Abu Dhabi

Mitch’s Monday Happy Hour – April 27

Happy Monday Everyone!

Lately, Mondays mean two things: blogging the weekly Happy Hour post and LAUNDRY!  For the third Monday in a row, I’ve been unpacking a suitcase and doing laundry from a vacation.  I was just looking at a calendar . . . . . and realized a few fun facts regarding my April 2015 calendar:

  • As of April 25th, I’ve only worked 7 days this month!
  • Of the 18 days I’ve had off in April, I’ve only been here in Kuwait for 2 of them!
  • There are 4 weekends in April, and I haven’t been home for any of them!
  • During the month of April, I’ve slept at 6 different hotels!

I’ve been pretty fortunate to do so much traveling this month!  One of the main reasons we decided to move overseas was to enjoy the ease of visiting and exploring so many new places.

  • This weekend I took a trip with some friends to Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates.  If you recall, Rachel and I spent a few days there last October for my birthday. (you can refresh your memory by reading HERE)  I went this weekend to umpire at a high school baseball/softball tournament.  Rachel was going to accompany me again this weekend, however she was super, super, I mean SUPER busy growing a human!  We figured it was best for her to just chill out, relax, and take care of Baby J.  At the tournament this weekend, there were schools from Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Oman, and India.  I called a total of 15 games in 3 days!  It was super hot outside, but a great tournament and a fun experience to do some more umpiring at another international tournament!
  • I’m sure most of you saw the picture that Rachel posted last week regarding our exciting news . . . . we’re having a baby!  We couldn’t possibly be more excited!  It has been hard to keep it a secret for so long, however we now feel comfortable enough to share the news with all of our family, friends, and the people who read our blog.  It is difficult to keep your excitement tucked inside for so long!  When the doctor confirmed the pregnancy a couple of months ago, I just wanted to run to the highest point around and scream at the top of my lungs “I’M GOING TO BE A DAD!”  However with pregnancies, we know there comes risks.  So we just wanted to wait a while to make sure that we had a healthy lil’ person growing inside.
  • I’m a huge sports fan, and thankfully because of the internet, I’m able to keep up with all of my favorite teams from back home.  I’m super pumped that the Minnesota Wild have advanced to the next round of the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs!  Their next opponent is the Chicago Blackhawks, who just happen to be the favorite team of a few of my close friends here in Kuwait.  I have a feeling that that there is going to be a lot of trash talking, bantering, and sleepless nights as we stay awake throughout the night to watch the games live online!  Go Wild!
  • We have officially started our countdown until summer . . . . . . we only have 46 more days until we fly back home for the summer!  It is still incredibly weird how fast this year has gone by.  It is crazy to think that May 1st is this weekend, when it seems like we just moved here.  We are getting super excited to see all of our friends and family this summer, and can’t wait to spend some time at the lake!

That about wraps it up for this week folks.  Luckily I don’t have the shakes this week, because I’ve been able to drink for 16 of the last 25 days!! (hahaha)  Until next time . . . . . . .

Grand Mosque Abu Dhabi

Remember way back in October when we went to Dubai and Abu Dhabi for our week long Eid break?  No?  Maybe this will refresh your memory….here, here, here, and here. One thing I never wrote about was the tour we took of the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi and it is far too awesome to just skip over!

