Friday, December 16, 2005

Happy Friday from Dubai!

Hi again. Today, as I mentioned in a previous message, is a weekend day here so Keith and Kristin weren’t able to interview anyone for their radio program today. Instead we took a cab to a local “souk” or market called “Madinat Jumeirah.” It is a very nice market that is located near Dubai’s famous Burj al Arab. The Burj al Arab is a very tall building that looks like the tall sail on a sailboat. It must have been very hard to build. Here you can see the building behind me as we stopped to look at the small boats moving through the souk.

This souk was very different from the one we visited in Doha. It was much more organized, cleaner, and more expensive. It even had a food court complete with a Cinnabon! Kristin LOVES Cinnabon but instead visited a TCBY store later in the day.

After we left the souk we visited an area along Dubai Creek, a waterway that divides the older portion of Dubai from the new sections of the city. Keith told me that many of the buildings I saw in the cab today on the way to the souk were built in the last 10 years. Some people say they can build an entire story of a new office building in less than a week here in Dubai. That is really fast! And, Keith says they are now building what it supposed to be the tallest building in the world here in Dubai. I don't know when it will be done but I might have to come back here to see it.

That’s all for now. Until next time….

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Hi from Dubai!

Hi everyone. We have made it safely to Dubai. It is a very busy city with many, many cars and tall buildings. It is nothing like Doha. Doha seems much more like a small town than a large city. Kristin says Dubai reminds her of a mixture between New York City and Las Vegas.

We are staying at the Marriott here in Dubai. It is VERY nice. They even have a rubber ducky I can play with in the bathtub if I want….although Kristin says it will cost me money if I want to take it home. Oh well, I will use it until I leave.

Did you know that weekends in the Arab world are different than they are in America? Today (Thursday) is like our Saturday. Tomorrow (Friday) is like our Sunday. No one really works here on Friday. So, I will likely use the day to catch up on my sleep. Traveling makes me very tired.

I hope all is well back in Iowa.

Until next time…..

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Camels and McDonalds!

Hi again. I had another very exciting day. Kristin has found space for me in her day bag and so now she lets me travel with her throughout the day. This is a great treat!

Today Haitham took us to the town of Al-Shahaniya, west of Doha, because Kristin wanted to see camels. I was amazed as we drove out of town. All I could see for miles and miles was flat desert sand and small dry plants. Many of the houses on the road looked like sand castles I would build at the beach. Very interesting.

It didn’t take long for us to find camels roaming the desert. Keith and Kristin told me to start looking out the window as soon as they saw a sign along the side of the road with a camel on it. In Iowa we have “deer crossing” road signs. In Qatar they have “camel crossing signs.”

I was able to see camels roaming freely not very far from the road. Then we took a road to the place where they hold camel races. The races are similar to the horse races in America only they race camels. There were no races today but there were plenty of camels training on the long sand track. Here you can see me with Kristin near a camel crossing sign. Look closely and you will see many camels in the background.

I didn’t get any closer to the camels. I’m not sure I want to pet one but they are nice to look at.

By the way, have I mentioned that it is nice and warm here? The temperature is in the mid 80’s everyday. Haitham says it gets very, very hot in the summer here in Doha. So all of the local businesses close between noon and 4pm so people can stay indoors during the hottest part of the day. I think this must be similar to siesta time in Mexico.

Later in the day we went to the local goods market. The market, called a “souq” in the Arab region is a series of small outdoor booths with vendors that sell everything from fabric to soap to spices. The spice section smelled very nice. Keith bought a “thobe al-nashl” at the market. I don’t know how to say the name but it is a floor-length white shirt that many men here wear. Haitham calls it traditional clothing. Keith also purchased the traditional headdress. It is a red and white scarf and black cords. Not everyone wears traditional clothing here. Many men wear the same clothes I would wear at home. It is a good thing because they didn’t have a thobe in my size!

Keith and Kristin tell me there are markets like this one all over the world. It is nothing like a shopping mall. However, Kristin says there are shopping malls here in Doha that are like Northpark Mall in Davenport.

