Friday, October 21, 2011

Visiting Dubai

I am glad that I joined Dan to "see" Dubai for a few days back in March, but I wouldn't want to live there.  And I don't have any particular need to go back.  It impressed me as a screaming example of what is wrong with the world.

Shortly after my visit, I saw this article - UAE minister reveals that Dubai is amongst the top producers of waste in the world .  I noticed a lot of wasted water to create green grass around highways, A/C cranking with doors open, and what appeared to be a culture based entirely on consumerism.

Dubai is steel and pavement plopped down in the middle of a totally dry, arid desert.  The road noise makes the outdoors unpleasant (as does the heat). 

All the beaches are private (this made me appreciate the fact that the entire shoreline of Tel Aviv is designated public, so the hotels and rich can not prohibit the rest of us). 
There were a few remnants of the traditional culture that we saw, including building design with an open steeple that draws airflow into the building and acts like natural air conditioning.  We could learn from that.

We went up to the observation level of the Burj Khalifa (the building I am standing in front of).  From there I took the photo of the city from the sky.  The air quality was never clear while we were there.

The malls are bigger than the entire town that I spent my childhood in, LaConner.  We walked through to see the indoor ski area (see photo with Dan).  Otherwise it was too much, at least for me, as I do not enjoy shopping in general, and this was definitely shopping on crack.

Dubai is probably the most liberal Muslim place in the middle east.  But even here, practicing Muslim women are usually covered head to toe, sometimes including face masks, and accompanied by a man to go out of the home.  The reason for this, as I understand it, is that men can't control themselves, so women need to hide.  This sounds incredibly disrespectful to both genders.  It doesn't give any credit to either's ability to act as mature adults.  I want to have an open mind, but any culture where the rights of women are less than those of men feels too unjust for me to accept. 

As I said, it was interesting to see once.  I wouldn't have made a separate trip for it though.  There are MANY more interesting and meaningful places in the world.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Ford Motor Co. Day of Caring

Each year thousands of companies have an employee volunteering day.  Ford Motor Company is no exception.  They call it the Ford Global Week of Caring.   

Two weeks ago we went out to a small reserve (although typical in size around here) to help mark the trails.  We worked with a guy from the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.  He has a PhD in marine biology, and is responsible for a large area of coastline just north of Tel Aviv. 

There is a line in the dirt in the picture to the right that is hard to see, but he told us it was a turtle track across the trail.  There are also fox prints, so this may have been the turtle's last trek.  

I'm always amazed by how much life can exist in dry climates with limited vegetation. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

And the Movement Spreads

When I said Americans should take a page out of the Israeli book with civil disobedience protests, I didn't know it was coming so soon.  It is clearly in it's infancy, but over the coming weeks we will see if Americans can accomplish what the citizens in other countries around the world have had varying degrees of success with - fundamental change in their government and it's priorities.

Today is the first I have heard of these protests, although they have been going on for over two weeks already.  This article talks a little about the lack of media focus on this growing movement.

It will be interesting to see where Occupy Wall Street goes....

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Northern Israel

We've made it up north a few times in the past year.  It's only 1-2 hours driving, but there's a mental divide.  It has usually required visitors from abroad to make the trek. 

We had just such an excuse in early September.  We drove north and saw the Roman aqueduct ruins by Casarea, had a snack at a favorite winery visitor's center, and spent the night in Nahariya, the northern most city in Israel.  We enjoyed a delicious seafood tasting menu dinner at the port of Akko, an arabic town inside a 2500 year old fortified port.  The top right photo is of the port as we walked around before dinner.  The middle photo is a mosque inside the fortress walls.

The next morning we visited Rosh HaNikra, caves in the cliffs at the border of Israel and Lebanon.  I was here with Dan in 2006, but we didn't do the cable car and cave tour then.  In the afternoon we drove inland and took our friends ATV'ing in the Golan mountains.  Then we drove home to refresh, before dinner and our friends' flight back to Detroit.  It was a whirlwind 5 day visit!

Although the climate is obviously quite different, and I am not sure I could ever love living in a semi-arid climate the way I love the temperate rainforest at home in the Pacific Northwest, it is a wonderful place to visit and see.  We have only made it out camping once so far.

It was back in June.  We joined local friends at the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) for our first overnight camping experience in Israel.  The lake is the lowest fresh water lake in the world, and that means the air temperature is HOT!  It was almost unbearable, even in the shade.  We slept outdoors under a canopy which turned out to be better than those with tents because the slight breeze kept it comfortable for the night.  Unfortunately the campground was packed with families, in close proximity, so it felt more like an outside city park sleepover than camping.  But we had a great time and felt a bit more like locals ourselves.