Finally home from my whirlwind trip to the Middle East and Europe. Visited the ship that I've worked with the past 2.5 years to do some preps for an uncoming availability and, as a result, had a day in Dubai and a day and a half in London. Obviously, the Dubai part was more unique than the London part. I decided to have the group do the down day in Dubai vs. Amsterdam because a) I've wanted to go to Dubai for a while and b) we had all done down days in Amsterdam - there's only so much you can see in a day and 3) it's always nice to arrive with a bit of a buffer when meeting a ship - I'd hate to arrive and have everything in shambles because of schedule changes or something like that. So, we stayed at the Sheraton Dubai Creek - not completely updated to moden Dubai standards (i.e., overpriced and crazy) but it was a great hotel and we received a lot for the price - huge buffet spread for breakfast and appetizers / drinks all included. Plus, other little goodies like sweets in the rooms, etc.
Our travel days were quite long - we took off from Seattle and traveled straight through with a 6 hour layover to arrive in Dubai probably 26 hours after we left. Whew. So, the next day, we were all determined to make the most of our time. We started tooling around old Dubai around 10am - and it was already scorching. We headed out of the sun into the shaded areas of the gold, spice and textile souks. The gold there (and in Bahrain) just can't be adequately described by words - it's all 22 k. stuff, so it "glows" amazingly well - it just has this shine that the 14 k. plated stuff doesn't. The spice souk was pretty neat too - the smells were just wonderful coming from all the huge sacks of tumeric, curry, carmadon, cinnamon, clove, etc. Just cool.
We wandered for a while - just kind of took in the sites to the older city - in and around several mosques, historic sites and then the souks. There were a fair number of tourists around one of the guys liked the "old souk" better than the other ones - but it wasn't even a local culture there - it was mainly a souk now for all the immigrant and (slave) labor.
Interesting city of contrasts - from the dhows crossing the creek to the multi-million dollar yachts parked along side. Then there's the whole culture of wanting the tourist dollar but only showing a little bit of that local culture to make the tourist feel like they're seeing something of how things are or used to be. It's an odd feeling of being inauthentic and sheltered all in one. The initial wandering in the souks and along the canal near the markets was much more "real" to me than the Mall of the Emirates with the Ski Dubai, Starbucks, Krispy Kreme or even Burj al Arab was. And then there was the feeling that although they were courting my dollar, I wasn't totally welcome there.
I had done a little research ahead of time, so felt well prepared with the stuff that was feasible in one day. What I didn't account for was just how hot it was and how much water we were all drinking. Our souk wandering took us to around noon, so we took a dhow across the creek and then caught a cab to the Mall of the Emirates. We figured that we couldn't legitimately go to Dubai and not see Ski Dubai. And it was just....weird....there was the totally self-contained ski resort with 2 lifts and a total elevation of 197 feet....if you purchased any kind of snow park pass, it included all the winter gear one needed. Just...weird.
After the mall, we determined that we also had to see Burj al Arab, or the Sail Hotel. We couldn't get reservations for drinks inside the hotel, so it wasn't likely we would see inside at all. We had to suffice to view it all from outside. We found a way to get into the adjacent hotel (not Jumerieh Beach, but on the other side - name to be remembered later) and took some photos in a bar and then tried to get down to the beach. That didn't go so well and we were asked to leave the hotel for being non-guests on a private beach. We really wanted to see the sunset, so we found ANOTHER bar to stake ourselves out at and we spent a wonderful 2 hours there sipping beers and watching a sunset over the Arabian Gulf with the hotel lighting up. It was quite wonderful. I had a pic of the hotel all loaded and then realized I had one of my blurry ones (one of many, right Joe?).
That was pretty much that day.....and then we headed for the ship the following one.....