12

9th Year Anniversary

9th Year Anniversary

Its 9th day of June and my blog, ‘The Contemplation Of a Joker’ completes 9 years of its existence. Yes, today is its 9th birthday. 😀 Happy birthday to my blog.

By that logic, it belongs to the Zodiac sign Gemini. Some of the characteristics of a Gemini are that they are surprising, unpredictable, adaptable and indecisive. 9 years is a long enough time to figure out that these features totally align with my blog.

It has been surprising with the kind of content it dishes out. Totally unpredictable with the frequency – it has successfully completed an AtoZ challenge and there were times when it didn’t come up with a post in six months even.

Adaptability is one of its key features as to the various genres it has catered too. Some might see it as a negative but I would like to believe, it is a positive for my blog till it figures out and carves out a niche for itself. It is at times indecisive when it comes to picking and sticking to a theme while undertaking a challenge.

I still remember the day when I started this blog. I wanted to reach out to an audience and test waters before actually taking the writer/author route. While I have still not fully taken the plunge I am happy with the progress my blog has made. I know…I know it has been slow, but at least I never gave up.

The last year…the 9th was the best year for it as it saw the most number of posts being published and saw a better consistency and hence a better Alexa rank. While blogging, on the whole, is on a decline with fewer and fewer money being pumped in by the brands but I still believe that if you keep publishing quality content you will develop an authentic readership however small it may be.

A couple of days back a blogging community-based platform, Indiblogger declared that they would be going offline and shutting down operations. I was shocked and a bit heartbroken but I could see it coming with more and more of such platforms closing down. Last year it was Blogmint and this year it is our beloved Indiblogger.

Indiblogger was famous for its blogging challenges and competitions; some of them had literally big prizes. All these years of blogging it was a constant companion and these challenges kept motivating to come up with better content. Some of my best work has come as part of these challenges only.

Their Indimeets will surely be missed by the whole community. They hosted some of the best blogging meets hosted across the country and gave a true opportunity to make friends with the faces behind the blogs we visit on a regular basis and have made a bond with them.

I remember winning a PS3 at one of those Indimeets and now since they are going away forever its meaning has become even more for me. Indiblogger – you will surely be missed and thank you for being such an important part of my blogging journey. I dedicate this birthday to you.

I also want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has been a part of my blogging and writing journey – the ones who regularly visit and comment on my blog, the ones who have just read a post or two, the ones who motivate to do better work, the ones who painstakingly review and read the initial drafts, the ones who don’t read at all but still are gracious enough to share my posts. I thank you all ‘Dil se’.

For all those who have been a part of my blogging journey,

For all those who read my posts,

For all those who regularly share my posts,

And

For all those who still believe in my writing…

It’s not a goodbye,

But it’s a GOOD BYE.

Thank you ALL 🙂

Manas’ Sameer’ Mukul

 

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17

Things I wish I knew as a First-Time Author | #BlogchatterEbook

Things I wish I knew as a first-time Author

It was around the same time last year when my relationship with Blogchatter started. They had announced their annual BlogchatterEbook Carnival, which transforms a blogger to a self-published author. Since I didn’t have much time to create new content for the Ebook and I desperately wanted to test publishing waters; I decided to edit and compile the existing top blog posts from my blog ‘The contemplation of a Joker’ and give this activity a real chance.

Today I can proudly say I am an author of a ‘self-published’ book. This year Blogchatter has given me an added responsibility. They took from a blogger to an author and now they are converting this author into a mentor for the people who would be participating in this years’ carnival.

I am proud to be considered a mentor for this year’s #BlogchatterEbook and I am here to help you out with your doubts and queries. Since the last years’ affair was so rushed for me there were many questions and things that bothered me right before compiling and putting the content in a book format. There are multiple questions that pop up from what font to use, what should be the order of the content, how to go about formatting the content, what is the ideal word limit and so on.

Based on my experience from last year and the questions I have been getting, I am writing this post on the ‘Things I wish I knew as a first-time author’.

I want to begin by saying; this is YOUR book and is a reflection of you. You are here to have fun and make sure you enjoy the journey from a Blogger to a published Author. There are no set mandatory rules, just a set of guidelines to help you come up with a better version of your book. Many people get scared because of the guidelines and never publish the book itself.

Just remember – Every Criticism is good criticism if you are a writer. Reach out to as many people as possible and ask them if they can give feedback for your work. That will certainly help in boosting confidence and correcting errors. Even if you aren’t finding people to dedicate time for you, do a couple of thorough self-reviews.