After the market, Haitham drove us to a place that I was very familiar with: McDonalds. I have noticed on my trips through Doha several restaurants and stores that I see in America. I recognize the signs but they are printed with a series of lines and symbols that I don’t recognize. Kristin and Keith tell me that I am seeing the Arabic translation of the English words. Arabic is the local language. Here you can see the local McDonalds sign.

Here Keith holds me up next to his diet coke and French fries. They both taste just like they do in America. Yummy!

There are many other stores that I see in America including Starbucks, Applebee’s, Chili’s, Burger King, Dunkin’ Donuts, Baskin-Robbins Ice Cream, TCBY, and Hardees. There is even a very large Toys-R-Us store here….but Kristin said we didn’t have time to stop and visit it. :(

Tonight Keith and Kristin are packing their equipment and bags because tomorrow we head to Dubai.

I will check-in with you once I am settled in Dubai. Goodbye for now.

Monday, December 12, 2005

My Visit to a TV Network

Hi again from Doha. Today was very exciting for me. Keith and Kristin took me along as they visited Al Jazeera, the most watched Arab news channel.

Keith and Kristin told me that some people do not like Al Jazeera. But they also told me that as journalists they must be fair when they present a story. So they visited Al Jazeera because it was important to talk with Al Jazeera even if some people don’t like its point of view.

Keith and Kristin were there to talk with the managing director and top editors. They visited the big newsroom gathering sound of people working. The newsroom is where journalists put together newscasts. It is very colorful and has lots of TV screens. The newsroom was very busy today with people rushing around. Keith and Kristin told me there was an important news story happening while we were in the newsroom and that’s why people were in a big rush.

Here you can see me with Kristin near a TV and a machine they call a teleprompter.

The teleprompter is what the news people read when they are on the air. I always wondered how news people could tell the news without looking at a paper. Now I know.

My favorite part of the visit was the tour of the “control room.” This is the room where people direct the newscasters and reporters. This room has many TV sets on one wall and the workers can switch from one screen to another. I think you have to be very smart to work in the control room because all of the TVs and buttons looked very confusing to me.

I am learning that being a journalist is hard work. When Keith and Kristin return to the hotel they must download all of the audio they record to their computer, work on photos and write their stories. They call their stories scripts. Here I am watching Kristin as she works on a script.

One thing I have noticed is that the electrical outlets here in Qatar are not the same as in America. This means Keith and Kristin have to use special connectors to make their equipment work. Here you can see me standing near the outlet Kristin is using to power her computer. You can see all of the connectors she is using are almost as big as me!

Until next time.....

Sunday, December 11, 2005

We Have Arrived in Doha FINALLY!

Hi. I have had quite a long day. Below, in my earlier post from Munich, you will see we were supposed to fly to Athens today and then to Doha.

We never made it to Athens. One of the plane’s engines failed as we were taking off. The plane never made it off the ground so we didn’t know what was wrong until the pilot told us.

Whew…that was a close call. It could have been very bad if the engine failed while we were in the air.

To make a very long story short, Keith and Kristin were able to get us tickets on Emirates Air, an airline based in the United Arab Emirates. See if you can find it on the map.

We had to wait a very long time in Munich for our next flight but I enjoyed watching workers get our plane ready.

This plane flew us to Dubai, a city in the United Arab Emirates. We then moved to another plane and arrived in Doha, Qatar at 2:10AM!

Kristin says most countries must check your passport before they allow you to leave the airport. Keith and Kristin have stamps from all over the world in their passports and now they have what is known as a “visa” stamp in their passports. This allows them to stay in Qatar for up to 21 days. I don’t have a passport but now I know that I must get one for future trips.

Our luggage arrived with no problems. Keith and Kristin’s friend Haitham picked us up at the airport and took us to our hotel. Haitham is a “fixer.” He is a journalist who helps journalists like Keith and Kristin set up appointments in foreign countries. Haitham is very nice.

There is a lot of security at the hotel. I don’t mind...I got to go through the x-ray machine again. I think that is so fun.

I am very tired from traveling and since Doha is 10 hours ahead of Iowa time I can barely keep my eyes open. This means it is the afternoon here while it is the middle of the night in Iowa. Kristin says it will take a few days to adjust completely.

Kristin finally tucked me into bed around 4:00AM.

Goodbye for now!