As I watch the snow continue to pile and reach for an extra pair of socks to help me during this “cold weather alert” insult; my mind wanders back to warmer, sunnier times in Dubai in 2009.
Pull up a chair, pour yourself a lot beverage and come with me……..
It is 10:20 UAE time as I write this. I am sitting on my bed, the bedroom balcony door is open and there is a gentle breeze billowing the curtain…it is a hot steamy night.
Our adventure begins “Dune Bashing” in the desert;
Arabian Night and Sand Dunes
It’s a good thing I have downed 2 Gravol (anti-nausea tablets) before going on this Desert Safari!! The 4 wheel drive vehicles of which there are many, many barrel through the sand dunes at warp speed (even though our driver “Yasser” assures us he is driving slowly:) and when you are not hurtling through the air you are nose-diving or perched precariously on a very high sand dune or lying at a 45 degree angle at complete right or complete left!
This activity is not I repeat not for weak stomachs !.
As the sun goes down, all you see is a stream of head lights meandering their way on various levels of sand dunes which are so high in some cases we actually thought they were mountains in the distance. At a given point we are forced to stop for a few moment’s so Yasser’s engine can cool off and so that he can assist a fellow driver who is literally “stuck” in the sand. We then wind our way to one of several “camps” where I go for a camel ride and then we go into the encampment; an area right out of “Arabian Nights” with low tables, and cushions on the sand for seats, Arabian rugs, a BBQ, (no doubt the unwanted camel) hot Nan bread being made on the spot, a belly dancer and of course the obligatory “Shesha” (sp?) pipe. .
After an evening in the desert it only makes sense that we are going to the beach on the following day.
Jumeirah Beach Park to be exact.
It is steamy hot when we get there at 1pm but once we get ourselves settled right by the water there is a nice breeze.
Even at the beach we are in a swirl of nationalities and costumes.
The Indian ladies are in their colorful Saris with babies tucked on hips, some Pakistani Ladies are wearing their beautiful embroidered and beaded pants with long tunics but that does not stop them from sitting in the sand and building sand castles with their little ones. Some Muslim ladies are sitting in the sun wearing their “Abayas” (covered in black from head to toe as well as head covering) and still others can be seen wearing Abayas with a Nike Ball Cap on top of it all to keep the sun off their face! The women in Abayas go swimming and float about on the sea in their full garb. I wonder at how they don’t drown!
Then of course, we have some ladies with the dental floss bikini bottoms who are no doubt visitors from Europe along with the men in their Speedos.
You can hear all sorts of languages and it seems everyone smokes!
The water is as warm as bath water and there are hundreds of little white fish (almost like tiny trout) that swim around us when we are in the Sea.
We grab some lunch at “Malik Burger” on the beach. Your usual Beach fare; chicken burgers, fried chicken and fries, shish kabab etc…While we are snacking I look over my shoulder and see that the sun is starting to set. It is 3pm. By the time we get back to our spot on the water . The sun feels like it does at home in summer at around 7pm. Yes. The sun sets rather quickly here and by 6pm it is dark.
Before leaving the Beach we queue up to use the ladies’ room.. There is no paper in my stall but then that is only fitting considering the toilet is but a hole in the ground with 2 places on either side of the hole indicating where your feet should go 🙂
Mall of the Emirates, Grocery Shopping and Skiing
I hit the mall with the aim to get groceries at the “Carrefour”. Easier said than done as there is so much that beckons to be looked at among all the top brand designer stores and the variety of people from full burka to covering all but the eyes to the vales to the non- Muslim Middle Eastern women who are bedazzled and bling- blinged out from head to toe. It’s crazy to stand in our t-shirts and capris and sandals and to look in on the ski hill complete with cable cars, little winter village scenes, luge area for kids. ‘It is almost comical for us to see women wearing the long black gowns and veiled heads pulling little children in full snow suits on sleds! Yes that’s right we are overlooking the famous Ski Emirates. The indoor ski hill!! Anything is possible in Dubai!
Grocery Shopping is loud, confusing and a fight to not get run over by someone’s cart. It’s amusing to us to see aisles of brands and packages we are not familiar with and the place is packed…300 Durham’s later we come out exhausted but I have found some Chocolate Croissants so there is a promise for a wonderful breakfast ahead the next day.
Dhow Boats, Souks and Traffic
Dhow” (sp?) is a “type” of boat. A very large and very beautiful sort of 2 story yacht /sail boat that is completely made of very dark and very beautiful wood. There are no less than 25 or so of these huge boats and they are all floating restaurants. It is a tremendous meal and a gorgeous night to be out on the water as it is 37 degrees!
Now. GETTING THERE is another story…
We have to leave at 6pm in order to make our 8pm dinner reservation. It takes us exactly 2 hours to get down one road ;Sheik Sayed Road which is absolutely grid locked for 2 hours and from what we can assess this is quite normal as traffic is crazy here! The Driving is like the Drag Races as well….a series of non stop petal to the metal for 12 seconds, followed by complete abrupt spinal chord jangling stops. There also seems to be a mystical mandatory changing of lanes which means no cars are left in any lane and everyone is higgledy-piggledy pointing towards each other.
Now add to this our 22 year old fire cracker driver who is always “on” and is bopping to the sound of Hindi Hip Hop Music, she dances at the wheel, talks on her cell phone and banters back and forth with her colleague at the same time. I of course am in the back seat concentrating on “not throwing up”!
naturally we get lost on our search to approach the water front which makes things worse but also allows us to see the “other” side of Dubai which looks like a movie scene of Bombay or Hong Kong or Cairo (take your pick) …..throngs and throngs of people and cars and bicycles piled high with merchandise are crammed/jammed street after alley after lane . We are in a sea of colour with Souk stalls and their vibrant merchandise. We marvel at the big melting pot of Arabian and Chinese and Indian clothing the passers-by are wearing! Neon lights and Mosques all blend together and it truly is a feast for the eyes…..
On “Revenue Management” at the Blue Souk
We drive to Sharja (Emirates beside Dubai ) to the Blue Souk.
It takes us a long time to find the “Blue Souk” . When we do find it we see that it is on a beautiful man-made lagoon (one of many) and the surroundings are quite lovely. It is what we would refer to back home as a “stinkin’ hot” today.
Walking down the aisles of the Souk is a true lesson in “sales pitching” as all the merchants surround us enticing us with “looking is free”! I find myself also dusting off my “negotiating skills” as I barter my way through my purchases. The merchant gives a price….I say it is too much money….the merchant asks how much money I have,,,,,I say only a few Durhams …the merchants say they cannot give me that price…I say I cannot pay..they then offer a little better than the starting price..we go through the “too much” again. Sometimes they offer to throw in a 2nd item sometimes they will lower only the second purchase….I know I am close to closing time and so…..we dance the dance of negotiation. In the end, I am happy with my purchases….
The Long Trek Home
After 22 hours in transit (and after 4 movies, half of a novel and 3 meals in the air) i land in Toronto and began the 6 hour wait for our flight to Moncton. A trek worthwhile to escape this cold, learn about a new culture, make new friends, make new memories…a