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Egypt, Europe, Greece, Italy, Middle East, Packing, Travel

My 2016 Year in Review

December 19, 2016

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I know the general consensus from the world is that they would like 2016 to be over. While I agree some awful things are happening in the world, I would like to focus on the good things of 2016. This year I am going to tell you all the good things, not just the travel things. Here is my 2016 year in review!

January

As usual, I was looking to plan a trip right when I returned from my trip home. I quickly decided, with the help of my Mom, to head to Egypt in February! Not sure why it took me so long to decide to go there as I had wanted to go for a long time.

February

My trip to Egypt was the second week of the month, and I loved every minute of it. Seeing the pyramids was an experience I will never forget. It just baffles me that humans made them. Sailing up the Nile was another experience that I truly enjoyed. I can sit and watch the water go by for hours and not get bored. Not only that I got to see the sun set and rise over the Nile. Here is the video from that day.

YouTube video

 

I started working out with a personal trainer. This set me up to lose four clothing sizes over the next several months! If you follow me on Snapchat, you probably saw lots of snaps of me on the treadmill and pictures of the sunrise over Doha.

March

One of my friends invited me on a Dhow boat cruise, which I had only done once before. It was a warm day with great company. I met new people and watched the lights come on in Doha as the sun went down. I also took one of my favorite photos of the year that day!

 

April

A paper I wrote was accepted to be presented at a conference, and the conference just happened to be in Slovenia! Slovenia is by far the most beautiful country I have been to so far. I got to see much of its beauty because I drove from Ljubljana to Radenci, where the conference was being held. Not only was it beautiful, but the food was also amazing. Most of it was local, and you could taste how fresh it was.

I treated myself to a staycation at the W Doha. Staycations may become my new obsession! I felt totally relaxed after the stay, and there was no stress of having to travel anywhere.

SONY DSC

May

May was a month of prepping. By now I had lost all the weight and desperately needed new clothes. I was heading to Italy for a month at the end of May and had nothing to wear! Not that I am complaining. A good friend went with me to try on clothes, and it was a good thing she did as I would have left with clothes slightly too big because I wasn’t convinced yet that I had lost so much weight.

At the very end of May, I left for a month in Italy. Believe it or not, this was for work. I was taking a course on bookbinding and bookbinding restoration. The first weekend though was spent with my friends in Italy. They just happen to live close to the course and it was great to start of my trip with them. They live in a small village and when I arrived the Infiorata was happening.  Such a neat experience.

7 Unique Italian Things to do During a Summer Visit to Italy

June

June stands out as one of the best months as I finally discovered Florence! The second weekend in Italy, I headed to Florence for the first time despite having been to Italy twice before. I fell in love right away. So much so that I went back the next weekend. I enjoyed just walking around and looking at all the amazing architecture. It was like walking through an outdoor museum.

GPSMyCity

The fourth weekend I was in Italy, I spent it exploring more of Umbria. This was when I discovered the lovely towns of Assisi and Gubbio. I recommend you drive to these towns to see the wonderful Umbrian countryside.

July

Right when I returned from Italy there was a holiday in Qatar and headed to Oman. Every summer Oman has a monsoon season which, as you can imagine, is rare in the Middle East. For three days I didn’t see the sun!

YouTube video

 

August

In August, I need to attend a conference in the United States. I decide to combine the work trip with a visit home. This time I decided not to take a direct flight from Doha to Dallas. I wanted to fly business and the only way I could afford it was to fly American Airlines with a stop in London. Even though I prefer to go direct, the layover was short and it was nice to get a break from the plane.

I spent about a week with my family. I did my usual see doctors and get a haircut routine. It is always great to spend time with my family even though it was short.

The conference I attended was in Atlanta, and one of my good friends lives within driving distance. I hadn’t seen her in 3 years, and she volunteered to drive down for the day to see me! We spent a day catching up at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens seeing the Chihuly Exhibit.

 

September

The sailing trip up the Nile in February inspired me to find a sailing cruise for later in the year. So I headed to Greece the first week of September to sail the Greek Islands for two weeks.  I know you may be wondering, why haven’t I seen a post on Greece yet!? They are coming, I promise. I took several blogging breaks this year and happy to say I think it has improved the blog post quality and I am motivated again.

 

October

I hadn’t planned on going anywhere in October, but I found a conference I wanted to attend. The conference just happened to be in Florence! I was thrilled. The conference was being held in the Uffizi Gallery Library. While most of the time was spent at the conference, I got to stay in my favorite Florence hotel. I also got to wake up in Florence on my birthday!

