Published: September 14th 2007June 20th 2007
DUBAI CITY - Sat 16/06 to Wed 20/06
We had an uneventful flight from Hong Kong - 9 hours or so & arrived in Dubai at about 8 PM on Saturday evening. We were met by my cousin Yvonne who has been living in Dubai for nearly 2 years & had very kindly offered for us to stay with her. She also informed us on arrival that we had missed the weekend & that Saturday night was just like a Sunday night at home which was just as well cause we were wrecked after the flight and wouldn't have been up to much!! When we stepped outside the terminal we were met by an unmerciful blast of heat - Yvonne explained that this was the norm & that in June even at night the temperatures remained in the 30s. With that we were back to Yvonne’s house which lies on the outskirts of Dubai, along the way we passed through what can only be described as one massive building site - there are cranes everywhere (even more than Dublin) & it seems everyone is trying to out do each other with their modern sophisticated designs - I have to say though
Burj Al Arab Hotel Dubai
Designed to resemble a billowing sail the Burj dominates Dubai's skyline.
Dubai’s Skyline is impressive. All this building is contributing to Dubai’s impressive economic growth - we had thought that Dubai’s wealth comes mainly from oil but that is a myth or at least a tale from the history books - in 2006 only 3% of Dubai’s $46 Billion economy came from oil or gas, the economy is in the main driven by construction, industry & tourism revenues.
We passed the Burj Dubai, already the world’s tallest structure even though they are still building & have a few hundred metres more to go. The different business & residential areas of Dubai are named cities like Internet City, Sports City, Festival City & Media City and the in-progress Dubai Marina City which is one massive construction site. All at once they are building a massive development of skyscrapers complete with shops, hotels, appartments, golf courses and all the infrastructure - roads, a high speed train link, hospitals, schools etc. 5 years ago it was just desert; at the moment it's the biggest building site we've ever seen, and in the next couple of years it will be a finished, inhabited city. There are apparently 20,000 contruction workers there and 20% of
the world's earth moving equipment and cranes. After our spin through the city we arrived at Yvonne’s place - a lovely 3 bed villa. We had a few beers before bed - yes alcohol is available in Dubai but is restricted - residents need a licence to buy in an off-licence & the main hotels have bars for tourists but they are a tad pricey (minimum €6 a pint). We were well shook after the flight & after the few beers & pizza slices were in the leaba fast asleep.
Next morning we were up early enough & Yvonne brought us into old Dubai (Bur Dubai) where we visited Dubai City Museum, took a water-taxi (an Abra) across Dubai’s creek & then visited the Spice & Gold Souks in Dubai’s old town area - Deira. It was in Deira that we noticed the many Indians & more obviously the large majority of men in Dubai - the last census showed 85% of residents are foreign made up of mainly Indians (51%) Pakistani (16%), Bangladeshi (9%) & Filipino (3%). Only 3% are categorised as western. As most of these are economic migrants working & sending money home to their families,
the split between men & woman in the emirate is approx. 3 to 1, hence our earlier observation. As we walked about Deira, the heat was almost unbearable & we couldn’t stay out too long - Yvonne’s car thermometer reached 48°C at one stage - in June, July & August it really is a case of stay indoors as much as you possibly can. By 1 PM we had enough of the heat & went off to collect Yvonne’s two kids Luka & Aoife at their school - Dubai’s weekend is Friday & Saturday so Sunday is a normal school day. The school was very impressive & is one of many set up specifically to cater for Dubai’s huge Western ex-pat community - the school had a swimming pool, planetarium, auditorium & I can only guess what else - it really was impressive. Then it was off to Dubai’s biggest shopping mall for a look around & a bit of lunch. The shopping mall - Mall of the Emirates has hundreds of shops but it's biggest claim to fame is that it has the Middle East's first indoor ski slope, it was packed when we looked in - imagine 48
degrees outside and skiing inside, I was considering going for a run on it later in the week. With that we were back home & had a late dinner & after 9 PM when it had cooled down a bit we had a few beers on the patio.