To begin with I would say just pick up a random book and go through the look and feel; how the content is formatted, how the chapters are starting, what the margins look like on each side, how many lines are there in a page and how many words in each line and so on.

Let’s start with the cover page:

Do include a cover page, with a pic, title and your name and/or any tagline. You can use Canva and Snapseed to design and edit. If you are looking for free pictures; Canva, Unsplash and Pixabay are good resources. Since it is an Ebook, you can choose a picture in either a vertical or horizontal format. I consider it a mistake since I chose a horizontal picture that might not ideally look like a book cover.

Length/Size of the book:

Personally speaking, there is no defined limit – It’s not an essay contest. Just make sure whatever story you are conveying and the central plot are complete. Don’t worry about word count – still, try to keep it around 15k at least. The more the merrier. If you are going with a compilation of let’s say recipes or travelogues then try to focus on each chapter and make it complete. In that scenario, keep a healthy count of somewhere around 12 and more.

About Content:

It will be best if there is a central theme around the work. Last year I compiled random short stories and that worked too. A theme gives an insight to the readers about what they are getting into. Sometimes, since it is the first time, the book might have two themes – then also go ahead with it and divide it into two sections. Remember there is no right or wrong here.

Title

I wasn’t sure what the title of my book should be – when I looked around it was right in front of me. It was the same as my blog’s title. When you have a THEME, it becomes easy. If it’s a compilation, my advice is to pick the title of most imp story and write ‘other stories…’ If the book has more than one theme, then the title should focus on the theme with more content or importance.

Formatting

It is always about the content in a book and not fancy fonts. Try to keep any ‘serif’ font – Times, Courier, Century Schoolbook, Palatino.

Size – ideally 10 or 12 points (also depends upon page formatting n font)

Indentation

Well, it’s not important but if you want your book’s content to look like a regular ones’ then indentation gives that look and feel.

Select-All (Content/Chapter) and then Control+J. Your content is perfectly done.

Margins

Margins give better readability. Usually, keep half an inch as margin.

Page size – I have mostly worked on A4 so I can recommend that. If you want to convert it into paperback later then A5 for a 6*9 layout is good. Try to keep 250-300 words on a page. I have seen the regular books have somewhere around 20-25 lines on a page. Try to keep that depending upon the size of the font and page.

Header and Footer

Try to keep the name of the book as header and a page number as footer. Start page numbers from the first chapter. I kept the author name too in the header.

For page numbers – go to Insert – Page numbers and then format. Insert only page numbers and not Page1, Page2… The beginning pages like Title, preface, acknowledgment should be devoid of page numbers or if you really want then go for roman numbering.

The order of the book

There is compulsory order but the one that is usually followed is – Cover Page – Title Page – Copyright page – dedication (optional) – Acknowledgement (Optional) – Table of contents – Chapters – About the author (it can be placed before Index as well). If you are writing non-fiction or content that requires a lot of references, then you can add the list of references at the end. If the book has more than one part then you can also add a teaser for the next part in the end.

How to save as pdf

Everybody is not tech savvy and since I received a couple of questions on this – After you have put everything in order – verify the order of chapters and pages. Close the file, open again and re-check. Go to ‘SaveAs’ and then in the format or file type change it to pdf from doc or docx. Save it and your ebook in pdf format is ready.

Headings

Try to keep consistency in the formatting of heading throughout the book – it looks very professional. It is not pleasing to the eye to look at different fonts on different chapters. Similarly, for sub-headings, if your book has them, then keep them same everywhere.

How to reduce the size of a picture

It is not advisable to stack-up your book with a lot of pictures as it will dramatically increase the size of your book and might not meet the maximum size criteria provided by the platform. Hence if it is unavoidable then you can follow these steps to reduce the size of any picture. I use Mac – in that when you open a pic in preview – Go to tools – adjust size, there you can reduce by percentage or pixels or cms. It definitely reduces the size in MB by 50% in one go itself.

Just remember no question is a silly question.

All the mentors including me are here to help you out to get your book ready.

All the best of love’n’luck for your journey.

For all the first time authors,

For all those bloggers who will take the plunge,

For all those who found this helpful,

And

For all those who now know things as a first-time author

It’s not a goodbye,

But it’s a GOOD BYE.

