Trip to Dubai 2006
All travel reports are translated electronically although minor improvements are sometimes made.
Trip to Dubai 2006
My trip to Dubai was my first contact with the Arab world. Above all, in Dubai I saw huge contrasts. On the one hand I saw the traditional Old Dubai and poor immigrants who worked beyond their strength in the murderous heat. On the other hand I saw the rich New Dubai where the splendour and wealth were as immense as if the Arabian sand was made of gold. Dubai is a construction site, so the city never stops changing and delighting. However, as a traveller looking for realism I prefer Old Dubai. I also advise to go to Dubai only in winter because the merciless heat is unbearable for white people.
My trip: Old Dubai – New Dubai.
(Traditional Dubai, river boat transport, cheap counterfeit goods market, poor immigrants, Jumeirah beach, Burj al-Arab hotel, night at Jumeirah beach, hellish heat!)
The first thing that hit me when I got to the Emirates was the heat I have never experienced before. It was a dry heat that was with me all the time and it was hard to breathe, even though it was already mid-August. As it turned out later, even the water in the sea was far too warm, so the best time for a walk was in the evening. The second thing that couldn’t be ignored was the exotic naure that surrounded me. Tall, massive palm trees grew everywhere, the shade of which was a real blessing.
I left my big suitcase at the airport, only took a backpack with swimming trunks and a towel with me, and took the local bus to the old part of Dubai. The ride was short, and luckily the bus was air-conditioned. The trip only cost four dirhams. I got off in the old part of the city, the one that is never shown on postcards. It was poor there, people lived in dingy buildings and the sanitary conditions and cleanliness in the ‘restaurants’ were as if the health and safety department in the Emirates did not exist. However, in that part I came across the real life of average working people, that is, the lives of immigrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and many other countries. Everyone was always willing to help me if I didn’t understand something.
After that, I also walked alone at night in the old part of the city, and although I was the only white man here among Muslims with my shoddy goods, I always felt safe. This morning I also went to see one mosque but I was not allowed to enter because it was closed to me during prayers. Dubai is full of mosques where loud prayers are heard from time to time. Against the backdrop of palm trees, with bearded Muslims and in that infernal heat, I was exhausted. So I walked into a fabric and carpet store for a while, where of course there was air conditioning; and I immediately felt better.
I was also wondering where I was going to spend the night. I called some of the cheapest hotels but these were full and the others were so expensive I gave up. So I was hoping to save and spend the night on the beach next to the famous wind surfing hotel Burj-Al-Arab. I continued walking, pausing in the shade of the palm trees by the fountains and sipping water. I was also beginning to realize that I had to get to the beach quickly because I really wanted to take a bath. I came to the Creek, which is the port in old Dubai, where the tout persuaded me to get to the other side on his ship that stinks with oil. It was very hot and the atmosphere really gave me a hard time. The cruise was very informative because I could see the buildings of Dubai on a longer stretch and on the way I also had an unshaven and sweat-smelling passenger. It was a real luxury because we were only three of us. The same ship was passing me by, and it also smelled of oil, but was stuffed to the brim.
Water taxis at this point carry cheap labor to work from Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Iran, Yemen and many other countries. At the sight of the white man, despite the murderous heat they all shouted “hello”, so I did too. After reaching the shore again I entered the air-conditioned shop and then I started again. I also noticed; although I may be wrong, that from women they didin’t take money.
I enjoyed the exoticism that surrounded me, I ate fruit and drunk fruit drinks with crushed ice. It was a moment of relaxation, especially since all pubs were air-conditioned. From there I got to the bus station, which took me to the new part of Dubai, but I will tell about my impressions of that place in a separate chapter.
The new (rich) and old (poor) parts of Dubai are located far from each other, probably so that tourists could only see what they pay the most for and where they would feel safe. The old part is safe too, but it certainly stimulates the imagination after dark. For me, the rich part was pretty, but without the feeling of adventure. In the old (poor) part of the city, I sat in one of the dirty Arab restaurants where men, tired after work were eating kebabs. I drank milk straight from the coconut and then I made a kebab for someone else. Loud Arabic music was playing, making a hair bristle on the head, and the atmosphere of that place with a herd of dirty Arabs eating meat was unique. I felt great there; completely different than in the tourist district. I already had a lot of experience in such type of places, although I’ve been through much worse. I also went to have some ice cream in an air-conditioned bar where I watched a program on TV, having no idea what I was staring at. That day, I felt that the sun had exhausted me and I had to do something with myself for the night. So I took the bus to the beach, I unfolded my towel and quickly fell asleep. I was lucky that night because I didn’t come across a police patrol.
