The Leon's 2018 Photo Album

Updated: 2018.07.22


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April - Zimbabwe

10 people from Valley Church, Cupertino went to Harare, Zimbabwe to volunteer at Habitation Of Hope (a summer camp for orphans run by Hands Of Hope) for just over two weeks.

Last year, Zachary was able to join us, but this year, Jessica was able to borrow enough vacation time to participate.

Prep / Travel / Dubai

We left SFO on Wed evening, and arrived in Dubai on their Thur evening, slept there over-night and flew out the next morning, followed by arriving in Harare on their Fri evening. The flights were pretty full, so not much sleep, but we had a large group from Bethel College in our section, and they were a fun group!

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Here is the whole gang getting ready to leave for the airport. We each had our own suitcase and one other full of crafts, puppets, supplies, etc. Carolyn was not here for this picture, so Jessica brought up a FaceBook pic.

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The puppets getting ready to go. This year's theme was "Mega Sports Camp", so the puppet show theme for the week was about a goalie who gets selected for a major league soccer club.

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Most of the gang just before heading to the airport. Vach & Jacintha left a day earlier in order to visit a new school that they helped get going.

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I'm not an Arabic expert, but I think that means, "It's gonna' be a long flight!"

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Sunsets @ 30,000 feet are usually awesome.

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And we made it to Dubai for their Thur eve. As proof, here is this year's Family photo in front of the Burj Khalifa.

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Their fountain show rivals the Bellagio in Las Vegas.

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You really do have to tilt the camera to get the whole building in the frame.

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We spent the day Fri flying from Dubai to Harare. Sat morning, we stopped by the HoH office to let everybody know we arrived safely.

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We brought Pizza for the girls at the Otter House, one of 18 orphan homes run by HoH.

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The girls each have a little photo album and enjoyed showing us their pictures.

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Finally, and entire group photo! There are six girls at this home, but one of them wasn't feeling well that day. Here we see Panashe, Kendra, Judith, Lucia, and Sarah with leaders Eba, Patricia, Nosia, and Vanessa (who helped at camp in 2017)

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All dressed up for church on Sunday morning.

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Caught a nice sunset at Habitation of Hope camp while hiking around the property one evening.

Camp - Week 1

On Sunday afternoon, the first group of kids arrived for camp. They were from Alaska, about 100K NW of Harare. A few of them had been here before, in 2016.

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We had a skit about David fighting off a lion, so Joe brought a very scary lion mask. She put on the mask and started heading right for the kids, and they scattered like rabbits! The sheep in the background looks relieved.

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Jessica was leading the story time this day, with a little Shona help from Uncle Stewart.

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Carolyn leading the songs.

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Pop the balloon game by sitting on it - the kids burst out laughing every time a balloon broke!

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Diane showing the kids how they were going to paint the T-Shirts

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Jessica helping a group of kids with their T-Shirts

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Diane working with some kids to decorate their rubber-band harps

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Jessica working with some kids to decorate their rubber-band harps

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Meanwhile, over at game time, a fierce dodgeball game was just beginning.

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As if that wasn't intense enough, this is the start of the water balloon battle, and the kids are running for the tub full of water balloons.

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One morning, the kids got to decorate their own frisbee.

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Jessica's table hard at work.

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Tadiwa was a crack-up, and had a great smile

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Ndine shamwari inonzi Rince. (I have a friend named Rince)

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Out last evening together, handing out all of their crafts from the week.

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The camp is beautiful - this is sunrise above the pond in front of our bungalow.

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The group photo of the camp before leaving on Fri morning.

The Weekend between the two camps

On Thursday morning, we headed for the airport - on our way to Victoria Falls.

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It is not very practical to drive from Harare to Vic Falls, and the plane ride is pretty inexpensive.

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It wasn't long before we were flying above the clouds.

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This is just before we landing - you can see the mist rising from the falls in the top left.

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Safe on the ground, and heading for our shuttle bus

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which took us to our home-away-from-home-away-from-home for a few evenings.

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A nice lunch on Thur afternoon @ The 3 Monkeys before we walked down to see the falls.

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A Leon and a Lion spotted in the wild.

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Glen and Patty leading the way to see the falls.

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Lots of monkeys running around, but here is a cute little one snuggling up to Mom.