Manas ‘Sameer’ Mukul

8

Do the Wardrobe | #ShareTheLoad

Do The Wardrobe | #ShareTheLoad #Blogadda

“Papa who will prepare the breakfast for us”, I asked hungrily.

“I will beta I will”, he replied. “Don’t worry! What will you have for breakfast? What did mummy generally cook?” he questioned.

I answered, “We would usually have a dry vegetable to go along with Paratha.”

He said, “OK don’t worry.”

What he didn’t say was he had never cooked before in his lifetime.

The year was 1997 and mummy was admitted in a hospital for an ear operation. It required two surgeries to be performed and it would have required her to be in the hospital for a whole long week. She had never left us alone for so long without guidance. 10 min into the ordeal he was yet to light the stove.

My sister and I knew that there was no way we were getting any breakfast before school time to forget about getting paratha and bhindi.

After a few minutes, he gave up and handed us both 20 rupees each and asked to eat something from the school canteen.

A week later mom returned and we told her the complete episode. Since then she made it point to teach me all the things necessary related to running a household and the so-called things that are supposedly done by females of a house. Today I can proudly say that there are days when I cook better than my sister.

She taught me everything from cooking to washing clothes from cleaning and mopping to arranging wardrobes. I guess that is the biggest reason I don’t have problems staying alone. Btw everybody claims that my partner would be forever happy (Anybody listening!).

Mom and Me

I make it a point to help mom every now and then with all the things. In fact, whenever I am visiting her I try to spend most of the time with her and help her out with her chores. With age catching up fast on her, it is my prime priority to spend as much time with her as possible and what better way than performing her tasks along with her.

Another comical thing that happens every time my sister pays a visit – The mom-daughter duo gets into a war mode to clean up and dust the house. They are so good with it that most times there are many things that will be forever lost in the black hole of cleaning.

For this, I have taken upon myself to make and arrange my wardrobe. To reduce the load on mom and to prevent further things to get forever lost, I do it on a weekly basis usually on Sundays. After every wash, mom hands over my clothes to me and they are neatly ironed and then folded into the wardrobe. I being me never lose an opportunity to tease them how nicely I have done it.

Every time someone chases me with the question of getting married I either show them my wardrobe or cook a wonderful dish for them and most times they get the answer. There was an era when a washing machine was a privilege and status symbol – Mom even taught me to wash clothes with bare hands.

Even if you cannot wash clothes or put a load in the washing machine, at least, try to keep things in your wardrobe by yourself. This way it will save a lot of time for you every morning when you shout at the top of your voice for your handkerchiefs and socks. It is just like if you can’t cook at least cut a vegetable or do the dishes (I know I know a lot of wives and moms would be rooting for me).

Many guys, especially bachelors, would still find it daunting. Well, you can always start with baby steps – forget about folding clothes and ironing them. Start with creating separate sections for shirts, trousers, socks, undergarments and so on. Once you will get into this habit then all that would be left for you to do is to fold them neatly and arrange them. After washing, always tie up a pair of socks together – it will prevent them from getting misplaced.

I am not complaining, I guess the culture or the society was weaved that way but I often thought that if my father didn’t learn to light up a stove then half of it was his fault but half of it was my grandmothers’. If she would have been strict with him or even encouraged him to try his hand at all this, we would not have gone to the school hungry that day.

Somehow the society is like that. When a guy doesn’t learn all this then a certain section of society blames him to be patriarchal but it becomes even difficult when a male learns all this and simply tries to help their mother, sister, wife and daughter, then he is blessed with so many negative names. Anyway, it’s their mindset and you cannot help it. I am happy till my mom is happy and every time I do these things I feel, even in a smaller way, I have honoured her teachings.

All the mothers with young kids please teach your sons right from an early age that there is no shame in doing household chores and I am sure they will grow up as better understanding and empathetic adults.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For all those who males help their mothers,

For all those males who can cook,

For all those who can wash clothes with bare hands,

And

For all those who can arrange their wardrobes…

It’s not a goodbye,

But it’s a GOOD BYE.

Let’s convert our Sundays into SON-days.

Don’t just be a Mamma’s boy, be Mamma’s real SON. Let’s start with #ShareTheLoad every Sunday.

‘I pledge to #ShareTheLoad in household chores in association with Ariel and BlogAdda

21

X – Xploring the Grand Mosque | #AtoZChallenge

X – Xploring the Grand Mosque | #AtoZChallenge #BlogchatterA2Z

Today let me take you to the ‘Taj Mahal’ of the Middle East – their star attraction.