Mosques are everywhere in Kuwait, I heard a fact that no matter where you are in Kuwait there is a mosque within a five minute walk from you.  I have no idea if this is true or not, but with the amount of mosques we come across on a daily basis, I would not be the least bit surprised.  So when we left for vacation, and I really wanted to go to the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, I think Mitch was a bit surprised that would be my choice, but as always he quickly jumped on board with seeing something new.  IMG_4908 We arrived at the Grand Mosque an hour or two before sunset and realized that the term “Grand” was the understatement of the year.  This place was gigantic!  The Mosque itself covers 30 acres, this number does not include the parking areas or the outdoor landscaped areas.  It is big enough for 40,000 people worship at once. IMG_4919 This tour focused mostly on the building and architectural features.  The design and the materials come from all over the world to symbolize how the Islamic faith is all over the world.  Materials came from Morocco, Italy, Pakistan, Malaysia, Germany, New Zealand and the UAE to name a few.  IMG_4922 Of course as we entered into the interior of the Mosque, out of respect to the Islamic faith, we removed our shoes before we entered to prevent any dirt from the outside, from entering the inside of the Mosque. IMG_4926 The tile and glass work was amazingly beautiful.  Each small detail had been carefully planned out with a symbolic meaning attached to it.
IMG_4936One thing we have noticed a bit as we learn more about different Mosques around the world is that there appears to be a bit of a competition amongst themselves.  Which Mosque has the biggest dome, which one is the tallest, etc. etc. etc. This Mosque was no different.  Out tour guide made sure to point out to us their bragging rights….IMG_4945Largest chandelier…check…until the Grand Mosque in Doha put up one even bigger.  I can’t imagine a chandelier bigger than this one.  The picture truly doesn’t do it justice, but inside the chandelier is a set of stairs to help out the cleaners, that’s right STAIRS inside of the chandelier!

IMG_4947 The carpet inside the main prayer hall is the largest known continuous piece of carpet in the world.  IMG_4956 The part though that was most impressive to me was the view of the Mosque from the outside once it got dark outside.  The soft light given off from the hallways light the area up so beautifully.  IMG_4964This guy, looked pretty great too!
IMG_4974It was a wonderful tour, all completely complementary and gave me yet another layer of understanding about the Islamic faith and the Arab culture.

Our First كرة القدم Game (soccer)

We had a blast during our vacation last week to Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The trip was full of great times, new adventures, and lasting memories.  One of the highlights of our trip (for us me) was attending a soccer match between the United Arab Emirates and Australia!

Before our trip, I was pumped when I found out about the match.  It was just a friendly match between the two countries, as they both prepared to play in the upcoming Asia Cup in January.  I was excited to experience the atmosphere, huge crowds, team chants, and the pride the crowd had for their home countries. Needless to say, it wasn’t like that at all.  The atmosphere was more like a high school soccer game.


Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium

When we arrived to the stadium, I was a bit confused to find out that you didn’t even need a ticket for the game. It was FREE to attend!  We tried entering the first gate we saw, but were denied entry by the security guards. They pointed further down the plaza, so I assumed we were just at the wrong gate. We then realized that even though we weren’t from Australia, we were being ushered down to the visitors entrance.  The security guards just assumed that since we were caucasian, we were rooting for the Aussies. No worries though, we were visitors in another country, so we just followed along.

When we made it into the stadium, I was surprised to see so many fans from Australia. Their designated “visitors” section was completely packed, and we struggled to find 2 empty seats. Eventually they had to open up additional sections for the Aussie fans because there were so many of them! I thought it was funny that they were restricted to their seat choices, because the entire stadium was empty! I think the capacity for the stadium was about 40,000 fans, however there was only about 1,500 people in the entire place! I would say about 3/4 of the people there were rooting for Australia, hardly any UAE fans were there.


A panoramic photo take from my iPhone. Rachel wore her sunglasses during the entire game because the stadium lights were blasting us in the face.

Since the stadium was so empty, the atmosphere was pretty lame. Here you had this huge stadium, but you could hear a pin drop because it was so quiet. Once-in-while the Aussie fans would chant, “Aussie Aussie Aussie, Oye Oye Oye.” I chuckled and participated since I was an adopted Aussie fan for the game. I blame the nonexistence of booze at the game for the boring atmosphere. There weren’t any other team chants or singing. The game was also a 0-0 draw, so no cheering after a goal was scored. However, we did see a bunch of guys take a “dive” and fake an injury!!! We actually made a drinking game out of it! Every time someone would fake an injury, we had to “drink.” However, since there was no booze there we decided to save our drinks for next summer when we return to the states for a few months. If we buy about 3 cases of beer, we should have enough to take a drink for each of the fake injuries!


