Saturday, January 03, 2009

Ronaldinho, Beckham, Maldini with AC Milan squad in Dubai

My kids are all excited to meet their football stars. The star studded AC Milan squad is here for a break and training sessions. On the 6th, AC Milan will be playing againts Hamburg FC for a Dubai Challenge match.
We went to Maktoom Stadium twice for autographs and photo taking opportunities.

Kaka was booed for refusing to meet the adoring fans, esp the kids who had waited for his autograph for few hours. He did meet the fans during earlier session though.

Ronaldinho , Beckham, Dida, Maldini, Shevchenko are of course very friendly and obliged. My kids had their autographs. Something for them to cheer and remember for a long time to come.
Personally, I am a great fan of Kaka, Ronaldinho, Beckham and Maldini and it was a great experience to see them in persons.
Other great players I would love to get their autographs are Ryan Giggs, Platini, Johan Cruyff, Franz Beckenbauer, Socrates, Rivelino, Zidane, Zico, Cafu, Muller, among others and of course, Pele and Maradona.


Abdul Halim has more photos here.

Beckham's star shines brightest


Dubai: A superb curling goal from Brazilian Kaka, a couple of breathtaking 'Bend it Like Beckham' crosses from the man himself, a string of errors followed by a display of some dribbling from Ronaldinho, a handful of goals from Andriy Shevchenko - not to speak of some classy defending from the veteran Paolo Maldini.
With these and other refined footballing maneuvres, AC Milan got their 10-day winter training camp under way at Al Nasr Club last night.
There was plenty in store for the 500-odd fans who had gathered to watch Milan train and Carlo Ancelotti's men did not disappoint. Milan began with a regular warm-up session and drill followed by a training match with Ancelotti and the crowd watching from the sidelines.
Beckham, in particular, had his every move scrutinised by his fans.
His deft passing, the way he fell back to retrieve a lost ball, his pinpoint accurate crosses from the wings; each and every move made by Milan's loan signing drew applause from the crowd, which seemed only too happy on being hyper-partisan.
Beckham knows only too well how to solicit a response from fans. There were times when he would simply trudge along the sidelines and get women, both young and old, swooning over his unique style.
Beckham made his best move at the end of last night's training session by ensuring he was the last one to leave the field.
His walk back to the tunnel was unhurried and it caused quite a racket in the stands, with people pushing and shoving to inch closer for a better first-hand look at the sport's first super star.
If one were to print a comic book in the footballing world, there is no doubt who the public would want to see as superhero. Only King David would do!
Asked by Gulf News to comment on his three-month-long loan spell from LA Galaxy, which starts with this training camp in Dubai, Beckham said he felt "good" about his new role.
Ukranian Shevchenko, who seems to be back to his striking best in AC Milan, said it felt "very good" to have left Chelsea and rejoined the club that made him one of the world's most feared marksmen.
These words sum up the positive sentiment brewing inside the AC Milan camp as they endeavour to become world beaters once again.

2009 - Have will, will travel

While sorting out on the villa rental issues for another year, I have been browsing for holiday destinations during this year summer. If I can settle the villa dispute early and continue staying in Twar 3, the travel itinerary can be confirmed early to beat the rush season.

My wish list is to explore europe with family. Been in Europe (different countries) but only once with the family long time ago. Saifullah and Faidhi who were then young kids (therefore we stayed at Disney World and visited Legoland) are now teenagers while Muhaimin to be one soon.

This year is also the best time to travel together to europe. Saifullah to enter college by July followed by Faidhi next year. During this turmoil, USD (as well as Dirham) is gaining strength while UK Pound and Euro values seem within affordable range. We are budget travellers.

Turkey, Spain, Bosnia, France and UK are the main destinations in the 2009 wish list esp UK for my football mania sons. Manchester is on top of the list for no other reasons beside its famous football club (was there in 2007). My own wish will be Andalusia.