The Grand Mosque or as it is popularly known, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is located in the capital of UAE, Abu Dhabi. It is the largest mosque in the country and one of the largest mosques in the world. The sheer whiteness of the structure makes it comparable to Taj Mahal (maybe because I am an Indian) as there is hardly any other building in the world like this. If you are visiting in the after, it is literally blinding for the naked eye to stare at the monument.

It is an important place for daily prayers, Friday gatherings and Eid prayers. The mosque has a massive capacity and on Eid, it can accommodate up to 41000 people. The construction of the mosque started in 1996 and it took about twelve years to complete.

While Entering

This mosque is unlike other mosques that you would find around the world. Its uniqueness lies in its architecture that captures seamless interactions between Islam and world cultures. Sheikh Zayed’s vision for the Grand Mosque was to incorporate architectural styles from different parts of the world including many Muslim civilizations. He wanted the mosque to stand out as a symbol for togetherness of cultural diversity and heritage.

One look at the Mosque and you will feel that it is a celebration of cultural diversity. The mosque’s architects were British, Italian and Emirati, and design inspiration was borrowed parts of Turkey, Morocco, Pakistan, and Egypt among other Islamic countries. Syrian architect Yousef Abdelky designed it, which covers an area of 22,412 square meters and was made in collaboration with 3,000 artisans from 38 global construction companies.

The Main area inside

It has soon become one of the most popular destinations not only in the UAE but in the whole world. In 2017 it saw a staggering 3.4 mn visitors and Tripadvisor rated it as the world’s second most favorite landmark with only Angor Wat in Cambodia beating it to the top spot.

It was made at a whopping cost of AED 2bn and is world’s third largest mosque with its 82 domes carved out of white marble, 1096 exterior columns, 96 semi-precious jewel-encrusted internal columns and the awe-inspiring seven handmade 24-carat gold plated Swarovski crystal chandeliers.

The Grand Mosque also holds three Guinness World records to its name – the largest hand-woven carpet in the world, the biggest chandelier and the largest dome of its kind.

The beautiful arches

The world’s largest carpet measures 5,627 sqm (60,570 sq ft) and was made by around 1,200-1,300 carpet knitters putting in an astounding 2,268,000,000 knots within the carpet. The weight of this carpet is 35 ton and is predominantly made from wool (originating from New Zealand and Iran). The carpet alone took approximately two years to complete.

When you enter during sunlight the spectacular ancient-cut domes, the reflective pools that engulf the courtyard and the iconic prayer hall will mesmerize you. The pool looks surreal at night, which is illuminated reflecting the mosque’s columns.

It is named after UAE’s founding figure, Sheikh Zayed and after his death in 2004; he was buried in the mosque’s courtyard. Just like the Taj Mahal, its radiating brilliance lies in its carvings and patterns on the columns, which are studded with precious gems and stones like amethyst and Jasper.

To promote an open-culture-open-door policy the mosque is open for everyone and that too free of cost. One can also go for a one-hour guided tour of the mosque and this is also completely free – it definitely worth signing for as it gives an insight into the structure, heritage and architecture.

The Largest Chandelier

The mosque is always full of visitors but its extravagant size makes it feel very spacious and you will not feel cramped or overcrowded.

Timings: 9:00am – 22:00 Saturday-Thursday and 16:30-22:00 on Fridays

During Ramadan – 9:00am-14:00 Saturday-Thursday and the mosque is completely closed on Fridays.

Getting there:

If you are staying in Abu Dhabi take a taxi and within 20 min you will be at your destination. If you are traveling from Dubai, although there is a direct bus service from Dubai to Abu Dhabi, the preferred option is a taxi. The taxi will cost you around AED 250-275 per side and will only take about 90 min.

Important Tips:

When traveling to the Grand Mosque, do plan to visit a couple of other attractions in Abu Dhabi, that way you can make the most of your trip. Try to have meals before you come to the mosque, as you will not find many options in proximity.

Another view from inside

Please dress modestly as it is a Muslim religious site. The ladies will be provided with free ‘abayas’ to cover themselves fully. Remove shoes and socks before entering the main site.

Any time is a good time to visit the Grand Mosque but during summers try to visit in the morning or early evening. It is perfect for photography then. Don’t forget to carry a pair of sunglasses, as the glare might not make it comfortable for you.

