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Published: March 14th 2008
A 10 hour flight and a five hour time change later, we find ourselves in an incredible place like no other…Dubai. We’ve transported ourselves from the land of OZ, to the land of shopping, opulence, outrageous construction projects, and the Muslim religion.
Each morning at about 5 AM, the call to prayer is heard across the city courtesy of the many mosques. We get up and open the window to hear the chanting from the loudspeakers. It’s the signal for all worshippers to get ready to face the east and pray. The chanting only lasts about five minutes, but we enjoy it for it reminds us where we are. It is quiet for another 10 minutes and then we can hear the chanting or singing for another 5 minutes. At this hour of the morning the city is quiet and the sounds seem so peaceful and inviting. We fall back to sleep for a little while, then turn on the TV to watch the news. We are thrilled to be back in a country that offers CNN news and BBC World News on the television. We didn’t care for the Sky News that was offered in New Zealand and Australia
as the international coverage was wanting.
We only had three full days here, so we had to make the most out of our short stay. Dubai has these double decker London-style buses where you can hop on and off all day long for one price. London and Singapore have them as well. This is a great way to see a city if you don’t have a lot of time. Sit on the upper level back where it is uncovered, let the wind blow your hair around, and take in the sights! See something you want to look at a little more closely? Hop off the bus and take a look as there is another bus coming by every 20 to 30 minutes. Dubai has two tours, one takes you through the city and one takes you to the beach areas.
One of the bus routes takes you past the Emirates Mall. This is one serious shopping stop. The place has about 400 stores. It is very upscale and included two very interesting businesses we had to visit, an indoor ski slope (yes you read that right) and a Papa John’s Pizza! We been traveling since July and haven’t
been able to have our favorite pizza. A few months back we went online to see where the nearest Papa John’s was. To our dismay, there weren’t any in New Zealand or Australia, but in Dubai! Go figure…. Needless to say, we had pizza for lunch and our taste buds were dancing. Thank you Pappa John’s.
The indoor ski slope was an interesting concept. It would probably set you back about $250 to ski for a couple of hours. Maybe a little less if you brought your own skis, poles and the like. It had chairlifts and everything. The snow looked quite packed and a bit slippery. But what the heck? If you like, you can ski in the desert if you want.
We took in the Dubai museum and learned one important concept. If you want to go from a nomadic existence which also may include fishing and pearl diving as your main economy, just discover large deposits of oil on your land and in a few decades, you want for nothing and can afford everything. This is a very rich nation with money to burn.
The city planners in Dubai are amazing at masterminding a world
class city. It seems as if their philosophy is bigger and newer is better. Dubai is all about shopping. They seem to have more malls per square inch than anyplace we have seen. It is amazing. They are currently building the tallest building in the world. They even have a contingency plan to make it taller in case someone tries to build something taller.
Another project “DubaiWorld” is under construction, It is sort of like Disneyland but much grander than anything you could imagine. If you are an out of work construction worker this is the place to come as they currently have more than 5,000 buildings under construction- and we are not talking small buildings. There must be over 10,000 of those large construction cranes in this city. They are also sinking $25 billion into the first phase of an underground subway system. We would love to come back in 10 years and see all the changes.
Interestingly enough, only about 20% of the residents in Dubai are native to this land. The rest are immigrants from many countries that have come to live and work here from all over the world. This is both good and
bad. It is great to come for the work and a better lifestyle. The bad news is that they can never become citizens and reap the benefits of free healthcare, free education, retirement, and even housing if needed. In Dubai, they even pay citizens 35,000 dirhans (about $9700) just to marry! Keeps the population going….
We went on a “Safari Desert BBQ” one evening that consisted of a rather harrowing ride through the sand dunes in a Toyota Land Cruiser, a 43 second camel ride, belly dancers and a meal which we ate reclining on pillows as the sun set behind the sand dunes while enjoying conversation with our English table mates. Our driver seem to relish the opportunity to drive like a wild man, and at one point was speeding through the dunes talking on his cell phone while we were grabbing the roll bars inside the vehicle. Come to think of it, he drove that way on the paved streets as well.
The next day we took a short boat ride on the Dubai Creek. This “creek was wider than anyone we had seen ( and wider than most rivers), due to the fact that over
30 years ago, the “creek” had been substantially dredged to make room for large sea vessels. The ride afforded great views of the river activity and the many buildings that make up the riverfront area, displaying once again the massive wealth of this tiny nation.
When Dave was searching the internet for a hotel for us to stay in he found one that was in our price range. We always like to read the comments from people who have stayed there and this website did not have any included. Dave then went to the Trip Advisor website to check it out and found that many prostitutes hang out in the bar downstairs-although the website did say they were not allowed up to the rooms. We decided to find another place to stay and we were happy that we did.
You might wonder what this is like. We found out one night. Alcohol is not banned from this county but many restaurants do not offer it. One night we walked down the street for dinner to a restaurant that had a bar. The bouncer at the door told us it would be a few minutes before a table was
ready. As we were standing at the front of the restaurant we were discussing the fact that the music was very loud and trying to decide if we wanted to listen to that noise throughout our dinner. We decided we would like to have a beer with dinner so we would put up with it. The bar section of the restaurant was packed with young people and some of the patrons were spilling over into the restaurant section. As we waited for our table to be cleaned we overheard a conversation among 4 people standing about 3 feet away from us. The young American was asking one gentleman how much it was going to cost? He was told $80 US. The young man wanted to know how much that would be in dirham’s and he was told about $240. The young man was looking and smiling at the girl with lust in his eyes. At one point the woman spun around so he could take a good look at what he was thinking about purchasing. At that point they showed us to our table in a back corner, but by the time we reached our table we realized we had
stumbled into a place where you could engage the services of the world’s oldest profession. We smiled politely and told them we had changed our minds. All we wanted was a few cold beers and dinner after a day of touring.
As we waked down the street in search of another restaurant, we were having a discussion about why prostitution would be legal in a Muslim country. That question has still to be answered but the oldest profession seems to be doing well in Dubai. We wandered down the street to the family restaurant and had a wonderful Indian meal with lots of fresh water. It was a good decision. Plus we did not have to put up with the loud music in the other restaurant.
Stuff you might want to know about Dubai:
It is part of the United Arab Emirates federation of sheikhdoms (2005 est. pop. 2,563,000). The land area is about 30,000 square miles (quite small) and is located on your map in SE Arabia, on the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. The federation, commonly known as the UAE, consists of seven sheikhdoms: Abu Dhabi (territorially the largest of the
sheikhdoms), Ajman , Dubai , Fujairah , Ras al-Khaimah , Sharjah , and Umm al-Qaiwain . These guys essentially got together in the ‘70’s after the oil started flowing and formed a nation-state.
The Land and the People
The land is largely hot, dry desert. During the summer months, the temperature will soar to over 110 degrees along with 75 percent humidity. Lemonade anyone?
Less than half of the inhabitants of the UAE are Arabs; there are also Persians, Baluchis, Indians, and Westerners. Only about 20% of the UAE’s population are native citizens. The non-indigenous population is mostly from E and SE Asia and was first attracted by the employment provided by the UAE's petroleum boom. Muslims comprise 96% of the population (80% of these are Sunni, the balance Shiite) and the remaining 4% are largely Christian and Hindu. The official language is Arabic, but Farsi and English are widely used, and Hindi and Urdu are spoken by many of the Asians.
Oil……….that’s all you need to know, except that they are planning for the time when the oil runs out.
Well…..that ends our time in this corner of the globe……on to London!!
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