From skyscraper to beach, from modern to traditional, from camel to car, from child-filled snow globes to 3D Christmas tree screens, Dubai does nothing half-heartedly. Today I will tell you about the rest of my Dubai stint, now that the Burj Khalifa has been covered. (<3)
Minibussing it to Dubai takes about one a half hours from Kim’s hometown Al Ain. The roads are straight, the views are deserty, and the ride is comfortable. And it’s a cultural experience.
We got to the minibus rather last minute, sitting down on separate fold-up chairs with no backs. A shame they had no backs, and a shame they weren’t next to each other but, well, that’s what you get when you’re not early.
However, this was about to change. Because us joining the bus meant we were both sitting next to men, the driver had us do an all-change so that strange women and men were not sitting next to each other. Rather a fun mathematical task, I would think! Kim and I got ‘proper’ seats with backs and a window view – I felt bad for the men who had been on time but booted out of the seats due to our mismatched gender, but I guess it’s all culture!
Another linked cultural remark: I am eternally glad Kim politely commented, after me appearing at the door ready to go in my denim shorts, that in Al Ain they’re not really an appropriate garment. Well, define appropriate, but you wouldn’t see local ladies in denim shorts. I decided to put on my Thai elephant trousers on top of my shorts until we got to Dubai – and once in Dubai, I ended up keeping them happily on the whole time. Dubai is decidedly modern but it is true the street style is high-class business or moderate and covered up casual, and I was aware I didn’t see a single other pair of shorts around.
After climbing the Burj Khalifa we took the metro to the Palm Jumeirah, a sky scraper-filled area near the beach.
We ate epic veggie burgers at ‘New Zealand’s original gourmet burger’ venue, Burgerfuel, people-watched and car-watched.
The beach was truly magical, one of those more surreal moments you suddenly realise where you are.
We wandered the beach, pausing for a moment of silence in front of the big cheesecake restaurant. We both agreed that ah, cheesecake, but definitely not, as we’d just had big burgers and weren’t hungry, and the cheesecake was sure to be pretty expensive as it was in such a posh location and such a fancy-looking place, and besides, we didn’t really have the time, as we had lots of stuff to do still.
Ten minutes later, we were sitting at a nice breezy table on the terrace of the cheesecake restaurant, deciding which mouth-wateringly lip-lickingly gorgeous cheesecake to sample.
According to the receipt I carefully glued into my travel journal, we chose cookie dough. Good choice, good choice.
After the cheesecake, a bit more and more wandering (and wondering).
This city becomes a seriously Christmas-themed surreal futuristic wonderland, with huge 3D screen Christmas trees with cool renditions of Jingle Bells with fun cartoon characters keeping the kids amused. Dubai, the place camels (real) and reindeer (fake) mix. Ah.
The skyscraper city of Dubai Marina was something insane.
Then it was time to do the next must-see of Dubai, the Burj Al Arab, the world’s third tallest hotel, shaped like a sail, with the world’s highest tennis court that doubles up as a helipad. The elite of tennis courts. “Money over practicality,” some dude/guide book described both Burj Al Arab and Dubai. Yeah, I guess. But a must-see.
This, my friend, was a mistake. Not that I regret going there, since I would eternally regret not seeing it up close, but after a looooong, expensive taxi ride to it in the dark evening, we realised we couldn’t even get close up to it. If we had a reservation to the restaurant, we were allowed onwards, said the friendly guard dudes. We doubted Burj Al Arab prices would be exactly, er, Burgerfuel-priced, even if the latter did call itself gourmet.
We admired the Burj Al Arab from a distance and took another pricey taxi to this epic outdoor bar/club Kim knew. A great place with excellent atmosphere and I wished I could’ve stayed longer to actually go out in Dubai. Alas, no. I guess I saved quite a lot of money in that regretful decision.
But alas, it was time to leave to make sure we caught the last minibus back to Al Ain. There was no other transport back (except, of course, taxis, which would just be a plain HA HA yes ok when the prince/emirate will personally pay for it), so it was important to make it back on time.
It was slightly stressful, but we eventually got to the bus station a good fifteen minutes before the last minibus was scheduled to leave.
Except that the last minibus didn’t exist. I guess on certain days they have a less frequent schedule.
A-ha, okay, what now.
Though Dubai is generally quite safe, you do get your fair share of dodgy dudes trying to rip you off with insane transportation prices. And this is just the best case scenario for a definition of a ‘dodgy dude’. There was no way we could stay in Dubai for the night, but there was now no way to get back to Al Ain.
I think we originally talked to a legit taxi driver, whose price was something expectedly astronomical. However, legit taxi driver recommended a certain dodgy taxi driver (when I say dodgy, I mean we had less means of knowing if he was actually official or not). His prices were dodgy too, in other words just about reasonable.
After much debate we decided to yolo it and jump into the car with Haji Muhammad, promising to take us straight home to Al Ain for a reasonable sum.
And it went well. Personal, friendly service all the way to Kim’s front door, and the price was still a fraction of a legit taxi or especially a night in some hotel or even dodgy lodgement in Dubai.
Arriving back at my room for the night, bed was a very welcome place, once again.
Dreaming of this…