The new melting pot
Ever cook something soupy and fatty and then leave it out to cool for a while? The soup gets all filmy with a layer of oily fat at the top. Break that separation and you'll get to the blended ingredients.
That, in a nutshell, is Dubai.
Cosmopolitan: check. Diverse: check. Gregarious: check. Unspoiled natural beauty: check. Conservative: check. Young: check. Unexpected: check.
The presence of Bloomingdales, shake shack, Buddha bars, and the likes indicates that this city isn't just going to stop at importing Starbucks and McDonalds. The finer things in life (like every goddamn brand name in the americas) The fast follower has surpassed the leader all within mere 50 years time. In 1960s UAE had about 59,000 population. The country formed in 1971. By the time I was born, its population rose to 207,000. Back in the days these guys were Bedouins - roaming around the desert in search for food, or they were pearl divers, or both. The period of decline in pearl value coincided with the discovery of oil in the 1960s. Wallah - 42 years later, Dubai is the world's most ambitious, most fast growing city. It also houses the tallest building - Burj Khalifa and the one and only 7 star hotel - Burj Al Arab.
Unlike its aspiring little sister Doha, Dubai is bustling with people of all ages and ethnicities. Emeratis are much more warmer and open minded. There are more of them. They don't keep to themselves. They mingle. They are also more aggressive in the Souqs (which btw was kinda lame, IMO). The migrant workers are treated way better than in Qatar - which IMO borders indentured servant / slavery .. And that's really lame.
In this part of the trip I made one vague plan to meet up with w few TEDxers who were hopping over to Dubai also. I made one solid plan to skydive Dubai's palm jumeirah. Not much else. Turns out I ran into 2 other TEDxers on my flight - a girl from jerusalem and a guy from gotenborg. We ended up hanging out for the next three day together. One thing so amazing about traveling with people you don't know personally but already have a common ground and a connection is you know for sure what you make out of the 3 days together will be a wonderful foundation of friendship that won't be lost. My brain was only half working when I landed in Dubai. Some combination of post conference tiredness and lack of proper sleep. I made the first horrible travel mistake: I left my bag of IDs, cards, and money in the cab. It was traumatizing.
Luckily lindz shared the cab with me and picked it up (phew)... After many phone calls and emails we finally touched base and all is good again. Tip: always keep a back up cash and card somewhere else. The first night was spent in fairly low key mode. All the TEDxers met up at the SkyView bar, top of Burj Al Arab - the iconic 7 star hotel. Imagine Aladdin meets Tron - that's the bar. I finally ordered a hideously over-the-top expensive drink that was even more expensive than the drink at the Plaza hotel NY.. Twice as expensive. $55 to be exact. It was a champaign with honey, vodka, raspberry, kaffir syrup, some other stuff. Kick ass? Yes. $55 kick ass? No. Great view tho. The next day was probably one of those omfg day that you already know going in before it even happens. The morning started off with .. Skydiving!!!! Yea. It was so worth it. I don't think I'll jump off the plane for the hell of it from this point on out. Its sooooo much better when there's an amazing landscape to see as you fly down. We took off on this teeny propeller plane on the waterfront runway that's half built. It's ok. Long enough to lift off. 13,000 ft above the great Palm Jumeirah. Breathtaking. Exhilarating. 5minutes and there - you've seen the entire city. Beats the tour bus any day. Yesterday in the midst of panicking about the lost wallet, I managed to also break my DSLR. Tip: if you find your electronics swimming in leaked bottled water, don't attempt to pull it out and immediately snap a picture, no matter what. I wrangled the thing all night to see if it was salvageable at all. No dice. This sucks. There's no way I'm going thru the rest of this trip without a DSLR... So I went to the mall. Got a 7D (yeaaaaaa). Figure I can send my old camera back to canon to fix when I get home and then just eBay it. There is no time to fix it here.
lindz had on her bucket list "to ride an Arabian horse" so she, Carl, and I took off that afternoon to an equestrian resort thing in the middle of nowhere. Well .. More like inland Dubai. It's not really that far. Our cab driver got us so ridiculously lost that by the time we got on the horse it was right around sunset. Oddly enough rain shower started pouring, through the setting sun. The locals said it was the first rain this year. The sky was dark in some patches and light on the horizon. We galloped our beautiful Arabian beasts for a while till the moon rose. It was surreal. I don't even know how to ride a horse. That evening the staple guy gave us a little tour of the ranch. The horses get a quick bath and dinner. (I get to feed them!!) then they just chillax in the staple with individual fans. The staple for 1 horse looks way bigger than most NY apartments. Crazy. We also met the winning race horse. He can run 120km/hr - as fast as a car - for a full 40minutes. Ridic. He is worth 500,000 Dh. Super cute.
I think if I ever make it back to Dubai one day with someone special (read: a boy), I'll want to come back here again. The ranch is also a desert oasis hotel spa, themed in this minimalist Arabian style. So nice. We stopped over to their rooftop lounge for some tea and shisha over dusky breezy night, live Arabian 2-piece band playing vibrantly in the background.
The night capped off with a visit to Ravi - Dubai's famous Pakistani grill house. It reminds me a bit of being in BKK. Super cheap street food. Long lines. They do a few things really well. We sat and nommed an enormous amount of Amazing-ness. I made a giant food baby. T'was a brilliant day.
The following day was probably best themed as the transportation day. We took a taxi, boat, bus, train. If there's more, we would have done it. Went to visit the Bastakia area, then wandered the souqs, bought some interesting spices, got tired, cabbed out to the northern tip of town were no tourist ventures, got a sick Moroccan Hamman, double back to Burj Khalifa (tallest bldg in the world), saw the crazy dancing fountain, got a drink, chatted about the Middle East conflict and the role of religion in that area, and parted ways.
New friends acquired. Night cap: the cabbie on the way back to the hotel was a bit weird. He resembles what I imagine a brain washer al qaeda guy to be like, but not really. He just went on and on about no matter how happy I am in life with everything I have, until I submit to the Koran and the teaching of Allah, I will go to hell. There are big snakes in hell. Other religions are bad. They steer me away from the great Allah. This went on for 30 minutes, plus 10 while parked at the front of my hotel. Hmmmm. Yea. Good intention - I hope.
Sent from my iPhone