Thank god for air conditioning.
Kuwait was hot. Dubai felt hotter...thanks to the humidity. I'm not sure why there isn't the same humidity in Kuwait since they are both located on the Arabian Gulf. I probably should have paid more attention in science classes. For whatever reason, Kuwait has a very dry heat and Dubai is a very humid heat. In the middle of the day it was almost unbearable to be outside...thankfully people in the air conditioning business seem to be having record sales in the UAE.
When I first landed in Dubai, from Zurich - on my way to Kuwait - I arrived around 10:30 at night. I figured, since it was late at night it would be cool outside. I had always understood that the desert regions are very very hot during the day time and rather cool at night. So, when the plane landed I threw on my fleece jacket and got ready to deplane. Then the door opened on the jet. Geesh. It was in the low 30s and sweat starting forming almost instantly. That jacket was quickly packed away and never saw the light of day in Kuwait or Dubai...I doubt it will see any action in India either.
Go Big or Go Home seems to be a motto taken to heart in Dubai. The number of large-scale projects going on is mind-boggling. Projects under construction or recently completed include Burj Dubai, which will be - by far - the worlds tallest structure, four man-made islands that are all visible from space, including one that is shaped like the world, the only 7-star hotel on the planet (which I did NOT stay in), as well as a ski hill (in a mall) and many other projects all happening, it seems, at the same time. A sign I passed seemed to sum up Dubai for me - "Now Open, the worlds largest ACE hardware store!"
In Dubai it seems that every other road is under construction or being expanded and the public bus system is horrid. A large metro is currently under construction as, it seems, is the entire city. I took a public bus once but the system is not reliable (over an hour late, very slow - and packed) but found that taxis are, thankfully, very affordable and are the only reliable way to get around a city that is spread out. Everyone uses them though, which can make it difficult to get one. I was at Diera City Centre mall and tried to get a cab one night, around midnight, and the lineup was literally over a hundred people at the taxi queue. It took more than forty minutes of standing in line before we could get a cab.
Checked out the Mall of the Emirates...home of the famous middle east ski hill.
Ski Dubai is as claimed. An engineering feat, no doubt...and a tourist attraction in itself. The other big attraction at the Mall of the Emirates (at least for me) was New York Fries. The Canadian fast food chain. I had worked with the NYF brand a lot back when I was with Famous Players and knew they had operations in the UAE. I had been looking forward to the taste of a NYF poutine for awhile...a little taste of Canada, if you will. The NYF in Dubai do not sell poutine. Incredible. That is the #1 selling item at the units in Canada. I'm going to have to give the guys at NYF head office a call when I get back. That's like opening a McDonald's and not selling the Big Mac. Hopefully the locations in South Korea will have poutine when I visit later in my trip...but I'm not holding out much hope anymore.
Dubai is known for its shopping...it has a shopping festival every year, that lasts a month. Certain streets specialize in specific items, like computers or silks or gold. I took advantage of the low prices, no tax and no import duty myself and picked up Lappy the laptop for a steal on computer street (a.k.a. Al Waleed Street). I was going to pick one up anyways when I got back to Japan but prices here weren't that much different as I had already checked out prices in Tokyo when I was there in early February. It was a fierce day of haggling - it took almost half the day and in the end it came down to two different shops but only one would come down to the price of 2400aed for the features and extras I wanted. Now I just have to learn Arabic so I can use the keyboard.
Due to the rapid development and 'modernization' of the city, there are only a few historic structures left in Dubai. All these historic buildings are used for tourist reasons which is likely the only reason they are still standing. Dubai Museum is located in the old Al-Fahidi Fort and is thought to be the oldest structure in the Emirate, being built around 1800 to defend the town of Dubai.
Dubai Museum had some great displays on the history of the region and life as it existed for people who lived in the area in times past. Heritage village was mostly closed when I visited but it looked like it was just a bunch of shops set up for tourists in a historic-looking building. I don't think I missed too much there.
I had been hoping to meet up with Areef, a friend from Calgary who has been working in Kabul, Afghanistan for the last couple years. Unfortunately though he was only able to get a standby flight from Kabul and couldn't get a seat as it was oversold so we ended up missing each other, which was too bad.
Despite a big push towards all things modern...one of the best experiences in Dubai cost virtually nothing and is very traditional. The Abras (or water taxis) go across Dubai Creek for only 1 dirham, or about $0.33. They only go when they are filled with people and cross the creek in five to ten minutes, depending on the route. They where a great, cheap, fast way to cross and see the creek area...with traffic congestion a similar trip by car can take over an hour in rush hour. I'm not sure what will happen to the Abras when the new metro system opens up in a couple years though.