Friday, September 9, 2016

A Day in Dubai


Our flight arrives into Dubai at 3:30am. Walking out of the airplane, the heat hits you like a ton of bricks. At 3:30am it is already 33 degrees. Shawn and Cameron are already at the hotel that Shawn had prebooked because their flight was earlier and direct and arrived the night before.

The Dubai Airport is the polar opposite of Addis Ababa. After getting off the plane, we are guided to the trains by Arabic airport staff wearing immaculate white dishdash ( robe) and keffiyeh (head scarf) to trains which transport us to immigration.

You can tell we are in a wealthy country because even the airport clocks are made by Rolex.

The line-up to check passports is long but they have free high speed wifi. We quickly collect our luggage and get a cab from the clearly marked cab area.

It is 5am when we arrive to our hotel. As per Shawn's instructions, they have a key waiting for us. The suite is huge and comes as a shock after seven weeks in Africa. There are two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen, dining room and separate living room. The lights are even bright. We head to bed.

Shawn and I get up at 7:30 am and cross the highway by way of an overhead pedestrian pass to the mall across the street. It is like a high end North American mall. We order takeaway breakfast from the Tim Hortons. Yep, you heard right, Tim Hortons.

In the five minutes that we are outside, the heat is almost unbearable. Mind you this is Dubai's hottest time of the year.

After breakfast in our room, we head down to the lobby to meet our tour guide. Graham and I bring all our luggage because we will be dropped off at the airport directly after our day of touring.

Our guide, Assim is very knowledgeable and proud of his city. Dubai is run by the Sheikh. There are no taxes because he owns almost everything and uses the profits to run and improve the city. Assim tells us that there is zero crime in Dubai because everyone works and there are no homeless people. If someone commits a crime, they are swiftly caught, do their punishment in Dubai and are then deported, blacklisted and never allowed back.

Traffic is organized but congested. Probably because everyone uses their cars since it is too hot to walk anywhere.

The city is pristine with innovative architecture everywhere you look. Always tall buildings. Dubai strives to have the biggest and best of everything.

Dubai has it all, but it is mostly man made . It is gorgeous, but seems to be missing a soul...or maybe I haven't been here long enough to find it.

Shopping centers are everywhere. We stop at a shopping mall, The Souk al Bahar and walk through it to get to a beautiful man made pool surrounded by restaurants with outdoor patios (which are empty because of the heat, everyone is indoors).

We stop for photos in front of the Burj Khalifa, the worlds tallest building.

Our next stop is The Mall of Dubai, which is the worlds largest mall. We take a look at the worlds largest fish tank and watch the Sharks for a bit. There is a Tim Hortons here too. All of North America's greatest chains seem to be here.

We drive to The Palms where Atlantis Resort is located. The other Atlantis Resort is in Bahamas but this one is much bigger.

We take a monorail train so that we can get a better view of the resort and community. The land that the Palms area is on is shaped like a palm leaf and surrounded by the Persian Gulf. Atlantis is at the centre top of the leaf. The very very rich own homes here and the famous usually own homes at the tip of the fingers of the palm leaves. David Beckham, Tom Cruise And Angelina Jolie are all residents.

Most people cannot afford to own homes in Dubai so they rent.

Our next visit is to a place that sells higher end Arabic souvenirs and merchandise such as scarves, carpets, jewels, jewelry, clothing etc while Assim goes across the street to the mosque to pray.

Assim takes us to a small transit boat that holds about fifteen passengers and ferries us across a canal where he meets us on the other side. He then takes us to the souks. I buy a belly dancing belt. I also buy hibiscus at the spice souk.

The last place he shows us is the gold souk. There is so much gold in every store including full dresses, crowns, large statues and more. There is so much wealth here but I see no armed guards. Maybe there really is no crime here.

Our final stop is the airport. Shawn also gets out with us because it is easier and less expensive to catch a cab from here as he wants to go back downtown to go up the Burj Khalifa. Cameron is hot and tired so Assim takes him back to the hotel.

Shawn has no wait when he gets to the Burj Khalifa and pays to go the the highest level possible. The worlds fastest elevator (made by Otis) travels at 9 meters per second to the 124th floor and from there it's a second elevator to the 148th floor which is the highest point the public have access to at 555 meters. At this height the observation deck is higher than the very top of our own Toronto CN Tower which is 551 meters high. The Burj Khalifa and its spire tops out at 829 meters.

When he gets back to the ground, Shawn watches the Dancing Fountain show at the base of the tower. The fountains are very similar to the fountains outside the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas. Shawn then takes the metro back to the hotel where he and Cameron hang out until it's time to go to the airport to catch their 2:20am flight to Washington DC from where they will connect to Toronto. Unfortunately when their plane- one of the double decker Airbus 380s- backs up from the gate, one of the nose wheels deflates. They wait in the plane for another 2 hours on the tarmac while they jack up the front nose gear and change tires. Then it's a 14 hour non-stop flight to DC for a total of 16 hours sitting in the same seat!

Graham and I fly from Dubai back to Addis Ababa where we connect to fly to Toronto with a quick stop in Dublin to refuel.

It is hard to believe that our holiday is over. It's been awesome.

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