Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Yes, Virginia . . .They Celebrate the Season

We’ve been walkin’ in a winter wonderland and rockin’ around the Christmas tree since setting out on our Middle East and India adventure nearly two weeks ago.  And that is certainly not what I expected to be telling you when we headed to Abu Dhabi on the northern coast of the Saudi peninsula!

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Mural - Abu Dhabi
Over coffee one morning in Agios Nikolaos, the Greek village we call home, my American expat friend Marti and I speculated on whether or not there would be much evidence of Christmas in the Middle East. . .a place where you ski sand dunes, not snowy hillsides. Probably some on the ship, we concluded, but little elsewhere.

In a Winter Wonderland

Were we ever off base! First, it is winter in the Middle East. While we tourists from Greece (it is in the 50F back there) are basking in temperatures hovering at the low 80’s, department stores are selling coats, sweaters and woolen scarves. It is cold here for the locals.

More than once we heard the refrain playing in the malls, “Oh the weather outside is frightful, but inside it’s so delightful, let it snow, let it snow, let is snow.” And the malls had snowflakes hanging right along side banners of their ruler, the Emir.

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Snowflakes in an Abu Dhabi Mall

The Festive Season

And the decorations sure looks like Christmas but here it is called The Festive Season. It comes complete with gaily decorated evergreens (Christmas trees) and even gingerbread houses.

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Tree trunk goes up in Emirates Palace Hotel - Abu Dhabi
One of the largest seasonal displays we saw was under construction at the opulent Emirates Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi. The place showcases the Arabian culture and puts you in mind of a palace when you enter. Opening in 2005 it cost 3 billion U.S. dollars to build.

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Gingerbread house construction at the Emirates Palace Hotel
The Dubai Mall, one of more than 70 shopping centers in this sprawling city, was playing holiday music and had displays up for The Festive Season as well.

The most beautiful displays we happened upon were in The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai, India. I could have spent a day photographing its many scenes and settings in its common areas.

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Lobby Taj Mahal Hotel Mumbai
And it was so nice to see it gaily decorated! On a cruise stop three years ago we visited the hotel and there was a lovely – but somber -- memorial to those who’d been killed during the terrorist attack there in 2008. The lobby definitely felt festive this week.

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Lobby of the Taj Mahal Hotel

Sailing into the Holidays

As our cruise comes to an end this week many of our fellow passengers are making plans to go home, hit the deck running and get the festivities and decorations underway.  It has been fun though enjoying those throughout the ship – no muss, no fuss for any of us!

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Celebrity Constellation lobby
Festive colors, festive scene and Christmas music playing in the common areas of the ship.

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Decorations on the Celebrity Constellation
We’ll be home in The Stone House on the Hill for Christmas and thankful that we had a chance to experience The Festive Season during the month of December.  Good wishes to you and yours ~ whatever your season and whatever your holiday, we hope it is magical.

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May it be magical
Thanks for being with us ~ as always we appreciate your time spent here.  Next week we’ll have more tales from Arabia for you!

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3 comments:

  1. There's something very strange about hearing old Christmas carols in a totally foreign country, especially ones that talk about sleigh bells and snow.🌴 I think it might be hard to find a place anywhere now that caters to tourists where "The Festive Season" isn't mentioned. Wherever you are, hoping that you carry the holiday spirit with you and that your Christmas is merry!

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    1. Well we did chuckle when we'd step outside and it was 80 degrees!And when you've spent some 60 years in the blustery Pacific Northwest of the US it is difficult to wrap your head around sand dunes and camel racing this time of year!

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  2. Way cool Jackie! Not a huge Christmas presence here in Nizwa, Oman over the past few days because it is super conservative/Muslim but we did see quite the Christmas cake setup at Lulu Hypermarket. Definitely many Christians among the Indians working here, for sure.

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