It has a seductive captivating vibe, which makes you sit in silence and just observe and soak in the opulence. Irrespective of the faith you follow – you must visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque for its spectacular architecture.

For all those who love the Taj Mahal,

For all those who like architecture,

Pool reflecting the amazing columns

For all those who like visiting religious sites,

And

For all those who are amazed by The Grand Mosque…

It’s not a goodbye,

But it’s a GOOD BYE.

Manas ‘Sameer’ Mukul

This is the 24th post for the #AtoZChallenge #BlogchatterA2Z. My theme in Travel Category is ‘Dubai – the City of Gold’, where I would be covering everything about the city in the course of 26 posts.

Read the Previous post here: Dubai – City of Gold

Please do visit tomorrow for the next post with the letter ‘Y’

I am also taking part in the #AtoZChallenge #BlogchatterA2Z using another theme –‘IPL – Indian Parliamentary League’. If you are keen on following key issues pertaining to the upcoming General Elections head over to the Politics Theme and share your feedback.

23

W – Weekend Getaway to Fujairah | #AtoZChallenge

W – Weekend Getaway to Fujairah | #AtoZChallenge #BlogchatterA2Z

Fujairah is the only Emirate, which has a complete coastline on the Gulf of Oman. The new Sheikh Khalifa Highway connects Dubai and Fujairah and is only two hours drive away. It is the best place for a relaxing weekend getaway. It is famous for its luxurious resorts facing the Gulf of Oman with the mountains in the backdrop. It is the perfect place to catch mountains and beaches in a single place.

Kids play area

It is home to the oldest mosque in UAE, Al Badiyah mosque built in 1446. Other places of importance include Fujairah fort, Al Bithanh Fort, Fujairah Museum, Al Hayl Castle, Awhlah Fort and Ain al-Madhab Hot Springs.

We decided to spend a leisurely weekend at Rotana Fujairah. In Fujairah, there are two hotels that are a part of the Rotana group – Fujairah Rotana Resort and Spa and Nour Arjaan by Rotana. Rotana group is a major hospitality chain in the Gulf region with resorts and hotels in almost every country of the middle.

We were going there to celebrate the anniversary of an elder brother. I along with my sister and brother-in-law was in one car and the elder brother’s family was in their SUV. We started around noon from Dubai and reached around 2pm. The road is beautiful to drive on with sand dunes on both sides. On the way, there are multiple fuel stations that will definitely have a restaurant or a supermarket on its premises. We took coffee and some snacks as a takeaway from one of the supermarkets at the fuel station.

The humansize chessboard

Once you reach Dibba Al Fujairah, head towards the Al Aqah beach. It is a very famous beach and is home to most of the resorts and large hospitality chains including names like Radisson Blu Fujairah, Le Meridien Al Aqah beach resort, Intercontinental Fujairah Resort and so on. There is a section of the Al Aqah beach where one can go for an overnight camp right next to the ocean.

We were staying at the Fujairah Rotana Resort and Spa. It is a luxurious lavish property facing the ocean and a picturesque mountain in the background. We were greeted with welcome drinks and the check-in formalities were being completed while I was scanning the huge reception area. I could locate a little alley where they had shops for souvenirs and gifts inside the resort itself.

View from Room

The resort has about 250 guest rooms and suites that have colonial designs that blend local architecture with a graceful palazzo-style estate. All rooms of this

Beachfront resorts have a private terrace or balcony overlooking the Indian Ocean. The rooms start from AED 1000. To my surprise, the resort was completely booked.

After completing the formalities at the reception we headed for our rooms. On our way, we crossed their massive swimming pool. It had a separate section for kids and its size reminded me of a water park – it was so huge. Since the resort was completely booked it was logical that the pool will be crowded too. I was amazed to see so many people already in the pool. For a moment I thought people directly checked into the pool or what!

Moving further ahead there was a giant human size chessboard drawn on the floor with all the pawns taking a nap. I wondered who would play that.

The Beach

Once in the room we ordered some food and played cards. The room was huge and one could see the ocean through the wall like a glass window. It was luxury at its very best.

Around 5 pm when the sun decided to be calmer, I decided to go for a swim, in fact, all of us went swimming in the turquoise blue water of the massive pool. What’s the point when you pay so much and don’t enjoy all the facilities? Well! Diving in a swimming pool is my favorite. There was a bar right in the middle of the pool and the seats were underwater. It definitely added extravagance to the ambiance.

