23.05.2013 - 23.05.2013 40 °C
Dubai Day 3
Well our last day here......
Before I start today, I want to mention a couple of things Mark didn't from yesterday.
At the Dubai Mall, we did see a couple of things worth a comment: One is the huge indoor aquarium. We did not pay to enter the tunnel where the fish are floating all around you as you walk through, and then there is a zoo or something included in the admission. But we stood and watched from the mall for quite awhile as it was truly amazing to consider what we were looking at. I could not get the whole wall of glass in a picture, it was so big. And there were a huge amount of fish, including shark-types and manta rays—one manta ray must have had a wing span of 8' or so. You could pay additional money and don scuba gear and go in the tank with another diver to interact with the fish. Mark figures the glass wall was 20' high and 100' feet long, and marvelled at the thickness of the glass for that size—and yet we could still see in crystal-clear with no distortion.
We decided not to go check out the ice rink, as we have seen many ice rinks in our lives, including one in a shopping mall, and just came off of a cruise ship that had its own ice rink, which was probably more of a 'feat'. And we also did not go see the ski hill—perhaps we should have done that, but there is only so much walking we can do, and we already walked MILES that morning.
We found the famed Dubai Fountain, however it was under renovation so there was nothing to look at but still water, no aquatic displays. It sounded like perhaps the night show with special lighting might have still operated, but that was so many hours away and would have been at dusk or later, that we could not stick around.
In the same area as the Dubai Mall is the Burj Khalifeh (my guide book is put away and so I can't double check the name), the tallest building in the world. We drove around it in our travels a couple of times, but did not go up inside it. We'd already been up the Eiffel Tower, so how much higher can one go?? ;-)
So, on to Thursday. Despite having a full day in Dubai, since this was a travel prep day, we couldn't really make use of the day. We had to have suitcases all packed and ready for air port check ins (so, weight considerations and all the gels and liquids out of the carry on luggage, and breakable items suitably safeguarded), we had to be out of our room by noon, and we had to get to the airport and return the car before our flight—before dark so we could find our way.
So, we got up early, enjoyed our breakfast in the courtyard, packed up and then headed out into the local street to do some last souvenir shopping—seeing as how our venture into the souks yesterday did not produce any purchases. Since we had seen several things and prices in other places, we knew sort of what to look for, and accomplished this (I even succeeded in some bargaining) and got back to our room right on the dot of 12. We quickly cleared our stuff out of the room and checked out and had the valet pick us and our luggage up to take us to our car. Just as we got to the car, I suddenly remembered that in our haste, I did not retrieve our passports, money, car keys etc from the safe in our room! I conveyed this problem, in somewhat of a panic, to our driver, Bakshish, who immediately assured me: no problem, he would guide us back to the hotel and we could get our stuff and all would be well. He was right. Our room had not been made up yet and our hostess let me back in, and then insisted I go through the room and drawers and cupboards again, with her help, to ensure I had not forgotten anything else. After that was done, I came back to the car to find Mark and Bakshish having a gay old time chatting away and yukking it up. Bakshish wore a turban and flowing robe and had a great mustache and beard—sort of caricaturish (sp?) as the mustache ends twirled out and around. But he was very nice and helpful. Difficult to understand,but very ready to speak his English to us, and the more we listened to him, the more tuned in we became. A side note: I guess it was very obvious to people here that we would probably not speak Arabic so we were always addressed immediately in English. However, that seems to be the local language of choice as all shop attendants in the souks and in the malls would greet shoppers in English. We never got to use the Arabic greetings and salutations that Tommy taught us (and that I recorded on my phone to help us remember). Also we saw only one beggar in Dubai—at least I have to assume that's what he was, he was sitting on the ground on the sidewalk, and addressed us as we went by, holding out his hand. We just walked by. He had no cup or box or tin or anything to drop money in and was not a pest. We hardly had to time to register he might have been begging, so were not fast enough with our “Allah kareem....”
