On the weekend of March 4, I went with my friend Stefan to visit Dubai, also known as the “City of Dreams” and the “Paris of the Middle East”. I think it lived up to its first nickname (I’ve never been to Paris), although it was at the same time one of the strangest places I’ve been to.
Believe it or not, Dubai is not a very far drive from Ibri! Since I don’t have a car, though, I had to rely on taxis and buses, which made the trip a little longer. We started at 2:30 in the afternoon with taking a taxi from Ibri to Al-Ain, an Emirati city on the border of Oman. In fact, Al-Ain and the Omani city on the other side of the border, Al-Buraimi, were really part of the same city that was split apart when Oman and the United Arab Emirates were negotiating their borders. From there we took a bus to Dubai, and after a few confusing metro stops and a long walk we made it to our room at the Rahab hotel, a very basic hotel in a non-touristy area. We got to our room around 9:00, and were pretty tired, so we just at dinner at a Yemeni restaurant and then went to bed. It’s funny that I had never eaten Yemeni food before I came here, and now I’m pretty used to it. It’s generally a plate of yellow rice cooked with saffron, cardamom, and cinnamon among other things with meat on top (I always choose fish), and it’s always served with a very spicy sauce that’s like salsa but with a bit more tomato juice. I always prefer to eat it the correct way – with my hands!
We started early at about 9:00 the next day (early for me) and took a taxi to the Dubai Mall. We had some nice samosas for breakfast at a little cafe near our hotel.
We explored the shops until around 11:30, when we went up to the 124th floor of the Burj Khalifa, the tallest structure in the world! The elevator was surprisingly fast. All we really did was take the elevator up to the top, spent half an hour up there, and then went back down. But it was worth it!
After that, we got lunch at, believe it or not, The Cheesecake Factory! Yes, I know that of all the amazing international restaurants I could have visited in Dubai, I decided to go for an American one. But, at that particular time, I was feeling very homesick, and I really needed some Mexican food. I had some very good nachos there; they would have been good even at home! I didn’t really have room for it, but I decided to get vanilla bean cheesecake for dessert, too.
We went around to check out the Mall of the Emirates after that, to see most of the same types of stores. I didn’t really buy anything though, because I don’t really need anything! I did buy a few Arabic books, and some nice calligraphy pens. My favorite store was the Virgin Megastore, because there was an electronic drum set there, so I can at least say when I get back that I didn’t go an entire 4 months without playing the drums! I also bought a harmonica there to practice with since I forgot mine at home. As I implied, I’m not much of a shopper, but these malls really were incredible. All of the stores were huge, and there were even more impressive things in them. The Mall of the Emirates, for example, has a indoor ski slope!
We rested in the late afternoon until the evening, and then we went to a cafe in the Emirates Grand hotel later at night to have milkshakes.
Here’s a video that shows the view from my hotel window – you can hear the call to prayer from a nearby mosque. In fact, it woke me up every morning at 4:00 AM because our window didn’t close very well!
The next morning, we slept in and went off to the Dubai Marina very briefly, but that was all that we had time to do before we made our way back to the bus.
We were able to take a bus with the Oman Transport Company from Dubai to Ibri, with a few stops along the way. That journey in theory was going to go relatively smoothly, but for some reason it seems as though whoever drove that bus had never driven that route before. They got us lost, first of all, exiting Dubai, which added about an hour and a half to our journey, then they almost drove through the border without stopping to let us buy visas! Additionally, all of the bags under the bus were searched by the Omani border guard when we returned, which was apparently just random selection. We arrived back home at about 11:30, when we were supposed to be there by 9:00.
Now, my opinion! Dubai is really a beautiful city, and it’s definitely worth a visit, but at the same time, I think only if you are interested in blowing through a bunch of money! My first impression was that there’s not really much to do there other than go see shows, go to restaurants, and shop. Another interesting fact is that only 1 percent of Dubai residents are Emirati. It definitely seemed that way when I was walking around. Most of the people I saw there were either expatriate workers or tourists from all parts of the globe. Visiting Dubai made me realize just how rich the Emirates are, and I did get quite tired after a while of “Gold Class” this and “Luxury” that. Also, there was a very stark difference between the giant malls that I visited and the cheaper area of town where my hotel was, and I think the people living where I stayed don’t live the “Dubai life” that is advertised. Ask me when I get back if you want to hear more of my opinion on that matter. I do know, though, that I’d like to visit Dubai again before I leave. There’s much more there than what I was able to see in my brief time there.
Last but not least, here’s some videos from when it rained in the past few weeks in Ibri!