Trip Start Sep 05, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of United Arab Emirates  ,
Saturday, October 4, 2008


Back in April I had been researching places to go on holiday. I hadn't been away properly since returning from travelling for a year so I wanted to go somewhere a little different and exotic. The main criteria was to choose somewhere small enough that I could do it justice in a short 2 week break.

The main area I'm interested in visiting at the moment is the Middle East. A long trip has already been planned out in my mind so I wasn't planning to visit them but one country really stood out and that was Yemen. After seeing pictures of Old San'a the country went to number 1 on my list of countries to visit.

So I sounded out a few of my friends to see if they were interested in a crazy 2 week dash in Yemen, Oman and UAE, and I knew my mate Lars would be crazy enough. So flights to Dubai were booked and I arranged flights with Air Arabia to San'a.

About 1 month later the security situation in Yemen worsened and I needed to think about where I wanted to go instead. I had already spent the money on the flights so it needed to be somewhere that Air Arabia fly. I narrowed the choice down to 3 countries; Iran, Nepal and Sri Lanka. I decided Nepal needs at least a month as I'd want to trek the Annapurna Circuit. I also ruled out Iran as it would be a hassle arranging a visa and would also really need far longer than 2 weeks. So Sri Lanka was booked and I just had to wait until October before the adventure started.

The Beginning

As Lars hadn't been to England before he decided to fly over to London a few days before the start of the holiday. I met him at Gatwick and showed him around a few sights for a couple of days before we boarded a bus to Heathrow at 6pm on the Friday.

At Heathrow something quite unbelievable occurred. I was queueing up to get my bags scanned when I spotted a familiar face heading in the opposite direction, just a few people in front of me. It was Julia who Lars and I travelled with through Thailand and Malaysia almost 3 years ago! The odds of the 3 of us being in this small area must have been enormous, probably more chance of winning the lottery considering Lars lives in Sweden and Julia lives in Sydney!

After a quite surreal couple of minutes catching up we went our separate ways and were soon on a plane to Doha, Qatar. Our flight required a change of plane in Qatar and I hadn't realised just how tight the connection was (30 mins) until a couple of days before the flight. As a result I bought myself a new backpack (40 litre) that I could take as carry on luggage, so nothing was checked into the hold.

The 7 hour flight to Doha was relatively painless, long enough to become annoying but not unbearable. I had chosen the night flight as it would ideally allow me to sleep and maximise daytime sightseeing hours in Dubai but it never works like that. The first 3 hours were taken up with getting comfortable, eating dinner and watching a movie (Indiana Jones). I tried to sleep after this but I just can't sleep on planes! I even used the complimentary ear plugs and eye mask but it was no use.

We arrived in Doha at 7am, on-time, and the next 30 minutes were a mad dash to get our bags searched, run to gate, jump back on bus to the smaller plane. It went very smoothly and I was sat ready for take off within 15 minutes of disembarking the first plane. The short hop to Dubai (45 mins) was over in no time and by about 10:30 I was standing around on the street searching for a bus.

12 hours in the UAE

As Dubai was only really a side note in the trip I hadn't really spent much time looking into the sights. However a quick flick through the LP seemed to point to the Creek area so I set about looking for a cheap way of getting into town, namely a bus. We found a bus heading to Bur Dubai and were are the destination within 30 minutes.

I soon realised that the LP for the Arabian Peninsula is absolute rubbish. We spent 2 hours completely lost, walking around in circles trying to get to the river which was only about 500 metres away! All the road names in the book were wrong and it listed street numbers which didn't exist! By the time we found the creek we were exhausted. Carrying around a backpack in near 40C heat having just arrived from a freezing house in England was not much fun so we spotted a restaurant and decided it was time for a kebab. I was just relieved to be sitting down and it was a great spot to cool off. Right next to the abra (water taxi) station, with boats constantly heading across the creek to Deira. The kebab was actually very good and a mango drink went down a treat.

We decided against looking around the Bur area as the map was so terrible so we took an abra across to Deira to check out the souk area. Getting an abra was great fun! The small boats seem to ferry people back and forth all day and it's dirt cheap at only 1 dirham per journey.

Once over in Deira was decided to head to the Gold Souk area. This whole area of town reminded me of a miniature version of Hong Kong, with less hassles. Sure you get people trying to sell you fake Rolex's every couple of seconds but they don't seem to care if you say no, there are loads of tourists there that go crazy for the shopping! Seeing as we weren't buying anything, and getting around with the bags was so torturous, we decided to head to Sharjah early.

We were flying with Air Arabia and like the budget airlines in Europe they fly from the middle of nowhere, in this case the neighbouring state of Sharjah. We consulted the LP and started heading to the bus station. The book really was terrible. We spent another hour stumbling around in the heat trying to locate the bus station which was in the middle of nowhere. I was so glad when we finally found the bus and enjoyed 45 minutes of air con bliss!

It was only 5pm and our flight wasn't until 10 so we had to kill some time. We weren't in the mood to see anything so we just headed over to a park area opposite the main mosque in town. The park was full of people lazing around in the late afternoon sun so we found a spot and relaxed for an hour, doing absolutely nothing. It was probably the most fun I had all day!

Having successfully wasted a few hours we jumped in a taxi and shot off to the airport. The airport itself was quite modern but lacked anything to keep me occupied. It was basically just 1 big duty free shop and I was very glad when we were finally called to go to our gate and board the plane to Colombo.
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