After we got the car, and the forgotten items, we set out up the coast on the Jumeirah road which we took to find the beaches. Unfortunately we were not properly prepared to actually spend time on the beach, as we did not have towels, handy bathing suits etc., and the book indicated that the 'free' beaches did not have 'facilities' so presumed there would be nowhere to change. By this time, it was about 1:00 and high heat of the day—40 degrees. Actually, Bakshish told us that within a few weeks, the temperatures would be 45-50 degrees every day......We found a beach to drive up to, one of several, and the sand was blindingly white in the sun, and not a speck of shade to be found anywhere. There were 3 cars in the car park, and the parking area seemed to be gigantic. We decided to walk to the water (about a minute) and I took my sandals off and walked into the water. It was really warm and would have been lovely to have been able to swim in it for awhile. There was a family in the water, that had a blanket out on the open beach (no shady umbrella) and a picnic cooler, there was another lone woman sunbathing, and that was it. After about 15 minutes here we needed to get back into the air conditioning of the car, and find some food (we had eaten breakfast early, just after 7). (I had a hard time getting the sand off my feet and unfortunately my sandals have a suede foot base—I am still feeling gritty on my feet a day later.)
We kept driving along the Jumeirah road to find a suitable restaurant to eat at, and the area on both sides was building after building of medical clinics, specialist clinics, dentistry and orthodontistry clinics, beauty clinics, laser surgery, etc etc etc. There were also buildings that were homes—hard to tell with some of them whether they were single family dwellings or not, some were obviously complexes, but there were many beautiful houses. And about every kilometre or less there was a mosque—on both sides of the road. (We listened to the calls to prayer many times each and every day—some were sort of 'enjoyable' in that they sounded good, others were not, either bad singers or bad recordings.) We took note of the restaurants as we drove by—always spotting them when too late to stop. Finally, we drove far enough that we reached the famed hotel—that we had forgotten about finding. We could not stop to look at it and it seemed too difficult to drive in to it but we had a good look as we drove by (in both directions). We did try to turn off the highway to go into some place but there was a guard and a gate and it was some high class spa joint so all we cold do was tell the guard we just needed to turn around. He let us in and we just went out the exit gate, but in a span of 100' there was a stretch of grass with golden statues of horses galloping down the slope. Couldn't even stop to take a picture. It probably would have cost us big bucks!
Great thing about the main roads in Dubai is that you can U-turn everywhere, so if you go by something, no problem, you just hang a U-y and go back to it. So we turned back and decided to to go a Turkish restaurant we had seen when we first got hungry. We found it, did another U-turn since it was on the other side of the road, and went in. There were a lot of tables outside in a patio area, under umbrellas, but no one was sitting outside. We went 'in' and it was still pretty hot inside, even with air conditioners sitting in the corners of the room, very near where we sat. After awhile, we realized that were were not really inside, but were in another sort of patio area that had wood framed walls with glass sections, but open at the top and overhead—just covered in fake ivy and grape vines to simulate a turkish garden I guess. There was an actual inside restaurant, but it didn't appear to be open—maybe just for dinner. The menu had some similar items to our Arabic meal last night. Hummus again, served warm with meat, something very much like Tzatziki but called by a completely different name, and they were served with a large very flat oval shaped bread, warm with sesame seeds on top. We just broke off pieces and spread them with the hummus and tzatziki. We both ordered chicken doner (not “donair”) sandwiches. At this point, I could probably have done without the sandwich as the appetizers were tasty and the kind of thing I like and would have been enough except I had to leave room for the sandwich. The doner was tasty too, a large round soft flat bread with tomatoes, lettuce, cabbage and 'chicken' inside. I'm not really sure about the chicken. It was very thinly sliced and very well cooked, but I really don't know how one would get such slices off of a chicken. It didn't taste like chicken. And it was not chicken breast meat. Anyway, Mark downed his in no time and I ate a large portion of mine, but couldn't finish. We had our favourite mint lemonade, too. This one was actually the best yet, since it was not quite as strongly flavoured as the others we had enjoyed.
