Black Watch 2007 Leg3
Itinerary = ports at anchor
Friday 9th February-Mombasa, Kenya
Saturday 10th February-Mombasa, Kenya
Sunday-at sea
Monday-at sea
Tuesday 13th February-Victoria, Mahe Island
Seychelles
Wednesday 14th February-Praslin Island
Seychelles
Thursday-at sea
Friday-at sea
Saturday 17th February-Male, Maldives
Sunday 18th February-Male, Maldives
Monday-at sea
Tuesday-at sea
Wednesday-at sea
Thursday 22nd February-Muscat, Oman
Friday-at sea
Saturday 24th February-Doha, Qatar
Sunday 25th February-Abu Dhabi, UAE
Monday 26th February-Dubai, UAE
Tuesday 27th February-Dubai, UAE
Wednesday 28th February-Dubai, UAE
Show Map Full Size
Click to enlarge


Show Full Picture
Tsavo East National Park
A spectacular view of the Kenyan plains from Voi Lodge


We had already spent 5 glorious weeks aboard Black Watch on this "Around Africa Cruise" and it had been a whirlwind of new experiences, visiting Ghana and Sao Tome Island, 3 fabulous days in Cape Town, then the Indian Ocean - Mauritius, Reunion and the remarkable Nosy Be Island.

Friday 9th February
Day 2 in Mombasa, Kenya - My Birthday!
Mombasa Area Map >>
Having arrived in Mombasa yesterday, we were seeing the departure of another group of passengers leaving the ship today to go home, while a new lot would be joining us later. Meanwhile, we had 2 more days based in Mombasa and 6 more weeks of this fabulous adventure. So to kick-off the 3rd Leg of the cruise and to mark my Birthday, we chose a full-day Safari.
Show Mombasa Area Map

Show Picture Full Size
My Birthday Cards!
Tsavo East National Park
Tsavo Map >> Tsavo National Park Map
Straddling in part the Mombasa-Nairobi main road, Tsavo National Park is one of the largest and most important reserves in Africa and covers over 20,000 sq km (nearly 8,000 sq miles) - roughly the area of Wales! This was our second all-day Safari on this cruise and it proved quite an adventure!

"Getting there is half the fun!"
Our journey began at 6.30am and involved a 100km drive (60 miles) over roads riddled with pot-holes, (or which were unsurfaced and simply dust) in little 6-person Nissan PSV's with no air-conditioning and with seats resembling those in ex-army war-surplus jeeps! We opened the windows to get a through-draft but often the clouds of dust were so bad we had to shut them and suffer the stiffling heat until the dust cleared and we could open them again!

Mombasa being Kenya's main port, this was the only road to Nairobi and it was full of massive trucks and lorries. At times, the noise was deafening. But although it was hot and uncomfortable, it was the most amazing experience just witnessing the sights and sounds of Kenyan daily life as we dodged in and out of the chaotic traffic. We passed shops and townships for miles, all clustered along the roadside. And through all this dust and thundering traffic, we saw kids carrying their shoes and walking barefoot to school, proudly dressed in their colourful school uniforms!

Inside the Reserve
After a half-hour roadside break to stretch our legs and ease our aching bums, we pulled off the road again at about 10am and finally entered the Park. Opening-up the tops of our PSV's, the view was suddenly transformed into "Widescreen Format"!



WARNING - Lioness Crossing! It's not everywhere you come across a scene like this!

The scale was vast and unlike at Lalibela in South Africa, we kept to the main track and drove for about 3 hours across the plain, occasionally stopping when something interesting was spotted. The high-point of the morning was when we saw a lioness on the prowl close to the road. The vehicles stopped and she nonchalently wandered across in front of us before disappearing-off into the bush.

