Monday, May 20, 2019

May 17, 18, 19, 20,  2019,   Sea Days,               126/127/128/129 /183

Regular day in most ways with coffee in the Horizon lounge at 6:30 for a view of the sea, golf and shuffle board at 9:00 AM. table tennis at 10:00, lecture at 11:00 , elliptical for 40 minutes, three sets on the machines, lunch, lecture at 2:00 PM, 'crazy golf', Bean-o bags, trivia at 4:30, Mensa at 5:00, rush up to get changed for happy hour, 5:30, (gin/tonic), specialty dining at 6:30, with a concert at 9:30 PM to cap the day.

Irregular stuff includes cruising in the Gulf of Eden, along the Yemen coast, knowing that pirates are possibly operating in the area.  Excellent having navy seals, younger retired guys, visible around the ship with their communication devices in hand.

Scott (retired FBI), one of the Around the World passengers, was telling me that burned out army tanks are present on the Yemenis coast.  This country has been in various states of war for 100 years.


We passed through the 15 mile wide Bad-al-Manadab Strait mid-morning, exiting the Gulf of Eden, then entering the Red Sea.  On our starboard side was Yemen, Djibouti on our port side.  Djibouti has a population of 950,000, is small - 9,500 sq. miles, about the same size as New Jersey and is sandwiched between Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea.   As we progress up the 1,400 mile (2,240 km) Red Sea, Saudi Arabia will be on our starboard after Yemen, with Sudan, then Egypt on our port side.  We pass close to Mecca, but do not visit.  Everyone is experiencing various degrees of relief as we leave the dangerous areas in our wake!

Oceania had a nice putting green setup on the 11th deck. I shot 3 hole-in ones today, about 18', 12' and 22'.  Merrilynne shot 3-par 2s.  Not bad, considering the ship movement.

May 19:

Today, Merrilynne shot 2 holes-in-one, 18', 12',  while I was relegated to 3 par 2s.  Happily, we share the Big 'O'' points that she earned as she kicked me to the curb!

One more sea day as our course takes us to Aqaba, located on the Northern tip of the Gulf of Aqaba, in Jordon. Plan to visit Petra and Wadi Rum.  I know, I was thinking - Rum in Jordan, but it is actually a spectacularly scenic area along the lines of the vistas in Utah and Arizona.

Eritrean islands, just off  West coast - sun behind camera.

Yemen islands close to  East coast  - shot into the sun.

May 19:    Another bang up buffet today, for Sunday brunch

Marvin on the right, our favourite host, with team mates.  Marvin is a Honduran, and you will be interested to hear his take on the refugee caravans that came out of his country just before the 2016 mid-terms.  

Adam Tanner presents another informative lecture, this time on the Suez Canal.  I have used some of his pictures here.

Canals through the area where the current Suez canal is located have been contemplated and even built for about 6,000 years, as ancient records document.  Persian King, Darius 1, engineered and built a functioning canal in 500 BC. Connecting the Nile to the Red Sea, it was operational during flood periods.  Around 250 BC, Ptolemy II rebuilt the Darius canal, primarily to transport battle elephants to Egypt for warfare.  Cleopatra is rumoured to have used here barge on it.

A direct canal connection between the Red Sea and Mediterranean was resisted because it was felt that the Red Sea level was much higher than the Mediterranean.   If in fact true, a catastrophe would have ensued.  Napoleon refrained from exploring a canal for the same reason, during his conquest of Egypt in 1798.  Turns out, of course, that the only issue is tidal differential.

French engineer Ferdinand de Lesseps promoted and was successful in getting international funding for the Suez project and construction commenced in 1859.  Egypt owned 44% of the project and supplied forced labour.  By 1863, dredges were introduced to the project after major human suffering and worker deaths.  First shipping occurred in 1869, with transit times to Europe being reduced from years to weeks for many routes.

Egypt's ownership in the project was short lived, as a bankrupt president sold their 44% share for 4 million pounds to the British in 1874.  Egypt became a British protectorate in 1914.

Significant unrest occurred over Britain's operation and ownership of the canal, so Britain withdrew its troops and administration in 1955, while retaining ownership of the canal. After a British refusal to fund the first Aswan Dam, in 1956, Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal. Britain, France and Israel responded by starting the 1956 war, without consulting with most nations, including the USA.  Ike was very upset as well as many other country leaders, so the aggressors left the canal zone to UN peace keepers.  Closure of the canal continued for 7 years.

Much of the canal has been twinned.  Global warming may seriously impact canal traffic as the Arctic Ocean becomes more navigable!

May 20, 2019       Sea Day       -     Explosion which injured 16 in Egypt yesterday has Merrilynne and I reconsidering our excursion to Luxor.  Having visited Egypt a few years ago on a 18 day tour, maybe best to forgo this time?  Decision time tomorrow.

Canal routes built as early as 1800s BS

Example of shipping distance reduction using the Suez.

