Our first blog post is being composed by the side of our roof top pool in sweltering 40 degree heat as we prepare to leave our Middle Eastern pit-stop. It’s fair to say the city has left an impression on us, and at times left us feeling some what perplexed. We would like to apoligise for the lack of images, it is taking an age to upload into WordPress so we will post a link to our Dubai flicker album at the end of this post.
At this point I think it is worth noting that the accommodation to which we have become accustomed to in the Emirates will not be symptomatic of our experience throughout the course of our trip. But even our shoe string budget had delivered, in my opinion a gem of a hotel. Granted my views on things may be skewed as I seem to spend most holidays between cheap hostels and coach floors, but I though our room was fit for a king. Sarah, is maybe more used to higher end hotels agreed.
After an hours delay to our flight from the UK, leaving us plenty of time to explore the congested construction site that is Stansted departures at the moment, we took off too Istanbul. Unfortunately we were slightly optimistic of Pegasus Airlines hand luggage allowances when trying to take our sacks on-board missing out by a mere 10kg each, so close! so we waived away almost our entire belongings down the luggage conveyor praying they would make it with us to the Emirates. I found the flight from Istanbul to Dubai particularly interesting. Flying over the Middle East at night, the sprawling urban metropolises looked like any other city at night, it was only when flying above the dessert that the reason for the Wests fascination with this part of the world became apparent. Huge pillars of flame light up the ground below and the un-mistakable sign of oil fields were dotted at first sporadically below us and then more and more often especially around the town of Mosul and Basra.
We started our first day acquainting ourselves with the downtown area, principally the Dubai Mall. This Mecca of consumerism is certainly impressive but after a short amount of time we both decided that apart from the occasional man in full arab dress, for all the similarity we could be in Liverpool One, so we headed towards the aquarium. Here we spent a fair amount of time just gazing at the gargantuan wall of glass and the underwater delights swimming by. Sarah particularly liked the sting-rays as she thought they looked happy.
Finding myself a little lost in our hotel later that day I wandered across the in-house restaurant which I convinced Sarah we should eat at because it had a trip advisor plaque in front of the door. But mainly because it was festooned with more fish tanks on the walls and underfoot. It turned out to be a good choice for a first day meal although we turned down the chance to personally choose the fish that we would be eating, thankfully the chef picked well and the meal was delicious (I did however sense a look of “why me?” in the eyes of the dead fish sitting motionless on my plate)
Our first encounter with the main attraction for both of us; the Burj Khalifa, left us in awe, and with stiff necks. The only way to gauge the scale of the tallest man-made structure in the world is to compare it to the hundreds of towers surrounding it, any one of which would dwarf most of those found in our skylines in the UK. Yet the Burj makes them look small in comparison, being as much as four or five times their height. Booking in advance to go to the top turned out to be a wise move as the experience was sold out and we were able to view Dubai from 124 floors in the day, during sunset and into the night.
The following day we met up with an old friend (Hi Dani) who showed us round the Jumeirah Palm. With the both of us coming from construction backgrounds me and Sarah both agreed that one thing that Dubai has, being situated in a dessert, is plenty of land for development… Apparently not enough. This floating city complete with it’s own motorways,metro system, hotels, apartments and beach houses is a true sign of Dubai’s intent to stick its middle finger up to what can’t and perhaps shouldn’t be achieved, financially, economically and socially. I mention socially because as we sat there enjoying our salads in a distinctly Australian flavoured beach house resort, it was clear to us that Dubai is a city that caters exclusively to the most privileged delivered by the less-so privileged. This is no more obvious than when taking a metro ride into the city. The state-of the art network is used exclusively by the masses of Indians that Dubai’s huge service industry relies on. However when we asked in our hotel for train times the receptionist looked confused at why these two white tourists would want to take the metro when there are perfectly good taxi’s waiting outside. we were both quite content to “slum it” with the rest of the labourers on the metro for a fraction of the price and on a train that would put most tubes to shame.
The shear amount of modernism left us looking for some ancient Arabia somewhere in the city which we thought we would find in the neighbourhood of Bastikiya. It turned out the Dubai fort was built in the 1800’s and had been rebuilt in the 1970’s, seemingly our search for antequitism was doomed to fail- although we did get ourselves some rather nice orange juice while attracting a lot of stares from locals. Our final evening was again spent roaming the further reaches of the palm, in the search for Atlantis – which turned out to be, along with the huge hotel, yet another mall but an hours walk round the palm gave us an opportunity to look back at the downtown skyline from afar.
So now we are enjoying our final half-day in Dubai around the pool. Finishing off the local delicacies purchased from the carre fore over the road (yes there have them here too! but not the warehouse scale variety found in Europe) which include Arabian bread with canned hummus, carton feta and blueberry jam – particularly good. Shortly we will catch the metro towards the airport before flying off to India!
See photos here: https://www.flickr.com/gp/127744759@N08/H03xjZ