As we finished our meal, the men at the table next to us were brought over hookahs/water pipes and they were prepared for them and handed over for them to smoke. I had noticed a very large collection of the items in a corner and wondered about them as somewhere I had read that you could go to places and smoke them, but we hadn't seen this yet. Still don't really know what people get out of this that is different from smoking a cigarette. I googled this while in the restaurant and smoking in this manner is not any 'healthier' than smoking a cigarette, but apparently it is or is becoming quite a fad all over. The hookahs were for sale in the duty free shop at the Dubai airport too so maybe they will make their way into the local Star Bucks etc. We did not notice any smell or smoke irritation as when people smoke cigarettes near you.
Once again, we waited and waited for our bill to be brought to us after our dishes were cleared away, and once again we had to ask for it. That put us on the road again, with still several hours to kill before having to get to the airport. We decided to head back to Deira City, to the first mall we went into after we picked up our car two days ago. We managed to make our way there almost without incident (maybe one wrong turn) and spent about two hours here just killing time. There wasn't really much to see in this mall—it was all shops and no sights. What we did notice though is that unlike malls at home that have a lot of spots to sit and rest, there were no benches or seating of any kind available, unless you went into one of the restaurants. I suppose that is by design, but for weary tourists like we were by this point, a bench would have been very welcome. (There were LOTS of wide open spaces in the mall where it would have been very natural for some seating to be placed.) There was a cinema in the mall—at the completely opposite end from where we were by then—so we walked down to it to see what was playing. It was about 4:00 now, and the next shows that we would have liked to see where Iron Man and Star Trek, both 3 D. But they did not start until 6 and 6:30 and that would have meant finding the airport in the dark, so we didn't do that.
Instead, we headed back to our car and decided to just check into the airport early. We had a rather exciting time finding our way to the car (our parking area did not seem to exist on any of the store directories) and then when we finally did find it, when we got out of the parkade, we could not figure out what street we were on and we couldn't see an airport road sign, so we made several wrong turns. Once we found ourselves on the map it still took awhile to get turned around the right way. We ended up going over the same toll bridge twice—a few minutes apart. We had already gone over that bridge to get to the mall, and had no need to do it two more times. 10 Dhms we will never see again. The airport was very close to the mall, which was why we chose to go to it, and it should have taken us just a short time to get there. Oh well---we were really early and had nothing to do but waste time. I'm glad we didn't decide to find our way in the dark though. Actually, once we got on the right road pointing the right way, we just followed the Terminal 1 signs and it was essentially a piece of cake. Nothing very confusing to get into the airport. We did not gas up the car, as we did not see any gas stations when we needed them. We turned it in and since we had time, went in to get the charges all straightened out—and it was a good thing we did so. If we had simply received the statement by email after we got home, it would have been a nightmare sorting it all out. As it was, everything was settled up fine and we paid in cash since we had a ton of Dhirams. ** nOTE from Mark. Another reason why we didn't want to linger too long is because we were advised that traffic gets really snarled on any week day around five o'clock. Typical big city rush hour. The other thing is that Thursday night is like our Friday night, since Friday and Saturday are their weekend.
After that, we went into the terminal and were not allowed to check in since no one would be manning the Air France booth until 3 hours before boarding and we were about 5 or more hours early. We were not impressed by the facilities available here: once again, acres of space and no place to sit. The food court we were directed to had about 3 places to order from. We sat there and passed the time writing and texting/emailing with our daughters. Finally, at about 3.5 hours before boarding, we went down and got checked in. After that process, we got into the REAL waiting area with shops and seats in abundance. This was more like what I expected of the Dubai airport! The Duty Free Store was a veritable supermarket. The souvenirs of Dubai must be authorized or controlled by the government in some way as the books and items were identical and the same price as we saw in the souvenir shop of the Dubai museum and in some other stores.
Another couple of hours spent waiting in this area and finally we were able to board our flight, shortly after midnight on Friday morning May 24. It was a larger plane than we had been on to date (seating 3, 4, 3 across), and older I think. It was certainly not as comfortable as our flight from Seattle to Paris 3 weeks ago. Anyway, we were given a snack and a drink and then we did our best to get some sleep.