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Hi everyone

very full day yesterday - started by rushing to the stables, hand walking the boys for 30 minutes while stalls were being cleaned out, feeding, throwing the boys out into their paddocks, and rushing back to the hotel to pickup the rest of the US gang. We wanted to be on the road by 9:30 to get Becky up to Dubai to meet with Jim Bryant and Juma....we did that great road where we have to jump the sand dunes off the highway to get down onto another road that goes straight into the Emirates Stables....literally, we pull off the highway (where we have been traveling at speeds of up to 100 mph...which is 160km/hr) and hit the sand, push it into 4WD and go down the banks through a sandy area and then back up onto another paved road through a hole in the fencing!

We arrived at the stabling area outside of Dubai (more toward Jebel Ali) and dropped Becky off amidst great security, and met Mark Dial - who was waiting for us at the intersection of the road into Dubai.. we went to Mark's home first for a quick look around and a much needed pit stop....Mark's home is very spacious and very beautiful....then off into the city of Dubai with Mark as escort - we also had Linda and John Crandell (John's parents) with us...so we numbered 11 with Mark - we squeezed into two vehicles (we had 5 parked outside Mark's place) and after 45 minutes of sitting in construction and traffic - Dubai is like driving into NYC at rush hour - we arrived at the Emirates Mall - the one with the indoor skiing area. We watched people skiing downhill for a bit, then hit the food courts...Mark, Troy, Kate and I went for the South African MEAT meals and the rest went for Iranian food...we chose the correct place it seems, since most of the others were served some vegetable meal that consisted of whole items of vegetables that they thought was part of the decoration for the table...whole tomatoes, whole lettuce heads, whole carrots...you get the picture...Linda Crandell said that after about 15 minutes when nothing else was served she figured that it WAS her meal afterall and not part of the centerpiece! anyway, great meal on my table - including chocolate milkshakes...Hah! After eating we all hit the ATMs - we are heading for the gold souks!!!

Our next visit was to the Dubai Museum, where we went through a cultural/historical overview of Dubain - very interesting to see how much has been done to change the face of Dubai in the last 50 years. We were there for about an hour, and all met to plan how to get across the creek into old Dubai.

we took a dhow (boat) across the "creek" (the river in Dubai is called a creek) and went into the shopping district of old Dubai - can you say shopping??? unbelieveable - if there were about 1,000 spice shops ...I kid you not (Dad, you have spices for your gift!) ! it took us some walking to find the gold souks...everything has changed since Ann and John Crandell were last here, and after winding around the 1,000 spice shops only to get into the 1,000 kitchen gadget shops, we ended up asking someone at one of the 1,000 shoe shops where the gold souks were...we at last arrived, amidst the glitter and glow of gold, silver, jewels, pearls....sparkly, sparkly, sparkly - my eyes lit up like the 4th of July......my mouth started to salivate....I started to hypoventilate (well, you get the picture here - it is quite literally overwhelming). I was on a mission to find a place to make an earring to replace one lost - and Mark was my guide here. We went into one side shop, very small but very sparkly - and I produced the earring, after much discussion and much negotiating, they were able to meet our demands and will have the earring for us in two days (Val) and Mark will pick it up for me. I then shopped for my friend Stephanie Rice- you will not be disappointed, Steph! Out we went with much satisfied with our spree. Tom found some lovely little sparkly pill boxes which we bought, and Steve found a little trinket for a special someone (Dinah).

It was getting late, and Becky was in need of a pickup after her long day at the stables ....we had one last look at Dubai by traveling along the creek in a dhow - all 11 of us - up to the floating bridge, then found our vehicles and made the way back to Mark's...everyone separated into their various vehicles and off we went for the 90 minute drive back to Abu Dhabi....it was very late and I was stressing about the horses being left out in the paddocks ...it was past 8pm....I was supposed to go back to pick Becky up around 4pm - but there was no way I was going to find my way back to anywhere, so we all stuck together and Becky stayed with Jim until 7pm...Mark went and picked her up, and we all convened at Mark's. So - it was now way late and I as way anxious...but as we neared our hotel in Mafraq, Becky insisted that the grooms go to the stables (another 20 minute drive) and the riders needed to eat and sleep - it was after 9:30, so we got dumped off at the hotel and the grooms drove off into the night to see if they could beg their way into the stables (there is a curfew afterall). I fell asleep at 10:30 - but Tom got back around 11 and said the stable steward had taken care of everything - horses were in and bedded down, all fed what we had left out for the dinners and their correct blankets were on ...good old Gunga (seriously, that' s our stable steward's name).

Today we have clipping and cleaning to do, more practicing of the water bottle hand-offs and more organizing. I'll email tonight