We all were starving once out of the pool and decided to go out to some restaurant to try out some local cuisine. Luckily we found a decent restaurant near to the resort. The restaurant was serving Arabic and Afghani cuisine. The bread was so big that it would not even fit in our regular plates. On occasions, I can gorge on a decent quantity of food but that day I was also full in one ‘roti’ or I should say ‘Rota’.

The huge swimming pool

After the meal, we headed back to the resort. There was some amazing creativity on display – many showpieces made of colorful bottles with neon lights gracing them. We had ordered a cake that was a surprise for my elder brother and sister-in-law. We cut the cake and celebrated their anniversary, partied, laughed, shouted and danced till the wee hours.

I woke up early and went for a morning walk on the calm beach. There is no better feeling than to experience the tranquility of the misty morning ocean with birds chirping and no humanity in sight. I took a dip before heading back to the room. Everybody was awake by then and were planning to head to the buffet breakfast.

After the breakfast everybody was exploring the property, the ladies went for their pampering spa session while the men strolled around gazing at beauties at poolside. 😀

We checked out around 12 pm and headed back to Dubai – It was a well-deserved break full of luxury and fun. The resort is a perfect amalgamation of modern facilities and design right in the lap of nature.

For all those who like to swim,

For all those who love the ocean,

For all those who adore beaches,

And

For all those who love this combo of nature and man-made marvels…

It’s not a goodbye,

But it’s a GOOD BYE.

Manas ‘Sameer’ Mukul

This is the 23th post for the #AtoZChallenge #BlogchatterA2Z. My theme in Travel Category is ‘Dubai – the City of Gold’, where I would be covering everything about the city in the course of 26 posts.

Read the Previous post here: Dubai – City of Gold

Please do visit tomorrow for the next post with the letter ‘X’

I am also taking part in the #AtoZChallenge #BlogchatterA2Z using another theme –‘IPL – Indian Parliamentary League’. If you are keen on following key issues pertaining to the upcoming General Elections head over to the Politics Theme and share your feedback.

15

V – Visit to Al Ain Zoo & Jebel Hafeet | #AtoZChallenge

V – Visit to Al Ain Zoo & Jebel Hafeet | #AtoZChallenge #BlogchatterA2Z

Papa got his passport done after he retired from his government job. There is some clause regarding NOCs and hence it is difficult to get it made during your official tenure. Just after that we sat together and decided what should be his first international trip. Given his strict daily routines or I should say extremely disciplined way of living the only option I could suggest was a trip to Dubai.

His daughter…I mean…my sister was staying there so all his nitpicking about the food and daily stuff would be taken care of by her. Since he was traveling outside for the first time it was best that we chose this location.

The first trip that we planned to take from Dubai was to the Al Ain Zoo and Jebel Hafeet because of its serene natural beauty and proximity to Dubai.

Al Ain Zoo

Al Ain Zoo is also known as Al Ain Wildlife Park & Resort or Al Ain Wildlife Park. It is about one and a half drive from Dubai and situated in the foothills of Jebel Hafeet. Although it is a part of Abu Dhabi to get to Al Ain you don’t have to go through it and there is a separate way altogether.

The 400-hectare zoo was founded in 1968 by Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the late Ruler of Abu Dhabi, out of his sheer love for the land’s wildlife. He was particularly fond of the Arabian Oryx. We left post breakfast and reached around 11am.

Al Ain zoo is home to many of the regions peculiar species including Ungulates and herbivores such as Arabian antelopes and oryx, eland, gazelle, lechwe. It is also home to the rare white lion. The area is huge and you will have to do a lot of walking. It is not like a regular zoo where the animals are usually caged instead every animal has a huge barn-like space for it with the natural interiors kept intact. Keep a water bottle and a map of the zoo handy.

The zoo also hosts a big cathouse – Lions, cougars, jaguars, and black and spotted leopards are found here. A reptile house, monkey compounds, aquarium, and aviary also add to the attraction. You will fall in love with the natural landscape, the cool breeze from Jebel Hafeet and some beautiful animals in the background.

The Al Ain wildlife park also has residential facilities and if you are looking to spend the weekend then you can stay there as well. There is a bird show featuring predatory birds and night birds that lasts 30 minutes starting at 7 pm. The dinosaur trail is open until 8 pm. There are over 4,000 animals in the zoo, with at least 30% of its 180 species considered endangered.