Air Arabia to Turkey or Morrocco followed by other Europe budget airlines and car rentals. Then the Air Asia's London-Kuala Lumpur route is great for the last mile.

Looking forward for summer!

This article from the National is good.....with Dirham and limited budget in our mind.

UN tourism agency has revised its figures for growth in the industry worldwide last year from six per cent down to between zero and two per cent. You know times are tough when the WTO sets up a Tourism Resilience Committee to support the industry.

So, that’s the view from the sofa. Here are 50 fascinating, new and wilder destinations to help you make the most of your travels in the year ahead:
1 One of the items on president-elect Barack Obama’s ‘to do’ list - is said to be a warming of the relationship between the US and Cuba. If the trade embargo with the small communist state ends, the capital Havana’s charm may fade: don’t wait to find out.

2-3 Book a short break in Vilnius, Lithuania, a tiny, old world capital complete with cobbled streets and baroque churches. Don’t be put off by the Soviet-style suburban sprawl: its Old Town is Unesco-listed and its waiters, taxi drivers and hotel staff have been given lessons in hospitality. Vilnius shares the title of European Capital of Culture 2009 with Linz in Austria.

4 Down but not out. This year on November 9-10, Berliners will mark the 20th anniversary of the fall of the wall which separated east and west Germany. To mark the occasion, the now trendy German capital is hosting a programme of cultural events (see www.mauermuseum.de and http://www.germany-tourism.de/).

5 The Galápagos Islands, 972km west off the coast of Ecuador in the Pacific, are home to an astounding variety of wildlife. This year is the bicentenary of the birth of Charles Darwin, who published his Origin of the Species in 1859. See Giant Tortoises and the Charles Darwin Research Centre with Discovery Initiatives on a modern-day Beagle cruise ship, from $5,340 (Dh19,900) for a week-long trip, full-board with local transfers but not including flights to Ecuador (http://www.discoveryinitiatives.co.uk/).

6 The current weakness of the pound against the dirham makes now an ideal time to take in the sights of London. Take a look at www.visitlondon.com and time your trip to coincide with whatever exhibition, concert or critically-acclaimed play takes your fancy.

7 Yemen, one of the least discovered corners of Arabia, appears in the history books in the 1st millennium BC when the Sabaeans started to control the sale of frankincense. The country welcomes around 330,000 tourists per year and a number of tour operators are exploring the possibility of adding Yemen to their books in 2009.

8 Ancient Jerusalem, or Al-Quds as it is known in Arabic, has been designated Arab Capital of Culture 2009 by Unesco in recognition of its importance. If you have deep pockets, stay at the American Colony Hotel in East Jerusalem, 10 minutes from the Damascus Gate in the Old City and a favourite rest stop for politicians, journalists and diplomats. Doubles cost from $440 (Dh1,616) per night (http://www.americancolony.com/).

9 Support the locals in Myanmar. Some travellers refuse to visit the until the political situation changes, but for those who want to encourage tourism as a means of supporting the struggling population, consider Journeys Within. This year, the specialist operator has promised to donate 100 per cent of the profits from its first 10 trips to the country, and 50 per cent of the profits thereafter. For further information, visit http://www.journeys-within.com/.

10 Cash-strapped? Turkey is predicted to become a hot travel destination this year for those seeking a cheaper alternative to eurozone destinations, but you don’t have to lower your expectations. Follow Istanbul’s hip crowd to Alaçati, an upmarket windsurfing hangout on the Çesme Peninsula. The village has great nightlife thanks to Babylon, a cult Istanbul music venue which recently opened an outpost at the five-star Alaçati Beach Resort - happily, there are (slightly) cheaper places to stay.

11 Safari in style. The Nkwichi Lodge on the wild northern shores of freshwater Lake Niassa in Mozambique comprises seven private chalets made of local stone with shady verandas. Fat cats need not feel too awkward when lazing in their hammocks, however, thanks to the way in which the eco-friendly lodge financially supports 15 local villages, helping to provide employment, education and healthcare programmes, winning it responsible tourism awards along the way. Stay for four nights, paying from $290 per person per night, and earn a fifth night gratis (http://www.mandawilderness.org/).

