You can’t help but notice the Burj Khalifa when you are in Dubai. By the way Burj means tower in Arabic. At around 830 metres high it’s not far off being a kilometre into the air. It dominates the skyline and dwarfs all other buildings.
Straight off the bat I have to say I loved, loved, loved this. But first there was a little shock to overcome…
I paid for a tour to go out to the desert in Meydan near the Oman border to do some dune bashing in a 4WD, eat a traditional meal and watch a belly dancing and Emirati dance show. Also thrown in was henna painting on hands/arms, camel ride, shisha pipe and I paid extra to camp out overnight in the desert.
There were 15 4WDs so I thought at least a few people were going to be camping out with me.
Imagine my surprise when I found out that I was the only one doing the camping overnight. In the 15 4WDs all the passengers were returning to Dubai at 9pm after dinner and the show. Okay so that made me quite nervous, however, I was assured it would be very safe by our 4WD driver Fadi. I decided to go ahead with it.
If I was going to have my throat slit in the middle of the night it would be after I had enjoyed myself seeing new things. I was told there would be a staff member there too.
At the end of the show I watched everyone go wondering if I had made a big mistake by staying. The three staff members Aziz, Ahmed and Yasirali (I hope I have the I have the spelling correct) started cleaning up. A sleeping bag was brought for me and I was asked where I would like to sleep. I indicated under the stars and the sleeping bag was laid out for me. Did I need a drink? Yes please.
I was told the power would go out at 10.30pm. I wondered if I should find some kind of weapon. I was quite surprised when the last staff member Yasirali took his falcon and disappeared saying goodnight to me. I had imagined that the staff members were going to be sleeping nearby.
The power made a loud noise when it turned off at 10.26pm and I was momentarily stunned in a frozen position unable to move because you might say I was a little scared. There was silence. I was alone. But a calm descended upon the world and the campsite took on a different character. A gentle warm breeze could be heard and felt. The stars majestically came out to play in the dark and after a few minutes the stress and worries of life melted away. I relaxed a little and a peaceful feeling came over me eventually.
That sky was the most beautiful thing I had seen. So many stars and a crescent moon which disappeared quickly. However those stars stayed and hung out with me and were my friends for the night. I was watching planes go past overhead with a frequency that seemed to be every few minutes. Man, I can’t believe how busy that sky was. I didn’t sleep a lot but why waste the wonderful show that nature had provided for me. In between flyovers it was wonderful to experience SILENCE.
At 5.30am I noticed the sky was getting a little lighter so I grabbed my camera and climbed to a higher point. The sun hid behind a cloud for quite a while and I waited patiently. Finally the sun made his grand entrance and I was off taking photos.
When I had had enough I returned to my campsite and packed up a little. Soon the sun was starting to get stronger so I moved my things to the shade. I had still not seen anyone yet.
At 7.00am I was greeted by the three smiling faces of Aziz, Ahmed and Yasirali and a good morning. I didn’t get breakfast as promised but hey I was alive and I had just experienced nature at its best at night-time. After a few hours Fadi returned to collect me.
He had a friend in the car and we spoke about Emirati life in general. Back at the hotel I came back to earth.
Or do, don’t buy in Dubai in my case. I have arrived in Dubai and am enjoying my very first day here. My impressions of Dubai so far are:
- the people are friendly. So many people asking where I am from and what I am doing here. The hotel staff are very nice and went out of their way to get a room ready for me when I arrived 7 hours before check in.
- yes it is quite warm here. It was going to be 36-37 degrees celsius today but it was quite manageable and just a little more humid than what I am used to. Overall quite nice I think.
- it is a city of contrasts. Skyscrapers and modern architecture beside mosques and traditional buildings with wind towers.
- you need to take traffic and peak hours into account. I have just found out that tomorrow is the new year in the Islamic calendar and so it’s a kind of long weekend here even though it is Wednesday today. So tomorrow being New Year is a holiday and Friday (the next day) is usually a day off (like a Christian Sunday) for prayers at the mosque. I’m still trying to work out whether their weekend is Thursday/Friday or Friday/Saturday. Anyway the point is that everyone was rather keen to get home today for their ‘long weekend’ and so the peak hour traffic tonight was busy and impatient.
I spent this afternoon at Bur Dubai (the old section of town) which is near Dubai Creek. Dubai Creek, by the way, is more like a river than what I know as a creek. I visited Dubai Museum which is housed in old Fahidi Fort. It is a great building with some traditional architecture. They have displays of boats and armery in the courtyard but the main displays are housed inside the buildings and are actually underground and being underground means it is nice and cool there.
I wandered through the Bur Dubai souk and the vendors tried everything in the book to get me to look at their wares and hopefully make a sale but I was determined not to buy anything at this stage. There was one part that had a lot of textiles. Actually it was shop after shop of textiles – so many beautiful fabrics.
I quite liked the creekside walk and looking at the abras and dhows that were transporting people to the other side of the creek or just up and down the creek for fun. I think a ride up and down the creek is well worth it and was lovely at dusk. It got dark at around 6pm so beware if you are in Dubai during October that you will lose light at that time and it doesn’t take long before it is ‘night’.