My Visit To Dubai’s Jumeirah Mosque

Located in the concrete filled coastal residential area of Jumeriah, the mosque’s elegant ornamentation and greenery makes it stick out.

Dubai is filled with mosques.  Nevertheless, all but one of Dubai’s many mosques are closed to non-Muslims.  The beautiful Jumeirah Mosque isn’t just open to non-Muslims, the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding gives free tours of it.   After a nice visit to the Centre the previous day (highly recommended), I had to do it.

Muslims wash before praying so in Dubai you see wash stations outside mosques.  You also see bidets in bathrooms (and even hoses next to toilets) to make washing feet easier.  It makes sense to clean before entering a mosque as Muslims touch their heads and hands to the ground while praying.

Shoe’s aren’t allowed inside mosques.  I left my shoes at the door.  Although the cat in the background kept trying to sneak into the air-conditioning, cats aren’t allowed inside mosques either.

Even though it was 48 degrees Celsius (118.8 fahrenheit), I covered up as required.  I had the lady tie up my headscarf for me and swear it instantly made me feel another five degrees hotter.  You don’t realize how cooling a breeze on your neck is until its covered.  I have to admit, I wasn’t disappointed when it loosened.  As I didn’t know how to do it properly myself, this is how it ended up.

The mosque was pretty.  After seeing so many churches in the same style on our European travels, the different style and layout was refreshing to the eye.

I visited Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding the previous day, learned a bit and enjoyed the dialogue.  The “tour” was a little different.  It was more like a session aimed at educating people about the basics of the religion and dispelling common myths (all in 45 minutes).  Although the ladies who conducted the session did a good job and injected a good amount of humor into it, I didn’t enjoy it as much as lunch at the Sheik Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding.

The clock showing the times to pray that day. Muslims pray five times a day: before sunrise (where the prayer reminds people that prayer is better than sleep), noon, in the afternoon when your shadow is approximately equal to your height, just after sunset, and in the evening.

I did learn a bit (which I’m assuming is the official line) about the Emirate’s approach to Islam.  Officially, it supports a moderate interpretation of Islam.  I imagine it would be difficult to remain a global center for business if it appeared did otherwise.  Examples they mentioned in support include:

  • not rejecting the validity of other faiths when they are “of the book”
  • not forcing women to wear coverings outside of church, both women cited the practicality of wearing such garments in Dubai but said they don’t wear them in other places  (one lady said the robe would soak up all of London’s rain)
  • most Emiratis don’t have more than one wife (divorce is permitted)
  • the government distributes guidelines for religious sermons, and
  • texts of sermons are submitted for approval

Advertisements

Buon Appetito! Eating Our Way Through Milan

Although we saw some cool stuff in Milan, one of the main reasons to go to Italy is for the food and drink.  They are an attraction in and of themselves and did not disappoint.

We had at least two cappuccino for breakfast every day.  Italians only order cappuchinos until 10:00.  Although italians only drink cappuccino until 10:00 a.m., they pop in for expressos all day long.  If you run into a friend in the street, it is customary to pop into a café for a quick espresso at the bar while you catch up.  Ten minutes later, you’re back on your way.  Perfect for caffeine addicts like us who don’t always like to linger at a table.

Before dinner, Italian tradition is to have an aperitivo.  It is a pre-meal drink meant to stimulate appetite, but seems to be an excuse to go out for a drink, relax and chat with friends.   When in Rome, or Milan…

I loved the Antipasti, the appetizer course, because I usually hadn’t gorged myself yet so I could eat while I was actually hungry.  The food was so good that I did a good amount of eating when I wasn’t actually hungry.  It was so tasty that I just had to eat it.   Who knows when I’d have another chance to taste something like that?

One of his favorites was a cheese plate that included burrata, a fresh artisanal cheese made from mozzarella and cream.  Although people eat cheeses that are older than some of our nieces and nephews, you are supposed to eat burrata within 24 hours after it is made.  Ours came on a plate with fresh buffalo mozzarella and ricotta.  De-lish-us!

In Italy, pasta is usually the next course, known as Primo Patti.  Although they sometimes serve soup, rice,  polenta, etc., it’s usually a rich pasta dish.  Carbalicious.

Secondo, the main course, usually consists of chicken, meat, or fish.  With so many courses, thankfully the portions aren’t too large.  Most Italians don’t eat an antipastoprimosecondo and dolce at every meal, but the selections are always on the menu.  Just because we pigged out doesn’t mean you are required to.

The dolce (Italian for sweet), dessert, ends the meal.  People often order an espresso to help digestion and to finish off a meal.  Plus it gives them more time to sit and talk over food and drink.

Sorry, we couldn’t wait to take a picture before taking a bite out of our daily gelato.  We weren’t the only ones who liked gelato, just check out this cute little guy.  He was going to town on his gelato.  Notice how he is inside the restaurant.