12 Bling it on. The QE2 raised a few smiles - and hackles – when it sailed out of Southampton in the UK back in November for its new life as a luxury floating hotel, permanently moored alongside the Palm Jumeirah in Dubai. This year there are up to 30 hotel openings planned in that development alone, including the Trump International Hotel & Tower and other familiar brands such as the One&Only Royal Mirage, Taj, Oberoi, Chedi, Anantara, Movenpick and Kempinski.

13 Only seven stars? One of the world’s first Armani hotels is due to open in the Burj Dubai this year. The understated fashion label promises that its hotels will offer “a complete lifestyle” experience. Back in the real world of miniature soap and missed wake-up calls, this translates into 160 guestrooms, a spa, private members’ club, two restaurants and a nightclub. (http://www.armanihotels.com/).

14 Another Italian fashion house, Missoni, is set to open two hotels next year, this time in Kuwait City and Edinburgh, Scotland. The interiors have reportedly been designed by the label’s founder Rosita Missoni and the architect and designer Matteo Thun, and feature the brand’s signature zig-zag patterns. The new hotel in Kuwait, with 200 sea-view rooms and a Six Senses spa, should help to put the Gulf state on the world tourism map (http://www.missonihotels.com/).

15 The new India. Not that there is anything wrong with India, but Bangladesh, its neighbour, deserves a mention as a travel hot spot in waiting. Take in Unesco World Heritage Sites such as the Sundarbans, a vast mangrove forest, the world’s longest natural sea beach, and the colourful Durga Puja festival, which celebrates the eponymous warrier goddess, on a trip through responsibletravel.com. From $1,900 (Dh7,000) for 13 days, excluding flights.

16 Extreme skiing. Yes, Europe was overwhelmed with the white stuff this season, allowing some classic resorts such as Zermatt in Switzerland to open early, but don’t lose your appetite to venture further afield. Stay at the Lyngen Lodge in Norway, 480 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle, for some midnight sun and pristine powder. One week at the lodge, full board in a twin-room, with a ski guide costs $2,750 (Dh10,100), not including flights to/from Tromso (http://www.lyngenlodge.com/).

17-20 Boundary, Terence Conran’s new boutique hotel, has just opened in an old Victorian warehouse in trendy Shoreditch, East London, and features an enclosed roof terrace to keep out grey rainy days. Each of the 17 bedrooms has a unique style thanks to the involvement of designers such as Sir David Tang, Polly Dickens and Priscilla Carluccio (0044 207 729 1051; www.theboundary.co.uk). Nick Jones, the man behind the Soho House chain of private members’ clubs, is set to open yet more places to be seen and party in West Hollywood, Miami and Berlin this year (http://www.sohohouse.com/).

21 Explore an older world. Dragoman is running its first trip to Iran for seven years. The 25-night Turkic and Persian Splendours tour takes travellers from Cappadocia in Turkeyto the ancient cities of Esfahan and the ruins of Persepolis, and on to Tehran before heading on into Turkmenistan, which is now more accessible to tourists. Prices start from $2,330 (Dh8,560), not including flights (0044 1728 861 133; http://www.dragoman.com/).

22 Credit freeze. Iceland’s financial woes are more serious than most after its economy collapsed in October: rather perversely, it makes it a good time to pay a visit to this traditionally expensive destination. Shop around for discounted deals to the capital Reykjavik, or short breaks to explore the country’s famously dramatic landscapes and glaciers.23 Great expectations. Due to open late in 2009, The Yamu in Phuket, Thailand, designed by Philippe Starck, the architect Jean-Michel Gathy and the man behind Aman resorts, Adrian Zecha, promises much – not least a chocolate room, a recording studio and artist’s studio for creative types with a sweet tooth, perhaps? (http://www.theyamu.com/).