November

While I didn’t travel anywhere in November, I had three Thanksgivings! It was great to catch up with old friends and make new ones. One of these Thanksgiving was an invite to the Four Seasons Doha to taste their Thanksgiving buffet. It was a beautiful meal offered at their Italian restaurant, El Teatro.

December

The first weekend in December, I was invited by the Intercontinental Doha the City to enjoy a staycation! The room offered a stunning view of downtown Doha. I really enjoyed watching the lights come on as the sun went down from the couch.

InterContinental Doha the City

Now I am back home again enjoying time with family. We are having the usual crazy Texas weather where it is 70 during the day and then drops 50 degrees in one day. My parents have a fireplace and I am loving the fire. Christmas celebrations at our house include getting presents and stockings from Santa. Our Christmas tree has a train around it and elves climbing the side.

This will be the last official blog post of 2016 as I will take the rest of the year off to enjoy being with my family before heading back to Doha.

What was your best memory of 2016? Share with us in the comments.

Middle East, Oman, Travel

Unexpected Salalah, Oman: The Jewel of the Middle East

November 14, 2016

Salalah, OmanGreen is not what you expect to hear when you hear someone talk about a country in the Middle East, but it is when you speak about Oman. Especially, if you are talking about Salalah, Oman during monsoon season. Yes, I said monsoon season! You may even be wondering where Salalah is at this point. Located in the southern part of Oman, Salalah is about 200 kilometers from the Yemen border. It is perfectly safe to visit, as the border with Yemen is far from anything that is happening there.

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click on the link and make a purchase, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

Salalah, Oman

Even though I had seen pictures, I wasn’t quite convinced that this lush green oasis existed in the harsh Middle Eastern landscape. Since it is a short two-hour flight from Doha, I decided to visit right at the beginning of Khareef (monsoon, but literally autumn) season. In the city of Salalah, Oman it is greener than Doha and Dubai, but not lush. There are more trees and many banana plantations. Once you leave the city, it gets greener and greener as you head into the mountains.

Salalah, Oman

Mountains are the other feature that astonished me. Most of Qatar is quite flat, and I know that mountains exist in the Middle East, but I always thought they would be small and not very impressive. I was wrong! The mountains are part of the reason that Salalah, Oman is so green as they catch the moisture and increase the rainfall in the mountains. As you can see from the pictures, it was misty and raining most of the time. So green, mountains and camels mixed together make for an unexpected trip to the Middle East.

Salalah, Oman

What to do in Salalah, Oman

Frankincense Museum and Al Baleed Archaeological Park – These two sites are next to each other. You pay one fee per car, and it gets you into both. The Archaeological Park is an excavation of a settlement that dates back to 2000 BC, and they have done an impressive amount of work to uncover the village. The museum covers the history of Oman and the region with a focus on shipping.

Salalah, Oman

Salalah, Oman

Al Mughasayl Beach and Marneef Cave – While you can’t swim at this beach during monsoon season as the waves are too rough; you can visit the blowholes. The mountains meet the ocean here, and small blowholes have developed. Stand on the grates covering the blowholes and get soaked. Go very early in the morning before the huge crowds show up!

YouTube video

Salalah, Oman

Wadi Darbat – One of the most spectacular sites in the Middle East. First, you head up the Dhofar Mountains and drive through winding roads at about 20 kph because of the thick mist. Follow the signs for Wadi Darbat, and you suddenly head down into a valley. The valley opens up to what at sometimes is a flowing river. You can walk through the Wadi, but be careful you don’t slip and fall, like me! I am still paying for that fall. (Hint: wear appropriate shoes!) You might want an umbrella.

Salalah, Oman

Salalah, Oman

Salalah, Oman

Go north to Mirbat – Yes, this is not Salalah, but you should see the abandoned house here. These houses are built in the traditional Yemeni style but are in disrepair. It is a great place for photography. The houses are built right on the natural bay and have calmer seas than at Al Mughasayl Beach. The nearby castle might be worth checking out but don’t go on a Friday as it is closed.

Salalah, Oman

Salalah, Oman

Salalah, Oman

Meet Friendly Camels – There were more camels in Oman than I have ever seen in Qatar. This camel was very interested in us and wanted to get really close. I, on the other hand, was hoping to keep a safer distance.

Salalah, Oman

Salalah, Oman

How to get there

Fly to Salalah! From Qatar, there is a two-hour direct flight. If you aren’t coming from Qatar, you will probably have to layover in Muscat or Dubai. However, the flights from these places are very short. You can drive from Muscat, but the drive is very long. Plus you will probably want to spend time in Muscat as well. Once in Salalah, I recommend renting a car to explore the area. Everything was an easy drive, and most things had good signage.

Have you been to Salalah, Oman?