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Published: October 18th 2008
I was torn whether to write this blog as this destination is a place many speak of visiting one day... perhaps to see the first supposed 7 star hotel Burj al Arab or to visit the Palm Jumeirah. Perhaps my disinterest in writing on Dubai stem from the fact that my expectations of the place were not in check and thus this blog resembles a mad rant and reflects more of my dislike for Dubai rather than the likes.
I suppose it all began with the stress of wondering whether:
a. Alitalia would go bankrupt before Dubai thus leaving us to scramble and find another flight or arrange new travel plans
b. Alitalia would go bankrupt mid trip leaving us to find a new airline to get home at 2am departure day (and do battle with the insurance company to get them to cover a one way ticket home), or
c. Alitalia would still remain operational but delays in flights would leave us unable to get home afterwards with our connecting flights.
When we finally arrived, I knew Dubai was a premier destination for many from across the world for business or pleasure. What I didn't
anticipate was the sheer number of flights that would arrive at the 10-11pm range as our flight did. This resulted in no joke, a 45min-1 hour wait just to clear the initial customs to get our passports stamped. The airport had 20 counters open each with at least 50 people per line.
Our hotel location was central enough in Bur Dubai if we had a vehicle. Without one, it was difficult to get around and enjoy the area as there were little amenities around us and the reception staff were not terribly helpful. I don't think the Jormand Suites hotel was geared towards tourists but rather at business travellers who already knew their way around. The nearest central area was Bar Jurman Shopping Centre a 15 min walk away in the 40 degree heat. Luckily, there were sidewalks everywhere but Dubai is clearly a city meant to be driven. It was only guest workers and foreigners I saw bravely pounding the pavement. The ultra-asian technique of carrying around an umbrella to shield yourself from the sun was highly useful even if it did look slightly ridiculous. I would recommend a sturdy golf style umbrella as the mini travel umbrellas
were useless against the strong gusts of wind that would flip the umbrella inside out.
There was a bus system though it was mainly used by guest workers and a monorail system was in the works. Cabs were cheap and affordable enough.... if you could find one. The air-conditioned malls offered taxi queues so you could be assured you got your taxi in due time though the waits at some malls could be a horrendous 45 min - 1 hour wait post-shopping.
In other areas such as the gold souq in Deira, taxi-flagging was a nightmare with desperation obvious in the air. There was no organization with all tourists/locals left to fend for themselves in flagging down a taxi. One woman we shared a cab with had attempted to flag one down for an hour and a half and finally shoved her way to a taxi and had a few harsh words with other taxi-seekers before hustling us into the cab. It was not a pretty sight.
Once you did find a taxi, you still faced traffic jams at any hour of day whether it was 11 in the morning (well past the “rush hour”) or at 11pm
at night. Thankfully, the cars were air conditioned but it might be unrealistic to have a tightly packed schedule unless your driver knows the locations well and the shortcuts to avoid the traffic jams.
Understandably, urban sprawl is typical of many large cities across the world. Even in Canada, I understand on a first hand basis the difficulties of getting around in smaller metropolitan centres without a vehicle. Transit systems may be efficient but not run after a certain hour leaving you stranded or having to take a combination of buses, trains and other forms of transportation to get to your final destination. Take urban sprawl in Dubai, add in consistently high temperatures, traffic jams at any time of day and an inability to get around... it can lead a traveller to become frustrated and irate.
And now for the positive highlights of the trip: Dune Bashing
For an affordable price of about $50 US, you were picked up from your hotel in a land cruiser, driven outside the city to the desert area and then taken on a rollercoaster like ride over the crests of the sanddunes. Gravol is a must if you get sick,
but well worth it. The tour also allowed you to try sandboarding and the evening finished off with a desert bbq, belly dancing and sheeshah smoking. gold souq
: Gold, gold and more gold. Most is of the 22 karat variety and lavishly displaced in storefront windows. You'll have to bargain hard and find the gems amongst the fussy decorative styles Asians seem to love, but its good quality and prices in Dubai are supposedly one of the cheapest in the world. The most well known souq is the gold souq in Deira but there is also a new gold souq (air conditioned mall) in Bur Dubai and I believe there are other diamond-and-gold shopping malls throughout. duty free airport shopping
They weren't kidding when they said Dubai had some of the best airport shopping around. With stores still in full force at 2am, Dubai was eager to pry dollars out of your hands until you stepped onto the plane. Keely and I were delighted to find sheeshah water pipe kits at an affordable $15 and mint tobacco at a mere $4 a box.
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