Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Last night, I checked my flight arrangements for tomorrow and discovered that I will be leaving the hotel at 3:30 a.m.! At first, I thought that was when I had to be at the airport. Either way, I’ll be getting up brutally early tomorrow. So I spent hours last night packing. I’m afraid that, with gifts received from Mercy Corps and ICBA, as well as gifts I’ve already purchased, my two suitcases are as heavy (hopefully not heavier) as they were when I first set out on my Middle East adventures.
Two interesting, including one somewhat traumatic, events happened that I forgot to mention. First, on Tuesday night, I mis-keyed my room safe and could not figure out how to reproduce the wrong entry so I could open up the safe. I tried, on and off, for two hours. I had given up and hoped against hope that the hotel had some master program to open it (my cash, jewelry, important papers!). Luckily, after trying all sorts of combinations that evening, on Wednesday morning I tried something different and the safe opened. Hallelujah!! I’ve always been very careful in the past and never had any difficulty. I’ll have to stay more alert…
Second, on Wednesday just before lunch, Ghazi came and told me to follow him to collect my contract payment. In all my years of training and traveling, I have never been paid (in dollars!!!) on the last day. With my fee and per diems, this was a relatively healthy sum- and very impressive in an envelope. You can bet that I quickly placed it (carefully) into my hotel room safe when I got back. And now I’ll be traveling with all that cash. I have to put it somewhere safe for traveling and I’m still mulling how many places I should put it- of course, with carry ons that I’ll keep with me at all times. Just a tad stressful.
I’ll be getting the shuttle to the Mall of the Emirates in a half hour. I’m wearing a pashmina that I bought yesterday, because for some reason I did not pack any light short or long sleeved blouses and I got badly sunburnt on the bus. I plan to cover up with the pashmina and sit under the canopy so I don’t get more sun.
My shower never progressed beyond a very light spray. I am thinking that either: (1) it is a problem with the water pressure or (2) it is a conscious decision on the part of the hotel to conserve as much water as possible. All of the African and Middle Eastern countries that I have visited have water-conserving toilets. It would be nice to see them in more homes and buildings in the US.
More after my trip…
I took the blue route today- from Dubai Mall. My idea of just getting it at the Mall of the Emirates was unrealistic once I realized that it was the last stop before the Dubai Mall. If only the cityscapes bus went back and forth instead of in a grand circle.
My shuttle mates also pointed out that I could get the shuttle back to the hotel at designated times. There had been no need to get a taxi, although it would have taken an hour instead of 15 minutes. So- I’m glad I didn’t know this last night!
This route took us past the Union building, where the 7 emirates signed to become the United Arab Emirates on December 2, 1971 after England withdrew. This day is celebrated just like our independence day, as a national holiday with parades and fireworks.
We saw many beautiful mosques- one every block or so. And this area, Jumeira, is very posh, right next to the Gulf. The retail and restaurant buildings were lovely, as were the residences. We were also able to see the Dubai skyline- and the buildings look different from every new angle. I just love how beautiful and unique they are with their Islamic architecture. I don’t recall the name of the architectural firm responsible for many of the buildings, but their motto is “stay different” and they certainly have!
There were all sorts of huge colorful kites in strange shapes flying over Jumeira Beach. I’ll have to look at my photos to see them more clearly, because I was madly snapping photos as we drove.
The metro runs automatically without an engineer. The metro stations are approximately every block so that people do not have to walk far in the intense heat. Each station is painted inside to represent either the earth (green), fire (red), wind (yellow?) or sky (blue). Their air conditioning is the best in the city. The metro was inaugurated on 9/9/99 at 9:09 and 9 seconds by the Sheikh, who cut the ribbons at each of the 30 (I think) stations.
The great grandfather of the current Sheikh made Dubai tariff and custom-free in order to attract companies. There are now 29 “free” zones, each of which focuses on one type or retail or service: financial, automotive, apparel, gold, fish, spice, etc. This enables large corporations from different countries to establish offices and own property.
The flag of Dubai is green (earth), red (courage), white (peace) and black (I think the audio voice said for command, but I’m not sure).
