Bethlehem, West Bank, Palestine

Bethlehem is a town in West Bank, a region of Palestine, important religious centre, about 10 km south of Jerusalem, which has 30,000 inhabitants, mainly Muslim Palestinians. The city has a small community of Palestinian Christians, one of the oldest Christian communities in the world. For Jews, the name is Ephrata and is the place of birth and Coronation of the King of Israel David. Regarded by Christians as the birthplace of Jesus of Nazareth. It is a place of pilgrimage that generates an important economic activity in the Christmas period. The city is also the seat of a place holy to Judaism, Rachel’s Tomb, located at the entrance of the city. Since 1995, the city is under the administration of the Palestinian Authority. There is also the Church of the Nativity with his famous star and the cave of the milk. The Christian assertions are not corroborated by archaeological discoveries in Bethlehem where no trace of contemporary habitat of Jesus was last updated so far. Between 1992 and 2003, the Israeli archaeologist Aviram Oshri led rescue excavations in the homonymous village of Bethlehem in Galilee, 6 km west of Nazareth. It has been the remains of a Jewish occupation of Herodian time, those of a Christian Basilica and issued the hypothesis that the Galilean village of Bethlehem would be the true birthplace of Jesus.
The city is now partially surrounded by the Israeli barrier in the form of an 8-metre wall built by the Israeli authorities.
Bethlehem received in 2000 the visit of Pope John Paul II to commemorate the 2,000th anniversary of the birth of Christ.

Tips

You can go by bus from Jerusalem, at the Damascus Gate and it will leave you in front of the wall, at the Israeli checkpoint. You will need to submit your papers and get a permit from the authority to enter, after crossing the wall, you can take a shared taxi to the city. To return with the same bus, you will need to pass a control where you present your papers again.
Alternatively, you can take a taxi to Jerusalem. If the driver is Arabic, he may cross the wall, arrange a tour with a local guide and take you back to Jerusalem.
If you rent an Israeli car, it cannot penetrate in the territories.
A half-day visit to the Basilica of the Nativity and the old town is needed.

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Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi, UAE

Sheikh Zayed Mosque has 22 412 m² and can accommodate up to 40,000 visitors, considered the largest mosque in the UAE and one of the largest in the world; located in Abu Dhabi. It is the only mosque that allows the visit of tourists. Its name comes from Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan who made built the edifice in Carrara marble, with the largest chandelier that weighs around 12 tons and the largest carpet in the world that consists of 9 pieces. He died before the end of the construction and his son Khalifa continued the work and gave his father’s name to the mosque. The construction took 12 years (1995-2007) and several international engineers and craftsmen worked there. It has many columns (1048), arches topped by domes (82) and four minarets of 107 meters in height. The domes are topped spiers covered in gilded mosaic glass. In its interior, it is decorated with floral motifs that have been made by a graphic arts company in Milan, Italy and we also find semi-precious stones of Austria. As it was built on a desert terrain, the structure is based on more than 6,000 steel pillars treated to resist corrosion caused by the salt environment. The land was raised from 9 meters to allow more impressive vision. The tomb of Sultan is located at the entrance, outside the mosque; there are two men who read the Koran all the time. Around the mosque there are 22 laps each provided with ten projectors that link to the mosque.

Tips

To make the visit, women should wear long skirts or pants that cover completely the legs below the ankle, they must have long sleeves and cover all the head; they can wear sandals and the entrance to the mosque is done barefoot so if you prefer you can wear stockings.
Be careful with the marble floor as it is slippery especially if there is water. We have had the experience of a lady who fell by aching ankle and was immediately transported to the medical clinic on site, in wheelchair, where she received care without spending a penny.
You can take pictures everywhere except at the tomb of Sultan.
The visit is free and it can not be visited on Friday morning.

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Yas Marina Circuit, Yas Island, Abu Dhabi

The Yas Marina Circuit is a race track that hosts the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Formula 1 since November 2009, it is located on Yas Island, half an hour from Abu Dhabi. The same company that built the circuit, has also built a theme park on the island, the Ferrari World; a marina, residential areas, sports and leisure facilities as well as hotels and resorts. The circuit is 5.55 km long with 21 corners, a long straight and a pin, between the marina and the sand dunes. The stands are quite spacious and the  exit of the pit lane passes under the track through a tunnel. The departure takes place day and night of arrival and cars go in the anticlockwise direction. The lighting is done through powerful illuminated projectors. Apart from Formula 1, the circuit is used for many other activities such as karting, motorcycle, marathons, etc. There is also a conference room that can be rented for events.

Tips

If you want to attend the Grand Prix, you have to make reservations well in advance, especially if you also want to stay in a hotel next to the circuit. For the various activities and events, check out their website.