Remember, friends don’t let friends serve each other packaged food.  Viva l’Italia.

Milan’s Duomo-mo-mo

From the square, the Duomo, Milan’s cathedral, is stunningly beautiful.   It looks fresh and cool in the heat of the day.  In the afternoon, it radiates with the warm late afternoon, early evening light.  At night, it glows.

It took centuries to build and spent most of its life as a construction zone.  Started in 1386, the building continued until 1810.  They added the final touches in 1965.  Renovations began shortly thereafter.  Go figure.  As a result, the inside is a mish-mash of architectural styles and materials. It is huge (housing over 40,000 only the Vatican’s, London’s and Seville’s are larger).   With 52 hundred-foot pillars, over 2000 statues (just inside) and countless enormous paintings, you didn’t know where to look.  It was a bit overwhelming and the huge mix of styles made it hard to process.

It contains everything, including the kitchen sink.  It’s so big, there has to be one in there somewhere.  Some of the more interesting items include:

  • The body of Saint Carl Borromeo in a glass casket in the crypt.
  • Rappers aren’t the only men who like to wear a lot of bling.  Apparently, priests and/or cardinals do as well.

  • On a similar note, kings aren’t the only ones who like to wear crowns.
  • That little red dot to the right above the altar is where they keep a nail reputed to be the one that nailed Christ’s right hand.

  • This guy was a little creepy.  Check out the hand.
  • Although the ceiling (second photo above) looks carved, it is actually a much more budget-friendly trompe l’oeil paint effect.  Top that Trading Spaces.

  • Even the marble floor is interesting.  We learned that black marble is harder than other marbles.  As a result, the different colors in the floor have worn unevenly.  Amazingly, you can feel it when you walk!

  • My favorite thing inside was the 16th century statue carved by a student of Leonardo da Vinci.  It depicts Saint Bartolommeo, a Christian martyr who was skinned alive by the Romans.  It is grotesque, but is an amazing depiction of human anatomy and a powerful sculpture in its own right.    Ironically, the knowledge of human anatomy needed to sculpt this was only available from dissection, something prohibited by the Catholic church at the time of sculpting.

A Sherlockian’s Pilgrimage To Meiringen

Of course they have “The Death of Sherlock Holmes” by Sidney Paget prominently displayed.

Traces of Sherlock Holmes are all over Meiringen.  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle visited the town and nearby Reichenbach Falls.  He had grown tired of writing the stories and was so impressed by the falls that he though they were an ideal setting to kill off his hero.  Meiringen even has a Sherlock Holmes trail in the center.   Even if you don’t do the trail, signs of Sherlock are everywhere.

It would have been so much cooler if I had a deerstalker on instead of a Detroit Tigers baseball cap.

Hotel Adler…get it? Irene Adler. “To Sherlock Homes she is always the woman”

The Sherlock Holmes Museum opened in 1991 on the 100th anniversary of Sherlock Holmes death in the old English church with the support of  the Sherlock Holmes Society of London.  It has objects here related to the history of Doyle and Holmes as well as a “recreation” the parlor of 221b Baker Street.  Okay, okay, I know that Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson were never alive, so it’s not really their things in the museum.  It contains items that belonged to similar people of the period (the nineteenth and early twentieth century).

In addition to Watson’s rugby gear, they have a walking stick of the type used for walking mountains at the end of the 19th century, Holmes’ hats, a statue of Sherlock, and a view of the falls.  One thing I learned from this case was that Scotland Yard uses an IT system called HOLMES.  It’s an acronym for “Home Office Large Major Enquiry System.”  Clever.

 In addition to the usual memorabilia, this case has a copy of The Times from 1910 with a story about the Swiss Federal Railways banning the sale of “novels of the detective type” in their station bookstalls.  It notes that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle stated “there was nothing in his detective stories to shock anybody and he was in no way responsible for the bad literature and worse morals of the stories that have inundated the continent.”  That’s why I love to read him.

The “recreation” of 221b Baker Street.  Items specifically included because of their mention in a story include: a violin, the picture of Henry Ward Beecher, the Persian slipper where Holmes kept his tobacco, the slightly bent poker, and the bearskin hearth-rug.  “It is, of course, a trifle, but there is nothing so important as trifles.”   

I would have bought the deerstalker hat in the gift shop if it hadn’t been so expensive (note to him, now you know what to get me for my birthday)  They had some pretty cool stuff.  I purchased a book of some of the best Sherlock Holmes stories.  The cool parts are one page is in English, the opposite page is in German.  The employee who sold it to me stamped it with a stamp from the museum.   “Excellent!”  I cried. “Elementary,” said he.

