To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries
- Aldous Huxley

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Dubai Day 1 - I am quite possibly the world's greatest sandboarder.

Dubai – Day 1

After a long long flight, but well worth it since we got upgraded to emergency seating which means extra leg room since we both clearly need it, and then an insanely short one, we finally arrived in Dubai via Doha, Qatar.

 Sunrise over Doha, Qatar

And boy is it hot and humid. Exited the surprisingly empty airport quick smart with no fuss from Customs, baggage ready to go and best of all. No lines. Anywhere (learn from this Australia!), and found my glasses steaming up it was that humid.

 The face of a guy who got an upgrade to extra leg room

Dubai is not what I thought it would be (well except the heat), aside from one asshole scammer at the airport, the people we have come across have been incredibly polite and helpful. Being an apparently strict Muslim country, I didn't really expect the people to be so friendly. I expected politeness and the usual hospitality tourists get in most other countries, but so far, this has been above the norm in my experiences. 
I did expect more opulence than there is, although so far I haven’t been into the “rich” part of Dubai, the “old” part is, while clean, surprisingly slumish. Buildings sit on top of each other and so close you’d be forgiven if you thought you were in the slums of India.

 But I have seen ridiculously tall buildings.

I guess I had unrealistic expectations for the entire city, which seems to be pretty much impossible. Although it does seem they are trying. I read on a sign at the airport that in 1990 they had 1 high-rise building and now they have 90 or 900 or something like that.
I also thought there wouldn’t be much “Westernisation” but there is the McDonalds and the radio station playing “Western” songs (and much like Australian radio, it will play the same 5 songs throughout the day). Also, and probably for the benefit of the tourists, everyone speaks English and everything is primarily in English. Signs, TV shows, radio stations, advertisements are in English with Arabic translation on the bottom. Not a big thing, but surprising since I thought it would be the other way around.

We arrived at the hotel thinking it was 4pm rather than 10am (good ole jetlag and 16 hours on planes or airports) but were greeted with the abovementioned politeness. We checked in and got an upgrade for being on our honeymoon (shh!) to a higher floor, got the wrong key, went back down, got the right key and entered the room with a pretty good view of the vastness of Dubai (ie: sand).  I went straight to the most important issue first, getting the air-con down to Arctic level. We confirmed our tour for later on in the day, and explored the lobby-level of the hotel, finding the grocery store (and OMG they have bounty ice-creams. Best. Country. Ever!) and the ice skating rink.
But Danny, why does a hotel sitting in the hottest place in the world have a ice-skating rink you ask? Because Dubai, that’s why. That’s the opulence I was expecting everywhere. At least the hotel didn’t disappoint. After learning about Ramadan (not allowed to eat or drink in public during daylight) we promptly respected their beliefs and downed a fruit salad, my oh-so-good Bounty ice-cream and took a 2-hour nap.

Our view from our room. Look at all that sand.

I woke up feeling worse than I did before I went to bed.  Had a shower, still felt like a zombie and got dressed in what felt like slow motion before heading downstairs for wait for our driver for our 4x4 desert safari.

I’ll say it now. It was damn fun. We were picked up first, an young Asian couple were second and an Indian man who looked like he would prefer to be extracting dental floss from a dog’s rectum than being there and his wife were last. We drove about an hour out to the desert-y part of the desert Dubai. There we were met with 3 other cars full of people from different parts of the world (Americans and Germans, and some from India/Pakistan I think) and we went on the wild ride through the desert dunes.  We drove like we were P-platers in a Holden Commodore but with less unnecessary deaths.

Naturally I had my GoPro on for about 25 minutes of it and we had brief stops in between for photos, including a high dune that provided some amazing desert scenery.

After driving through the tour we arrived at a “camp” of sorts where I got to hold a falcon (and was told afterwards it was 10AED to hold him) and saw some camels in a fenced off area.

I wore a matching hat to be accepted into Falcon society.

Not entirely sure of the purpose of this stop we loaded back in arrived at another camp that was more camp-like than the previous one. This one had camels as well, and I got to ride one, it’s surprisingly comfortable. And about as exciting as I sound, though it was cool.
After the thrilling camel ride, it was sandboarding. Now, I’m not one to toot my own horn, but I can safely say I am the best sandboarder to ever grace the sands of Dubai. Never will you see such poise and balance in a beginner sandboarder., unlike a certain partner of mine who screamed and fell on her ass. Naturally I gopro’d this and the video is to come, but in the meantime, marvel at my balance…

The form, the grace, the balance. 

and Danielle falling on her ass

After my perfect sandboarding attempt that brought cheers from the crowd of people watching, I got to hold ANOTHER falcon (two in one day, whose the luckiest guy in the world? This guy)

The falcon didn’t do much but stand on his perch thing and pose for photos. I was hoping he would demonstrate their awesome hunting skills. But alas, I shall have to continue watching National Geographic to marvel at a falcon's hunting skills.
Next came the food. Oh boy it was good and I even tried some new stuff, healthy stuff even.  I won’t elaborate too much on the food. It was delicious and that is all that needs to be said.

Yes mum, I ate my greens.

It was during dinner I reflected on sand and how gosh-darn freaking annoying it is. Even with thongs on, it’s annoying. Going up sand dunes is about 10 times tougher than it is going up a normal hill of similar incline. It’s hot and it gets everywhere. My camera is full of sand particles, and it probably got into my food. It bad at a beach, it’s worse in a 40-degree desert, but the silver lining is it is good for weight loss. We (and everyone else I assume) sweated so much I could have filled an ocean with it’s own salt water.

After dinner we were treated to a dance of such impressive twirling performance, Fox Sports would need its RPM indicator to tell how many revolutions he did per minute. I don’t know how he did it, but it was a mightily impressive display of endurance and how to not get dizzy when turning so often while dancing. As someone who loves a good twirl on his chair, I could learn a thing from this guy.

We were then to depart at around 8.30pm. The sun had settled and the road was busier now than it was during the day. Apparently during Ramadan stores are open until the early hours of the morning (for example we have booked a restaurant for 9.00pm tomorrow which is when it opens) so those who are fasting (I call them Ramandanpires) were out and about and the traffic congestion showed, but there roads are impressive and more importantly they don’t have trams or one-lane roads with traffic lights every 2-seconds leading out of the city (yes I am looking at your Plenty Road!).

I was going to end this with another photo of Danni falling off her sandboard but the editor-in-chief yelled at me so here’s a photo of camels on the dunes.

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