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Nice overview of Victoria Falls. The indigenous Tonga name, Mosi-oa-Tunya ("The Smoke That Thunders") seems much more descriptive. Vic Falls is classified as the world's largest, when height and width are taken into account. i.e. the world's largest sheet of falling water. The Zambezi river is about a mile wide at this point just before the falls, and forms part of the broder between Zimbabwe and Zambia. It is the 4th longest river in Africa.

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I believe this was taken around Spot #7 on the previous map, looking across at Cataract Island.

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Looking further down at part of the Main Falls.

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The Family photo. (washed out, 'cuz I had to bring out the faces a bit more)

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This was on the way out, and everybody/ everything is soaked. I think we made it view #12, and after that, the mist was so intense, you could not even see the falls. The mist was so heavy coming down on the trail - it was like standing in the shower fully clothed.

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We decided not to take this shortcut back.

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The local vegetation enjoys all of the moisture in the air!

Safari

Botswana

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That evening, we had an amazing game dinner at The Boma (Dinner and Drum show). If we ever make it back to Vic Falls, this place will also be at the top of my list! We had Impala, Crocodile, Warthog steak, Eland meatballs, Impala stew, and some of the braver ones tried eating a Mobani Worm, aka Macimbi.

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We had quite a few monkeys running around our rest camp, and not all of them were friendly.

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On Fri morning, we drove to Botswana, to visit Chobe National Park. Here we are at the Chobe Marina Lodge in Kasane, getting ready for a safari game drive.

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Entering the National Park

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The first giraffe we saw. He is a bit older, and so his spots are starting to change from brown to black.

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A couple of red-billed hornbill birds - remember Zazu in The Lion King?!

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We saw quite a few eagles while we were there.

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In fact, there are at least 3 eagles in this tree, if you enjoy playing "Where's Waldo?"

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The guineafowl are quite common in Zimbabwe.

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These two are fighting over a female. They took turns winding up and swinging their heads into each other's necks. The guy on the left was better at dodging incoming attacks. This went on for 10-15 minutes while we were sitting there. I think we counted over 25 giraffes while we were sitting in this spot.

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Leaving this area, we got to see a baby elephant walking with the herd - oh great, now I have that song stuck in my head! The background for this page came from a section of savannah grass from this picture.

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Everybody in for the group photo!

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A herd of female impala antelope is a very common sight, although this is the largest harem we saw. A single territorial male will force all of the other males out of the herd, who will then band together and form a bachelor herd.

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Cape Buffalo, aka "Black death". One of the "Big Five" in Zimbabwe - don't get too close to these guys!

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After an excellent lunch back at the Marina Lodge, we headed out on the Chobe River for a new perspective of the National Park.

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Our boat pulled up pretty close to an Alligator, and had a little help from my 5x zoom lens.

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We saw quite a few elephants coming down to the river for a cool drink.

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This is called an African Darter (aka Snake Bird), or in Shona, "Anhinga". It was stunningly beautiful, no matter what you call it.

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These guys were rolling in the mud to help cool down.

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Another harem of impala antelope, but I mostly just liked this Monster Tree!

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We came across a hippo family - they really were as big as they look in this pic. Earlier, some were swimming towards our boat, and the captain zipped out of there as soon as we got some photos.

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The Chobe flows between Botswana and Namibia, and dumps into the Zambezi just above Vic Falls. This little patch of marshy reeds in the middle of the river was a point of contention between those two countries. Finally, an international court awarded the 'land' to Botswana, so they planted a flag there as a reminder to Namibia.

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Made it back safe and dry, for a photo under the banana tree.

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Diane shining on the bananas!

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The group heading out of the Marina Lodge to our shuttle back to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.

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Back at rest camp - a view of our nice little cottages.

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The restaurant there was called "in-da-belly" which is a punny reference to ndebele, the 2nd most common language in Zimbabwe. That language is most popular in Northern Zimbabwe, where Vic Falls is located. Ndebele is one of the fascinating 'clicking' languages, an example here.

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From our lodging area, you can hear the thunder of the falls, and see the mist rising.

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On Sat morning, we walked through The Victoria Falls Hotel to enjoy this awesome view of Vic Falls.

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Then we walked a little further to have breakfast at the aptly named Lookout Cafe, for this gorgeous view! (pun intended) Vic Falls is just to the left at the top of the pic, and the mist is blending into the clouds.

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At the top/left of this pic, you can see some of the zip lines traversing the gorge.

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More gorgeous views.

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Jessica sharing her life story on Sunday morning

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and meeting some of the local kids afterwards

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and making new friends.

