• Colombian Carnival Parades

    I was lucky enough to attend and photograph two days of Carnival in Colombia in the city of Barranquilla. The Battle of the Flowers parade took place on Saturday and the Grand Parade took place on Sunday. Dance troupes work all year preparing elaborate floats and colorful costumes for the parades.

    We had great seats in the bleachers on the front row for a perfect view of the parades where I made dozens of new friends happy to celebrate Carnival together. Each parade lasts five hours with thousands of participants from all over the country.

  • Barranquilla Carnival

    On Saturday the major parade of Carnival took place in Barranquilla with the Battle of the Flowers in the afternoon. The celebration included large floats, many celebrities and dancers for 5 hours. We arrived early while people in the troupes were getting ready for the festivities so we were able to get a behind the scenes glimpse of the performers.

    The performers dressed in the traditional colorful costumes that they make throughout the year for the competition. They prepared for the celebration by applying festive makeup for the parade. The performers and dance troupes walked with their clubs for miles on the hot sunny afternoon along a parade route lined with hundreds of thousands of fans. This is the second largest Carnival in South America behind Rio.

  • School Visit in Palenque de San Basilio Village

    The village of Palenque de San Basilio has a population of about 3,500 inhabitants and is located in the foothills of the Montes de María, southeast of the regional capital, Cartagena. The village is inhabited mainly by Afro-Colombians, which are direct descendants of African slaves brought by the Europeans during the Colonization of the Americas.

    The descendants have preserved their ancestral traditions and have developed also their own language; Palenquero. In 2005, UNESCO proclaimed the Palenque de San Basilio village Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

    We were fortunate to be able to visit a local school in the village to meet the students. It is always amazing to meet students studying around the world. Girls in the village are known for their creative, fun hair designs.

  • Palenque de San Basilio

    Spaniards introduced kidnapped African slaves in South America through the Magdalena River Valley. Its mouth is close to the important port of Cartagena de Indias where ships full of Africans arrived. Some Africans escaped and set up Palenque de San Basilio. They became the first freed slaves in the Americas. They then tried to free all African slaves arriving at Cartagena and were quite successful.

    The village has become a Unesco World Heritage Site and African dance traditions are still preserved in the village today through classes and performances passed down through generations. We were able to attend and photograph a performance at the local dance school.

  • Traditional Colombian Dancers

    Cumbia is a music style that originated in Colombia’s Caribbean coastal region. Cumbia began as a courtship dance practiced among the African slave population that was later mixed with European instruments and musical characteristics.

    Every afternoon dance troupes perform to Cumbia music in town plazas throughout the city of Cartagena, Colombia. These dances are passed down through family tradition and mastered through hours of practice. Each troupe makes vibrant colorful matching costumes that stand out against the traditional Spanish colonial architecture.

  • Cartagena Sunset

    My first stop on my Colombia adventure was Cartagena. Colombia is an easy destination for US travelers with direct flight from NYC and Miami lasting only 4-5 hours.

    Upon arrival we checked into the beautiful Movich Hotel in the city center. The hotel is located centrally with a short walk to shops and a city plaza where local dancers perform daily from 5:30-9 PM in their colorful dresses.

    The Movich has a wonderful rooftop bar where you can see amazing sunset views of the city while enjoying the perfect Mojito.

  • Dubai Desert Trip

    I have always had a weakness for speed and adventure. When traveling in the Middle East, one of my favorite activities is taking 4-wheel drive vehicles out into the sand dunes while listening to loud music. We were able to take 4×4 Land Cruisers out into the Arabian Desert during our trip to Dubai for a fun day in the sand. Skilled drivers always keep you on the edge of your seat as you climb and drive over the massive hills. Our day ended with a beautiful sunset over the sand dunes.

  • Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

    Any trip to Dubai would not be complete without a visit to Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi is the second largest city in the UAE and is an island in the Persian Gulf. After our New Year’s celebration we took a day trip to Abu Dhabi to see some of the interesting architecture of the city.

    The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is a must see during a visit to the area. The design and construction unites the world, using artisans and materials from many countries including Italy, Germany, Morocco, Pakistan, India, Turkey, Iran, China, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Greece and the United Arab Emirates. As you walk through the massive complex you see opulent chandeliers and architectural details all throughout the complex. At the end of our visit as the sun set the mosque lit up like a dream against the purple sky.

  • Birds of Prey

    One of the best days we had on the trip to Dubai was visiting an interactive falconry experience in the desert outside the city. We learned about how the Bedouin people relied on these animals with incredible instinct to find and locate food for survival for generations.

    It was amazing to hold the magnificent birds of prey and watch them in hunting action. We were able to see falcons, eagles and owls in action. Some of the funniest moments included having the birds ride in the car with us from the city to the desert staying perched on the center console.

  • New Year’s Eve in Dubai

    We spent New Year’s Eve in Dubai with a magical night at the Treehouse on the rooftop of the Taj Hotel with friends. We had a perfect view from our cabana of the famous fireworks display at the Burj Khlaifa. Treehouse resident DJ Tayllor played dance tracks until the early morning while we sang along, danced and enjoyed bottomless champagne and apple flavored hookah.

    We always try to spend New Year’s Eve on vacation and this was one I will never forget. We stayed at the Taj Hotel for the duration of our trip and it was an amazing location near downtown and had some of the best service I have ever experienced.