Show Full Picture Show Full Picture Show Full Picture Show Full Picture Show Full Picture
"More tourists!" Our nonchalent lioness Gazelle Bull Elephant Black Kite Vulture

Show Picture Full Size
Lunch with a view, 500 ft up above the plains
Voi Lodge
...and what a view!
See Map of the Park >>
See the view from Voi Lodge
By lunch-time we reached Voi Lodge, perched 500ft up above the plain and with a fantastic view. This is one of a number of lodges in the Park where you can stay overnight and the food and facilities were frankly, excellent. In the landscaped rock-gardens, we photographed lizards and hyraxes, basking in the hot sun.

Show Full Picture Show Full Picture Show Full Picture Show Full Picture Show Full Picture
Dassie (Rock Hyrax) Rock Agama Back on the plains Baboon Zebra Crossing!

Then it was back out onto the plains again for another hour. This time we saw baboons and a small herd of zebra. One of them appeared to have been injured. Picture >>

Leaving the Park at the Voi Gate, we now had even further to travel back to Mombasa but fortunately the road at this point had been fully surfaced and was a proper highway, so we made good time until we reached the outskirts of Mombasa in the chaos of the evening rush-hour and all those pot-holes again! At one point, the road became completely impassable and in the chaos, we bounced-off through a somewhat mystified little village before rejoining the so-called "main road"!

Back at the ship and both exhausted, there was no let-up. After dinner there was the customary Birthday cake delivered with the traditional "sing-song" from a dozen waiters. Show YouTube video-clip
Get a glimpse of our table companions + John & Thelma on the next table and hear the waiters sing "dear Stephen"! View Video

Show Picture Full Size
Saturday 10th February
Day 3 in Mombasa - A Dhow Adventure
See Mombasa Area Map
Today we chose a leisurely day on an Arab sailing dhow from Mtwapa Creek, north of Mombasa. In the morning, we went out into the India Ocean under sail, before returning for lunch at the Mtwapa Creek Resort where we were
fed such delicacies as barbecued zebra, ostrich and hippo (which all tasted strangely similar!) plus crocodile and chicken (which both tasted like chicken!) while we were "serenaded" by a chap with a guitar, playing everything but african music! However, we were also entertained by a fascinating group of Masai dancers doing their characteristic jumping dance.

Show Full Picture Show Full Picture Show Full Picture Show Full Picture Show Full Picture
Out to sea Masai dancers
Mtwapa Creek Resort
Acrobats Me at the Wheel!
Up the creek!
An armed police escort!

In the afternoon we went "up the creek", during which John & I each took the wheel. John at the wheel >> At one point, they lashed the two dhows together and we were entertained again, this time by limbo-dancers and acrobats! They were really quite good! Some of the posh homes of wealthy foreigners in this area were in stark contrast to the more typical local river scene >> Show Picture Full Size

Back at the Black Watch, the dockside was crowded with local traders and we had to "run the gauntlet" of the market to reach the gangway! But we had had such an amazing time in Mombasa these last 3 days that we were glad to do a bit of bartering for last-minute trinkets. My coloured biros still seemed popular and John even traded some "T" shirts. They wanted money as well, of course!

The "compulsory" 3rd Lifeboat Drill
Just after getting back to the ship, they called the usual Lifeboat Drill but on this occasion, it was announced at the last minute that this would include all passengers who embarked in Southampton or Cape Town as well as in Mombasa. Up to now, it was generally accepted that once you had taken part in a drill, that was enough. Not so this time, it seemed. Even the afternoon tours of the city had been curtailed early, much to passengers' annoyance, to bring them back to the ship in time for the Drill. It seems that Captain Tor Bohn, who had joined the ship in Cape Town himself, was not happy with the poor attendance at the Drill on leaving Cape Town - hence this directive - but he was not making friends amongst the "All-Rounders", that's for sure!

However, I was in my robe at the time this was announced and was in no mood for this, so I stayed in my cabin - as did most other "All-Rounders". In the event, no-one told me off for doing so!

Leaving Mombasa that evening, how could we know that less than a year later, following disputed elections, this wonderful country, described as the "economic powerhouse" of central Africa, would be consumed by hatred and widespread violence - and would be deemed unsafe for foreign tourists?


