"In the end, it's not the years in your life that count, it's the life in your years." - Abraham Lincoln

Posted on November 15, 2016 by Sioux under General
5 Comments

 

From Hungary, I flew over the Med to the Middle East, where my first of three stops was to Sharjah based friends I had last seen 2 years ago when they were living in Perth and before that, 16 years ago when they left South Africa. We had many years to catch up during my stay. As I hadn’t been to Dubai either, a day’s outing included a trip up The Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. Due to the heat, not a lot of travelling about was done; we preferred to stay indoors where the air-conditioning kept us from melting.

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The Emirate of Sharjah is the third largest emirate of the United Arab Emirates and is the only one to have land on both the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, covering

an area of 2,590 square kilometers.

 

Human settlement has existed in the area for over 120,000 years, with significant

finds made of early axes and stone tools as well as Copper and Iron Age

implements. Sharjah also encompasses some important oasis areas, the most

famous of which is the fertile Dhaid region, where a range of vegetables and fruits

are cultivated.

 

Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, Sharjah was an important pearl

fishing port. A British marine survey of 1830 found ‘three to four hundred boats’

fishing in one season. 

 

Now a thriving economy, a far cry from just pearl fishing, Sharjah boasts one of the finest universities in the area, as well as a huge planetarium and space study centre.

Al Qasba is a unique waterfront destination centrally located in Sharjah city. Walking through a souk, I was astounded to see all the open fronted jewellery shops, especially considering that what was on display was not gold plated, it was the real deal!

The Cultural ‘Quran’ Roundabout has an interesting history. In 1987, the Government of Sharjah built the Cultural Palace and soon after, a large flame was lit on the roundabout. The roundabout was named Shula, which means ‘flame’. 

 

However, the flame was short-lived as the public raised their concerns over the danger of the large flame placed in one of the busiest areas in Sharjah, as the flame was said to be connected to a main gas pipe. People soon became concerned over potential damage in the area in the event of an accident.

 

The flame was then taken down and replaced with a sculpture of the Quran.

Even more fascinating was an abandoned plane, a Soviet Ilyushin Il-76 cargo plane, standing derelict on the side of the highway. Currently it has an advert on the side for the Palma Beach Hotel, but its past is far more interesting. According to the Aero Transport Data Bank the aircraft was built in 1975 in part of the Soviet Union that is now Uzbekistan. It flew as a Soviet military transport plane in the early 80’s.

 

After the collapse of the Soviet Union it flew for the Russian air force and in the early 90’s, was sold to the Sharjah-based airline Air Cess, which was a company formed by Sergei Bout, the brother of notorious arms dealer Viktor Bout, who was the inspiration for an arms dealer character in the 2005 film Lord of War. Originally set up in Belgium, Air Cess moved to Sharjah in 1997, which disbanded when South Africa’s Civil Aviation Authority charged Air Cess with 146 breaches of civil aviation law.

 

So how did this plane finally end up abandoned in the Umm Al Quwain desert? According to the book on Bout’s life ‘Merchant of Death: Money, Guns, Planes, and the Man Who Makes War Possible’ “In one celebrated case, his operation boldly spirited away a decrepit Ilyushin plane that had been consigned for use as a Soviet war monument. A former Russian aviation official recounted a tale of Bout offering one of his pilots US$20,000 to fly a shuddering wreck out to a desert landing in the Emirates, where it was promptly turned into a highway-side billboard.” The airfield at Umm Al Quwain closed down around five years ago. In 2012 Viktor Bout was sentenced to 25 years in prison, and now the Ilyushin Il-76 cargo plane slowly rots in the sun, a fading reminder of the arms dealer once referred to as “the merchant of death”. 

On the return drive we stopped at a seaside resort for sundowners.  The setting sun ending a fabulous day out with good friends.   

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I was treated to a dune drive – bashing about in the back of a 4×4 over dunes wasn’t exciting, but it was followed by dinner in the desert and some cultural dances. I got some fab photos, had a great evening, and the drive back across the dunes was done at a more sedate pace, much to my relief. 

The University City of Sharjah is an educational district to the east of Sharjah City that includes AUS, the University of Sharjah, and the Higher Colleges of Technology, which includes The Sharjah Women’s College and Sharjah Men’s College. The area also includes the Sharjah Library, Police Academy, and the Sharjah Teaching Hospital. 

Out on a weekend drive, literally across the country, we went up to the Oman border, and

stopped off for lunch along the way. The rich colour of the sand dunes was amazing, as

were the neatly trimmed trees – until I was informed that they were only like that due to the fact that the camels could not stretch any higher to eat the foliage! My ever patient friends stopped when I wanted to get a photo, and then it was a mad dash out into the stifling heat, get my photo and dash back to the airconditioned car; or take photo through the window as we were driving – that became my preferred option as the temperatures soared. I think the max we had that day was 50 degrees! 

Lunch time view. 

A fascinating bottle

of gin I found when

we went to buy our ‘stash’ for the 

Ramadan period

when the sale of

alcohol is totally banned.

 

5 responses to “Middle East part 1 – hot, hot, hot!!!”

  1. Pauline Smith says:

    Eish, those Camels need to see a dentist – bet they haven’t brushed their teeth in absolute ages!! Did you get to ride the camel?
    Those bracelets look stunning – did you buy one? I suppose not if it was the real deal.
    Beautiful sunset to….

  2. Cindy Eve says:

    fabulous images. The sculptures are amazing. I really don’t think I could handle those temperatures

  3. Paul says:

    Those camels are certainly ugly beastis

  4. Derrick Baney says:

    Yip have been there and felt the heat – don’t know how they live there – to much for South Africans

  5. Ursula Evans says:

    Beautiful

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