22.05.2013 - 22.05.2013 40 °C
Full day in Dubai
We enjoyed a good night's sleep in our smallish but tastefully appointed room. The Orient Guest House has a parent company that operates as a large mainstream hotel on a busy street about a four minute walk from our place. But within that four minute separation lies a world of a difference. We are located literally in the oldest part of old Dubai. The little lane ways around the guest house look almost medieval, and you'd swear that the city traffic, lights and noise were miles away. I checked with one of the staff and it was confirmed the actual buildings in the area including our guest house are around 300 years old. Around the same age as the place we stayed at in Barcelona I imagine.
A complimentary breakfast is served in the courtyard daily starting at 7:00 am. The wieners, that were served and described as sausages, the scrambled eggs, apple and orange juices etc all had a North American feeling to it, European at best. In our assembled gathering of breakfasting tourists, the Germanic language ruled supreme. I'm quite sure in saying, we were the only English speaking people there. More on that expression later.
Sated with breakfast we set out for the day's activities. First off to check out the Dubai Creek, a major must see fixture to the city, the old Souks, and a trip across the creek to the souks on the other side including Dubai's famous gold souk area.
All who have read about our experiences to the Grand Bazaar in Turkey know how I feel about little brown men accosting me with unmitigated ardour just because I have tourist sun glasses, a dumb tourist hat, white skin and hokey back pack to boot. I might as well have neon lights ablaze on my chest declaring: “Hey all you hucksters, I'm white, Canadian and I'm buying!! Come and introduce yourself!!”
At one point, in the gold souk, in a span of twenty paces, I was offered some silly silk pieces of cloth by three venders, and an equal number of merchandisers hawking genuine Rolex watches. What is different this time is that I have found the secret to enduring it and having fun still. All I say, just on the verge of being rude, is: “No way! Why would I want that?” “No way I've already got four at home” wide smile firmly in place. “Ten Dhiram?? No way, I won't pay a cent under fifteen!!”
The point is just have fun with them and to not take it seriously as I have in the past. Nothing or no one bothers me anymore. The sad thing is though, that I would love to stop and check out some of the stuff these guys are flogging in their shops, but we wouldn't get fifty feet in two hours if we did. If nothing else, these guys are persistent, with the word NO completely absent from their vocabulary.
While in this area, the city had a large sign erected serving as map and description of the area. One side was Arabic the other English. While we were checking out the English side to get our bearings, an Australian couple came by. After looking at the Arabic side for a bit they came around to our side and the wife jubilantly said to her husband: “Look dear! They have it in Australian on this side!!”
The ride across the “Creek” (more like a wide canal dwarfing most of Venice's) was in a vessel called an Abra. It is a thirty foot wooden type of boat with bench seating that sails as it is filled up with its twenty or so passenger limit. It doesn't go fast but the breeze you get is very refreshing. The temperatures today got up to forty degrees. We ended up taking a long walk up the waterway hoping to see another place up the creek to get us back to our home side, but found ourselves up a creek without a paddle and had to walk all the way back. It was getting on near twelve now and we had been out in the sun for several hours now with only a small bottle of water between us. On the way back to where we could catch an Abra, I thought Susan was going to expire on me right there on the sidewalk, but she bravely soldiered on.
Very close to our guest house is a large western style clothing retail store where we popped in to check for some novelty clothing for Peirce. The air conditioning units were blasting ice cold air down onto the open entry. It was heavenly and I stood there for a half a minute luxuriating under the frigid air before entering. As usual it took Susan well over a half hour to buy one item, as she carefully deliberated on the decision of which outfit to buy. The sales guy who assigned himself to her was showing signs of abject boredom and kept looking at me with desperation in his eyes as if to say: “Can't you do anything to hurry this woman up??!!”. I smiled at him as I found a chair to observe the protracted acquisition. When the purchase was made, we ambled back to our air conditioned room to prepare for phase two of our day . . . a visit to the largest shopping mall in the world.
That meant getting the concierge people at the main hotel to round up our car for us. That done we were on our way. Driving in Dubai is a little daunting. Not because of drivers themselves or the speeds at which we are going, just the newness of it all and the honking, the incessant honking. So far I have only been honked at once, the day before. I had the gall to actually slow down to let a pedestrian cross. That atrocity on my part was met with a litany of mean-spirited toots and blasts directed my way. The other no-no we soon learned is never take more than a half second to step on the gas after a light turns green. If you are tardier than that, you are met with a blaring chorus of honks well after the intersection has been entered.
Susan did her best navigating with only a silly tourist map, but we did get a little turned around, but eventually got there. En-route the difference in Dubai become very apparent. There is the old Dubai, and the new Dubai and what a world of difference there is. The number of immense opulent office towers reaching to the sky is mind boggling. I am sure no other city in the world has what Dubai has in terms of sky scrapers with such a diverse eclectic offering of designer architectural edifices. City building bling. Susan was so mesmerized she was hanging out the window taking photographs so much that I found myself alone to drive and navigate. Arrrg!! We eventually found the entry to the mall and while in the underground parking lot took another ten or fifteen minutes to find a place to park. Long story short, we spent around two hours in the mall and probably saw around five percent of it. We did see a Tim Horton's coffee shop though. The place makes the West Edmonton Mall look like a corner store.
We got back to our room around five and quickly got ready to go out for dinner to a place we spotted that morning and did some research on which came up very positive. It was good too. We intentionally stayed with the Arabic part of the menu leaving out what was offered as Asian. Our waiter patiently explained what each entry on the menu was. At one point he was trying to explain what kind of meat was in one of the dishes, but after saying the word four times without our understanding what he said, he calmly stated with only the slightest bit of insistence: “Try it Madam, you will enjoy . . .” We did and we did. Actually everything seemed very authentic and very scrumptious. Once more we were surrounded by Germans. A very popular drink here that we enjoyed at the camel meat restaurant the night before, was mint lemonade. It is delicious and just pops in your mouth with flavour.
Two more quick observances. First, the men who wear the fancy head dresses with the black circular things that secures them to their heads along with the long flowing white robes. The first thing Susan said when we started seeing theses guys all over the place was, that there was no way I could ever pull it off since in no time I'd have stains all over them being the slob that I am. The men, I have started to notice seem to think pretty highly of themselves. I don't know what classifies which man the right or the need to wear these things but it appears to me they consider themselves quite regal. To my untrained Canadian eye though, I immediately think they are on their way to some kind of Arabic toga party.
The other thing is with regards to the ordinary local men. The ones who by and large wear the same clothes we do out west. The only difference is that despite it being forty degrees outside they cover themselves up like crazy. I've observed literally thousands of them and every single man wears long pants and I'd say 85% had long sleeve shirts. I don't get that.
Long day. We were in bed and sleeping within an hour after getting 'home'.