Finishing the trip in style: Dubai!

Well Dubai really is incredible and in turn, made my last
few days of this 6 month adventure incredible too. Where to start…?

Well I flew from Jakarta to Dubai, arriving in the UEA at
around midnight. The temperature at landing was 35degrees C! WOW-that is some
serious heat!! And the next day it was even hotter….rising to 45degrees!!!

While on the subject of heat, I will describe my little
adventure of my first day in the city.

So I decided to go for a walk over to the Burjaman Mall,
which was close to my hotel in Bur Dubai. The walk took about 20 minutes (I
thought it was a lot shorter from the directions they had given me in the
hotel) and then I had some breakfast, bought my new ‘destination bible’-my
Lonely Planet, and planned my walking route for the day. One thing I have
learnt from this experience is that maps are not always to scale!!!

I set off for what appeared to be a couple of blocks down
the main road towards the Dubai Mall. I walked, I sweat, I walked some more and
sweat a lot more and so on…. The heat was dry and perspiration would begin
almost immediately once leaving an air conditioned building (which every
building was). It felt like you were in the desert, not that I knew exactly
what that felt like at the time, but it did. There was an eerie kind of feel
about these long, dusty, dry roads that seemed to continue forever. After about
an hour and a half I found a shop selling drinks and I was straight in there! I
was so dehydrated by this point that I felt if I didn’t find somewhere selling
a drink soon I would actually pass out!

I continued my walk from here for around another half an
hour before I reached the mall. The roads are not made for pedestrians, there
is a distinct lack of pavements and roadworks and building sites along various
parts of the roadside. The mall is earmarked by the distinctive and wonderous
Burj Khalifa- the tallest building in the world, so I knew I was heading in the
right direction and was aimed towards that.

So by the end of this walk my body temperature must have
been dangerously high! For the rest of the next week, I was constantly drinking
and felt so dehydrated. I think I may have actually done myself some damage if
I had have walked much further in that unimaginable heat! I met up with an old
friend from BA later in the week and when I told him about my walk he thought  I
really was crazy and actually couldn’t believe it, along with the taxi driver I
got to take me back as I wasn’t enduring that walk again!!! Their reactions
confirmed that I had undertaken a completely ridiculous walk-but hey, I’m still
here and it’s all a learning experience after all [not to self-do not undertake
crazy walks in the desert in future].

So Dubai really is an incredible place. It is a complete
contrast to any other place I visited on my travels. I went to the Dubai museum
during my visit, and found it fascinating that prior to the 1960’s barely any
of the development standing today existed. At one point they were building as
much as a storey of a sky-scraper building a week!!! WOW! So in the last 50
years they really have transformed the city. This is a place that really is one
of a kind, it is incredible, and it must hold so many World records!! It has
the tallest building in the world, the biggest mall in the world, the Palm (a
manmade island in the shape of a palm tree) and many other amazing developments
being built at the moment including Dubai World (lots of theme parks and
things), Internet City and ‘The World’ (Another manmade island, this time in
the shape of the world!). These things just don’t exist elsewhere in the
world-it really is one of a kind.

The recession has hindered the cities progress somewhat, and
development has now slowed right down. But it is still amazing and from what I
saw of the city, a little lack of money isn’t going to stop them being a world
class destination!

Dubai architecture

Dubai is a fantastic mix of old and new. There are all of
the magnificent buildings and architecture, and then there are the old,
traditional souks and mosques. I really was in awe as I walked along the long,
straight highway-type roads, looking up at the incredible architecture, I
reminded me a little of Singapore in that sense-and I LOVED it there!

Inside a Dubai souk

The malls in Dubai really were something, and I can
absolutely see why people go there for shopping! The Dubai Mall is a waterfall,
and atrium, an indoor theme park, an Olympic sized ice rink and a huge aquarium,
not to mention  the hundreds of shops and
restaurants/bars! I have certainly never seen a shopping mall like this one!!
It was a shame I didn’t have much money to spend…. Because you really could
spend a lot!!

Just your average shopping trip…?!

Outside of the mall was the Burj Khalifa. This is a
magnificent building. I just stood there looking at it for ages….and as usual
took far too many photos! Next to this building was the famous dancing
fountains, however I missed the showings as they only ran at night, but after
having seen the Barcelona fountains and the ones in Vegas I wasn’t too
disappointed to miss it. There was also a lovely souk here. The souks weren’t really
as I expected, they are very modern but with traditional décor and they are
indoors like mini-malls. They were lovely though and had so much character. I
bought a lovely little Arabian style lamp that I now have on my shelf of ‘travel
things’ at home.

(the tip of) the Burj Khalifa

While in the city I went to check out the Palm, but was
actually a little disappointed as there wasn’t really anything there! It is
simply a man-made island in the shape of a palm tree, but you need to be in the
air to be able to see that. It is full of apartments, and at the end is the
famous Atlantis hotel-the world’s only 7 star hotel. It looked impressive from
the outside I guess, but nothing draw dropping for me.

Atlantis Hotel

I also checked out the Burj al Arab from the outside. It is
yet another magnificent building. When they built it they wanted it to be on
par with the Eiffel Tower and the Sydney Opera house, it’s a great building
granted, but I wouldn’t say it is on par with them at all. You can go there for
afternoon tea which costs about £100 I think, I obviously couldn’t afford that
at the time, but I do intend on returning to Dubai some day when I can enjoy
these infamous luxuries more.

Burj al Arab

The Emirates Mall is also very nice, and the main reason I
visited this mall was to check out the indoor skiing slope!! Is there anything
you can’t o in Dubai???!! I’m not sure there is!!! Wow!

Mall of the Emirates ski slope!

I also went to the beach. The sea water was so hot, it was
like stepping into a hot bath. No cameras were allowed on the beach, I guess
because of traditional customs etc. In fact the locals (which actually only
equate to around 5% of the population due to the amount of expats!!) do frown
on the way that tourists come to the city wearing few clothes, particularly on
the beach. In the malls there are signs around asking people to please dress respectfully.
And I think it’s only fair that we acknowledge their customs and traditions.

ssshhhh don’t tell anuybody I had a camera!

For me, there was something missing here. The buildings were
spectacular, the beaches were beautiful, the hotel was luxurious (something I
had not had much of backpacking). But for some reason I felt there was
something just not quite doing it for me. Don’t get me wrong, I liked it there
a lot, but there was just something about it that I can’t quite put my finger
on. Perhaps it was the lack of true traditional culture, I’m not sure.

It really is a business place and I was surprised to find
out that I knew three different people living there! Unfortunately I only
managed to meet up with one, but it was nice to have a good catch up and to
hear a bit more about what it is like to live in Dubai. Wages are great, free
accommodation, only rains 5 days a year!! Maybe I should move there!!! Ha ha

One of the negatives were that the men (who were actually
mostly Pakistani or Indian) were rather pervy and kept trying to touch me and
asking me out. But that was to be expected in an Arab country really.

So I had a lovely 4 days in Dubai and spent my last day
visiting the Arabian desert (will I will discuss in the next entry) and then
flew back to London. What a wonderful place, and a wonderful last few days. I
felt ready to go home, and to take on the next adventure-whatever that may