At the end of the nearly fourteen hour flight from Adelaide to Dubai, the plane was parked off ramp and it was a twenty-five minute ride to the terminal. Not something you expect – Dubai international airport is rather large though. Customs was a breeze and it is always comforting to see your bag spill out of the chute. A suggestion for travellers staying over in Dubai, ensure that your book-in time is not at 1500 hours. That is a real pain for those flying in from Australia and arriving at around 0600. All you want is to shower and unpack and grab a couple of hours of sleep, without the roar of a jet engine.
Then I hit a hurdle, my Qantas Cash Card didn’t work. I was facing three weeks and no access to money. However, some online checking, a phone call to Australia and it was all fixed. I love it when customer service actually works.
Just after 11am I headed out to the Dubai Mall, which is part of the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building. According to the promotional material about this construction the weight of the concrete used is equivalent to the weight of 100,000 elephants – what ever that is. Surely only a marketer could dream up something like that? Even the trip in the lift to the 140th or more floors is an experience. The lights are turned out and there is a surround sound and surround vision of the construction history and other interesting snippets of information. Then you walk out and onto the viewing area.
Firstly I was swamped by four or five photographers – you can buy the prints when you get back to the ground floor for some rather steep prices, around A$45 for one. I graciously declined. Walking outside onto the other viewing area gave me some tingles in the fingertips. I have a healthy respect for heights and while I have abseiled and jumped from a couple of stories during my years as a firefighter, this is quite different. The ground moves. The wind stress on the building must be enormous and there is a sway you can feel. There are gaps in the safety glass surrounds where you can extend your hand an half your arm and that was a different feeling. It was hazy and there was significant sand in the air too. Yet the views were spectacular and I was surprised at how much vacant land (sand) there was – but construction is booming.
The Muslim fasting period of Ramadan is nearing its end for the year. However, for non-Muslims it makes the mid-day meals a bit of a challenge – even getting a coffee requires some searching skills. If nothing else the custom is accommodating. While most restaurants and cafes are closed until after 7pm: with a few curtains and mobile boards in place and thus, hidden away those not of the faith, we can eat. The selections are generally ‘fast food’, ‘junk food’, or ‘fast food’! So I had a variety, some fast and some junk.
Saturday night I used the hotel suggested (read the kick-back system) ‘taxi’ to meet with friends. Try double-plus the cost of a normal taxi, and the locals were outraged. We all live and learn. Having learnt my lesson the same trip on Sunday afternoon cost less than 50% compared to the previous afternoon. We had dinner at the Kaleidoscope Restaurant at the Atlantic Resort. So much food, but I managed to contain myself. This is build on reclaimed land and there is a sea wall opposite the resort, rocks to prevent erosion and no sand… not a place for swimming, that is all done in the half dozen or so pools in the resort.
Sunday afternoon and around four o’clock I was picked up in a Toyota 4-wheel drive for a ‘desert safari’. The eight seats in the Toyota were filled, an Indian driver, one Indian (local), four Chinese and one lone Aussie. English was the common language, but the accents and speed of delivery were a challenge for all of us. However, by the trip’s end we were communicating quite well. The drive out to the sand hills was about an hour, and it was a scenic drive of sand and more sand, a brown to reddish colour. Once the tyre pressure was down to about 15 (kpa) – so we didn’t get bogged – we joined a convey of four other vehicles for a thrill. I had been 4-wheel driving previously, not on big sand hills like this, but none of the others had experienced it in their past. The screams were loud. It was a bit of fun and the mid-ride break, to walk for a while, was welcome. I had been the driver in my previous experiences so relying an someone else was an added challenge.
Back at the ‘base-camp’ there were camel rides, quad-bikes to drive and the normal tourist ‘stuff’ to buy. I avoided the camel rides, one, I had ridden camels in Broom (WA) and two, the current health scare on ‘camel flu’. Dinner was provided, chicken and lamb with rice and flat breads.
Due to Ramadan the entertainment for the evening did not include any females so no belly dancing or singing. Nonetheless it was entertaining.
One the drive out to the freeway, our driver had to use a ‘snatch-strap’ to pull out a bogged mini-bus. What I found interesting was that there were twelve people in the bus and no one got out. Without the people in it I could have driven it onto harder ground. It was almost 11pm when I got back to the hotel, the last to be dropped off – somewhat tired.