East Ridge teacher visits Middle East
Editor's note: This is the third in a series chronicling Woodbury teachers' summer plans. If you are a Woodbury teacher with interesting or unique summer plans, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
East Ridge High School teacher Nancy Berg spent her summer going big.
She saw the world's tallest building, the world's largest mall, the world's largest aquarium, the world's largest airline, the world's largest gold market, the world's largest fiber glass dome and the world's only seven star hotel.
Berg and her husband Ryan, who live in Woodbury, traveled to the Middle East June 14-23 where they visited the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Oman and Qatar.
"It's complete opulence, it's complete glitter and glow and money and wealth - everything is overdone, everything is over the top," said Berg, a science teacher. "That's how they want it - the best in everything."
The Bergs, who were accompanied this year by their daughter Hallie, have been to a total of 108 countries. The Bergs take an international trip every summer during Nancy's break from school.
This year they decided on the Middle East.
"We hadn't ever been there before and we found a good price on tickets," Ryan said.
Previously, the Bergs had only been to Jordan.
The Bergs flew into Dubai, which is part of the United Arab Emirates.
Dubai is a wealthy country because of the oil industry as well as the tourism industry.
The couple began their trip to Dubai with a bus tour of the city before visiting a cultural museum.
Nancy said she found the museum interesting because it detailed much of the history of Islam.
"It's a very interesting culture," she said. "It gave us a different perspective on Islam."
Next on the list for the Bergs was to visit what is known as the world's tallest building, the Burj Al Kalifi, which stands 2,700 feet tall with 160 stories.
The Bergs took the elevator to the observation deck for a sight they were not prepared for.
"As you're at the top of this building and looking down it looks exactly like the Emerald City in the 'Wizard of Oz,'" Nancy said of Dubai, where buildings are made out of blue and green glass. "It just glistens."
Next, the Bergs traveled to the Dubai Mall, which is considered to be the world's largest mall.
In addition to being the largest, Nancy said she was amazed by how rich-looking the interior was with chandeliers, gold railings and marble floors.
"That mall makes Mall of America look like a Wal-Mart," she said.
Also housed inside the Dubai Mall is the world's largest aquarium.
"It was just unbelievable," Nancy said, "just wealth everywhere."
The Bergs also visited the Mall of Emirates of Dubai, which houses an indoor ski resort, complete with a penguin pond.
Another attraction in Dubai was the Burj Al Arab, which is the world's only seven-star hotel.
The hotel, comprised entirely of butler-served suites, has seven restaurants, one of which is underwater.
Additionally the hotel houses a fleet of Rolls- Royce cars for guests to utilize.
"We couldn't get in," Nancy said. "The only way you could get in was to pay $125 per person to have a cup of tea.
"The people who stay there are all the sheiks - and, well, Tom Cruise."
Other sites that the Bergs took in during their trip to Dubai included the Palm Islands and the world's largest gold market.
"They sold gold in vending machines," Nancy said, "that's how much money there is."
Ryan and Nancy Berg traveled to the country of Oman for a day, where they took a boat out to the Musandam Peninsula, which is near the Strait of Hormuz off of Iran, where they snorkeled and were able to see some mountains, which are known as the "Fjords of Oman."
"It's not a rich country," Nancy said, "it has a few natural gas reserves."
However, one piece of excitement that happened during their trip to the Musandam Peninsula was that Ryan and Nancy said they saw some people smuggling electronics to Iran.
The Bergs also spent a day in Bahrain, a kingdom that functions under a constitution monarchy.
While in Bahrain, the Bergs visited the royal camel farm.
"We got to see the king's camels," Nancy said.
Bahrain is similar to Dubai in that it is a very wealthy country because of its reserves.
Since Bahrain is right off of Saudi Arabia, and is connected by a causeway over the ocean, Nancy said it was interesting to the see the influence of Saudi Arabia.
"Even though they have this wealth and opulence, there's the other side where they're very tightly controlled," she said.
Other sites the Bergs took in during their trip to Bahrain included a mosque, which has the world's largest fiberglass dome, and the first oil well from 1932.
One thing Nancy said she found interesting was that even though the women wore full robes and veils, it was a choice rather than by oppression.
In fact, some of the veils are adorned with crystals and other precious stones.
"It's almost a symbol of status because they believe the more modest they are to Allah, the higher they are," Nancy said. "We're not talking Taliban here, we're talking money."
Additionally, the Bergs visited the Tree of Life, a mesquite tree in the middle of the desert that has no known water source.
"Even though it's hundreds and hundreds of years old, nobody can locate a water source," Nancy said. "Some people believe this was the location of the Garden of Eden."
Also housed in Bahrain is the world's largest fleet of airplanes, Nancy said.
The last stop on the Berg's Middle East vacation was the country of Qatar.
"We've voted that out of the 108 countries we've went to, Qatar is the most boring country in the world," Nancy said. "There's nothing there but oil fields."
Qatar is said to be the wealthiest country, per capita, in the world because it has the second largest gas reserve in the world.
A few sites the Bergs took in during their visit to Qatar, however, included visiting limestone petroglyphs and they went to a battleship building site.
"We were taking pictures and got detained," Nancy said. "Luckily our tour guide spoke Arabic and got us out of it."
Ryan and Nancy Berg said they were glad they took their trip to the Middle East because they learned a lot about the culture.
"For us it was really interesting because we're always interested in the culture - it was just stimulating," Nancy said. "It was interesting. I wouldn't go back, I wouldn't recommend it to your average American."