It has been a crazy week! The kids are home from school for the second week, I've just started taking a university course, I finally got around to choosing business cards and lighting equipment for the studio. My mom is here visiting from the USA. A very good, but crazy week. Needless to say, getting a blog up, moved down the priority pole.
However, I didn't want to pass up the chance to post about our mini vacation at Sir Baniyas Island. We've been there before but this time was different for us. Maybe because the kids are older, maybe because I was excited about the photography as I have better equipment now ;), or even maybe because we were showing the island to my mom... seeing something old through new eyes. It was a wonderful, relaxing few days but even more than that, we actually learned a lot on the trip. The island is founded on the premise of conservation. As shown, the beach at Baniyas is very rocky but the water is a beautiful shade of blue and the Northerly winds coming off the sea help keep the temperature considerably lower than mainland Abu Dhabi. These long man made levees help keep erosion of the island at bay.
The sun rising over the wildlife park... this was a beautiful morning!
The concept of the island is actually pretty spectacular in and of itself! Sheik Zayed the First imagined this island to be a way to "green" Abu Dhabi. He thought that if he planted enough trees and irrigated the island, that they would produce enough moisture in the air to actually turn the climate of the Emirate. The plan was well intended but apparently the mountains were not high enough to capture the moisture. In addition, he brought over Arabian Oryx to help replenish a near extinct population. Today, UAE has the 2nd largest population of Oryx, and the species is no longer on the endangered list world wide, in part thanks to Sheik Zayed. In addition, the island now is home to many species that have been successfully bred back from extinction. http://www.desertislands.com/en/Content/history.aspx
An Arabian Oryx, his white fur makes him quite capable of coping with the intense heat in the Middle East. The guide described the black patches around his eyes as, "nature's sunglasses."
How can you not love a giraffe?
While we were on the island, we took a safari ride through the enclosed animal park, tried archery, and Abby and I got to go on a fantastic horse back tour of the island. Watching my daughter canter down the beach at Sir Baniyas will be a long treasured memory.
Our son, Zachary, is only eight years old, but history and artifacts are more interesting to him than baseball or soccer! He wanted us to go on the tour of the Christian Monastary, uncovered on Sir Baniyas back in the 90s. It has recently opened to the public, and was not opened last time we were there. We went on the tour expecting little but we actually learned a lot!
It was such an interesting afternoon; Zach was in his glory, and the rest of us actually really enjoyed it as well. Our guide, Ted, made it all the more so engaging, as he was clearly well informed and interested in the subject. Check out this article to learn more about the discovery and the historical significance for the region.
Zach found a piece of a clay cup outside on the of the dig sites. I think this was the highlight of his trip!
I think often we forget how tolerant the UAE is compared to other Middle Eastern countries. If I could meet any leader, dead or alive, I honestly think it would be Sheik Zayed. The more I learn about his visions for his country and his hopes of impacting the world in a positive way, I am more and more impressed.
Not only was it a fabulous family retreat, but I had so many amazing photo opportunities being on the island as well. We can certainly add this to our list of "only in Abu Dhabi" adventures!!