On Monday morning Yvonne dropped us back into town & we went back to the Spice & Gold Souks as we had a few presents to pick up. The Gold Souk is very impressive & has about 250 jewellery shops all located in the one area of old Dubai Deira. Every window would nearly blind you with the gold & diamonds - they sell gold by weight & supposedly you can get great deals versus Ireland, we are not so sure so we’ll have to check when we get back. While wandering, we were approached by lads on the street selling fake watches & the like, we decided we’d go look at what they had but warned them beforehand that we had just come from Bangkok & that we would pay no more than what we had payed in Bangkok for a watch. We were led down back alleys & then
up to the 3rd storey of a building & our guide knocked on a door - we entered a large room laden with every type of designer gear you can imagine - watches, bags, shoes, t-shirts, sunglasses, hats - everything. We looked at the watches but they couldn’t come near the prices we had got in Thailand & so we left without any buying anything - take note - if you are buying fake watches Bangkok is the place !. After our few hours on our own we got a taxi back out to Yvonne’s place - Yvonne had given us instructions about what to say in the taxi as it is very common for them to take ridiculous routes in their attempt to increase the fare - anyway it worked for us & we got out there for the regular 35 Dirhams (about €7).
That evening we had planned a night out & went first to the Jemeriah Beach Hotel for drinks. The Jeremiah Beach Hotel is located next door to the Burj Al Arab Hotel (seemingly the World’s only 7 Star Hotel - you have to pay something ridiculous like €40 even to look around). We were
there for about 7 PM & got some great views of the Burj & photos as the sun went down - a myriad of colours appear as the light dims. It really was hot as we sat outside - reservations are required for a seat indoors & so rather than eat & sweat there we decided it would be better all round to get somewhere indoors so we went across town to The Hard Rock Café. We had a fine dinner & a few drinks listening to a band. We were then dropped off at a local hotel & told by Yvonne & Gary to go & have a few drinks for ourselves. That we did looking up at the Dubai Skyline.
On our last day, we went out for breakfast to the Madinat Jumeirah Souk, again under the towering Burj Al Arab hotel. Afterwards, we went back to the Mall of the Emirates Shopping Mall as Siobhan & Yvonne had a salon appointment. I had planned a trip on the ski-run but lost my nerve as I entered the reception area & instead wandered the mall for two hours. We were then off to collect the kids as
we had booked ourselves onto a 4WD Desert Safari for that evening & were being collected at 3 PM. Yvonne had managed to get us half price tickets & we went off in a 4WD Jeep towards the “Big Red” - 1st was Sand Dune Surfing in the 4WD which was crazy - we made it through but on a photo stop for baby camels our driver lost the rest of the group & in his efforts to catch up at a crazy 100+ KPH across the desert he hit a big rock & nearly lost it altogether but just about managed to keep it between the ditches
- end result was one tyre ripped apart & another not worth talking about. We stopped & changed the tyres borrowing a spare from an accompanying 4WD - our driver - the youngest of the group got a good telling off (well it sounded like it, we never managed to pick up much Arabic) - we felt dead sorry for him with it being us who asked him to stop for the little camels.
Then onto a desert nomad camp for a desert feast & bit of belly dancing. It
all looked very manmade in the middle of rolling sand dunes but the reality is that these camps were truly a manmade interruption to the desert in days of old. We first leapt up on a camel & had a walk about (very touristy I know but then we are long term tourists), then donned the local gear (see photo attached), then did a bit of falconry & finally sat down to a desert feast (like a barbeque) & watched a bit of belly dancing. It was a great night with plenty of variety & the tyre incident & our near brush with death only added to the excitement. With that we were dropped back to Yvonne’s, said our goodbyes & hit the leaba as we were up at 4:30 AM the next morning to catch the Aer Lingus flight home to Dublin - we had got our bags weight down to the tee & managed to avoid Aer Lingus’s extra baggage charges - after all this time, we were on our way home
A big “Thank You” To Yvonne, Gary, Aoife & Luka for looking after us so well & showing us so much of Dubai in
a short few days
There are more photos below