Fresh Seaside Air Inland Thanks To Saline Towers

While in Bad Kreuznach, Germany we saw giant structures on the side of the road.  They were 9 meters (27 feet) high and looked almost like walls.  We wondered whether they were for flooding, remnants of ramparts or used for something else.  It turns out that they are Saline graduation towers, structures used to produce salt by removing water from Saline solution via evaporation.

The towers are made from a wooden wall-like frame stuffed with bundles of brushwood (typically blackthorn).   The Nahe valley has many salt springs. Salt water from them runs down the tower and partly evaporates, leaving minerals behind on the twigs.  The water in the bottom has a higher salt content (as a result of the evaporation).

We’d never seen these before, but apparently they are in spa towns in  Germany, Poland and Austria. Our friends told us that the air around them is beneficial and people with lung problems flock to them like they do to the seaside.  The salt water (for both inhalation and bathing) remains a remedy  for rheumatic diseases, asthma and skin conditions.

Of course, we had to check them out.  We hiked through the Salinental valley from Bad Kreuznach to Bad Münster to see them.  They were pretty sweet.  You almost got a high from breathing in the air.  It had a salty, tangy, fresh smell, kind of like the ocean without any fishy odors.  The area around the towers felt cool and it was very refreshing.

The Kurpark gardens are billed as Europe’s largest open-air inhalatorium, they offer private salt rooms and spas on site. saline nebulizer, the thermal baths and a number of rehabilitation clinics.  Saline nebulizers  spray a fine salt mist into the surrounding area.  The saltwater droplets are then breathed deep into the bronchial tubes.

You have been able to get radon therapy for rheumatism and inflammations for over 100 years. Bad Kreuznach pioneered radon therapy in an underground quicksilver chamber. Patients sit in an underground room, inhaling radon gas. I was surprised to see it because we had to do a radon test in our basement when I was a kid.

We walked along the water to adjacent Bad Munster.  Although there isn’t a ton besides campers and more spas in Bad Munster, it was beautiful.  It was so beautiful that Turner even painted it.  In 1844 while exploring the smaller valleys of the Rhine, he painted the castle of Ebernburg from the Valley of the Alsenz (click here to see the painting or go see it at the Tate in London).

Top Ten Reasons Why We Aren’t Going To The Olympics

Citizens can compete as athletes for the Unite...

We like to watch the Olympics.  When my sister and I were kids, we used to pretend to be Mary Lou Retton.  She (my sister, not Mary Lou) asked me if we were going to the Olympics and was surprised when I told her we weren’t.  Here’s why:

1. Crowds.  I hate them.  I can’t see anything.  Being short, my face is usually in someone’s armpit.  If someone is going to be trampled, it will probably be me.  The more personal space I have, the better.  Plus, London is such a great city that I want to experience it.  I don’t want to spend it waiting in line.

Olympic Games Message

Olympic Games Message (Photo credit: chooyutshing)

2. The marketing.  Brands pay tens of millions of dollars to be associated with the Olympics and use its values to burnish their own.  While not a reason to avoid the games, it isn’t exactly a selling point for me.  I guess I can’t blame them though.  Ask Greece if they would have liked to have had more corporate money?

3. I’m turned off by news stories about the greed that surrounds it.  For example, landlords are evicting tenants in east London from their homes in trying to cash in on the Olympics.

4. HDTV.

5. The prices.  London isn’t cheap.  When they jack up their prices higher than Swiss prices…

Cropped transparent version of Image:Olympic f...

Cropped transparent version of Image:Olympic flag.svg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

6. Tickets aren’t easy to get, especially for some of the sports that I’d really want to see.  Heck, you have to buy a ticket just to visit the Olympic Park.  We didn’t apply in the initial balloting process so we would have to get lucky to get some at the general sale.  If we had to resort to other means to get tickets, I would probably gasp at the prices.  Just yesterday, Volodymyr Gerashchenko, the general secretary of the Ukrainian National Olympic Committee, resigned after being filmed offering tickets for sale.  It’s a crime to sell Olympic tickets on the black market.

7. He works… a lot.  He probably couldn’t take the time off.

8. There are so many other wonderful places to visit.  It’s not as though we won’t have anything else cool to do.

9. The London games and their “legacy” has been so hyped that it seems impossible to live up to it.

Marion Jones - September 30th, 2000 at the 200...

10. Doping.  My disappointment was enormous after I learned of Marion Jones‘ steroid use.  I don’t know how the games can stay one step ahead.  Wondering whether the person who is killing it and ends up on the medal stand will later test positive takes some of the excitement out of it.

We’ll be heading back to London…after the Olympics.  We love the city and there’s still tons more to see and do.

