade around the Marina. Mesmerizing, meaning many, many photos. Not only with mobile and “baby-Canon” (these), but also with an “adult-Canon” and tripod.

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Palms wrapped in strings of lights. Seen not only in Dubai Marina, but also in Downtown Dubai. Festive ‘clothing’ all year round?

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There are restaurants in every price range in Dubai and with all kinds of menus. Sausages I have not eaten for many years, but was taken in by this cute hot dog stand.

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Instead of hot dogs, we go back to the beach and eat at a local JBR beach restaurant Seven Sands. A restaurant with local delicacies. Really special and delicious with several kinds of meat and shark. Unfortunately, again I ate the food before I got to capture it on film card – I need to work on my foodie skills on …

After dinner dessert? I am full to say the least, but am nevertheless persuaded into sampling some dessert delicacies as they are local and sound interesting.

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Lucky Choice: dessert, one pana cotta-like dish with nut-crumble crunch and a very special perfumed rose-ice. This really is a treat for the taste buds. The accompanying biscuit is left over, though.

After the food some lovely green tea and even with a tea-hourglass. A detail that makes all the difference. A memorable meal.

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A good day and good night.

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Middle-East travel: Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi

By Marina Aagaard, MFT.

A visit to the UAE is incomplete without a visit to Abu Dhabi. The 68th most expensive city in the world. That’s not so bad.

It is Tuesday. We borrow our friend’s car. We drive from Dubai southwards to Abu Dhabi. It is not difficult to find the way … (the six-lane highway goes directly from city to city).

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Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi is the capital of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, the largest of the United Arab Emirates, UAE, 1.5 million inhabitants, and also the capital of the UAE. Abu Dhabi is both government center and a cultural center, though more subdued than Dubai.

The city lies on the coast of the Persian Gulf and has an impressive skyline: Abu Dhabi offers a variety of skyscrapers and more are coming. Many are unusual architectural masterpieces with glass facades that reflect the surroundings.

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Besides the city itself, the capital’s top attractions are: Grand Mosque (the Great Mosque), Emirates Palace and Ferrari World, the amusement center with a dreaded roller coaster … and if you have time and money Yas Marina Formula 1 Circuit.

Yas Island

We cruise into the Viceroy Yas Hotel driveway in an open GranCabrio and therefore are able to hear engine sounds at full volume. That’s cool; someone are driving on the track, even though it’s Tuesday at noon.
Regrettably it is not a Formula 1 race, but a bunch of lucky people with sufficient money in their pockets allowing them to race around the track in Formula 3 cars.

We park the car and take a stroll to see what the facility can offer. Is it ok? I think so.

The architects Rani Hashid and Lisa Anne Couture of Asymptote Architects describes it this way: Yas Hotel, a 500-room, 85,000-square-foot complex, one of the main architectural features of the ambitious 36-billion-dollar Yas Marina area and associated Formula 1 racetrack Abu Dhabi, UAE.
Asymptote envisioned an architectural landmark that integrates several dominant inspirations ranging from the aesthetics and forms associated with speed, movement and design and patterns of ancient Islamic art and craft traditions.

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Design details are ultra cool. Steel strips in the flooring simulates racetrack markings. Even the restrooms are special with distinct lighting effects.

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Time for a light lunch at Amici Restaurant. The menu boasted a special dish with pasta with cauliflower and truffle … and then tiramisu in glass. Yes, please.

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The cameras were out to get it all in. Until a guard appeared and explained: Mobile pics are ok, but photos (with pro-looking equipment/for pro use) must be cleared by the PR department. This rule applies in many places, so be prepared, if you wish to take photos.

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Smiles and thumbs up: Car and hotel both get a ‘yes’ from me; lots of X-factor. From the hotel we drove to the Great Mosque, the Grand Mosque.

Grand Mosque

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi, the main mosque in the UAE. “Grand” is no exaggeration.Accommodate over 41,000 worshipers. Finished in 2007. Construction spending 4 billion DKK, 545 million USD.  Length: 420 m (1,380 ft). Width: 290 m (950 ft). Height largest dome, 85 m (279 ft); 82 domes in seven different sizes and four minarets with a height of 107 m (351 ft).

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Entrance and mosque manners

First you pass through security. Men and women enter through separate entrances in a container-like building; compared to the mosque the entrance is ‘minimalistic’.

Female entrance piktogram shows traditional clothing (chador) With hair covered but face free. Western clothing is welcome, but you must follow local guidelines:

Women must cover the hair, ears and shoulders, arms and legs. Shorts, skirts or tight clothing like leggings are not allowed.

Men may have bare arms, but no bare shoulders or bare legs; shorts are not allowed.

The clothes must not be too tight, transparent or display offensive words or images (common of many western T-shirts). If you do not wearing proper clothing, one can in the mosque borrow a local cover-all.

