In Dubai, the urban jungle…

Originally posted on another platform on September 2010

First post or our 3 month tour around Asia

Dublin (Éire) – Dubai (UAE)

Day one:

The first day is nearly over and I still can’t believe that we have started our adventure! We are a bit tired due to the jet lag but I hope that I can sum up what’s happened today as much as possible.

The flight was great and Etihad are amazing. The plane was huge and comfortable (well, as comfy as a plan can be), dinner was fantastic and the in flight entertainment is amazing (I watched 2 movies and I already know what I will be watching in  2 days time when we are on our way to Bangkok) . Plane and crew wise, Etihad was great but, just as on any other plane, you can forget about sleeping 🙂

We landed at 7 am and, I have to say, going through security was a breeze compared to what I had expected. I was so sleepy that when the guard asked me in English “are you visiting?” , I answered  “Sí”. He followed with a  “muy bien” 🙂 . My rucksack was the first to come out too, a great sign of things to come, I hope!

Etihad offers a complimentary bus from Abu Dhabi to Dubai. In Dublin when we were looking at the map we figured that the two cities were not really that apart… I am not sure if it was the bus or perhaps a miscalculation from our side distance-wise, but it has taken us 2 hours to reach Etihad’s HQ in the middle of Dubai.

Before I go on, I have to share with you just how amazing the entry into Dubai was. When we visited NY 3 years ago, we got into the city with a bus from Boston and I still remember how the skyline seemed to be rising in the background from where we were in the motorway. You get the picture. Now, extrapolate this to being on a straight motorway with nothing but desert beside you and seeing suddenly an urban jungle emerging right in front of your eyes… Amazing…

After reaching Dubai, we jumped into a taxi to go to the hotel. Dubai is a city that was built on a straight line – nothing is closed to anything and forget about walking in the heat! Taxis are cheap and the road that splits Dubai in two (again, length ways) has many lanes. It also has a max speed of 120 km/h (even if it is a city!) and – wait for it – a minimum speed of 100 km/h too!  We arrived at the hotel at half ten and the room was ready (thank you God) – needless to say that we have gone for a kip a couple of hours.

The hotel is amazing and we have only been able to afford to stay in it thanks to a super cheap rate that we got through one of David’s friends. The Jumeirah Beach is opposite the Burj Al Arab and the view from our room (on the 17th floor) was absolutely incredible. The hotel is also right beside Wild Wadi, a water park which grants free access to the hotel’s guests.

After sleeping for a couple of hours, we went down to the pool until Mick, David’s friend, who has lived in Dubai for the last 5 years, has called us. He’s taken us all over Dubai in his car, including the Dubai Mall, where we have seen a water show, which reminded me a lot of the Universal Exposition in Seville in 1992. Thank God at this stage it was already dark (Ramadan) and we could buy some much-needed water before going to Mick’s house

Watch the water show here

It was there that I discovered that Dubai’s growth comes thanks to the fact that it is a tax-free haven. Business owners do not pay any taxed (100% of the turnover is profit) and  – wait for it –  workers do not pay any taxes either. The downside to this is that if you are a foreigner and you end up jobless you must leave the country. If you miss work without notice, your employer will place an ad in the paper advising that you missed work and, therefore, you are no longer employed by the company. It’s their way of saying you are no longer “their problem”. Also, if you are a non national working in Dubai, you have to go to Doha every 3 months to show them that you are still in the country… Incredible.

After Mick’s tours (the city lights were amazing tonight), we have gone back to the hotel and have had dinner with Mick and a friend of his that works for Jumeirah. We’ve had a great time and it was a great way to start our adventure!

Day Two:

The heat in Dubai is incredible!!! 52 degrees – can hardly breathe!!!

Anyway… rant over 🙂

This morning, we went down for breakfast (expensive, but a great way of being able to eat a bit since we will not be able to eat until dawn, as it’s Ramadan). The hotel has 12 vaults with different options for breakfast – I swear I would have loved taking a picture but I felt a bit… embarrassed 🙂 ). You can have whatever you want – even sushi, if you’d like! I ended up having an omelette, as eggs are such a great way to fill up your tummy long-term.

We have ended up taking the touristic bus (http://www.bigbustours.com/eng/dubai/custompage.aspx?id=day%20tour), which was a bit expensive but we thought it would be a good idea considering how “far” away everything is. The bus is very much designed for tourists; it takes you hotel by hotel (all entertainment is in them), but we decided to step off at the old city and went for a walk. Even if it is not an amazing spot, it really allows you to see the last vestiges of the old Arab air of the area (and I mean old Arab air because this place is very much a mega city now).

Dubai is a place with too much money in it. Yes, too much money, I am serious. For example, a month before the Mall of Dubai (which is as big as 15 shopping centers in one) opened, they realized they were running out of money. Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum (vice-president of the UAE and major of Dubai) decided to call Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan (President of the UAE and major of Abu Dhabi) and asked him to invest $20bn  to finish the project… Seemingly, they had to change all the street signs of the roads that led to the Mall to incorporate the name Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan…

Another example is the Palms complex. A company managed to create these fake islands in the middle of the sea to build a touristic complex in the shape of a Palm… But the absolute ultimate is The World. Yes, there’s one here. I can almost see it: a guy wakes up one morning and thinks “mmm, we have everything here except the whole world… oh, wait….”. I am leaving the link here so that you can have a look if you want  http://www.theworld.ae/ … The islands are sold off by invitation only… Oh, well…

After the bus tour, we came back to the hotel and went into Wild Wadi (David was like a kid in it) and tonight we went for a walk around the old city (with the Imam’s call to break the fast – so beautiful and eerie) and then to a cheap boat tour with dinner and a show. It was an Indian boat with a nice buffet spread – yellow dahl, korma, jalfrezi, with Arab food too. The show was funny, but it’s really the views of the city that make you think… In my humble opinion, Dubai is extremely ostentatious. You can find anything here.. what do I say, they have everything! And bigger too! They even have two Chrysler buildings! Dubai is ruled by the hotels and they are a symbol of status. Tourism is extremely important – they know and so they look after it.

Day three

i can’t believe it’s time to go! We will be going from a mega luxury city to Bangkok, which is renowned for being big and not the most luxurious or clean… We’ll see…

Our flight is leaving from Abu Dhabi this evening so we decided to take it easy today and go for a walk around Dubai Mall… This place has absolutely everything. Just as the rest of Dubai, the Mall has a very strong American feel to it and, to our surprise, we discovered that the Mall had a food court…. that was open… during Ramadan!!! When i think of the times that over the last few days we have been going to restrooms to simply hide when wanting to drink some water….  Knowing that we would not have time to eat anything until very late this evening, we went for it and chose to eat some KFC – which was open behind a big massive curtain, hiding us westerners . Yes, I didn’t feel great about it, but I was starving and really needed to drink something too.

We then had to go to Chelsea Towers (Etihad’s HQ), where we checked in for our flight and caught our bus towards Abu Dhabi… So different from Dubai! You can tell that there’s a lot of money there too but it’s a lot more subdued, more austere.

Anyway, gotta go now as we are about to board! See you in Bangkok! 🙂

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