White boys don't belong in the desert

Trip Start Mar 03, 2009
Trip End Dec 31, 2009

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Flag of United Arab Emirates  ,
Sunday, June 7, 2009

They said there was no boat.
They said it couldn't be done.
They said I was wasting my time.

They were right. Sort of.

I wanted to fly as little as possible on my trip, and having meekly by passed Saudi Arabia by plane (Visa issues again) I was determined to get a boat to India. There was a boat- I was sure. Dubai has three ports, the Jebel Ali being the largest man-made port in the world. One chap I met had a friend in the shipping industry and he said they do do it sometimes- but he admitted the lines of legality were a little fuzzy and very risky for westerners. In other circumstances I would have given it a shot- but the thought of spending five days on a steel oven with nothing to do but cook made me reconsider. In addition I wasn't much enthused by the prospect of arriving in India only to spend my first week in an immigration detainee cell with Ahmed, the wife slaying asylum seeker. I was confident that if I could have afforded to stay a few more weeks in Dubai I would have been able to find a private yacht heading that way, but the heat was making it difficult to get around town and find things outs. According to the weatherman on BBC World it was 41 degrees (in the shade ofcourse) and 40 percent humidity. According to me it was closer to 60 degrees and 100 percent humidity. It wasn't actually unbearable, if you really wanted to you could walk around for a few hours. The repercussions of said actions however were rather undesirable; a shirt that smelled like a cat had urinated and then died in it, eyes that screamed with blurring sweat every time you blinked and socks that you could be sure would be outlawed by the Geneva convention as biological weapons of mass destruction should you decide to take your boots off. After ten minutes outside, whatevery you were doing you could be sure that you would be plastered to your shirt and wishing you'd bought an umbrella to fend off the fierce sun... I found the irony rather amusing. All in all it proved a more agreeable option to sit genteelly in a sleek salooned taxi listening nonchalantly to whatever Asian music the Pakistani driver had quivering away in the background.

Dubai itself is a very impressive place. Architecturally innovative skyscrapers claw their way to the gods, the largest of which stands taller than any other building in the world at a massive 818 m (2,684 ft). Air conditioned malls lull the traveler back into the Western mind set as elevators, escalators and temperature perfect shops take all the discomforts out of life. With more shops than you can possibly hope to visit in one day Dubai is home to some of the world's most impressive shopping malls- one even has an aquarium in the basement. The service is excellent too- everywhere you go you will be greeted courteously and treated with respect and dignity, leaving you feeling that the little extra you pay for everything is actually worth it. 

The desert that surrounds Dubai is spectacular. A deep golden colour that conjures fanciful Arabian images, beckoning you to mount the nearest camel and take off in the direction of the setting sun. I did take advantage of a tour package thing, which I was expecting to be crap and totally not worth it- but so great was my yearning to feel the desert I had seen from the sky that I paid the $40 for a half day's venture. Included was a good half an hour or so of Dune bashing in a terrific 4x4, a rather placid sand boarding experience, picturesque photos of the sunset across the dessert, a short camel ride, excellent BBQ food generously applied and, surprisingly, a belly dance show performed by an actually attractive female. I came away very impressed- feeling, again, like I'd got my money's worth. This topped with Satellite TV showing English channels, street eats from as little as 50 pence and fast internet on every other other corner has put Dubai permanently in my good books. What a great place.
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