Oil shipment dominated tonnage through the canal, even as far back as 1935.  2019 will see shipments totalling1 billions tons.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

May 16, 2019,        Salalah,  Oman.            125/183                                                                     -

We took the 'Highlites of Salalah' excursion today for a 200 km drive along a well developed countryside interspersed with groves of palm, banana and various other fruit crop trees.  Much of the landscape is desolate but three months of summer rainfall regularly replenishes ground water levels. which supports significant vegetation growth.

One stop was the archaeological remains of the ancient city of Sumhuram.  Pre-dating Islam, it thrived between 400 BC and 500 AD, at the center of a flourishing frankincense trading route.  Back in those days, this area was lush and very productive, but global warming has had its impact.
(I just had to say that!)

Building heights are restricted to 3 floors for residents and 10 floors for commercial, consequently no cranes dotted the skyline.  True to form, however, new construction is present everywhere, so the  development pattern is not broken.  Omani homes are massive, likely 12,000 sq. ft. on average.  Can't help but wonder if they house several wives, as allowed by the Muslim faith.

300,000 camels occupy Oman and it is obvious as they are everywhere.  Drivers have to be careful with them wandering the highways too.  Camels are used for milk, meat and camel racing, yes, racing! Up to 1971, they were the main mode of transportation.

Our tour guide has an engineering degree from Germany and a masters degree from Scotland.

I will let the photos do the talking.

Camels running wild

Large newer homes everywhere

Sultan's castle

Islamic Headstones, some dating back centuries

Sumhuram, walled city dating back to 400 BC

Another random huge house

Year around waterfall in the background

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

May 13, 2019,    Dubai, UAE and Potential Pirate Boarding.                  122/183.                                                                 
(May 14 & 15.    Sea days)

Dubai is an ultra modern city with excellent infrastructure.  Beautiful buildings abound.  Construction has started on a 1,000 meter tower (3,280') for another world record height, but Saudi Arabia is planning an even taller tower.  Crazy!

200 different nationalities work in Dubai, which surpasses Canada's ethnic diversity.  Religious freedom is a given, for all denominations.

Dubai will exhaust its oil supply within 5 or 6 years, so reshaping the economy is a high priority.  Tourism, real estate and financial services make up most of its economy with oil contributing only 2% to their GNP.  This place is very westernized: bikinis are allowed, alcohol is served, night clubs are common, shopping is as varied as you wish and English is spoken everywhere.  With tourism being their main economic engine, very attractive pricing exists for 'all inclusive' accommodations at many hotels.  I was surprised to hear a couple stayed at the Four Seasons for less than $300.00 per night, including transfers, three meals a day and cocktails!

Oceania confirmed that US Navy Seals are on board to defend our ship against pirate boardings. We had observed muscular young men about the ship for a couple days, wearing special ear pieces, so were not surprised by the comments.  A zodiac met us in mid-ocean one morning, at 6:00 AM, to deliver several heavy wooden crates.  Any guesses what was inside----- probably not blue berries?

Interesting was the sound of a loud explosion, heard by many, as we approached Fujairah on May 12.  Coincidentally, the four tankers were sabotaged that same morning in the Gulf of Oman, close to our destination of Fujairah.  Finally, later that day, a Black Hawk helicopter did a fly by to cap off the mystique.  Cannot make this stuff up!

Their winter temperatures range from lows of 65 to highs of 85 F.

We will be visiting Dubai again.

View of downtown Dubai from our balcony: World's tallest building, Burj Khalifi, at 828 meters and the old  QE 2, now converted to a floating hotel. (In service 1969 to 2008)

Various shots of city skyline.

Burj Al Arab Jumeiral Hotel, regarded as the world's best hotel.  $7,000 to $20,000 per night.

Beach beside the Burj Al Arab Hotel

Dubai Frame, located in the Zabeel Park.  This is the largest 'Frame" in the world, measuring 500' .

Rashid Al Maktoum's yacht. He is the ruler of the Emirate of Dubai.

Example of Dubai development.  

Random shots of area.

Air conditioned bus stop shelter!

Art Museum

Transit station

Typical mosque

Typical housing.


Structures in Old Dubai, predating 1971

Old Dubai

Gold market, 500 stores

Elaborate 22 carat gold jewellery.  For fun, I priced one large piece and the gold used was worth about 75% of the necklace selling price.  Very good value!

Street art is common in Dubai

Paintings on a highway retaining wall.

More retaining wall art.  Beautiful workmanship!

Pictures of  Dubai Creek area.

Bedouin residence, part of Dubai Museum

Scary looking dude and who knows if the lady is pretty, or even a lady?

Boat ride on Dubai Creek.

Replica of centuries old boat


Incognito,  what if she isn't his woman?  How do you really know, until it is too late?

Wonder where "Ahab the Arab" is?

Baobab Tree, a drought resistance species.

Good bye, Dubai!    Sail away, while dining on the rear deck!