Monday 12th February
At Sea - The Official Half-Way Point
Show Full Voyage Map
Show Picture Full Size At Day 39 of our voyage, we were half-way through our "Around Africa Cruise" and the Captain celebrated by throwing a special "All-Rounders Party" at lunchtime, attended by well over half the passengers. Many of them were in rather high spirits - which probably explains why John & I only managed to get one drink each! Although the party atmosphere was a little "working men's club-ish", we were given
a rather clever rendering of "The Twelve Weeks of Africa" performed by the entertainment staff, which I thought really very witty! View video >> Show YouTube video-clip

The Party wasn't the only thing that marked this day as special; we had recently been introduced to the incomparable "Ivan", and it was with his help today that our Quiz-Team won both the morning and afternoon sessions - the afternoon one with a score of 20 out of 20!

Tuesday 13th February
Victoria, Mahe Island (Seychelles)
Show Seychelles Map
Largely unpopulated until the French colonised the islands from 1756, they became British after the War in 1812 and remained so until independence in 1976.

Depending heavily on tourism, the Seychelles are one the world's more desirable & romantic destinations, with beautiful unspoilt beaches, lush vegetation and a friendly people. Thankfully, tourism has not (yet) been developed excessively!

Show Picture Full Size
Victoria Clock

Show Picture Full Size Show Picture Full Size Show Picture Full Size Show Picture Full Size
View from Bel Air The Fish Market North-East Point Beau Vallon Beach

Only just beyond January, which is the wettest month in the Seychelles, we were fortunate with the sun, though not with the humidity - which today was 92%! So we were glad of an air-conditioned bus tour to see the sights, including the Victoria Clock Tower, a copy of the one outside Victoria Station in London, and the colourful Vegetable & Fish Market. The smell of the fish-cannery near the harbour will be well-remembered by Andrew from our brief visit here aboard Arcadia in 1999!

Show Picture Full Size The view from Bel Air over the city was quite something but the coast road around North-East Point was breathtaking in beauty and the beach at Beau Vallon is one of the most popular on the island - with its pristine sands, you can see why!

At the Botanical Gardens, we were shown the Coco de Mer palm planted by The Duke of Edinburgh in 1956. Picture >> More about the legendary Coco de Mer later!
The Botanical Gardens in Victoria


We walked ashore again in the afternoon and although it wasn't as hot as Africa had been, the humidity made even this gentle walk into town quite debilitating. At the local bus-station, the kids were going home from school and were noisily crowding around. We had thought of going off on a local bus around the island but by this time it was too late to be able to go all the way round and get back at a reasonable hour, so we went back to the ship for a "tropical nap" instead!

This evening, rumours were rife around the ship that a passenger had died today while ashore. It appeared that, having been taken to the beach by a fellow passenger, an 89 year-old widower, travelling alone, had suffered a fatal heart attack while in the water. The ship sailed at 11pm, to a deck-party that seemed rather subdued.


Wednesday 14th February
Praslin Island (Seychelles)
Show Seychelles Map
We only travelled 27 miles in the night, dropping anchor off this beautiful tropical island, and by 8am passengers were already being tendered ashore.

The main purpose of our tour here was to visit the Vallee de Mai, a UN World Heritage Site and home to a number of rare palms, including the legendary Coco de Mer, which is uniquely endemic to this island.

Show Picture Full Size
Black Watch at anchor

Show Full Picture Show Full Picture Show Full Picture Show Full Picture Show Full Picture
Vallee de Mai Coco de Mer
& guide Lester
Cote d'Or Beach Me on the beach
(where I left my goggles!)
Noble Caledonian's
Island Sky

Its notoriety arises from the unusual double-nut of the female tree and, moreover, the phallic fruit of the male tree. Perhaps for this reason, it is believed by many that the Vallee de Mai was the biblical Garden of Eden. The legend goes that, at sundown, the male Coco de Mer tree leans over the female - but no human has ever lived to tell the tale of what happens next! Yes, well....

