Dubai was hardly anywhere near the top of my must-travel-to places. I assumed we would visit it (briefly) sometime, enroute to somewhere else. Come on, Dubai is all glitz and glamour and artificiality - all the stuff that I run miles from!! I remember visiting it when I was about 8-9 years old to see my grandparents who were living there then and I had a fantastic time. I remember the milk being really thick and creamy (yum!), and living in air-conditioned surroundings all through the day was a luxury and novelty :)
This summer, not having much leave and forced to look at destinations that were a quick flight away, S suggested Dubai as an option as he had air miles that he could redeem. Free tickets are always good so I quickly got in touch with a couple of B-school batchmates who lived there and who kindly invited us to stay. Free flights and free stay! Wow. Dubai immediately began to look more enticing :)
Inexhaustible planner that I am, I started shooting mails to our friends discussing our itinerary. Being very spontaneous and last-minute sort of people, they were most amused and I had to endure some good-natured ribbing on my advance planning :) We flew to Abu Dhabi one morning and immediately ran into the most disorganized chaotic airport and immigration process we have ever experienced. Hungry, tired and more than a little sleepy, we kept the kids amused while waiting interminably in a long line. Finally we cleared immigration and met our friend who was waiting to receive us and drive us to his home in Dubai. It turned out that we had landed in the middle of a sandstorm. Our friend gamely pointed out all the sights as we drove by, though we couldn't see a thing ahead or on each side of us!! I was personally quite thrilled to see a genuine Arabian sandstorm while safely inside the car :)
That evening, we walked through the Gold Souk - full of every design and ornament, beautiful and ghastly, that the hands of man can craft from the yellow metal. Fortunately I don't care for gold at all else our purses would have been significantly lighter. This ring and the gold ATM took my breath away!
A ferry ride on the Dubai creek and a fantastic Lebanese meal later, we were back home & happy to hit the sack at the end of a long long day.
The high points of the next couple of days were the Global Village, which is a kind of Dilli Haat but only 50 times larger and having craft and food stalls of what looked like almost all the countries of the world. We only managed to peek over the goodies in Iran, Pakistan and Lebanon before it was time to leave. The Dubai Mall is the world's largest mall, not that you can really tell because I wasn't going to go walk through every square feet of it! It looked much like any other mall, only a lot cleaner and shinier than most Indian malls, and of course with a massive variety of brands and products on offer. We went to the top of the Burj Khalifa to get a birds'-eye view of the city. From that high up, the scale of this country's achievement- creating a fairyland out of wasteland and arid desert - becomes palpably obvious. All thanks to the black gold lying in abundance under all that sand and sea.
A couple of things that rankled me throughout our stay in Dubai was the excessive use and wastage of power and every other resource. Three rows of street lamps spaced no more than 500 metres apart on every road and highway, each lamp-post topped with several lamps aglow, are completely unnecessary. Recycling- whazzat? Lights and air conditioning are on everywhere all the time. Even 9-year old Ads was aghast at the over-consumption and waste of natural resources.
More adventures and observations coming up in Part 2!