Old Dubai was the best and I sincerely recommend it to everyone, although I don’t advise to get excited about the great bargains and discounts offered by street traders. Everything is counterfeit, as evidenced by the prices. For example, the ‘original’ Casio G-Shock watch can be purchased for as little as £5, though the buttons don’t work. There are also ‘original’ audio gear, jeans, gold, diamonds and sneakers from the best companies; and all of that for only 10% of the value. In Old Dubai, I advise to not shop around and limit yourselves to eating only, because that’s the only thing which is real and very good there.
(Non-traditional Dubai for tourists, glamor and wealth, huge class differences, playground for millionaires.)
The next day I woke up on the beach somewhere in Dubai. I would sleep longer but the sun effectively prevented it. I quickly rejuvenated in the magnificent waters of the Gulf and then went on to “conquer” the city. The water was exceptional, delicious. There was a long shallow entrance and the sea was very warm, transparent and it was standing in place.
Of course, the first thing I wanted to see that day was the famous windsurfing island hotel, Burj Al-Arab.Again I took the air-conditioned bus and soon got to the place. Indeed the hotel was beautiful. It is a symbol of Dubai and a real money monument. I wanted to enter his area but unfortunately I was not allowed in. Burj Al Arab is the only seven-star hotel, aand it is 321m high.
Burj Al-Arab hotel is located on an artificial promontory situated 280m from the shore and is also the tallest hotel building; although it is not the highest placed hotel. There are only apartments where prices for one night reach up to 35000 USD. As far as I know, there is also a living coral reef located on several floors, a helicopter landing pad and many other breathtaking things. Some of the most expensive apartments are made of gold. As you can see it is a paradise for millionaires who do not count on money. I just bathed near Jumeirah Beach, from which it was very well seen this beautiful, extraordinary building, in the night in many colours.
The water was as usual warm and it was great but I was experiencing the pains after going out to the beach because the sand was so hot. Then I came here after dark to wash my sweat all day because the heat was very annoying. It was only when Jumeirah Beach came to the beach that it was lighter under the cover of the night. Nearby was another well-known hotel, built in the shape of a sea wave, Jumeirah Beach. This is another exclusive hotel in Dubai, although the shape does not match Burj Al Arab. Around the Jumeirah beach was also the Wild Wadi water park, offering unforgettable attractions, but I had to take into account that outside was almost 50 degrees, so it was way too hot to go swimming. After leaving the beach and after seeing the hotel (unfortunately only from the outside) I went to the bus stop where I roasted myself like in a frying pan, watching the surroundings. I saw how the lawns were built and how the poor immigrants from the Indian Subcontinent and other countries of the Arab peninsula worked beyond their strength in the hellish heat. There was a water hose with irrigation holes under each lawn as Dubai is built in a hot desert.
Finally, I had a salvage, air-conditioned bus and accompanied the poor refugees to another great attraction, the Mall of the Emirates. This time they let me in where I could breathe a little because they had glorious air conditioning. On the way I noticed that Emirati citizens always wore traditional white Arabian shirts and headgear, while Arab women wore dresses and hats according to the Islamic etiquette. However, their costumes were beautifully cut and sewn with high quality material. In addition, they drove luxury cars, even ‘dripping’ with wealth. I think I’ve seen a few Rolls Royses with a delicate leather upholstery inside. Immigrants however were tired all the time, dressed poorly and they used buses. These are two sides of Dubai that stand out there.
In the centre there was also a mountain with artificial snow and a ski lift. In the moment I understood, that for money you can even build a mountain of ice in a hot desert! It looked really impressive, given that you could go skiing in the Middle East. Outside the heat was falling from the sky, and inside there were ski slopes with five different routes, up to 400m long, where the temperature was -1/-2 degrees Celcius. In Dubai it is very clearly visible that if you have money you can do anything you want.
