Published: May 11th 2011March 25th 2011
So en route to India I had originally planned to stop over in Bahrain, but with things heating up there over the previous month or so I had rescheduled my itineray to go through Dubai instead. This worked out well as a good friend from school now happens to be working there as an Interior Designer.
Getting to her apartment, proved to be an interesting experience. I took the metro which as a first for me, was a fully automated, i.e driverless experience. Don't ask me how that works!!! Anyway it got me to Julia's place in one piece, so that's what counts. I also couldn't help but notice when using the metro that there were no Arabs to be seen and very few 'westerners' about. It was predominately used by Indians and Asians. The first sign of the extremely segregated society I was to observe over the coming 4-5 days.
So the apartment I found myself in, was very nice and quite a lot more luxurious than what I had become accustomed to travelling through Eastern Europe over the past month and living in student accommodation in Leipzig. From memory I think it was 27 floors up, definitely
enough for a touch of vertigo, when standing on the balcony and admiring the fantastic view it had over Dubai. It was about a 200m walk from the beach and with a cheap, shtty hotel room costing 50USD in Dubai I counted my lucky stars, that I wasn't paying to stay there. Julia was to be a great host as well, which made me feel doubly lucky.
After having found the apartment, I settled down for a few hours drowse and a few hours of watching rugby, league and cricket, something I hadn't been able to do from the comfort of a couch for a long while. Julia had told me to help my self to her stuff while she was gone, as as working people do, she had shot off to work after I arrived. So I got up and helped myself to what looked like a Shepherd's pie. I'd eaten over half of that when a couple of people appeared from nowhere. As I had only talked to Julia for 5m in the morning and the last time I had seen her, had been in her not to shabby, very large house in Auckland, where she lived
by herself, I had just assumed that she was living by herself in this apartment in Dubai.
My assumption was proven wrong, when sprawled out on the flat's couch, stuffing down shepherd's pie, I asked the two people who they were and what they were doing. They said we live here, who are you, so I introduced myself and they explained that there were about 7 people living in the apartment.. At which point it dawned on me that the shepherd's pie I had just destroyed may not have even been Julia's. It turned out that it wasn't and this quickly became the joke of the apartment, as the shepherd's pie I had eaten had apparently been sitting there for the past two weeks and only hadn't been thrown out as the Scottish girl who had made it, had been otherwise occupied.
Surprisingly perhaps, after that start, Julia's flat mates were all uber nice to me. On waking up from my drowse, I found one of her flatmate's boyfriend on the other couch watching the rugby. After a quick chat, he invited me out to a restauraunt down the road. He was an air traffic controller, good company
and an interesting person to have explain Dubai for the first time. Basically there is no secret as to why 'westerners' come to Dubai. It is the money, that is better namely because you don't have to pay tax. He explained to me that once there the life was not half bad either and after a few beers and a succulent lunch I wasn't about to disagree with him.
The evening I arrived was to coincide with the New Zealand Embassy in Dubai holding a fundraising event for the Christchurch event, so I went off to that with Julia and met some great people in the process. Was good to take part in a positive event as well and I think they managed to raise a fair whack from the ex-pat community there.
After that it was off to experience some of Dubai's nightlife. The clubs were pretty good, with the main difference learnt from the nights activities being that not only is it illegal to have sex outside of marriage in Dubai, it is also illegal to kiss on the dance floor, well for that matter anywhere outside of marriage. Strangely rather then finding this repressive, it
suddenly made the proposition of kissing somebody a hell of a lot more attractive/fun. It was like being a teenager all over again. I suppose this feeling lasts until you are caught and chucked in the slammer, as by all accounts sporiadically happens when the law is enforced.
The next day saw me awoken from my hangover by one of the flatmates I hadn't yet met. After asking me how the shepherd's pie went down, he asked if I would like to go snorkelling. Having not been snorkelling for a while and with everyone else nursing hangovers and unlikely to be amongst the living anytime soon, there wasn't much holding me back and shortly thereafter I found myself with a couple of Australians, a few fish and about 15 tips of a sea urchin I had stood on in my big toe.
Once back at the apartment, I soaked my big toe in a lemon's juice and watched some cricket. We then went downtown to check out the biggest building in the world and the renowned water fountain display that is held ever half an hour outside of it. After that we had some delicious dim sum, well
I had quite a lot actually, with it being all you can eat and all. Amongst the best dim sum I have tried, the all u can eat offer saw me in heaven. The only disturbance or off putting event being the wailing and screaming of a mother who had lost her child for about an hour and a half of the time we were there. Luckily someone found her child in the biggest shopping mall in the world and the lady recomposed herself and left me to attain enlightenment eating my dim sum.
The next day we were off to the races. The biggest, most expensive horse race and meet in the world are in Dubai and I had timed my stay with it. A little bit expensive, it was worth it none the same. With everybody dressed up to the nines, we found ourselves in an old yellow school bus for the journey to the stadium.
Once inside the stadium, we found ourselves in the westerners section where people were ploughing into the 8 euro cups of beers on offer. After a few of these I found myself lost inside the biggest grandstand in the world,
which turned out to be one of the most interesting parts of the night. On going through a couple of fences and things that in hindsight I was obviously not meant to go through, I found myself in the Somali section of the crowd. After a few minutes there I quickly realised that I was the only one about with anything remotely resembling an alcoholic beverage in their hands. I discreetly (well in my drunken eyes at the time anyway) put my 8 euro cup of beer under a table in front of me and settled down to watch the coming race. Fortunately the Somali section found itself inline with the finishing line, so I was staying put for the time being
While standing there, a Somali guy started trying to communicate with me. He seemed like a top guy so I tried to grunt and gesture back at him, as there was no way there was going to be any communication achieved between us, in any mutually intelligible language. After a lot of smiling and grunting he gestured towards the beer that I had hidden ever so discreetly. If I understood his gestures and grunts correctly he wanted
to have a swig of it. With that I obliged and with the scornful looks of a few of those around us and the hysterical laughs of his friends he downed my 8 Euro cup of beer. Well for me it was worth it and after some more grunting, gesturing and laughing, I decided I should go back to my section of town and find the people I was supposed to be getting home with on the way back. After meeting the most stunning air stewardess I have ever had the pleasure of talking to, an Emirates worker from Portugal, I managed to find some of my yellow bus school crowd and passed the rest of the night drifting between this world and the next.
The next day I decided to do something typical for a tourist in Dubai, that being a safari in the desert. This was a good choice and I had a great time, cruising through the desert, watching belly dancers, eating local food, riding a camel and snowboarding down a sand dune.
Two other things of interest (for me anyway) that happened while in Dubai, was my first ever drinking of camel's milk and
the official carking it of my camera that I had originally broken at the carnival in Slovenia. Sentimentally attached it was hard to let go, of my broken screened, out of jilt lensed camera, but it meant that I went shopping and got lost in a different country themed shopping mall, that I think is the second biggest in Dubai, and therefore probably the world - which was fun.
And that was about it for Dubai, a great time had, in no small part due to Julia being a fantasic host and hooking me up along every step of the way during my time there.
There are more photos below