It takes 25 seconds to go from the very bottom of the Burj Khalifa to the observation stand, which is below the last two floors. The ride up sounds pretty hard on the stomach and the ears!!
Jumeira means “embers,” so called because the sand gets so hot it used to burn the soles of the feet of the pearl divers and fishermen.
The Gulf water has a very high salt level because it is small and confined, and the warm climate makes the water evaporate, so the remaining water is highly concentrated.
There is a huge hotel that is built to resemble a sail right on the beach- the Burj Al Arab Luxury Hotel – jumeirah.com. It is the only 7-star hotel in the world.
Driving in Jameira, we passed a restaurant named the Talent Restaurant. This is because this is where all of the movie stars come to vacation and eat- and will apparently pose for photos. Who knew?
Because land is at a premium and in great demand, the Sheikh is not only reclaiming land but also building it proactively. There are the world islands, I don’t remember how many but many, owned privately and accessible only by marine or air transport.
We went to the Palm Islands – The Palm Islands are two artificial islands, Palm Jumeira and Palm Jebel Ali, on the coast of Dubai, United Arab Emirates. As at November 2014, only Palm Jumeira has been completed. This island takes the form of a palm tree, topped by a crescent. Wikipedia
Incredibly beautiful mosaic mosque, sumptuous residential buildings, and the Atlantis, the Palm hotel- which has an aqua venture where people can skin dive or swim in plastic tubes in shark-infested water, an aquarium with thousands of fish and sea creatures, a paradise that caters to every dream or wish held by the extremely rich.
When someone buys a smaller residence on the Palm Islands, they are given two keys- one to their new home and one to a new car, usually a BMW. If they buy a grander residence, they get a free Lamborghini! I don’t even think I got a handshake when I bought my house!!! I saw one billboard that said that 4-5 bedroom semi-detached villas of 3,479 square feet were AED 1,280 per square foot (approximately $360). I’m sure that the residences on the Palm Islands are much more than that!
There is a marine area with very tall residence buildings because every home is supposed to be only 5 minutes from the Gulf. Since there was a premium on land, they had to build up.
Yesterday when I was eating my lunch/dinner at the food court in Dubai Mall, there was a small parade of drummers, banner holders and three costumed bears, touting a toy store.
The latest enormous project in the area is a Mall of the World, which will be an entire city within a city, with the retail area enclosed so people can walk from shop to shop outside without getting burnt by the sun. It is supposed to be completed for the 2020 World Expo, which Dubai will be hosting. When they got the word they had won, there was a weeklong national holiday!
There is a sea turtle rescue program that has released something like 700 turtles
back into the Gulf over the past 5 years.
There is an actual ski slope, replete with snow, towropes and everything else necessary for a functioning ski lift, inside the Mall of the Emirates!!! I actually watched people skiing!
There is also an enormous grocery/retail/electronics/everything you can imagine store. I asked where I could buy dates, because dates are the only palm trees that grow easily in the area. After 6 years, each tree produces an amazing number of dates and will continue to do that for over 100 years. There are also over 100 different varieties of date palms.
Given this, there was an enormous display (I realize I’m using enormous frequently) of different kinds of dates. I didn’t end up buying any, because what I really wanted were figs- and I found those.
I took photos of 10-20 bins of different kinds of nuts, of different kinds of olives, of different kinds of rices, etc. There are all sorts of fresh fruit and vegetables, many different kinds of cheeses, probably anything anyone could want. And given the fact that there are people there from all over the world, that is not very surprising. But the prices are high, at least compared to Woodman’s prices in Wisconsin.
I have never in my life been in such crowds, wearing everything you can imagine, pushing baby strollers or grocery carts, strolling along 3-4 abreast, an incredible people-watching (and hearing!) experience. I think I’ll need some hours of complete isolation to recover. ☺
Well, I’ve got to get up in a few hours so I’d better try to get some sleep.
I’m so glad I scheduled these two additional days in Dubai. If and when I come back, I know all of the places I’d like to revisit and more I’d like to see. But next time I’ll bring sunscreen, a hat, and light long-sleeved tops!