24 A blockbuster exhibition at the British Museum exploring power and empire, examining the world of Moctezuma II, the last great Aztec emperor, should inspire a legion of tourists to seek out modern-day Mexico. The exhibition opens in London on Sept 24 and runs until Jan 24, 2010.

25 Be bold. A trip to Angola, one of the world’s poorest countries after decades of civil war, is not for the faint-hearted, but Imaginative Traveller is organising a 4x4 safari in its south-west corner in September. The 14-day adventure will include hiking, visits to the national parks, the colonial city of Lubango and the Himba tribes. Costs from $3,500 (Dh12,860) excluding flights (0044 1473 667337; http://www.imaginative-traveller.com/).

26 Explore the deserts, mountains and rainforests of Madagascar at a sedate pace beginning in Antananarivo, the highland capital, and taking in both the Ranohira and Isalo National Park with its dramatic, sandstone landscape. An ascent of Pic Boby, the second highest peak in Madagascar, crowns the tour. A 15-day trip, including eight days of trekking costs $2,027 (Dh7,445) excluding flights (0044 17687 73966; http://www.keadventure.com/).

27 Beyond Thailand. Cambodia offers the kind of isolation and wild beaches that have long since disappeared in the more popular destinations in south east Asia. Combine a trip to the capital Phnom Penh to see the National Museum or have a facial at the Bliss spa on Street 240 - yes, really - to add to well-trodden sights such as Angkor Wat. You’ll also find beautiful beaches near Sihanoukville, a wilderness in the Cardamom Mountains and trekking in Bokor National Park (http://www.tourismcambodia.com/).

28-32 See the ‘Stans. Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan in central Asia should excite travellers looking for something off the beaten track. Kyrgyzstan in particular will earn you serious passport points. Highlights include its birds of prey festival at Manzhyly-Ata on the shores of Lake Issyk Kyl, and its horse racing festival held in Barskoön in early November - not forgetting a trek in alpine meadows admiring the peaks of the Tian Shan.

33 The film set. Baz Luhrmann’s epic may have been branded a Christmas turkey by the critics but Australia, the country, is definitely worth seeing. Responsibletravel.com offers tours to some stunning locations, including Lord Howe Island, east of the mainland, encircled by a coral reef. Be one of the lucky few to stay on the island for $379 (Dh1,392) per person, per night (0044 1273 600 030; www.responsibletravel.com). Etihad will begin flying to Melbourne in March.

34 Cruises need not be expensive, as the Alaska Marine Highway ferries that ply the 2,000km-long inside passage off the coast of British Columbia, Canada and Alaska proves. Book a cabin for a 38-hour voyage from Bellingham to Ketchikan and jostle on desk to catch a view of orcas and other whales and bald eagles soaring overhead. A two-berth cabin with facilities and a view costs from $257 (Dh940) (http://www.dot.state.ak.us/).

35 Polar exploration, close up. Nature lovers and misanthropists alike should enjoy drifting through the isolated wilderness on a 17-day sea-kayaking trip in the remote Tassilaq fjord complex in eastern Greenland. There’s also the opportunity to hike to Ikateq Island if you crave yet more physical exercise. The trip costs $3,460 (Dh12,700) not including international flights (0044 131 625 6635; http://www.wildernessjourneys.com/).

36 The new Le Gray Hotel in Beirut, Lebanon, is an 80-room boutique hotel in the downtown Solidere district, within walking distance from the capital’s most interesting archaeological sites, the souqs, its harbour and serious designer shopping and good restaurants. The area is considered somewhat touristy by locals but it’s also the least congested part of the city (http://www.legrayhotel.com/).

