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Published: December 25th 2017
Geo: 25.27, 55.33
28 December - 3 January Dubai
This is going to be a short blog, mostly photographs. As we have said before we generally do not like cities but we did want to see Dubai which is part of the UAE and the hub for Emirates Airline, so we decided to stop over en route to New Zealand.
Was it worth it? It is interesting to see and we were lucky in having chosen reasonable accommodation close to a metro station and then luckily being upgraded to a one bedroom apartment with sitting/dining area, kitchen (including a washing machine), large bedroom and bathroom. So we were very comfortable especially appreciated as Jim had a cold requiring us to stay in one day.
When it comes to describing Dubai I have difficulty knowing where to start! It is an area of desert approximately 4,000 square kilometres by the Arabian Gulf with some 2.2 million inhabitants. Some people may love it for it's wealth of retail opportunities, the numerous malls and every designer shop and brand imagineable from every country. Every car dealership is here (with emphasis on the luxury end of the market of course), as is every yacht maker etc. it is not
only what we think of as retail businesses that are found here. All the world's top businesses, financial institutes, universities, medical facilities etc have establishment's here including Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital and Moorfields Eye Hospital to name just two English ones. Of course most people have heard of the large hotels which include luxurious seven star options like the Atlantis Palm where clients need never leave the grounds.
We enjoyed walking around the Dubai Mall and seeing the huge indoor fountain, the aquarium (from the outside) which supposedly has 33,000 creatures and certainly looks overcrowded, the atmospheric souk and the ice rink. I loved the "penguins" that learners can use to lean on to help keep their balance. In the quieter Souk part of the Mall there is the complete skeleton of a dinosaur found in the US. It feels as if every thing of interest in the world has been collected and brought here.
At the Creek, the old part of Dubai, we watched the dhows and other boats on the waterway and had a long lunch whilst watching the world go by. The nearby fort, built to defend old Dubai, is now a small but interesting museum of
Bedouin life. Sadly the experience was overshadowed by the multinational crowds squeezing into the narrow spaces. It is amazing how certain nationalities stand out for their inability to queue and determination to push through even if it means knocking others aside in the process!
Having said that whenever we went on the crowded Metro , which is well designed and immaculately clean, one of the younger men (immigrant workers usually) gave up their seat to me and often to Jim also. We stand out as it is such a young population here.
However apart from these few exceptions we found Dubai the stuff that our personal nightmares are made of! Some of the modern buildings are attractive but when they are crammed together with others of all shapes, colours and materials they lose their aesthetic appeal. There are areas of pleasant low rise houses but these are jammed together tightly so spoiling their appearance. Between these areas are numerous conglomerations of high rise buildings, towers as they are called here sometimes up to 50 or 60 crowded together as if they are breeding rapidly. We find them amazingly ugly, the only benefit being that they provide some shade.
Between and around
these dense built up areas the traffic races by (unless it is rush hour and then it can all come to a standstill) at high speed on modern multi lane highways. The car is definitely king here as there are few pavements or walkways so moving between areas is difficult and dangerous. It took 10 minutes on some occasions to cross the one junction near our hotel because of the numerous strands of traffic flashing by and controlled by lights. Walking anywhere outside the malls and marinas usually requires crossing open areas of deep sand. The kilometre to the nearby Metro posed quite an obstacle course. Most days there is a low level pollution haze covering the city.
We had previously flown over the Palm Islands and admired their design so we took a tram out to the luxurious Atlantis Palm hotel which is situated at the furthest point on one 'palm'. It was a great disappointment. What you can't appreciate from the air is that the land is jam packed with buildings, all the palm 'fronds' which look so lovely from 30,000 feet up look overwhelmingly congested on the ground, so much so that I did not realise we were
crossing the 'fronds' until Jim pointed it out. We arrived at Atlantis and found the whole area crowded, and the perimeter circumference road to be at a standstill with heavy traffic. After a very brief foray through the crowds we turned round and took the tram back. The hotel looked very busy as day guests can pay to go in and enjoy all the facilities.
The highlight of Dubai for us was having the chance to meet up with Sheila and Paul to exchange travellers' tales and talk about plans for the future. It is great to talk to others who have an 'itinerant' lifestyle. We hope all goes well for them when they return to the UK next month and we did threaten them with the possibility of turning up at their door in a campervan.In true traveller fashion they were unfazed by this.
Overall I could not help but view Dubai as a geostationary Borg. For those of you not familiar with the Borg it is (Star Trek, New Generation if I remember correctly) a giant planet sized cube which travels through the Universe and assimilates all the life forms it meets, absorbing any useful knowledge and then integrating individuals
into it's one consciousness so they lose their original identity. To my mind, the designer shops, businesses and institutions that have arrived here have been assimilated. They look the same as in their country of origin but their essence, their individuality seems to have been lost amongst the plethora of similar operations. When you have every perfume and make up provider, every shoe brand, every fashion house etc in one place it somehow manages to debase them all. Perhaps I see it this way because I am not a shopper, maybe others would consider it heavenly!
This sense of living in the Borg was further enhanced when we arrived at Terminal 3, the Emirates Terminal, to fly out of Dubai. Again it is huge with perhaps a hundred young women lined up at the three or four mammoth check in areas. Despite being from different countries they look like clones with the same smart beige and red uniform perfectly presented and made up identically with the same foundation, eye make up, shaped and coloured eyebrows, lipstick etc. What is even more reminiscent of the Borg is that their hats have a lovely fine white pleated scarf or veil which falls down
on the right hand side of the head and folds around the neck. The Borg implanted their control mechanism just there!
Would we return? Not from choice!
From Dubai we had a good but long flight to Auckland where we caught the airport shuttle to the town centre. Jim had excelled himself in finding reasonably priced accommodation at the Ibis Style, close to the bus stop, 5 minutes from the Marina and in the heart of the business district with a supermarket one minute away. Although the room is 'cosy' to say the least (we reckon it is fractionally bigger than the camper vans we hire in Australia) we have a fridge, hob and ensuite, so it is proving very comfortable and convenient. The first two days we spent recovering from jet lag and getting some welcome exercise walking around. It is such a pleasant city to wander around after Dubai.
Our last 2 days we spent taking ferries across the harbour visiting Devonport and a couple if islands. Although a city Auckland, nicknamed the City of Sails is lucky in being surrounded by beautiful bays and islands.
We are now back in Hamilton with Beverley and Richard, watching the cattle eat
leisurely in the fields and enjoying the sunshine. Jim and Richard have just gone off to cut down some trees that are not thriving well. There are a lot so they may be gone some time!
Ps They have returned, tree felling off the agenda for the day as Jim has cut his hand (not seriously) on the saw!
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