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A Yellow Boat Tour in Dubai

For a moment or two, as the boat sped up, I wondered if this had been a bad idea. The rigid, yellow, inflatable hull plowed through the water, throwing up spray on either side. The slightest wave and the bow would rise up alarmingly, only to fall again with a spine-jolting bang. (Disclosure: I paid…

Al Ayn UNESCO site: A day trip from Dubai

“We go to camel market?” Nishad asked, glancing over at me. I had, contrary to custom in Dubai, chosen to sit in the front seat of the taxi, explaining that I could see the scenery better from there. “No, thank you.” “Souk?” “No, not that either.” I had hired Nishad as a driver for the…

One Day in Dubai: Things to do!

Dubai is a land of superlatives: biggest, tallest, first. I would also add: oddest. Dubai is often compared to Las Vegas, and I agree: its sheer brashness and artificiality are very like Las Vegas. Like Vegas, it’s a big, shiny city plunked down in a desert. And although there aren’t any casinos – at least…

The Dubai Frame, in this picture, looks like it's just behind the palm trees, and only two or three stories high!

A visit to the Dubai Frame

The Dubai Frame was not what I expected. In the flurry of publicity when it opened recently, the media showed just what its name promised: a picture frame. That’s what I thought it was: a large picture frame, outsized, like everything in Dubai. It was two or three stories tall, I figured, perfect for taking…

Hacı Bayram mosque in Ankara, Turkey. The small section under the minaret is the mausoleum, and looks older than the rest. One Day in Ankara, Turkey.

One day in Ankara, Turkey

The last time I tried to visit Turkey was more than 30 years ago, and my attempt failed. I’ll tell that story at the end of this post. I will tell you, though, that I finally managed to get there recently when I flew to Ankara to lead a workshop. I tacked on one extra…

The first part of our meal: hummus in the center, freshly-baked pita behind it, and those balls in the front are some sort of slightly sweet fried dough.

Impressions of Kuwait City souk

As two colleagues and I sat down at a restaurant in Kuwait City in the evening, looking forward to a relaxed meal, a man at the next table spoke to us. A small man with uneven teeth and a thick mustache, he wore a traditional robe called a dishdasha and a headdress. He started with…

The remains of a doorway with a view at Belvoir Fortress in Israel.

Defense (with a view) at Belvoir Fortress

The Crusaders, arriving in what is now Israel back in the 12th century, didn’t waste any time staking their claim. Their effort to dominate and control the “holy land” for Christianity was bloody and misguided and, in many ways, shameful. Yet it has left us some fascinating historical structures to study and enjoy. I’ve already…

The Torah ark at Um el Kanatir shows detailed carvings.

Um el Kanatir: ancient synagogue in the Golan Heights

When I write about off-the-beaten-path sights, I don’t necessarily mean that they’re hard to get to. I went to Um el Kanatir in the Golan Heights on the advice of Sara Zafrir, owner of Genghis Khan in the Golan, who insisted it was worth the effort. (Disclosure: I received two free nights in Sara’s hostel in…

Our first glimpse of the A380 in Dubai Miracle Garden.

Dubai Miracle Garden: Absurdity in the desert

The taxi ride promised little excitement. It was mid-afternoon and the traffic flowed smoothly past the shiny tall buildings. Impossibly green grass and brilliant pink flowers edged the wide highway, and beyond that we saw sandy vacant lots, parked cars, huge billboards advertising the next luxury development or flashy car, construction sites spiked with tall cranes….