Three Hours in Dubai

January 5, 2008

The first leg of my trip to India was a flight from NYC (JFK) to Dubai (DXB). This was scheduled with Emirates Airlines as 14 hours in the air, but a nice tail wind pushed us there in just under 11.

My luck didn’t stop there. I also sat next to the ONLY open seat on the plane. …And this was a big plane. The A345 (aka Airbus 340-500) seats 313 passengers + crew. …What were the odds the guy next to me would lose his passport in JFK? Oddly enough, that’s exactly what happened.

Knowing this flight would be a long one I forced myself not to sleep the night before, so I was ready for some serious slumber. I fell asleep before takeoff.

I remember waking up a few times during the flight, once long enough to watch a movie. The plane had an excellent selection of films, maybe a few hundred movies and shows? …The 7″ touch-screens also offered seat-to-seat communications, video games, cameras that give passengers a view from the nose and belly of the plane. …IMHO, Emirates Airlines sets a new standard for in-flight entertainment.

After 10 minutes of browsing videos I chose The Man from Snowy River. The movie is based on poem written by Banjo Paterson, an Australian bush poet from the 1800’s. …I love bush poets. You really should watch it if you haven’t, the soundtrack alone is worth your time. …But I digress. At the films conclusion I promptly fell asleep again. The next time I opened my eyes we were landing in Dubai. That’s what I call a great flight!

Exiting the airport in Dubai John (my co-worker and traveling companion) made short-work of tracking down a “tour guide”. He chartered a 3hr tour of the city for something like 150 dirham ($40). …We would have liked to spend more time, but we had to catch our next flight to Trivandrum, India.

Our tour guide was in plain clothing and his car was decal free. For a moment I wondered if he was “really a tour guide” and half expected him to drive us down some dark narrow alley. …Fortunately that’s not what happened.

The first place we stopped was Al-Fahidi Fort museum. The fort was allegedly built in 1787, it’s believed to be the oldest building in Dubai.

Before we went in I realized I was leaving my laptop/life with a complete stranger. Quickly I snapped a picture of his license plate and told myself that would have to suffice.

We didn’t spend a lot of time in the museum. …But long enough to get the distinct impression that the king doesn’t really like museums. Most the exhibits looked like they were thrown together and it smelled bad. I was curious and wanted to learn about their history, but there wasn’t much of an explanation for many artifacts (like the boats pictured below)…

That’s John in the distance on the left. He seemed just as eager to get through this museum as I was.

Pulling away from the museum I caught a glimpse of two locals relaxing on a cart. It looked like a nice relaxing lunch break to me.

Something about this scene brought back good memories. Watching these guys chat reminded me of all the times my buddy Erik I used to meet-up for lunch. Every day we used to act out the same routine.

We’d meet at a nearby grocery store, usually within range of a Starbucks. I’d score a muffin and a Starbucks or Sobe Cranberry Grapefruit Elixir, Erik would grab a bagel and a Sobe Green tea or something exotic. Then we’d sit under the sun and I’d listen to Erik complained about the price of bagels while I sipped my $4 Starbucks and plotted world conquest. Great times, but I digress…

We were now in an older, somewhat rundown part of Dubai. These pictures really don’t do justice to the smell and dirt that tarnished the area. …Though, I’m sure you get used to it after a while.

I was a little surprised to see laundry hanging from windows (pictured below), but I know from experience that high humidity can cause clothing to go moldy. Besides, hanging clothes like this eliminates the need to iron. I figure the eye-sore is worth having clothes that don’t smell musky.

Drying clothes outside is actually a very eco-friendly thing to do, but you try this at home please remember, “Tops by the bottoms, bottoms by the tops” …You’ll understand what I mean if you don’t figure that out.

Back to my trip, my family has done quite a bit of house-boating over the years. These have been some of my favorite family vacations. Naturally I thought of them when I saw this posh houseboat along the riverside. Talk about posh…

As our car moved down the river towards the beach it was hard to tell if I was in Dubai or California. Even the haze seemed to fit the bill…

A few miles down the road we pulled into what looked like another museum. Turns out it was an art gallery, filled with mass-produced art and knock-off carpets. …I guess our tour guide was a villain; no wonder the ride was so cheap.

Take the bird below for example, that’s cast metal (poured not pounded). It made a shallow plinking sound when I flicked it with my finger.

I enjoyed the gallery a lot more than the museum, but I took off when the proprietors started pushing rugs.

Back in the car we headed down the coast towards a more modern and developed area of Dubai. Several miles of the trip looked a lot like Newport Beach’s balboa peninsula.

Eventually we ended up at some hotels that are apparently owned by the king of Dubai. Judging by the building’s he owns, king loves symmetry. The hotels on the Palm Island are a great example. …Not that symmetry is a bad thing, everybody has their own style.

My favorite part about this hotel was actually the courtyard, moat and surrounding vacation homes (presumably rentals)…

This stage area also looked like a fun place to watch a concert at night (minus the xmas tree), I really wish I’d have had time to do that.

Notice the building in the distance on the picture above on the left? As we drew near that skyscraper our tour guide caught site of a helicopter that was just about to land. It was a very hazy day, so you can barely make it out in the picture below in the upper left corner…

A little further down the beach we ran into those Palm Islands we’ve all seen online. I was especially excited about visiting this site.

In case you’re not in the know, Dubai has been building islands in shapes. Some look like the world, with islands in the shapes of countries. Others look like Palms, crescents, etc. You can read more about these on Wikipedia, they’re really quite amazing.

The model above should help you get an idea of where the shot below was taken. It’s still under construction, but they’re building fast. Checkout all those cranes!

Leaving the Palms we headed past the city of Burj, Dubai (picture below). As you can see, there were cranes were everywhere. Apparently Dubai has over 30,000 of them, just over 33% of the cranes in the world.

In the distance below on the left you can see the largest building in the world. That’s still under construction, it’s going to be a must-visit 7-star resort when completed. …I’m looking forward to it!

Next we visited the mall. …Aside from the indoor skiing facility, I wasn’t impressed. But the indoor skiing facility is something to behold. It’s an amazing achievement and very cool attraction (though it can’t hold a candle to my local Mount Hood). Below are some stock photos mixed with those of my own, unfortunately we didn’t have time to try out the slopes.

About this time our guide informed us that we only had 45 minutes left before boarding. That was a problem because we weren’t ready to leave. John and I wanted to try some of the local food. I wasn’t sure if we had the time, but John assured me we did and the tour guide agreed so I went along with it.

Briskly walking from the mall we climbed into our car and raced off. The tour guide wanted to take us to an authentic restaurant that was near the airport. Everything was going perfectly according to schedule, until we placed our order. …20 minutes passed before we were finally given our food.

Now we had 25 minutes before boarding. We raced to the airport but by the time we got there our plane was already boarding. Even knowing this John wanted to stop and eat. I insisted we find our flight first, a few moments later they announced our final boarding call on the overhead. Reluctantly John agreed and we raced off.

Somehow we made it through all three security checkpoints WITH OUR FOOD and still made the flight, but it wasn’t easy. We had to run through the entire airport and, go figure, our plane was at the very end of one of the furthest concourses. Fortunately there were several other tardy passengers so we didn’t miss the flight. …I guess John was right, why did I ever doubt him?