Saluhall

We like to eat and who doesn’t love drooling over food while on vacation.  As a result, we’ve been to some famous food halls (London’s Harrod’s, Boston’s Faneuil Hall, New York’s Fulton Fish Market, Madrid’s Mercado de San Miguel).   Saluhallen, is a historic indoor food market in the heart of Stockholm’s old Ostermalm neighborhood.  Saluhall has around 17 small businesses, most have been run by the same family for generations. Here are some of the things we liked about it:

  • It is located in a magnificent building that dates from 1888.   The exterior is neo-gothic.  It looks a bit like a medieval castle and it’s iron framework give allow it the inside to have a high ceiling and enormous windows.
  • The stallholders are very nice and happy to share their extensive knowledge and experience.  They are a wealth of information about the food, how to cook it, etc.

  • The incredible displays of wonderful food are a treat for the eyes.
  • It is a market for locals.  They seem to want both nice quality Swedish food and more exotic foods from other countries.  Therefore, it has a nice variety of foods.

  • It is a great place to grab a wonderful, but reasonably priced bite.
  • Great people watching.
  • Something about it seems to put people in a good mood.  It has a warm, cheery atmosphere.  Maybe it’s the moose heads…

Don’t take our word for it, Bon Appétit Magazine named it the world’s seventh best food market.

We stopped there for coffee and smoked salmon smørrobrød (an open face sandwich).  I would probably have chosen something less smelly if I had known that I would be speaking with royalty.   Never mind, it was so good that I stand by my choice.

Geneva (And Europe’s) Cold Weather

It is the middle of winter so I wasn’t expecting warm weather in Geneva, but I wasn’t really expecting this either.  Europe is experiencing extremely cold temperatures.  The weather forecast: more severe cold.  The bitterly cold weather will continue  through the weekend thanks to a dip in the jet stream that has allowed a large area of high pressure to move west from Siberia.

freezing in Geneva

Cold weather gear, check.  Hats, scarves, sweaters, coats, gloves, mittens, long underwear, wool socks, boots, I have been wearing it all.  At once.  While drinking hot tea.  Sitting underneath a blanket.  With the radiators blasting.

The Jet d’Eau is off until further notice for obvious reasons

This weekend,  it was -12 C (10.4 F) when we got on the chair lift to head to the much colder mountaintop.  While the chair lift wasn’t warm, we are lucky because the cold snap hasn’t created major problems for us.  Others have not been so fortunate:

  • Occupy Geneva has been disbanded, not because the government is broke it up, but because someone froze to death.

A Death In The Stronghold Of Occupy Geneva

An Eccentric Distantly Related to Occupy Geneva Dead At The Camp

Courtesy of World Bulletin.net

  • In Hungary, people combed through a disused mine’s refuse pile with their bare hands to get coal.

Courtesy of MSNBC/AP

Courtesy AFP/Getty Images

There have also been some more (and some less) humorous stories about people’s experiences with the cold.

  • Our friend from Poland told us that they are leaving their cars running overnight because temperatures are so cold that they won’t start.
  • Bosnian snowboarders took advantage of a record snowfall and snowboarded down the streets of Sarajevo. People also snowboarded next to the Colosseum.

  • When I opened the paper yesterday, I saw a story about someone who went swimming in Lac Leman (Lake Geneva)!

courtesy of You Tube

  • In Belgium, temperatures of -10 C kept intoxilyzers, machines to test motorists’ alcohol levels, from functioning.

    courtesy of BBC and AFP

  • Cars parked by Lac Leman (Lake Geneva) have frozen in place.  They are stuck because scraping ice off can take the paint with it.  Today, someone told me a story about this happening to an expensive sports car.  The owner elicited professional help to melt the ice so he could get his baby to a garage.

 

Top 10 Posts

I’ve had a lot of fun doing this blog and am surprised by how many people have checked in to see what we are up to.  Thanks.  Here are links to my top 10 most popular posts thus far:

1.     Fabulous Fabian Cancellara
2.     Proof That I Will Write About Absolutely 
        Anything
3.     Fall Fashion Trends
4.     I Love Rick Steves
5.     Expat 101 Lesson Six – How To Exit A 
        Parking Lot
6.     Driving In Switzerland
7.     Naughty Naughty, I Got A Speeding 
        Ticket
8.     B.Y.O.K. – Bring Your Own Kitchen
9.     Belgian Trappist Beers
10.   A Glorious Hike In The Shadow Of The 
        Eiger  

Here are a few of my favorites that didn’t make the above list:

He wants to be my top all time post.  Unfortunately, he cannot seem to top Fabian Cancellara and toilet paper.  I love him and he’s still tops in my book.

Curbs Scare Me

In the US, we like everything big, including our traffic lanes. The narrow lanes here are one of my biggest worries with driving in Switzerland and the rest of Europe. In the US, curbs are made of poured concrete. 

The edge of the road there looks kind of like this.  Here, they are tire poppers. They are made of individual pieces of stone (granite?) that are a few feet long.  
Buy Lot/Land Milltown,8744780,Dancer Street,Milltown,Wisconsin,USANo matter how narrow the road, do not touch them with your tires!