In the same mall, I invited myself to some great Arabic cuisine in one of the better restaurants, and oddly enough it wasn’t very expensive. The food was delicious and they served me with all the honors. While eating I had a good vantage point which was also a good experience. I noticed that especially rich Arab women are very proud and haughty, and they like to parade around the most expensive shops, showing their jewelry and seemingly modest dresses, but emphasizing the body shape. Of course, all within the limits of the laws of Islam. I also saw that a few were smiling flirtatiously at me, which is after all contrary to their religion. I also witnessed when one Arab dressed in his traditional ‘pajama’ came to dinner with his two wives and five children. Even though they were rich, they ate with their paws and threw themselves at their food like dogs. I bet he had spent a fortune on this dinner, but then I realized that manners couldn’t be bought with money.
After leaving the mall, the heat struck me, and this time I gave myself a bus. For only 5 dirhams I went back to Jumeirah Beach and again bathed in beautiful, clear, warm sea, drinking fresh fruit juice. I had the palm trees behind and this unique hotel, which mingled with colors in the night. I also noticed that one thing that is really cheap in Dubai are taxis because petrol doesn’t have to be imported.
My adventures at the Dubai airport
Very unusual is that in Dubai I did not live in any hotel. Arrival and departure times have settled with my sleep on the beach, and that way I spent in Dubai two full days. I could stay longer but I felt exhausted with the heat. I knew I could no longer do it and that’s why I decided to fly out that night. I also hoped that there would be one free place. In the meantime, because of the heat, I felt so exhausted that I even drank at the air-conditioned airport. I felt I needed a shower and it was fast because of the stench they could not let me into the airplane. Of course the showers were not, but a traveller of my kind must be able to handle any situation.
I remembered that I was in a Muslim country, and here I was not rubbing my butt with paper but rinsing with shit with a rubber hose. Also in the cabin 1m on the 1m maid mainly to “donate shit”, I took a shower with a tool designed to clean Arabian butts. I washed all the soap, rinsed, threw, put on clean clothes and felt like a brand new man. I think that everyone who reads this report would surely admit that I am as classy as no other. It was the first experience of this kind in my life and I recommend it only as a last resort.
Then a new problem appeared. I had a flight to Seoul but for another date so I had to wait 2h for a decision or would I go. Otherwise I would have to wait another 24h at the airport. Luckily I was allowed to fly but the decision was so late that I barely managed to fly. I ran as fast as I could through a very long airport and when they closed the gate they saw me running and shouting to wait. I am still very clean and refreshed. That’s how I got to the plane flying to Seoul, but I’ll tell you about it in another report, because that is a completely different story.
Summary of Dubai
My stay in Dubai was short but very informative and spontaneous. Both old and new have their own unique charms though personally prefer Old Dubai as it just reflects the meaning and purpose of my expeditions.Dubai is primarily a great desert, which is a huge construction site, where luxury hotels are built for the wealthy with oil money. If I had come here again for a year or two, surely a lot would have changed. Dubai shows very well that everything is possible with money, including ski slopes built in the hot desert. Dubai offers much more attractions than I described in my report, and contrary to what others say, I think the attraction is just as much as anyone can afford. You can fly a balloon over the desert, go for a camel safari and spend the night in a picturesque oasis, stay in a hotel with golden door handles and a glass ceiling over which colorful fishes float. All you have to do is quote the price.
I don’t consider myself a specialist from Dubai or Emirates because I have not seen everything I wanted, but from my experience I have some advice for future travelers. First of all, I recommend first book the hotel over the internet as it will be the only cheap option for Dubai, which is still relatively expensive. The hotel advises on how to explore attractive places outside of Dubai. I strongly advise to come only in the winter. Then it will be hot but at least tolerable. I also advise you to be restrained in shopping. The Arabs are able to bargain well and are masters of squatting. Finally, the Emirates is a Muslim country, and that’s why I advise you to familiarize yourself with the customs and be careful about the way women should dress, especially in the vicinity of mosques; and I warn against drinking alcohol.
There is one more thing which I think about Islam: poor Muslims go to mosques and they read the Koran (if they can read), while rich Muslims go to brothels and they read Playboy. The element of hypocrisy is evident throughout the Islamic world.