Tickets: The normal tickets are priced at only AED 30 and AED 10 for kids. If you want to do a safari inside the zoo, then it will cost you around AED 200.

We almost visited every nook and corner, and with Papa along, we didn’t want to exhaust him. It was around 4pm that we left for the summit at Jebel Hafeet. If you depart later than this then you might miss the surreal tranquil view from the top.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jebel Hafeet

Jebel Hafeet is the second highest mountain in UAE and the only mountain range in the emirate of Abu Dhabi. It is located on the border of Oman and UAE and is considered an extension of the Hajjar Mountains that we discussed during Hatta.

It is also of archaeological importance as many Bronze Age beehive tombs were discovered at its foothills. It is one of the most popular tourist destinations because of windy winding roads. Since the rock is mainly made up of limestone, over the years, the speedy winds have created a natural cave system.

The 7.3-mile (11.7 km) mountain road to the top is considered one of the greatest driving roads in the world. With it two lanes meandering through the craggy limestone rocks it is an experience to behold. There are a couple of viewpoints with parking spaces where you can get mesmerized by the sublime desert and its winds.

Once you reach the top there are ample parking spaces. Avoid parking on the side of the roads, firstly because of inconvenience to others and secondly because of strict rules. It may get really cold while returning so please don’t forget to carry warm clothing.

At the top, the summit is grilled with huge metallic bars, as the fall is steep. Some stupid people, including me, still try to crossover and take pictures from that side. Please, it is highly inadvisable and risky.

There are a couple of basic restaurants within the complex at the top but I will suggest carrying your own food. The queues are long and the quality of food not that great. We were graced with some royal scolding from Papa and hence this will stick to my memory forever.

You will find many fitness freaks and lovers of endurance sports cycling their way to the top. I know…I know…that thought in itself is pretty fatiguing. One can also opt for the public transport buses from Al Ain city center.

It gets dark really quickly once the sun sets like always in the mountains. Plan accordingly as you will have to maneuver through huge traffic.

It is a truly majestic experience and a welcome climate change to visit Jebel Hafeet and Al Ain Zoo. Take your whole family and have safe fun.

For all those who love the zoo,

For all those who love driving,

For all those who love mountains,

And

For all those who love Jebel Hafeet…

It’s not a goodbye,

But it’s a GOOD BYE.

Manas ‘Sameer’ Mukul

This is the 22th post for the #AtoZChallenge #BlogchatterA2Z. My theme in Travel Category is ‘Dubai – the City of Gold’, where I would be covering everything about the city in the course of 26 posts.

Read the Previous post here: Dubai – City of Gold

Please do visit tomorrow for the next post with the letter ‘W’

I am also taking part in the #AtoZChallenge #BlogchatterA2Z using another theme –‘IPL – Indian Parliamentary League’. If you are keen on following key issues pertaining to the upcoming General Elections head over to the Politics Theme and share your feedback.

10

U – Underwater Zoo & Aquarium | #AtoZChallenge

U – Underwater Zoo & Aquarium | #AtoZChallenge #BlogchatterA2Z

We have been to a Zoo in the past and we have visited an aquarium but how many times you can say you have been to an Underwater Zoo. Well, not many! Let me take you on a mesmerizing trip of the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo.

Situated in the Dubai Mall, it is considered to be one of the largest and most amazing of aquariums in the world. The giant 10 million-liter tank at the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo contains more than 33,000 aquatic animals and the largest collection of sand tiger sharks anywhere.

It is also home to the world-famous gigantic King Croc – the largest crocodile in the world – my personal favorite. Don’t miss out getting a glimpse of it.

After you reach the counters at ground floor and purchase the tickets you can start from the underwater tunnel located at the ground floor itself. After you complete the tour, then you will head to the second floor to enjoy the rest of the zoo & aquarium. The exit is also on the second floor where you can buy souvenirs on the way back.

Aquarium Tank

It is home to more than 140 marine species. The huge captivating blue tank is the largest suspended aquarium tanks in the world. You will find a wide range of sharks, electric rays, and various other colorful fishes and aquatic animals. You will see more sand tiger sharks here than anywhere else in the world. When you go to the second floor, they will take you to a section where you can see how they breed these sharks.

Underwater Tunnel

After purchasing the ticket it will be the first thing you will experience. It is a 48 m long tunnel built over this huge aquarium tank. When walking through it you will feel as if you are inside the tank with the sharks and rays floating over your head. It is the best experience for kids and once inside I have seen a lot of adults turning into kids.