We had great seats and it was so nice to see GREEN GRASS!

I also got a chuckle out of the concession stand at the stadium. Any drink you ordered, they would pour it into a tiny plastic cup, and it only costs like $0.25 (for water, pop, juice, etc.) If you wanted to order a snack, it was always a roll of the dice on what they would have. The first time we went up there, they didn’t have any snacks. Then like 20 minutes later we saw people walking around with popcorn. However by the time we got to the concession stand, they were sold out. Then a little while later they were selling small bags of sunflower seeds (unsalted, yuck!). Then about a half an hour later they were selling little bags of potato chips. I have no idea where they were coming up with this food, but it almost seemed like some dude was running back-and-forth from the grocery store buying whatever he could find. It was absolutely hilarious! I kept waiting for him to show up with a stick of bacon or sausage, but he never did.


Trying to “zoom in” with my crappy iPhone 4s.

Overall though, we had a great night at the game celebrating my birthday! We were able to cross something off my “sports fan bucket list” by attending an international soccer game. I’d still like to attend a big match in Europe or ultimately a World Cup game to experience the true atmosphere of a game.

Sounds of Home

I grew up in a house that was located right near train tracks. I remember when we first moved into the house, waking up in the middle of the night to the sound of the train horn as the train crossed from Canada into the US.  I remember thinking I would never sleep a full nights sleep ever again.  However; something changed, I soon became used to the sound of the train and it shifted from an annoyance that woke me up to a comforting sound of home.  When I moved into my very first apartment on my own it was a selling point for me that it was located close enough to the train tracks to hear them rumble by at night.  Trains were my nighty lullaby.

Upon moving to the Middle East I was nervous about the call to prayer that broadcasts through speakers from each mosque five times a day. I thought the call to prayer would wake me up early in the morning or bother me in some way.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

What is the call to prayer?:

Within the Islamic faith Muslim people pray 5 times a day. Muslims pray at dawn, midday, afternoon, evening, and night, the times vary based on the times of sunrise and sunset.  The call to prayer is sung live 5 times a day, 35 times a week and 150 times a month. When I first moved to Kuwait I thought that each Mosque just had a recording of the call to prayer that they scheduled to play at regular intervals.  It wasn’t until I was in Kuwait for a month that I learned that each of Kuwait’s 630 Mosques had someone signing live at each of the 150 calls to prayer in any given month. The call to prayer is a reminder of what times Muslims are to be praying.

It was amazing to me how quickly I have learned to love the call to prayer.  The call to prayer is such a beautiful sound.   It reminds me that many, many people in the world are taking this exact moment to focus on their faith.

The call to prayer is my new train, it is the sound of home.

Eid Vacation Plans

One of the reasons we decided to move to the other side of the world, were the endless opportunities to explore and vacation to other countries, that are hardly practical to reach from the United States.  It costs thousands of dollars to travel from North America to other continents, and sometimes days to reach your destination.  One of the draws to moving to the Middle East, was the close proximity and affordibility to so many cool places in Europe, Africa, and Asia. We are so excited to be taking our first vacation, since moving to Kuwait, next week during Eid break!

You’re probably wondering . . . “What is Eid break?”  Honestly, I wasn’t quite sure either.  All I knew was that it was a Muslim holiday, and we got 9 days off of work! Therefore, I did a quick “google” search, and here is what I found:

Eid-al-Adha is the second and final Eid celebration of the year. It commemorates the completion of the Hajj, (pilgrimage to Mecca). Although only the people who take pilgrimage participate in the Hajj fully, Muslims around the world join them in celebrating Eid Al-Adha. For more information on Eid Al-Adha, click here.

