Ski Dubai snow penguins turns 5!

ski dubai 1

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you must know by now that there’s a ski resort inside a mall in Dubai. Ski Dubai is the Middle East’s first indoor ski resort which opened in 2005. This massive facility has 22,500 square meters of indoor ski area where you can ski (of course) and do lots of fun in the snow. It is a part of the Mall of the Emirates, one of the largest shopping malls in the world.

I must admit, I dread the idea of going inside Ski Dubai. After having experienced 10 winters in Japan complete with sub zero temperatures and snow while living in the mountainous region of Nagano prefecture, I am done with the cold.

However, snow will always be something that gets the kids happy and excited.

snow bunnies 1
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So, did you also know that aside from snow inside Ski Dubai, there are also…PENGUINS? Like, real ones?  Snow + PENGUINS, oh yay!! That got me excited as well.

Ski Dubai offers Penguin Encounters with the Ski Dubai penguins – currently there are 28 resident penguins. At the start there were only 20 of them. The King and Gentoo Penguins at Ski Dubai reside in the most sophisticated habitat in the UAE. The enclosure consists of several areas including a private pool, a top deck area with rocks, and a private holding area.

My daughter Pristine visited the penguins at Ski Dubai five years ago when they were new so she’s so delighted to be able to see them again, and this time, with her little brother Benjamin! Our tour started  as we made our way through a dark tunnel, complete with ice on the wall and snow under our feet. Ah, that familiar crunchy sound of fresh snow!

We were told that Ski Dubai is the only place in the world where the public are allowed to touch penguins and were given instructions on how to hug them (always from behind, to prevent a scratch from a sharp beak). Benjamin was hesitant at first but that’s understandable, if I were a five year old, I would probably freak out too seeing Happy Feet characters alive and moving right in front of my eyes!

Then we were led into the second enclosure to meet a King Penguin; the second largest breed of penguin in the world and pretty impressive with his bright yellow feathers. This was the bird we would be allowed to touch.

penguin encounter 1

penguins 1
penguins 3

penguin encounter 2

Normally, private photography is not allowed on penguin encounter sessions but for this event, they let us in with our phones and a staff helped take our photos.

snow bunnies 2 We learned a lot on this penguin encounter session. The guide/trainer provided simple explanation and wonderful lessons for all age groups to help understand these birds, their habits, behavior, etc.

While I am not a fan of animals in captivity, I am a bit relieved to learn that there are strict rules in place for the penguin’s welfare and they are rotated so as not to be overwhelmed. Also, Ski Dubai regularly directs funds back into penguin conservation and research projects through the non-profit charity Hubbs SeaWorld Research Institute.

After the penguin encounter, the kids played a bit in the snow. It was Benjamin’s first time to see a snow, however unreal. We’ll take it, for now. We had lots of fun at the snow park but after an hour or so, it was time to head outside. We can’t feel our fingers anymore!


Please bring your own insulated gloves, hat and warm underwear as you cannot rent them there, only ski suits for the kids and long down jacket for adults. I had to sacrifice looking ridiculous with a kiddie beanie with a red braid just to warm my frozen ears!

We were guests at Ski Dubai for the penguin’s 5th birthday bash. As usual, all opinions are my own.

That part of Japan in mid-March

From today, April 29, Japan will be enjoying a week-long holiday called “Golden Week”. The Golden Week is a collection of four national holidays within seven days. In combination with well placed weekends, the Golden Week becomes one of Japan’s three busiest holiday seasons.

So speaking of Japan, I wanted to post some photos of my husband’s trip there last month (the one where I decided not to tag along) because it’s been quite a while since I posted anything about Japan.

I missed this:


There were so many food photos my husband came home with and I certainly do not want to risk any one of you salivating over it (like I did) so let’s all refrain from posting food, shall we?

Most of all, I miss my grandmother in-law who’s 95 now but still as sharp as ever.

Nita bachan

Here she is, looking at Pristine’s poses from a Babyshop catalog. She is mighty proud of her great-grand daughter. I remember when she told me before how it was rare to have photos taken during her time, how her precious  few pieces of photographs were destroyed during World War II – she must be so amazed how easy it is to take photos today and so easy to land in print. When Pristine was a baby, her great grandma told me Pristine would grow up to be a beautiful lady. I think she is right. (of course we are biased!)

Nostalgia aside, I am glad I did not have to deal with this:

Tokamachi in mid-March

That, my friends is my husband’s hometown. This is where my father in-law’s rice farm is, just covered in snow for now.

And then this is right outside their house:

Kawanishi machi in mid-March

This was taken in mid-March people! Where is spring? Where are the famous cherry blossoms? When will it arrive? If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’d know that my husband hails from snow country.

I miss Japan so much; the last time I was there was in October 2009 but with a small baby and that bunch of snow (and indoor temperature in my in-law’s house only at about 3C), it was best I did not go.


The Pacific side of Japan is already bright and sunny in March. Cherry blossoms bloom in late March in Tokyo and Yokohama but in the side facing the Sea of Japan, it’s still gray and snowing. Until around late May, it’s impossible to wear just a shirt.

Heavy showers forecast in UAE

Would you believe that since Friday, we had been experiencing overcast skies and rain! My prayers were answered. The news says that probably, we will not see the sun until Wednesday. Not seeing the sun in Dubai is a very rare event, it felt like I had been transported to another place when I woke up this morning.

Reports said that temperatures plunged to near freezing point in some parts of the country last Thursday. Jebel Jais, in the emirate of Ras Al Khaimah was the coldest area in the UAE with temperatures dipping to as low as 1.4 degree Celsius! At this rate, it would not be surprising if one of these days, we’ll have something like the snow delight in Baghdad a few days ago.

One can dream of snow in the middle of the desert, right?

Today marks our first year here in Dubai. So much has happened and changed, mostly positive ones. We are ready to embark in another year of adventure.