"No Bag Challenge" - Adventure

Trip Start Nov 11, 2010
Trip End Nov 14, 2010

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Where I stayed
United 977

Flag of United Arab Emirates  ,
Saturday, November 13, 2010

The hotel has an extortionate fee for Internet access in your room, but does offer it free in the lobby. I had checked up on the open/closing times of all the things I wanted to see last night in preparation for today's adventure.

I woke up sometime around 6am (8pm at home) and showered, dressed, and unloaded unnecessary items onto the counter in my hotel room. After grabbing my first free snack in the lobby (a plateful of decently fresh pineapple), I walked toward the waterfront. With all the open desert land, Dubai has developed rather in the American sprawl style, so distances on the map actually take quite a while to walk. After 30 minutes or so I came to the beachfront and had dipped a hand into the Persian Gulf, a first for me. The beach was fairly empty at 7:30 in the morning, but there were plenty of signs warning people away from being too skimpy or taking photographs.

Down the street were a couple interesting mosques, including an Iranian one. Mosques are pretty much routinely off limits to non-Muslims in this part of the world, so I just took some pictures from the outside. Knowing my time would be short, I hailed a taxi and had him drive me downtown to the Dubai Museum. I had to wait about 15 minutes for the museum to open, but for an entry of 3 AED, this has to be the cheapest non-free museum I've ever been in. It was actually really well presented and had some interactive exhibits and videos detailing (mostly) the pre-oil history of Dubai.

After the museum, I walked around the waterfront area; there is a big saltwater inlet/waterway called "The Creek" that cuts old Dubai in half. Along the shore I found the house built by the current king's grandfather in the pre-oil days. It was free, and well structured, but the architecture and building methods of a random pre-industrial society weren't that interesting to me.

Back at home, I bought a timed-entry ticket to the top of the Burf Khalifa (tallest structure in the world) for 11:30 on this day. I was a bit short on time, so I hailed another taxi to the Dubai Mall (adjacent to the tower). I went down to the bottom level where the Burj Khalifa "At the Top" entrance resides. I was a bit early, so I bought some cookies and Subway and hung around a bit. I had to go through another airport-like security screening, but at least most of my items were back at the hotel this time. There is bit of horizontal travel on foot to get "under" the tower structure where two of the fastest and highest elevators in the world wait to take me up. The elevator walls are covered in LCD panels and have a moving pattern indicating the direction of travel. Another LCD panel tells you what floor you're on, and at one point I would say we were traveling at 3 floors per second. The elevator takes 30 floors to accelerate and decelerate. On the 124th floor ( 125 if you count American style ), there is an area on one side (one of the setbacks visible from the ground) where you can walk out in the open. There is obviously a glass wall surrounding this area, but it does have a horizontal gap where you can stick out your hand or head and look straight down. The view from up high is nice, but it's kind of weird seeing so much flat desert with just a relatively small handful of tall buildings around. I remember being on top of the WTC and having an entire city of awesome surrounding me on all sides as far as thee eye could see.  I'll let the pictures tell the rest of the story.

After the descending the tower, I tried to taxi over to the Mall of the Emirates, but my first taxi driver was an incompetent newbie that didn't speak English. I was in a hurry so I got pretty mad when he drove me in a 10 minute circle around the tower. I hopped into the cab behind him and eventually made it to the mall.

Ski Dubai is kind of attached to the side of the mall, although the entrance is clearly in the mall. For $50 plus $5 for a locker, I received all the ski equipment, a jacket, and pants. I did have to buy a cheap hat and gloves for $12, but I knew that in advance (didn't want to carry my regular hat/gloves on the rest of the trip), plus they'll make good souvenirs. After riding an escalator up to an auto-rotating door into the cold area, I pushed on over to the lift, a full fledged Poma 4 person chair lift. It was running permanently at 50% speed, so I opted for the button (between the legs) lift next to it. The slope basically goes upwards, makes an 80 degree turn to the left, and then goes up again the same amount. Riding either lift is about a 4-5 minute affair. The ski experience, although brief, does mimic real non-powder snow skiing as far as I can tell. The only real choice you have is going left around the bend in the life, or going right. Going down as fast as I felt comfortable took about 35 seconds. The temperature inside is kept at -1C or 30F during the day when customers are present. I went up the regular lift and the tow lift several more times and then called it quits. I had to get back to my hotel before 4pm.

Back at the hotel I showered again just to be safe, reloaded my clothes and donned the black jacket again. I ate my second snack, checked the Internet, and then took the metro back down to the Dubai Mall to get a better look at the shopping scene. Unfortunately the "mall" metro stop doesn't actually connect directly to the mall, I had to take a feeder bus for $2 round-trip. The mall is astonishingly huge. It has four floors, a full sized ice rink, several food courts, every high end merchandise store there is, the largest fountain in the world, several other fountains, the tower, and much more. It seemed like just about every US fast food chain and Applebees-like restaurant chain were accounted for, plus several European and Indian ones I hadn't heard of before. Of course there were some fine dining options as well, but this mall was as American as I've ever seen outside of my home nation. At 6pm (and every 30 minutes thereafter), the largest fountain in the world performs an music synchronized show that puts to shame whatever is in Las Vegas.

Walking around the mall, I saw a lot of rich Emirates shopping around. They almost all wear the white robe with white scarf-hat thing (as opposed to Jordan where they usually wore the red checkered top). As far as I could tell, the Emirate women always wore the full burqa covering their faces with a veil (uncommon in Jordan). It's funny seeing a bunch of chatty teenage girls all covered head to toe, only able to see their eyes. You can tell they are all wearing western clothes underneath though, including sneakers.

After wandering the mall quite a bit, I ate some dinner at an Indian fast food restaurant, had some gellato, and headed out. I took the metro toward the airport, but stopped on the north side of the creek and wandered around the souks (markets). It had a fairly strong developing country feel, but was a lot cleaner and I never felt in any danger. The Gold Souk was pretty unbelievable. There were dozens and dozens of stores all down a few streets and all selling 22k and 18k gold. I read somewhere that all the gold in this market would weigh 25 tons, which seems pretty high to me, but I didn't bring a scale. After wandering the markets for an hour and a half, I dragged myself back to the metro and rode it to the final stop.

The start of the return trip ends this day and will be prefixed to the next day's entry.

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