Our other destination was Cote d'Or Beach and an opportunity, at last, to swim in the sea - at least I did anyway - John sat under a palm and watched! It was lovely, although all the kelp in the sea kept getting in my toes and then I left my swimming goggles behind - on that tree-trunk actually!


Thursday 15th - Saturday 17th February
3 More Days at Sea in the Indian Ocean & Crossing The Line (Again!)
Show YouTube Video-clip
Show Picture Full Size We felt we were becoming "old hands" at this by now! Having crossed the Equator going south from Sao Tome 4 weeks ago, we were now doing it again going north.
King Neptune held court again and we were treated to an entertainment in which the Captain and members of the crew and cruise-staff were ritually humiliated, being made to "kiss the fish", being covered in gunge and finally being dunked in the pool. All good, slapstick fun! See the Video >> Show Picture Full Size

The drawback to sailing eastward is that you lose an hour's sleep overnight; after 3 hot and tiring days in Mombasa, we could ill-afford the hour we lost before the Seychelles but now we were losing another one before the Maldives and we were beginning to look forward to some sea days sailing westward, when we would eventually get our lost hours back. But first, we reached our most easterly destination on this cruise.....

Saturday 17th - Sunday 18th February
Male, the Maldive Islands
Maldives Location Map Detailed Map of the Maldives
Show Picture Full Size The island-city of Male is only 1.2 miles (1.9km) long and 0.62 miles ( 1km) wide. The population is about 65,000 but nearer 100,000 including all the tourists and migrant workers on an average day. Developed from end to end, as well out into the sea, Male is just one of 1,190 tiny islets grouped in 26 atolls running 514 miles (822km) north from just south of the Equator.

Only about 200 of these islands are actually inhabited, while another 80 have so far been developed as holiday resorts. But with no point of land more than 7.5 ft (2.3m) above sea-level, the prospect of Global Warming is not greeted with enthusiasm here!

Male - the Waterfront

Male - The National Flag of the Maldives, the President's Landing Stage and the "new" Grand Friday Mosque & Islamic Centre (1984)

Anchoring off Male at noon on Saturday, the tenders put us ashore close to the President's Landing Stage and the Grand Friday Mosque & Islamic Centre Picture 1 >> Picture 2 >>, opened in 1984. Accommodating more than 5,000 worshippers, it replaced the Hukuru Miskiiy or Old Friday Mosque nearby, built in 1656. This proved impossible to photograph at the time, so I have cheated here to show you what it looks like! Pictures >>

Mulee-Aage was built as a Sultan's Palace in 1906. It served as the Presidential Residence 1953-94, but it has now been replaced with a new Palace and is used for ceremonial occasions and to accommodate visiting Heads of State etc. In nearby Sultan's Park, quaintly housed in the only remaining building of the last Sultan's Palace, is the tiny National Museum Picture >>, which houses a curious collection of thrones, ceremonial robes and umbrellas of all things. With a brightly painted corrugated-iron roof, we were rather glad that it was heavily air-conditioned!


Show Picture Full Size Show Picture Full Size Show Picture Full Size Show Picture Full Size Show Picture Full Size
Male - Mulle-Aage
(the old Presidential Palace)
Male
The colourful waterfront
Approaching Giravaru
(a private island resort)
Giravaru
Warm-water snorkelling
My spot on the beach!

Excursion to Giravaru Island
Male has lots of diving shops, so I was able to replace the swimming goggles I left on Praslin Island and the following day I left John to "do his own thing" and joined our table companions Gareth & Lynne on a local boat trip to Giravaru Island, a small private resort island not too far from Male.

However, having paid $10 to get there, we and another boat were refused permission to land; the resort was "full", they said! There was much angst and frantic mobile telephone calling before we were eventually allowed ashore - for a Resort Fee of $5 and with strict instructions to stay on one beach. At first, I was a bit disappointed and the main beach we were directed to did seem a bit crowded but I soon found a nice little sheltered spot under a palm tree right by the water. It was blissful. I swam and snorkelled 2 or 3 times that day and the water was beautifully warm and clear.