Camp - Week 2

On Sunday afternoon, the next group of kids arrived from Chitungwiza, which is just South of Harare. Diane remembered a few of these kids from her first visit in 2015.

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Another round of crafts, Jessica helping with T-Shirts.

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The kids made "stained glass" hearts with crepe paper squares.

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Uncle Stewart helping with crafts also.

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The kids all enjoyed "Duck, Duck, Goose!"

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The "Red Tomatoes" Team had a funny nanme, but was serious when it came to dodgeball!

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Even the leaders got into the dodgeball game.

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Ndine shamwari inonzi Simba. (I have a friend named Simba)

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Getting lined up for the water balloon toss

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Take one step back, toss, repeat

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Anotidaishe had a great time with this game!

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Even Nate and Oscar got into the action.

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Of course, the water balloon toss usually progresses the water tub toss.

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Uncle Terrance leading a game of Simon Says

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With my friends, Leonora, Rutendo, and Oscar

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Uncle Terrance playing "Follow the leader" to have the kids wash their hands before lunch. Rufaro is first in line - such a cutie.

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Takes a team to serve 50 hungry kids

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Chicken and sudza and usually a veggie for the main course

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Taking a break from the trek out to the afternoon game field

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The Red Tomatoes strategizing for their attempt to solve The Tires of Hanoi game. (similar to the Tower of Hanoi game, but played with car tires instead :)

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Andres entertaining the leaders while the campers worked on their strategy.

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Jessica playing patty-cake with some of the kids who were waiting for their turn.

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On the final afternoon, it was time for the ropes course.

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Very few made it across without getting wet

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Definitely fun to watch!

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As an added bonus, mud pole wrestling.

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The Read Team cheer ended with everybody on the ground

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The goal here was to lower the bucket of water to the ground as a team. Typically a little water would slosh out, somebody would panic and push it away, dousing the other side of the circle as seen here.

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Everybody survived the water games, got cleaned up and dried off, and headed back for a much more relaxing game of sports-themed Bingo.

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Diane even got a turn.

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Stick bug - one of the many creatures found at camp.

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Our fearless leader, Glen, took us on a hike up to the top of some rocks with a great view of much of the camp facility. You can even spot the airport and downtown Harare from up there.

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Some of my best buddies for the week L to R: Tawanda, Sasha, ONeill

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Jessica practicing some Volleyball skills, or at they all it, "netball"

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It was rare for Diane to play ball with the kids, as she was constantly busy morning and afternoon in the Craft Shack

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Seriously, these kids are going non-stop from dawn to dusk. They will keep throwing balls and frisbees until it is too dark to see them.

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Dance party on the last evening

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Sharon and Tawanda

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Everybody wanted to get in the pictures

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Makanaka with Jessica

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Handing out all of the crafts on the final evening.

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Group photo with all the kids and leaders

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Group photo with just the kids

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You can just see Gracious is a sweetheart.

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Rumbidzai timed this photo bomb perfectly. I was disappointed to miss this shot, but it is still hilarious.

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Rince, Diane, and Simba getting some last minute photos.

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L-R: Diane, Arbby, Oscar, Garikai, and Jessica

Travel Home / Dubai

We left Zimbabwe Friday evening, and arrived in Dubai on Saturday morning. We had scheduled a 24+ hour layover, so we were able to get some sleep, and then tour a bit of the area via taxi hops.

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Window shopping at the Gold Souk ("market"), "I like the ones on the top row"

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Gonna' have to work on some upper arm strength first.

The "Star or Taiba" has a total weight of 63.856 kg (over 140 pounds)

and a diameter of 27.5 inches, the same as a hula-hoop!

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You can imagine how good it smelled walking through here.

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The official city logo for Dubai has the Arabic version of Dubai City overlaid with the English.

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Crossing "Dubai Creek" on a small boat. Lots of old vs. new juxtaposition to be seen here.

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Catching the sunset at Jumeirah Beach, with the Burj Al Arab in the distance, designed after a sailboat.

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Same picture, with a different face.

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In the Dubai Mall, there is an aquarium. We had not seen this ginormous tank before.

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We had seen this fountain before, but my pictures were blurry last time.

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Before going up in the Burj Khalifa

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The 2nd elevator ride, to floor 148, the highest observation deck in the world at 1,821 ft (555 m)

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We also went out on the Floor 124 observation deck, looking back up to the top.

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Looking out, NorthEast over some of the downtown area. You can tell those are very tall buildings, but they look really small from up here!

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Looking down at the fountain / light show in progress.


March


February


January