What to say about Dubai? In some ways, it’s absolutely insane and unlike any place we have ever been, but in other ways, we’ve yet to visit anywhere as outwardly similar to the US. It’s crazy with all of the construction that is EVERYWHERE, the whole city is a huge building site (cranes everywhere)! One of the most known projects they are working on currently is the Burj Dubai, which, at 600 meters, is already the tallest building in the world and they are still working on the 200 meter spire at the top. It’ll be 800 meters, to the Sears Tower’s mere 412. Many of you, I am sure, have also heard of the Burj Al Arab, which is the seven-star hotel that resembles a billowing sail (unfortunately, we didn’t bring formal enough attire to visit there). Dubai is also working “like crazy” to build a new world trade center. It is a goal to develop the city as a financial hub, on par with New York or London. Many investors are very interested and it will be interesting to see how this all unfolds for them. The United Arab Emirates is doing all of this because they realize their oil will not last forever. They believe that if they build world-class infrastructure that they, like the U.K. before them, can remain a viable country long after their natural resources are depleted and all their left with is SAND!
Look at all of the cranes in this picture- every building has one!
While in Dubai we also decided to do some snow skiing! Yes, you read that right. The day we skied, Dubai was roughly 35 Celsius. Because everything that Dubai does is a bit “crazy”, they decided to build an indoor ski resort at one of their shopping malls. At “Ski Dubai” you can buy a two hour pass (plenty for one hill, believe me) for about $35 and that includes equipment rentals and a jacket and pants. Ski Dubai was definitely not the most challenging skiing we have ever done, but it wasn’t the easiest either. This indoor resort at the mall managed to make better terrain than the hill we skied on near Dayton, Ohio. Mostly though, skiing here was a novelty for us, and we can now say that we have skied, indoors, at a mall in the middle eastern desert.
We also visited the older, more traditional part of town where the “gold souk” is. This was also, of course, “crazy” in its own way, as there was more gold there than we have ever seen (or have ever cared to see, for that matter).
At 65 kg (143 pounds), this is the world’s largest gold ring, but it’s just not my style.
The main reason for visiting Dubai was to visit our friend, Anne. She was an exchange student from Belgium who lived with my family in Battle Ground, WA my senior year of high school. Anne and her husband, Valery, have been living in Dubai as ex-pats for the past seven years and have a two and a half year old son who was born in there. Valery has been working as a civil engineer on the world’s largest mosque in U.A.E.’s capital city of Abu Dhabi. We appreciated them taking some time out of their busy lives to show us some of their new city.
We went water skiing near the Burj Al Arab and got this great photo of Adam. The Persian (aka “Arabian”) gulf is warm, smooth, and without traffic- a skiers paradise.
We also spent some time with Anne and Alix at a resort where we swam, relaxed, and ate most of the day. It was great thinking that this was the middle of November, we definitely wouldn’t be doing this at home.
Now for the stuff that made us feel like we were “back in the USA”. The cars, they are big just like in our country, not many pick-ups though. Also, the grocery stores and malls are huge just like at home, but often they will have a separate room for the pork and will label it as a room for “non-Muslims”. Dubai as a city is designed much like a typical American city in the fact that it is very difficult to get around without a car, it is not very pedestrian friendly (maybe in this way they are not using foresight for when they run out of oil). Our friends also lived in a neighborhood that looked like a typical housing development that was constructed within the past ten years in California, same stucco and design. Since 90% of the population is not local, Dubai has had to make concessions for many tastes and lifestyles.
A few days into our Dubai visit, I checked our email. Surprisingly, our airline sent us an email with the subject “new itinerary”. It was the same as the old itinerary, minus our next three flights! No explanation was given. With the 12 hour time difference from the US, sorting this out took a few days. I’m just glad we check email regularly- it would’ve been a rude surprise to show up at the airport without a flight.
That, unfortunately, wasn’t the only rude surprise at the airport though. While going through security they confiscated my cable lock for my laptop computer. This REALLY pissed me off. I shopped forever to find one of the few locks on the market that had a reputation for not jamming and not being easy to pick, and I paid a pretty high price for such a simple device. I bought it mostly for the SE Asia leg of the trip (where we are now), too. Anyway, I’d brought this lock through security at Albuquerque, Chicago, Madrid, Istanbul (twice), London (twice), and Düsseldorf. A couple of times they asked to see it- presumably to make sure it wasn’t detonation cord, but they never confiscated it. Anyway, the security guy said they had to confiscate any cable more than one meter, and said I should’ve put it in my checked luggage. I replied that this is the only airport in the world that I’ve been to that confiscates this sort of thing, and it shouldn’t have to be in checked. He insisted that it was illegal. I said fine, but I’d like to see the rules that specifically ban this sort of thing before I give up my brand new expensive lock. He hemmed and hawed, and took my passport, and pretended to do official stuff, but could not show me any rule banning such a thing. Still, he did the B.S. “Sorry- but you can’t take it. Enjoy your flight”, but wouldn’t give it back. He said I could file for compensation, but when I tried to take a picture of him with the lock (how else would the airline or airport know it was confiscated and by whom?) he got really pissed. Shawn dragged me off before I got arrested, but such unreasonable people really make me mad. Needless to say, there’ll be no compensation for my lock, and now my laptop is more vulnerable when we leave our room. The strange thing is, you can still take the power cord for laptops- he didn’t confiscate a single one. You can also take dental floss, and believe it or not, fat people can still wear belts. I’m not sure what I was supposed to do with my cable that I couldn’t do with those things, but I decided not to bring it up for fear of getting my power cable stolen along with my lock.
Anyhow, after another long, nearly sleepless overnight flight, we arrived in Bangkok. We’ve just been hanging out in one area, trying to make arrangements for Nepal and later destinations on our trip. Where having a pretty tough time finding an affordable ticket from Kathmandu back to Bangkok, but one of the travel agents here said we might find better deals FROM Kathmandu. I guess we’re going to go for it, although it is a bit unnerving going there with no ticket back. I guess we’ll see what happens.
In about 5 hours, we have to get up for another very early flight to Bhutan. This’ll be the biggest highlight we have planned for this trip. I’m not sure what internet access is like there, and I know it isn’t particularly good in Nepal, so this will likely be our last post for a couple of weeks. Have a good Thanksgiving and, if you don’t hear from us by then, a merry Christmas!
P.S.- If you want to read short captions about all of our pictures, or download a print-quality high resolution version of a photo, check out our Flickr site at http://www.flickr.com/photos/adamandshawn/