Giravaru Island is very tiny, only about 28,000 sq m; exploring along the beach, I went for a walk and within 10 minutes I was right back where I started! I realised why they were so reluctant to let "day-trippers" ashore; they didn't want to spoil the exclusive seclusion of the resort's residents, housed in just 65 deluxe chalets, all within a few feet of the beach. Show Picture Full Size

After the hiatus on our arrival, I had visions of being stranded on an almost-desert island but our 3pm rendezvous with the $10 boat-man went without a hitch and within an hour, we were back in Male in time to do some last minute shopping before dinner aboard Black Watch. Raising the anchor at 11pm, we left the twinkling lights of Male behind and headed north-west across the Arabian Sea.

Thursday 22nd February
Muscat, The Sultanate of Oman
Show Voyage Map Show Map of Oman
With 3 days at sea, it was back to the routine of port-talks, quizzes, dancing & swimming - and eating of course! Putting the clocks back an hour was welcome and at dawn on the fourth day we arrived off the old port of Muscat.

After all the flat islands we had been on lately, it was a bit of a shock to step onto my balcony and see beautiful rocky mountains coming right down to the coast, along which there were numerous impressive Portuguese forts, built in the 16th century to protect the new sea-trade routes to India.


Show Picture Full Size Show Picture Full Size Show Picture Full Size Show Picture Full Size Show Picture Full Size
The Mutrah Fort
built by the Portuguese
Docking in Mutrah
beside the Japanese Navy
The Grand Mosque Mutrah Corniche Al-Riyam Incense Burner

We docked at the new port of Mutrah, just along the coast from the old city of Muscat, and beside two Japanese Navy ships and HMS Campbeltown, we watched their respective crews parade on deck and each take their turn to raise and salute their national flags one after the other.

From here we took the organised orientation tour in the morning and were soon being made aware of this country's absolute adoration of their ruler, Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Bu Said, a rare example of a benevolent dictatorship that has done so much for the people of this country since he seized power from his despotic father in 1970.

Inaugurated in 2001, the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque covers an area of over 40,000 sq m and accommodates 20,000 worshippers. The hand-made Iranian prayer carpet took 4 years to make, was woven in one piece and weighs over 21 tonnes. We didn't have time to go inside, unfortunately, but this is what the main prayer-hall looks like. Picture >> Even this may not be the largest mosque in the world but it is believed to be unique in having 5 minarets. John's Picture >>


Show Picture Full Size At the immaculately maintained Sultan's Armed Forces Museum, we learned a great deal about the man who, born in 1940 and educated at Sandhurst, ended the Dhofar War in 1975 and reunified this previously torn and backward country.

Today, Oman is a relatively safe and enlightened country blessed with modern roads, power and housing, spending a large proportion of its dwindling oil-revenues on health-care and education for all.


Show Picture Full Size
The Al Alam Sultan's Palace in Muscat, completed in 1972.
Nevertheless, at the Al Alam Sultan's Palace we were reminded of the absolute nature of his power when we were told how, for security reasons, meals for his entourage are prepared at all his Palaces every day, in case he arrives without notice. Food uneaten is given away to the poor!

In the afternoon, I persuaded John to walk along the Corniche from Mutrah to Muscat - which didn't seem all that far at first. But by the time we reached the old harbour, we decided to flag a taxi back!

I was so impressed with Muscat that I had no reservations about exploring the Souq, where I bought gifts of perfumed oils for all the ladies back home.

Show Picture Full Size
The Al-Jalali Fort

Friday 23rd February
The Strait of Hormuz - 2 close shaves....
Show Voyage Map
The morning Quiz was the day's first close shave, with our Team just winning on a tie-break with only 15/20! But we were getting perilously close to Iran at this point and many passengers were on deck as we passed through the Strait of Hormuz at about 12.30 pm. About 30% of the World's oil passes through this waterway, making it the World's most strategically important stretch of water.

At its narrowest, the Strait is only 21 miles wide but half belongs to Iran, so all Gulf shipping gets concentrated into one half, where there are two 2-mile wide lanes passing each other with a gap of 2 miles between them. With all that shipping going 20 knots, it's not that much room to manoever. But as if to reassure us, an RAF spotter plane came in low over us and flashed its lights at us!