Since we signed our employment contracts last winter, we have been looking forward to taking advantage of this week-long break in the school calendar. However we weren’t able to book a trip until about a week ago, because we didn’t have our passports!  The minute we arrived to Kuwait about a month and a half ago, School Administrators had to collect everyone’s passports at the airport so they could finalize the visa process and apply for everyone’s Civilian IDs.  They told us they were going to try their best to speed the application process up, however they couldn’t guarantee that they would be back in time for Eid. Thus they told everyone not to book a trip because they probably wouldn’t be back in time. We were bummed, but knew we had to respect the process, and just kept our fingers crossed.

We were super surprised last week when we got an email from the school informing us they had our passports back! We were so excited, however we suddenly felt panicked, because we only had a week to book a trip!  We frantically searched for flights to just about everywhere in the world. We were totally open to going anywhere new, that was reasonably priced. Unfortunately though, because it was so last minute, our options were limited due to high prices for flights. After an exhaustive day of searching, we found a great deal on airfare to Dubai!


Photo courtesy of hdwallpaperfresh.com

Dubai is a futuristic city and perhaps one of the flashiest. It is home to the tallest building in the world (Burj Khalifa) and the largest mall in the world (Dubai Mall). I’m sorry my fellow Minnesotans, but Mall of America is nowhere near the size. The Dubai Mall is 12.1 million square feet compared to the Mall of America that is 5.62 million square feet, so its more than double the size!  Dubai also features amazing artificial islands and some of the best beaches around.


Photo courtesy of Dave Anthony

Dubai is home to some of the most incredible (and expensive) resorts in the world. For our accommodations, we actually decided to rent an apartment right in the heart of Dubai, near the marina. We used a website called AirBnB.com (click here for a free $25 credit on airbnb.com) which is a website where you can rent a couch, a bedroom, or an entire house. Since we are going with a few friends from Kuwait, we decided to rent an entire apartment.

Dubai has a ton of fun things to do! We have been spending the last few days putting an itinerary together, and here’s what we have planned thus far:

  • Atlantis the Palm Aquaventure Waterpark

This waterpark has been named one of the top waterparks in the whole world, and has been featured on multiple TV shows, magazines, etc. We are super excited to go on their slide called The Tower of Neptune. You fall over 9 stories in a mere second before you find yourself speeding through a clear acrylic tube surrounded by Great White Sharks and sting rays!


Photo courtesy of atlantisthepalm.com

  • Desert Safari

We have fun evening planned with a tour company where we go on a baja ride through the sand dunes of Dubai in a 4×4 jeep.


Photo courtesy of arabizhorizons.com

  •  Burq Khalifa

As I mentioned earlier, Dubai is home of the Burq Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. We are excited to take a tour to the top of the 2,722 ft. building (163 floors). This building is twice the size of the Empire State Building!


Photo courtesy of blogs.atrapalo.com

We have also decided to spend a few nights in Abu Dhabi next week, which is only about an hour or two from Dubai.  Abu Dhabi is also a very futuristic and flashy city.  As part of her research for this trip Rachel decided that this week was the perfect time to rewatch Sex and the City 2!


Photo courtesy of theguardian.com

We’ll be in Abu Dhabi on my birthday and found something super fun to do . . . . . we are going to an international soccer game between Australia & United Arab Emirates!  I’m a sports junky who loves visiting professional stadiums, so I’m super pumped to go. I’ve never been to one before and can’t wait to experience the excitement, the crowds, the chants, and everything that an international soccer match has to offer!  Definitely fulfilling an item on my “Bucket List.”


Al Jazira Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium – Photo courtesy of http://www.jc.ae

We also plan on taking a tour of the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi, which is said to be the most expensive hotel ever built at over 3 billion dollars!


Photo courtesy of proudlyarabian.com

Since we are going to be on vacation all of next week, I’m not sure if we are going to be able to post any new blogs. We will try to post a quick update, otherwise you can follow along with us on Twitter: @mightaswellers. When we return from our trip, we’ll be sure to post a bunch of photos.

Cheers & Eid Mubarak!