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Published: June 11th 2012
After two weeks in India I was ready for a change. This was probably the biggest culture shock to date - going from a developing country like India to some of the most affluent places in the world. Qatar, my first stop, has a GDP per person over $180,000. I just made it out a day before the monsoon season started. To be honest it would have been nice to see some rain. I can't remember the last time I saw that. Qatar
- Given a few logistical issues I was facing in terms of meeting people on my trip I decided to head to Doha first, since it's only an hour flight west of the UAE. On of the first thing you'll notice is the number of women wearing abayas
. I took a cab to my hotel and wondered around the area a bit before heading to bed. I woke up around 4:30 and it was already light outside, just in time for morning prayers at the local mosque. In Arab countries you'll always hear the call to prayers singing from the minarets.
My time in Doha was somewhat limited. I mainly just saw the touristy
sites. I thought that by getting up early I could avoid the heat. I walked down to the Corniche, the main walkway along the water. I thought I could walk the whole thing and head to one of the malls downtown. I definitely miscalculated the time it would take me to walk this strip. The sun was beating down. It felt like it was over 100 degrees and it was only 9:00 am. Eventually I tried to flag a cab. Apparently a cab driver saw me and stopped and backed up to pick me up. I was surprised he had someone in the cab but said I could get in. It turned out we were both trying to go to the mall.
The mall in Doha was huge and modern. The real treat was that it had air conditioning. I got something to drink and walked around until lunch. I watched a few women have a blast playing skee ball in their abayas. After lunch I found a coffee shop and got online with my iPhone to plan out my day. I decided to head to the Doha's museum of Islamic Art
. At night I headed to church, which was all the
way out past the airport in what could only be described as a compound. Apparently, the king donated some land for Christian churches to be built. Doha is hosting the World Cup in 2022 and is getting ready for all the tourists. My driver waited for me during the service and then we went on a mission to find Arby's. This is the first country that had an Arby's I could remember being to. The mission was a success and I got 2 roast beef sandwiches, a chicken sandwich, homestyle fries (which you can't get in the US anymore), a Mountain Dew, and a bottle of root beer. I hadn't eaten like that in months. As good as it tasted I think it's safe to say that it did more harm to my system than all the food I ate in India.
On my last full day in Doha I headed to the Pearl
. The Pearl is a huge man made island for shopping and apartments. I thought it would be full of shoppers but I was one of the few people there. Maybe it was because it was so hot out, but there weren't many people. I did
find a nice Thai restaurant and walked around a bit. United Arab Emirates
: Abu Dhabi
- I flew into Abu Dhabi and was impressed by the huge mosaic structure I saw walking through the airport. I went to get a cab, but opted for the 5 series BMW chauffer since it was only a few dollars more. I decided to use points again and stay at Le Meridian.
It was a great hotel and I definitely used it to get a few workouts in and to enjoy some beverages at the lounge.
There was a TGI Friday's across from my hotel so I decided to get lunch there. Like all TGI Friday's there are souvenirs everywhere. I noticed license plates from California and Pennsylvania. They must have known I was coming. After lunch I headed to the Abu Dhabi mall. Malls are big in the Middle East. They're very modern and very big. After the mall I headed to the Emirates Palace Hotel. Apparently it's the most expensive hotel ever built. It literally felt like you were in a big Las Vegas hotel without the casino. They even had an ATM that issued gold. It was the most impressive hotel I've
ever scene without a doubt.
The next day I headed back to the mall for lunch before heading to Ferrari World
. Ferrari World is the world's largest indoor theme park. It also has the world's fastest roller coaster, the Formula Rossa
. I bought the ticket at the mall since it included free transportation to and from Ferrari World. The theme park is huge for an indoor park. However, there weren't many adult rides. I did the fast roller coaster twice, a racing coaster, a simulator race, and a g-force ride. They were ok, but the park is probably more for families. There were a few other cool things to do. Luckily for me no one will ever see the picture of the start of the roller coaster ride. They built the hydraulic launch system off the same technology used on aircraft carriers. It goes form 0 - 150 mph in about 4.9 seconds. Dubai
- I headed to the bus station and bought a ticket to Dubai. The coach was really nice with leather seats. I got to Dubai and took the subway to the hotel I was staying at. My friend Faraz and made a reservation for me. When
I got to the hotel they couldn't find the reservation. Unfortunately, Faraz wasn't getting back until the next day because he was at a funeral in Pakistan. I called his wife, who was at the hotel, and she called him and everything got fixed.
Dubai was something I had always wanted to see given the huge economic surge it's experienced in the last 10 years. I wanted to see the Burj Khalifa
the most. The Burj Khalifa is the biggest skyscraper in the world. It's 828 meters high - that's over a half mile. It towers over everything around it. Unfortunately, I went in the afternoon and there was a lot of dust in the atmosphere. But it was still a great view. The Dubai mall is right beside it so I was able to get more western food. They had everything there - PF Changs, Red Lobster, Baja Fresh, California Pizza Kitchen, ect...
That evening I decided to take a dessert safari. I had seen pictures of this and thought it would be cool to do. The safari consists of driving insanely through sand dunes, a camel ride, dinner, and a belly dancing show. The food was delicious
too! The dessert is so beautiful at night. I would highly recommend doing it in the evening as it is cooler and the sun makes for better pictures.
On my last day in Dubai I was able to finally hang out with Faraz. We went to the Emirates mall, which has the only ski slope in Dubai - or anywhere within a few hundred miles. We even had PF Changs for lunch. Faraz and his wife had just moved to Dubai from Bahrain because of all the unrest there. We did some furniture shopping as well. That night Faraz and I went to the Souk Madinat Jumeirah
to walk around and then had dinner. It had amazing woodwork inside
Dubai is very modern and reminded me of the US more than anywhere else on this trip. It's laid out well and very efficient. I wish I wasn't there during the hottest time of the year though. Either way it was good to see a friend I hadn't seen in years.
Next stop - Turkey!
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