Show Picture Full Size ...and a Dance Competition!
Lynne & I had been to dance lessons every sea day since Southampton but I was slightly relieved when she said she didn't want to sign-up for the competition. However, our other female table companion, Christine, asked me to partner her in the Cha-Cha-Cha. We made a reasonable job of our little routine but we didn't stand a chance against the "veterans" intent in winning. The Spanish couple who came 3rd justifiably got the loudest applause though, just for making it such fun!

Saturday 24th February
Doha, Qatar
Show Voyage Map
We arrived at 7.30am and after Muscat the topography was unimpressive. The city, which we could hardly see through the haze, appeared to be very flat, very modern and full of tall buildings.

The passenger clearance process proved tiresome. For some reason, here it seemed a long-winded and seemingly pointless procedure - rather Miami-style, except that the immigration officials were all wearing Burkas!

Show Full Picture Show Full Picture Show Full Picture Show Full Picture Show Full Picture
Doha - A Hazy Horizon Desert Camel Camel with attitude Dune Bashing! Khor al 'Udeid
The Inland Sea

Dunes Discovery
Today, John took a short tour of the city and came back unimpressed, but I decided to take the excursion out into the desert to do some "dune bashing" for a change.

We travelled in rather plush Toyota 4x4's for over an hour, almost as far as the southern border between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, to an area known as Khor al 'Udeid or the Inland Sea. Here they stopped to let air out of the tyres before going out onto the sand dunes in what promised to be an exhilarating experience. I must say though that the so called "dune bashing" was rather tame and heavily safety-led. There were one or two slightly hair-raising moments at the tops of dunes as we went over but it was all done very carefully and cautiously.


The best thing about this excursion was the desert landscape - vast and windswept. As far as the eye could see, there was nothing but desert and sand. We stopped to walk at Show YouTube video-clip
the edge of the dunes and it was so quiet that you could hear the wind across the sand! View Video

Sunday 25th February
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Show Voyage Map
Overnight, we doubled-back on ourselves across the Gulf to Abu Dhabi and lost an hour again in the process. I was also coming down with a cold at this point, so even an 8.45am assembly for our morning tour of the city was too early!

Here was another, very flat, very modern city - trying hard to become another New York, Singapore or Hong Kong almost overnight. Some of the buildings were quite striking but the most interesting area was at the heart of the City, where the Qasr Al Husn Palace or White Fort is the oldest building in Abu Dhabi, built in 1761 and for 200 years the palace residence of the ruling family.


Show Full Picture Show Full Picture Show Full Picture Show Full Picture Show Full Picture
Al Husn Mosque Al Husn Palace
White Fort
The Corniche & Historic Waterfront Construction Old & Modern Emirates Place Hotel
The VIP Entrance

Visiting the historic waterfront, we saw the construction of fishing-dhows in the traditional way, overshadowed by nearby tower-cranes amidst the city's new skyline. The nearby Heritage Village was unaccountably closed, unfortunately, and after getting stuck in a traffic-jam caused by a demonstration march by children (about road safety!), we were left at a shopping mall instead. It seemed to be what most passengers wanted; an indication of what modern tourism has become!

And a statement of Abu Dhabi's aspirations is clearly made by the excessively grand vip entrance to the equally excessively ostentatious Emirates Palace Hotel & Conference Centre, where just a "modest" room will cost you 684 for a week-end - and that's on a "Winter-Special" offer!


Show Picture Full Size The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
The sixth largest mosque in the World, when opened later in 2007, will accommodate 30,000 worshippers and will steal the record from Muscat for the world's largest carpet, which covers 5,627 sq m and weighs 47 tons. Try beating the dust out of that on a washing-line!

