I love Dubai.
I was incredibly fortunate this weekend in that in order to renew my business visa I had to undertake a ‘visa run’. This involved leaving Qatar for three business days whilst they processed the visa – twice before this has fallen through and to be honest it is a much needed break – that I would love it so completely has suprised me – I am very very taken with its’ charms.
There is a real sense of urbanity, people on the street, a melting pot of cultures – it doesn’t feel so dominated by religion here – it is present but not the be all and end all, I’ve barely noticed the call to prayer. There are footpaths and street life and no restrictions on what you can wear on the street or on the beach. It’s a grown up functioning city with a really nice pulse. It simply seems more civilised here.
The traffic is not so chaotic either. There is not the urgency to keep moving at any cost, to be the first one there (wherever ‘there’ may be – often a red light or another car). In Dubai it’s the normal ebb and flow of city traffic, congested yes, but orderly and patient.
Interestingly I always ask the taxi drivers where they are from and if they like it here (in Doha or Dubai). Every taxi driver in Dubai said yes they like it here, when asking the same question in Doha I have yet to hear a positive response.
Admittedly I largely stayed away from the glitz – I’ve never been a five star girl – but catching abras across the creek and wandering through the souks, bartering with merchants is so my cup of tea. At the spice souk I found indigo – the joy this gave me beats manolo blahnik shoes any day.
I was limited in what I could do by the heat. It really was very very hot – I braved the metro and saw what was feasible, but ventures like wandering along the coast, exploring the CBD and back streets were not for this trip.
I’m not much of a mall girl either, much preferring markets and second hand rummages, but Dubai Mall was impressive. Aquariums in the atrium, Bloomingdales, Galleries LaFayette, 50 foot waterfalls. Me, being me, was satiated by a Neal’s Yard for shampoo, a health food shop for flax and polenta and Waitrose for a salad.
Outside of the Mall was the dancing fountain – seriously one of the campest things I’ve ever seen (and we know I’ve seen a lot of camp!). This was in the shadow of the world’s tallest building Burj Khalifa – why was is necessary to build something that tall? Well there are the phallic theories – I had no desire to enter. It was seriously tall – I wasn’t about to test my vertigo!
On day two I took advantage of the free beach shuttle that was run by the hotel. The driver dropped me at a lovely park, Al Mamzar, in the north. Five dirum to enter (a pound) and the same for a brolly. The park reminded me of Nielsen Park in Sydney – lovely shady trees giving way to two pristine beaches, people in ‘normal’ bathing attire. I had sunscreen on, which I re applied, and I kept under the brolly when not in the water – the water was not exactly cold but not quite a bath – still refreshing as the temp was in the mid forties. The bus dropped me at 10 and picked me up at three.
It has been years since I’ve spent a day at the beach – and those who know me well know what a beach baby I am – I was pig in shit! However the colour of me as soon as I had showered was frightening – the fact that it has given way to a tan is sheer good luck. I thought I had given myself first degree burn – a lesson learnt! The sun must have got through the umbrella, I even had panda eyes!
Spent my last night having a bit of a bender with my old mate from tele in Sydney, Rose. It was great to hang out with an Aussie chick and reminisce about Sydney and mutual friends and cathartic to vent honestly and safely about how we find life in the Middle East.
We started sipping Sauvignon Blanc at Souk Mandinat, then onto rose on a roof top bar 24-floors up at The Jumiera Beach Resort before one too many caipirinhas at the Buddha Bar – being evicted when the house lights came on at 2 am – I haven’t had a bender in a very very long time – it was fun; I say as I sit typing in the airport terminal nursing my hangover.
Tomorrow is Ramadan – drinking water in public is forbidden, the work hours shorter and I need to cover even more of my sassy flesh, all restaurants are shut during the day and you can not buy alcohol anywhere until after Eid. Night time will be fireworks and feasting.