Tuesday, April 23, 2019

GSH 2019 – All Around Abu Dhabi

We had essentially 12 hours to scramble around Abu Dhabi and see as much as we could.  Sadly, the new Louvre museum was closed on the ONLY day we were in town, so we did not get to see that attraction. But we still got a ton done in a short period of time.

Falcon Hospital:  What??? A hospital just for falcons?  Yup.  Falcon raising and competing is such a big deal in the Middle East that there is a dedicated hospital just for them.  

Remember, these birds cost more than a car. People pay as much as half a million dollars for a well-bred falcon.  So they are treated like kings.  The falcons travel to competitions overseas sitting in their very own first-class airplane seat next to their handler. They even get their own airplane food menu with chooses of different “fresh kill” meat options.  

And, several times a year, every falcon comes to the hospital for check-ups and blood work and vaccinations.  Plus, the hospital has an ICU and surgery suites and X-ray machines to treat any accident or mishap. 

Compared to the Yangon General Hospital that we saw last week (which is clearly a misnomer as “Yangon General Hospice” would be a far better title since I don’t think anyone escapes alive from that fermenting black hole of germs), the Falcon Hospital is 800+ years more technologically advanced. Shiny clean, the latest and greatest machinery and medicine … if I ever get sick in Abu Dhabi, I’d head there first. 

The falcons are kept “hooded” while at the hospital so they remain calm. Seemed like a good idea since these birds are bred specifically to attack creatures and rip out their eyeballs. 

The hospital keeps drawers of feathers because, if a falcon artificially loses even a single feather, its aerodynamics can be off.  To be truly competitive, the falcon must be in perfect flying shape. So, the doctors at the hospital glue on a replacement feather … of the same kind and shape ... using craft glue.

This naught bird likes to peck at his foot bandages, which earned him a beak muzzle.

Grand Mosque:  Bright, pristine white marble against the blue, blue sky, the Grand Mosque is incredible.  

The decoration is done in the style of the Taj Mahal: semi-precious gems inlaid into the marble to create intricate patterns and flowers.

A gold egg, but no golden goose in sight: Ever wondered where you could go to take a photo of yourself next to a giant Golden Egg?  Well, I’ve solved that mystery…. It’s the Presidential Palace in Abu Dhabi.  The Palace is a massive structure with WAAAYYY more gold and adornment than necessary. 

Heavy Metal Poisoning: Gross display of wealth, anyone?  Go to the coffee lounge at the Emirates Palace and drink a $65 cappuccino that is topped with pure gold dust. Decadence, at its best.

Chat with locals: The scavenge was to talk with some locals and ask them a series of questions.  But there are no “locals” to be found.  After accosting probably 11 people - all of whom were immigrants and NOT born or raised in Abu Dhabi - I was about to give up.  Then, when we were in the cultural center doing a different scavenge, we saw that there were art classes at the center and that day’s lecture was just getting out. I pounced.  Sure enough, we found some millennials - who were actually locals – coming out.  The girls chatted and chatted with me: about dating and arranged marriages (these girls swore that they now get to choose their husband but, if they chose poorly, their father can veto the marriage. So some progress although not great advancement); how old where they when they started wearing the abaya or full black gown (when they had their first period); whether they like or dislike the influence of westerners on their country (they love American movies so the immigration of western entertainment got two thumbs up). The girls were beautiful and gentle and sweet ... good ambassadors for their country.

Dubai: There was a bonus to take the bus over to Dubai and see / do some stuff over there.  We chose to go because I have a close friend who lives in Dubai. I’ve known Sonia since I was 12: we went to boarding school in England together.  Sonia invited us to her home for dinner and we got to catch up a little (although in a very rushed way, as Rainey and I had to get back to Abu Dhabi for check-in).  Also  got to visit with her mom and sister and meet her boyfriend.  So interesting to see and hear about what real life is like as an ex-pat in Abu Dhabi.

Persian Gulf: Last scavenge of the day… and right before check-in … for a few last minute points… a quick dip in the Persian Gulf for Rainey.

We have just arrived in our next destination: Amman, Jordan.  I suspect that going to Petra will be one of the must-do scavenges.  Can’t wait.

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