Tonight was another Captain's Farewell Cocktail Party, primarily for those leaving the ship the day-after-tomorrow in Dubai. We spent part of our evening with our friends John & Thelma for whom this was their last party before going home. They had been our frequent "cocktail companions" since they joined in Cape Town, 4 weeks ago, and we were going to miss them. Show Picture Full Size

Monday 26th February
Dubai, United Arab Emirates - Day 1
Show Voyage Map Show Map of Dubai
Slept heavily and awoke feeling really rough and thick with a cold but not about to be cheated out of a port by a virus, I pressed on with our planned tour to the nearby Emirates of Ajman & Sharjah.

With the expansion of Dubai, these two adjacent Emirates have become "dormitory" suburbs and while Sharjah is described as the "cultural capital of the UAE", Ajman is known for its beautiful white sand beach. Regrettably, today's tour was disappointing; we never saw the beach and we drove past a number of impressive buildings and monuments without stopping, while the museum we visited proved uninspiring.


Show Picture Full Size Show Picture Full Size Show Picture Full Size Show Picture Full Size
Dubai Cruise Terminal
the haze is not pollution
but desert sand
Dubai Creek
the "pregnant building" is the
National Bank of Dubai
The Freedom Mosque
in Sharjah
The Blue Souk
in Sharjah

We finished up at the Blue Souk, famous for its beautiful decoration of blue tiles and authentic arab-style ventilation towers, but in truth a shopping mall. In fact, it is two identical malls with two footbridges connecting them across a busy roadway.

The shops here, selling gold, jewellery and perfumes were, like the ones in Muscat, run by unenfranchised Asians who, we discovered, work as a kind of underclass while the rights of residence and property ownership are restricted to the Arabs.
The Blue Souk, Sharjah. Note the "Wind Towers", Persian in origin, designed to catch the breeze

Show Picture Full Size

We were beginning to see a less than laudable side to this part of the World and it was time to change the emphasis. Luckily, I had persuaded John, against his better judgement, to take an evening outing into the desert to experience the sunset and some "local" food and entertainment!

Show Picture Full Size

Our "Sundowner" Dune Dinner
What John hadn't realised though was that part of the excursion involved a spot of "Dune Bashing" in 4-wheel drive vehicles similar to those I had experienced in Qatar two days ago. This time though, I enjoyed it much more and to his surprise, I think John did too.

The dunes here were smaller than in Qatar but more "up-and-down", and the driving was a little more exhilarating, so it was more fun and a bit like a gentle roller-coaster. We finished at sunset and got out to walk on the dunes, and watched the sun go down over the desert.


Show Picture Full Size Show Picture Full Size Show Picture Full Size Show Picture Full Size Show Picture Full Size
John on the dunes The beauty of the dunes Peregrine Falcon Our "authentic" Bedu camp Belly Dancer

Darkness then fell quite quickly and we retreated to our "authentic" Bedouin-style camp, where they laid on a very well-organised and tasty barbecue. There were also a number of "side-shows" such as camel-rides, face and hand-painting with henna etc. The adventurous could even have a go smoking a "hubbly-bubbly" or houka (though I didn't). But the main entertainment was a traditional belly dancer. What she did with a succession of bladed weaponry is nobody's business!

The evening closed in spectacular fashion when they turned all the lamps out and we were left, almost stunned into silence in complete darkness, to look up to the desert sky covered in brilliant stars. It was, quite frankly, an all-too-brief moment of sheer beauty and wonder. A brilliant evening - and we were even back at the ship by 9.30, so John was pleased!

Tomorrow was Day-54 of our "Around Africa Cruise" and the 3rd "turn-around day" when about half the passengers would be leaving the ship and new ones would be arriving. Among them would be our own intrepid cruiser, Pat, who would be joining us for the last 3 weeks of this amazing holiday!



See Detailed Mileage Log for this cruise >>

3rd Leg Mileage: 4,529 nautical miles
Around Africa Cruise so far: 15,752 n miles
Total Mileage to date: 119,966 n miles

Return to top of page << Leg 2 - Capetown to Mombasa Leg 4 - Dubai to Southampton >> Next Cruise >>
Visit the Black Watch Ship Gallery >>