First Pic - Us on the Beach
Sorry to all you cold Brits
And so on a cold winter's morn began our new adventure. Determined not to be one of those people who did one crazy thing in their life and bleated on about it for years, we set off on our trip to Oz & NZ via our good friend Anna in Dubai. It perhaps wasn't as emotional leaving this time, in part no doubt as we had done this before.
Dubai has felt more like a holiday than a leg on a traveller's journey. With all the freezing cold weather in the UK it felt fantastic to step off the plane at Dubai airport. Warm and welcoming were the first impressions of this place. The lights of the city sparkled as they emerged from the darkness of the flight and as we sped across the highways the cityscape dazzled further. It is difficult not to feel in awe of this place when you first see it. It seems so vibrant, so determined to out do other places, to have the biggest, the brightest - be that people or buildings.
We were staying with our friend Anna, who has been out there for a few years now, so she took us
Rocking at Kasabian
With Anna, Johnny and Rabia. Before the beer & Listerine shower!
to see some great places that we would never have gone to. Along with her flatmate Rabia she shares a house with two cats (Hiro & Ando) plus an African Grey Parrot (Coco). All are very friendly and curious of newcomers, so much so that the cats were determined to spend the night with us. They even squeezed their way through the tiny openings to our room and plonked themselves by my head. It was something of a joke between us that no matter how many times we shooed them away or how blocked the gaps they would find their way through. It seemed like a scene from a horror movie as just when we thought we had peace, we would hear the scratching and wriggling, and soon enough we would have company again. With this and Coco's dawn chorus of various tunes he had heard throughout the years, we didn't get too much sleep initially. Once we succumbed to their will things became easier (much like I do with F! lol).
It was around Coco that the first drama of our trip was to unfold. After a day of sightseeing there we were sitting in Anna's garden, commenting
on how her African Grey Parrot could live for 80 years (!) and what a commitment that would be when he suddenly flapped his wings and took flight off into the trees and out of sight! As dusk drew in we searched high and low but we could not find him. We got some funny looks as we searched the streets making parrot noises. There was little else we could do then so leaving Coco out in the dark we set off for a concert we had booked.
Deep in the desert Kasabian were giving a concert to the faithful. I have to say they didn't disappoint. As Dubai is officially a 'dry' country I was intrigued to see what it would be like to experience a concert without alcohol. However 'dry' is a relative term here and adult pop was freely available for the right price. For some bizarre reason the event was sponsored by Listerine and they were handing it out at the beginning. This meant that by the thunderous climax the drunk Brits behind had showered us in a mixture of beer and listerine as we dodged the projectiles. I have to admit I was hoping
that the loutish Brits couldn't make it to Dubai. There can't be many more grotesque sights than a fat, sweaty Englishman, particularly one who can't handle their liquor.
The morning after the concert Anna printed up some lost flyers for Coco and we posted them around the estate. After that Anna & Rabia took us to have shisha in the desert at a luxurious place called Bab Al Shams. Here you can take camel rides in the desert, followed by a dip in the pool and end it all by watching the sunset as the shisha bubbles away. It was a truly great place and one of the highlights of the trip.
Anna was working the next day so we decided to take ourselves off to Wild Wadi, a waterpark for some fun in the sun. Coco had thankfully been found that morning by a neighbour who had arrived home to find this parrot huddled by her back door. Trying to be eco and money conscious we ran to get the bus, only to find that you needed a card (NOL) which you couldn't purchase on the bus, nor pay by cash, nor was there a ticket machine
at the stop. So we took the easy option and hailed a taxi. Sacrilege I know, but as petrol is cheaper than water out here it just makes sense & saves time. For about £8 you can get virtually anywhere in the city. Wild Wadi was great fun and we screamed like children again as we hurtled down the slides, before racing back up to the start to do it all over again. In a city full of contrasts it was interesting to note how little some women were wearing as opposed to those in bur-kinis. For balance F got to see her share of prime beef as well.
Talking of clothing the most amount of people we saw in 'local' dress was in the big shopping malls and boy do these people like to shop. In typical Dubai style they have the biggest Mall in the world, which has the biggest fishtank, sweet shop & is situated next to the tallest building in the world (Burj Khalifa). They also have one with the biggest indoor ski slope inside, but we decided against it this time.
The Burj Khalifa is at the same time magnificent but oddly non-imposing.
There isn't much around it to compare it with, so you need distance to appreciate it by which time it becomes kind of spindly.
We saw many women and men dress 'modestly' in Dubai, though I have probably seen more women in the niqab (almost all the face covered) on the streets of London. At least here though the men who accompanied these women were almost fully covered as well, so they weren't wearing shorts and t-shirts as can happen in London. I did try to get Fiona to walk behind me as well but I couldn't impose my will (as usual, lol).
For the remaining few days we stayed in the Bur Dubai area. Older and more 'real' we enjoyed being hassled in the old fashioned souks (markets). Admittedly it felt more like walking through southern-asia than the middle-east such is the predominance of immigrants to the area. Then again only some 30% of all Dubains are from here and from our brief visit this mix is seemingly working well at the moment. Though there are huge divides in wealth and living standards, there seem no signs of the tensions that have bubbled up elsewhere in
Owner & Parrot reunited
Thank God it was a happy ending!!
the region. The Sheik seems to be introducing the kind of schemes that keep people 'busy', whilst also being fairly loose with the 'strict' codes. There also seems to be a genuine attempt to bring different cultures together, part of it was a tour of the main mosque, which we attended, that was presented by a white English woman wearing a hijab and talking in an Essex accent! Anna showed us some places that would be considered exclusive in the UK but we never once felt unwelcome or looked down upon, even when we were just wearing shorts & a t-shirt. They seem to want to know the colour of your money and that is all.
Like all things, Dubai cannot last forever as it is, but it is a fun place to be whilst it does!
A very BIG Thank You must go out to Anna and her friends Rabia & Johnny for making us feel so welcome and easing us into this travelling.
Tune in next time for our first taste of Oz!! Keep in touch
M & F xx
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