Dubai - City Of Perpetual Progress.

Trip Start Feb 01, 2005
Trip End Dec 31, 2020

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Flag of United Arab Emirates  ,
Monday, November 17, 2008

Dubai is working hard to be the biggest and the best of everything and whilst the city is achieving this in rapid time one does wonder at what cost? We did see some examples that caused us to ponder on this - not all is as it seems.

We arrived in Dubai at night after our one and only Emirates flight to date. Having a daughter/stepdaughter working as cabin crew for the airline made it interesting, as we could closer imagine her day to day work and appreciate that Emirates really is a classy airline and worthy of its many industry awards. The terminal was brand new and we were amused at the "state of the art" luggage carousel which has sensors that stopped the incoming luggage, if there was going to be luggage already on the carousel in the way. Once clear the incoming luggage started ejecting onto the carousel again where there was an appropriate gap for the luggage to slide into.

An uneventful taxi ride through brilliantly lit up streets, took us to Damascus Street in Al Qusais where Ebony lives in a shared apartment with two other cabin crew. We knew Ebony was not going to be there and had previously sent our passport numbers and details so Ebony could fill out a form to say we would be visiting. It all came a little unstuck however. Firstly the man at the night security desk said he didn't know our daughter but then volunteered that there were 6 other buildings of Emirates staff all close and we should try the next one. Bingo! The next building's security officer said "yes, this is her building but I do not have a signed form for your stay". He tried to ring Ebony but her phone was off. He then tried to ring the two other flatmates and all phones were off. He was very, very apologetic but said he could not let us in without the right signed form. It is now 11.30pm and we are starting to think that we should find a hotel and sort it in the morning but asked if we could use the Internet to confirm the details. He sent us to yet another accommodation building where there was a free to use Internet in the lobby and we got the details from an email. We then went back to our security man who was on the phone talking about us and then from a folder took out a form that had our names on it! It transpired that the application had been made too far in advance and it had been assumed that the date was October instead of November and it got filed away instead of being in his current file.

How pleased we were to have access to the apartment at last and find lovely welcoming notes from the girls.  Ebony had left us lots of info on what to do and see but unfortunately she was to be away the whole time we were there having a holiday in Tasmania! One flatmate, Tam, came home once and we missed her then she went to stay with Eb in Tasmania too, coming back on the day we left. The third flatmate Laura from Mexico was home quite a bit between flights and we got to know her and her friend Muhammad quite well during our stay.

One very interesting aspect of Dubai is the taxi drivers. We were lulled into a false sense of security by the first taxi ride being relatively uneventful but were to find that every journey thereafter was an adventure fraught with language difficulties. The apartment was on a reasonably major road but there are no numbers to buildings and the suburb of Al Qusais - well there were actually 4 different suburbs of this name! Another issue was that we were on the edge of an industrial area so taxi drivers just did not think that is where we wanted to go. We also found early in the piece it was no use saying "where the Emirates staff accommodation is" - it is all over Dubai considering there are around 10,500 Emirates cabin crew living in Dubai! But the biggest barrier to success in getting where we wanted to was the language barrier. Most taxi drivers were recently arrived Indians or Pakistanis so our few words of Arabic were useless and they had almost no English.

After about the third taxi ride "adventure" Avan got on the Internet and copied the cross streets around us and the major highways onto paper so we could at least have our own bearings and try to direct the driver. This helped us, but was of no use to the drivers -  they couldn't understand our "mud map". Quite a few drivers used what we nicknamed "phone a friend". (more of this later in our story on Abu Dhabi). After not being able to decipher where we wanted to go they would phone someone who had (slightly) better English skills and hand the phone over. We would try and explain to the person on the phone then hand the phone back to the driver so the friend could explain in his own language! Quite a comical thing but I guess it would get very tiring if you lived there and had to do it day in day out. 

While in Dubai we got to see lots of the sights. Mohammad,  a local (mentioned earlier) took us on an evening drive around to gasp in awe at the huge towering buildings all lit up like stars in the sky. As an engineer, he had worked on the huge Atlantis Hotel which was officially opened the following day with Kylie Minogue as the guest performer. On other days we took a double decker "hop on hop off "bus tour, a dhow cruise up the Dubai Creek, visited the museum, gold and spice souks and saw some of Dubai's "over the top" shopping malls.

The most bizarre of these would have to be the Emirates Mall which is home to "Ski Dubai". What a crazy idea in an extremely hot and arid country to decide to set up a world of snow and ice! Having it is one thing, but siting it in a shopping centre so shoppers can sit in a cafe several stories up sipping latte and watching people ski is really beyond the realms of sanity. It seems that it is in no way just for the tourists  - the UAE people love it! We paid to go into the snow (but not to ski) and were supplied with jackets and boots for the 0 degrees temperature shock. It was a fairyland of snow and ice with children making snowmen and adults skiing down the slope.

Read our next entries of our day trips to Abu Dhabi and the Musandam Peninsular in Oman from Dubai.
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