Mosque manners:

  • There must be silence.
  • Smoking is prohibited.
  • Mobile phones must be muted.
  • Food and drinks are prohibited.
  • You should not lie on the floor (or sleep).
  • Do not caress or embrace each other.

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After you have gone through security, you walk through the gardens and into the cloisters. Here you take off your shoes and you walk around in stockings or bare feet.

All over the mosque there are guards to ensure that there are no infringements of the rules: Some young tourists took a picture without their hair covered and that led to a reprimand and order of deletion of the image from the camera.

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The guards also keep a close eye on that you do not get too close to or past the barriers: Fully understandable that the landmark is supervised; there can be up to 30,000 visitors a day, 4-5 million tourists and worshipers per year (2012).

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque design “unite the world” with materials from many countries including India, Italy, Germany, Morocco, Pakistan, Turkey, Malaysia, Iran, China, England, New Zealand, Macedonia and the United Arab Emirates (wikipedia).

The Mosque have walls, floors and columns covered with white marble and ceramic. It creates an almost dreamlike, pure and soothing expression.

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More than 3,000 workers and 38 construction companies participated in the construction of the mosque. Some building materials were chosen for design reasons, others for their ‘staying power’; marble, gold, semi-precious stones, crystals, and ceramics (Wikipedia).

On the walls, floors and pillars: Man-made vines; a magical sight.

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The mosque is full of unique items: Among others the carpet of the large prayer hall: The world’s largest carpet (wikipedia). Made by The Iran Carpet Company, designed by Iranian artist Ali Khaliqi and made by 1200-1300 craftsmen. The carpet measures 5,627 sqm. (60,570 sq ft), there are 2.268.000.000 knots and it weighs 35 tonnes. It is predominantly of wool from New Zealand and Iran. It took two years to make the carpet (wikipedia).

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There are seven chandeliers from Faustig in Munich. They consist of millions of Swarovski crystals. The largest of the chandeliers is the world’s third largest and has a diameter of 10 m (33 ft) and a height of 15 m (49 ft).

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The 96 columns in the prayer hall are covered with marble with decorations of mother of pearl. The columns are exceptionally elegant, beautiful without seeming overly decorated.

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The columns around the main square have stylized flowers made of semi-precious stones and mother of pearl. The tops are stylized palm leaves covered with gold leaf.
The columns are reflecting in two large pools.

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The mosque has to be one of the world’s most beautiful buildings. Huge, but elegant and airy. If you have the chance, visit.t should be seen.

Emirates Palace Hotel

Impressive. On the outside as well as the inside. The Emirates Palace is a luxury hotel in Abu Dhabi in marble, gold and other precious materials. There are 114 domes, the highest 80 meters high. There are 394 rooms and suites. On the grounds there is a 1.3 km private beach and 85 acres of gardens and lawns.

The hotel looks magnificent both during the day and in the evening. Am I just too easy to impress? No, the number of tourists from around the world, swarming the street taking photo after photo, suggests that I’m not the only one, who think the hotel is worth seeing.

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Not everything that glitters is gold, but in the Emirates Palace Hotel it (almost) is …

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Even the restroom fittings are elegant and gold-clad.

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In front of the main entrance there is a staircase and waterfall and at base there are several fountains. A most popular selfie location, so you have to be patient.

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The hotel houses the rich, the famous and the well-dressed and there is no access in casual beach clothing. Arms, legs and feet must be suitably covered.
If your clothing is acceptable, however, you are welcome to visit the exclusive hotel, even if you have not booked a suite for the night.

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You can dine in one of the restaurants or enjoy an afternoon tea in the cafe. This day we visited the brasserie, where there was a buffet (a health challenge; for many including yours truly; it’s hard not to overindulge. A la carte is preferable. We took a chance, though, and had a memorable visual and gustatory experience at a reasonable price.

The buffet was the most exclusive, I’ve experienced to date. E.g. an impressive fish buffet with not only ‘standard’ fish, but also fish dishes, oysters, prawns and whole crab claws.

Plus a sushi buffet, a buffet with local dishes, small dishes, fine cheeses with tasty ‘extras’, a wide variety of breads and biscuits, a huge dessert buffet with many exciting desserts and lots of fresh fruit. In addition a chocolate fondue and Arabic delicacies and several kinds of dates.

Local Arabic specialties.

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International specialties. The small plate in the middle contains a salad with quail eggs.

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Semi-healthy dessert. Fresh fruit and several kinds of mousse, panna cotta, cheesecake, cake and a delicious crème brûlée; a favorite.

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A delicious tuna dish.

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In addition to a wide range of hot dishes, there were 3-4 cooks making special dishes on request. A paradise for food lovers.

That was nice.

After this tasty end to the day, we headed back north and were soon back in Dubai.

After a sightseeing-packed day we sleep heavily.