37 Strbske Pleso. Where, you ask. Set to open in April, The Grand Hotel Kempsinski High Tatras, in Slovakia, promises luxury accommodation and fine views out over in the Carpathian mountains. There are cross-country ski trails and downhill skiing for entertainment in the winter months (00421 52 3262 222; http://www.kempinski-hightatras.com/).

38 The lakes and mountains of New Zealand hold particular appeal for outdoor types and it’s a good time to go, given the exchange rate. Explore forests, stunning coastal scenery and glaciers, breathing in the freshest of fresh air all the while. Go to http://www.newzealand.com/.

39 The city of São Paulo in Brazil used to have a dubious reputation for crime and pollution but it has cleaned up it’s act and the skyline is dotted with gleaming new skyscrapers. Time your visit to coincide with São Paulo’s carnival in February.

40 Mark the election of America’s first African-American president with a tour of the civil rights museum trail from Selma to Montgomery in Alabama, USA. Your trip should include a visit to Brown Chapel in Selma where Dr. Martin Luther King launched the Voting Rights Movement. For highlights on the trail, visit http://www.800alabama.com/.

41 Made in Taiwan. A new 12-day trek to the Jade Mountain area as its known, in the Yushan National Park, also takes in the cultural capital of Tainan city. The trip costs $1,870 (Dh6,900), not including international flights (0044 17687 73966; http://www.keadventure.com/).

42 Algeria is similar to Morocco in dress and dialect but much poorer and less touristy, and yet it’s vast and stunningly beautiful nevertheless. Take a 16-day small group adventure tour through Niger and Algeria for $2,600 (Dh9,600) through responsibletravel.com.

43 The island of Borneo is yet another beautiful destination whose most prized assets – its pristine rainforests and wildlife – are under threat. The best way to discover this vast wilderness is by river with a guide. A five-day boat trip with the chance to see orang-utans and meet local fishermen on the Rungan River, costs from $805 per person (Dh3,000) excluding international flights (0062 811 52 0648; http://www.wowborneo.com/).

44 Beyond Cairo. While Egypt’s capital is one of the great travel destinations in the Middle East, the huge cemetary of ancient Memphis at Saqqara, 25km south of Cairo and Egypt’s largest archaeological site, is almost deserted once the coach tours quickly depart.

45. Cheaper New York. Keen not to price themselves out of the market, several hotels are already offering recession specials and some, which have newly opened, are as hip as you might hope but still affordable. Book a room at The Jane, a West Village hotel from the owners of the trendy Bowery Hotel, for only $99 (Dh360) per night (001 212 924 6700; http://www.thejanenyc.com/).

46 If you like your holiday destinations a little rough around the edges, now is the time to visit Panama. The economic hotspot on the southernmost edge of Central America is due to be blessed with a Donald Trump development, the Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower, and a Frank Gehry-designed Museum of Biodiversity, is reportedly scheduled to open in 2010.

47 Forget modern-day designer chic, the 22-room Antumalal Hotel was built in the Bauhaus style in the 1950s and overlooks Villarrica Lake and seven waterfalls in Pucón, in Patagonia, southern Chile. A double room costs from $280 (Dh1,028) including breakfast (0056 45 44101; http://www.antumalal.com/)

48 The Trans Siberian train from Moscow to Vladivostock or Beijingtransports passengers through fascinating and changing scenery including Mongolia – and you can hop on and off. For more information about fares, visit http://www.seat61.com/

49 Cultural upstart.The swishest of the newly-minted European Union entrants, Slovenia has awesome natural assets and its capital, Ljubljana, is being heralded as the new Prague. Explore Worldwide offers an active, eight-day tour of blue glacial lakes and mountain cliffs, forests and caves, from $1,240 (Dh4,550) excluding flights (http://www.explore.co.uk/)

50 The longest total eclipse of the sun for 100 years will take place on July 22. For a good view of the drama, travel to the banks of the Qiantang River in China, near the city of Hangzhou. A number of tour operators are offering tours led by astronomers – expect a crush of spectators wearing funny glasses.