Underwater Zoo

After having the starters at the tunnel let’s head to the second floor for the main course known as Underwater Zoo. It comprises of three different sections, although one isn’t able to differentiate, Rainforest, Rocky Shore and Living Ocean. Through its 40 different display tanks, you will able to see some really amazing and peculiar underwater creatures like the Humboldt Penguin, Piranha, African Dwarf Crocodile, Giant Spider Crabs, Otters, Lionfish and so many more.

The ambiance inside is way too immersive. You will feel that you are taking a stroll through the Amazon. There are some really vibrant large parrots, which will be not caged and will be flying over your head. The noise of the nocturnal insects adds another layer of authenticity to the experience. After walking for about 30 min inside you will come across the superstar of the Zoo – the King Croc.

King Croc

One has to literally see it to believe it. The King Croc gives a slight peek into the prehistoric Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. If this one were so big, it would have been an all-different unimaginable feel when the dinosaurs walked around.

It is a massive 5 m long that weighs around 750 kg. They say that its head alone weighs around 150 kg. It has the highest bite force of any creature alive and its 60 beautiful pearly white sharp teeth can make a meal out of someone in no time. It is already 40 years old and is expected to live for the next 50 years. King croc is one of the most feared and powerful reptiles to have graced the planet.

UAE’s Night Creatures

Another latest edition inside the zoo is UAE’s night creatures segment. It is created as a dark alley with the inside of the display arenas designed to replicate the Arabian nightlife. It has some unique animal species that thrive in the desert environment. You can spot Arabian Toads, Fruit Bats, Giant Camel Spiders, Scorpions, False Cobra, Desert Hedgehogs, Barn Owl, Veiled Chameleons, Frog Eye Geckos, Ornate Spiny Tail Lizards and Cheesman’s Gerbils.

There plenty of places where you can take some really cool pictures. Special mention is that walkover rope bridge with large owls on both sides.

There are some wonderful aquatic adventure experiences that you can try inside the Zoo.

Shark Feeding Encounter

Wouldn’t it be cool that rather than the shark feeding on you, you are feeding them! You can get up-close and personal with the sharks where you can feed them too, of course under guidance. The 30 min experience is completely safe and something worth trying.

Cage Snorkeling

The size of the Aquarium Tank is huge for a reason – One can get inside the snorkeling gear and inside a big cage. The cage will then be lowered inside the tank where you will become a part of the marine life. No better way to watch hundreds of excited fishes circling around you.

Shark Dive

Whether you are a certified diver or not, you can experience a shark dive. Go take the plunge and make friends with some really scary and beautiful razor-sharp smiling sand tiger sharks.

Scuba Dive

Scared to dive deep in a sea or an ocean, well you can try your hands at scuba diving inside the zoo. After a quick theory lesson from the instructor, you can dive and experience what it is like breathing underwater.

VRZOO

There is a section where you can enjoy the aquatic experience through a virtual reality setup. Not a fan of the real foul smelling creatures, don’t worry, try the VR experience.

For all the kids who believe they have a marine biologist hidden in them, they too can experience the life of a professional aquarist. There are two packages for that – Junior (5-15 year old) and Senior Aquarists (8-15 year old).

Tickets and Timings

The basic ticket starts from AED 130 and it goes up depending on the experience and adventures you want to go for.

Junior Aquarist – AED 157.50 / Child

Senior Aquarist – AED 262.50 / Child

Timings: 10 am to 12 midnight everyday.

What are you waiting for – go become a kid for a day – swim with the sharks, float with the rays and dive deep into the mesmerizing world of Underwater Zoo.

For all those who love marine life,

For all those who want to feed sharks,

For all those who swim with the rays,

And

For all those who want to be a part of the Underwater Zoo…

It’s not a goodbye,

But it’s a GOOD BYE.

Manas ‘Sameer’ Mukul

This is the 21th post for the #AtoZChallenge #BlogchatterA2Z. My theme in Travel Category is ‘Dubai – the City of Gold’, where I would be covering everything about the city in the course of 26 posts.

Read the Previous post here: Dubai – City of Gold

Please do visit tomorrow for the next post with the letter ‘V’

I am also taking part in the #AtoZChallenge #BlogchatterA2Z using another theme –‘IPL – Indian Parliamentary League’. If you are keen on following key issues pertaining to the upcoming General Elections head over to the Politics Theme and share your feedback.