Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Today was my first day in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
I actually arrived about 3 a.m. because our flight from Amman was delayed. My Nook hasn’t been holding a charge, so I was at a loss as to what to do for the duration of the flight. A kind man sitting next to me saw me struggling to get the movie remote out of the side of my seat. It took a number of efforts over the course of a half hour, but he finally dislodged it and I was able to watch a movie.
Again, a kind passenger helped me get my heavy carryon down from the overhead rack.
Once more, a very very long walk, then two escalators up, then one escalator down- I lost track! We first went through passport control. It looked like there were possibly 2000 people in different lines. It only took 20 minutes to get through. All of the stations that I saw were manned by men of Dubai, wearing floor length white robes that look like shirts at the top and long white head scarfs held in place by a thick black cord.
Our carry on bags were screened, but I didn’t have to take anything out. Then, when I got to the baggage carousel, there were my bags just coming around the corner.
Next, through customs where they placed my luggage on the conveyer belt, took it off on the other side and sent me on my way. What a huge difference from my experience in the Amman airport!
My taxi was still there, thank goodness. On the drive to the hotel, my driver told me that he was Pakistani and likes living in Dubai because it offers something that few Arab countries offer, and that Pakistan definitely does not provide: safety, security, and a fair judicial system.
He told me to avoid the large shopping malls- other than to tour them- and instead to shop in smaller places because this was the beginning of two months of sales. Unfortunately, my hotel is quite a distance from the metro and the downtown, so he told me that taxis would cost 50 AED. Now divide that by 3 and you know what that would be in dollars.
He also advised me to seek an exchange rather than exchange my money at the hotel if they gave a rate lower than the one he gave me. Quite honestly, I’m still so tired I don’t remember what it was, but I do know that the hotel clerk advised me to go elsewhere to get a better rate.
After the sumptuous accommodations I enjoyed in Amman, this hotel is like a Holiday Inn. The room is tiny, the bathroom offers no amenities (not even a bar of soap or a glass) although there is a soap dispenser for the sink and in the tub. However, this room has the best lighting I’ve ever had in any hotel and the room smells fresh and clean, with no smoke (what a relief!)
I don’t like the shower. First of all, I couldn’t figure out how to work it. The faucet looks like a thick horizontal tube, with the ability to spin both ends. I could not figure out how to get hot water and then how to get more than a dribble from the shower. I think that the shower only dribbles, which makes me glad that my hair is so short! At least here I won’t be getting water all over the floor!
By the time I was in my room, it was almost 5 a.m. I emailed my contact to let him know I would be able to meet with him around 3:30 p.m.
The bed is very hard and so are the pillows, so I do miss my bed in Amman!
When I got up and checked my messages at 2:45, I saw that my contact had replied to my email saying that he had to leave at 4 to pick up his children- so he hoped I could come earlier. I tried to call him from the room, but I learned that I had to go buy a phone card. I tried to email him that I was ready (no breakfast other than a rather brown banana I brought from Amman), but it didn’t seem like he received it.
So, I went down to the lobby, where I found hordes of people checking in or out. I went back to my room, sent him another message (I don’t know how effective a message line that reads “Please read your email” is…), and then thought I could use Skype to call him. No dice, because he’s not on Skype.
Just when I had given up hope, I got a call that there was a driver to pick me up. I had packed everything I needed for this workshop into one bag after I got into the room earlier, so I was ready to go.
My hotel is in the Silicon Oasis, which has a huge building whose top looks like a pineapple. There are palm trees everywhere, which have to be watered. We took a few roundabouts and it only took about 10 minutes to get to my client’s building.
My client, who apparently took training from me in Jordan three years ago, greeted me. She explained that the participants are all scientists with doctorates who think they know everything they need to know. Hmmm..I wonder what they’ll do when they see how I’ve decorated the room.
The huge training room was set up in two ovals, despite the fact that not only had I sent the room layout I prefer, but that layout message was lying right there. We commandeered some folks to move everything- and by then I was sweltering. It is very humid!
I stayed to put up the kites (butterflies and fish), the agenda map, put items on the tables (there are three for 15 people), and then work with the IT guy to get my PowerPoint up and ready. They have a very high tech set up (that my Mac didn’t recognize) so he had to come up with another option. Then he wanted to show me that I could touch the screen to change the picture. He was so proud of this technology, that even when I explained that I don’t stand near the screen, he showed it to me anyway.
I left there after 5 p.m. and finally had something to eat in the restaurant. They were amazing- I could smell some of the smoke from the bar next door (I later saw the door between the restaurant and the bar was open) so they let me try different seats before I was comfortable. Then the person who I must assume is the manager saw my Nook and asked if I needed more light, which I did. So they turned up the lights!
Then I asked Jasmine at the desk if there was someplace I could get a pedicure, since I wanted to be able to wear sandals. She arranged for it and then I had to find a taxi. That took some doing because not many taxis drove by and the first two the security guy and I flagged had no idea where the salon was. Finally, Jasmine came out and a taxi appeared so she was able to explain where to take me. Bless her heart.
The salon was only about 5-8 minutes away. I have had pedicures in Nigeria, Kenya, Trinidad, Amman, and America -and they are all different. This pedicure in Dubai was different in that I also received a back massage! How about that! After all my training and traveling, it was very welcome!
I modeled my new pretty toes to Jasmine and Jane at reception, both of whom had helped me. Everyone is very nice and that makes such a difference when you’re traveling.
Tomorrow I’ll be picked up at 7:30 (my choice), because the training will begin at 8:30. Ghazi assured me that most would be there by then. Since this is their work site, I should hope so!!
When he asked me when the training would start (we’d had numerous conversations via email on this matter) he said that he hoped I could end by 4, which had not been my plan at all. I am expected to teach two days of content in each day, so I need as much time as possible. However, he said that we could always take a few hours on a third day. How nice to have that option.
Time to get ready for bed.