Strictly: Sand (in my eye!)

 

When you’re me a new month can only mean one thing: it’s time for another holiday! September was a new month, and so I jetted off to Dubai, to see Barry and my mum and also to see what Dubai is all about. You will be pleased to hear that this is another holiday where I didn’t get attacked by a marine creature, although on our last day we went paddle boarding, and I saw some jellyfish and lost my shit. I’m willing to believe that as I only actually saw two of them together it could well have been two very speedy jellyfish chasing me around the bay, but safe to say that after I saw them I was determined that no matter what, come tropical storm, shark attack or the urge for a quick swim, I would stay on my paddle board and would not become jellyfish food. I was probably a lot better at paddle boarding because of this than I would have otherwise been.

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Anyway, I digress. I had a week in Dubai, which seems a lot but actually never turns out to be quite long enough. I’d heard a lot about Dubai before I went and was intrigued to see just what it was like. And boy, is it an experience. I tell you what, Singapore likes to think of itself as the ‘shop and dine’ capital of the world. They love shopping, they love eating, they love doing them both in the same place and never having to go outside between activities. And yes, Singapore is pretty good at it, but compared to Dubai Singapore is the Neanderthal of the shop and dine world, while Dubai is like a futuristic, District 1 superhuman. In other words, Dubai is like Singapore on speed. I’m pretty used to shopping malls, but even I could not get over some of the stuff I saw in Dubai Mall and Mall of the Emirates. The latter has an actual indoor ski slope. Not your typical dry ski slope that you can see in many UK leisure centres but an actual snow covered mountain, man made, inside a shopping mall, complete with a ski lift and chalet style hotel (still in the mall) overlooking the ski slope. Not to be outdone, Dubai Mall has an actual dinosaur skeleton and a massive aquarium, where you can go scuba diving (of course) in the middle of the mall. It is honestly a crazy, crazy place.

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I could probably go on about the craziness of Dubai malls for the whole of this post, but I will refrain so that I can fit some other stuff in too. Although while I’m on the topic of crazy shopping experiences, on my last night we went down to Souk Madinat, a recreation of a traditional Arabic souk that is basically its own town, complete with on-site hotel, its own beach and traditional riverboats to carry hotel guests from the souk to their rooms. Like I said, it’s a crazy place.

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So far it sounds like I only went to shopping malls during my Dubai week. I mean, you could definitely spend a week in Dubai and only go to shopping malls but I think that would probably kill me. It does illustrate my lasting impression of Dubai though – it’s a place that does not do things by half. On my first night I had the crazy experience of just being in Dubai Mall, after which we went out to see the Burj Kalifa, the world’s tallest building, which has an insane dancing fountain light show every half an hour, every single night. The show I saw was set to Thriller (obviously) but the music changes every show, which is just plain showing off. It was ridiculously over the top and cheesy and I loved it.

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When I came into this post I was going to write about what I did, day by day, but then I remembered that Dubai was so insanely hot that we actually never managed to do very much during the days, and instead had to fit everything into short bursts when the outdoor temperature was almost, but still not quite, bearable. Except for the day when mum and I decided to do the open-top bus tour and nearly died from overheating. A few days before we had gone down to the Marina and survived maybe 5 minutes outside before having to go in search of air-con so that we didn’t die. We were probably a little bit optimistic with the bus tour, but there was never going to be a time when it was cool enough to do it comfortably so we just had to commit and do the tour in the crazy desert heat. For the majority of it that was fine, and I particularly enjoyed the museum, not just because it was inside, but also because it was actually a really good museum which did a good job of capturing the areas past and also showcasing its rapid development from desert settlement to global business hub in a mere few decades.

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It was the unfortunately closed Heritage Village that did us in. I really wanted to see the Heritage Village, which sounded like an interesting place to see the way that people used to live in the Emirates, but when we got there it turned out that it was closed for renovations, and the only place we could visit was a museum dedicated to the ruling family of Dubai that did not satisfy my need to be cold. I’m not sure I managed to cool down after the Heritage Village but we still powered on and visited the Spice Souk which was cool, except that it was still too hot and, despite the fact that most of the vendors were closed we still got harassed by people trying to sell us stuff. I’m not sure what the souk vendors of Dubai watch but they kept calling me Shakira who I do not look, in any way, like. It wasn’t so much flattering as confusingly inaccurate. We had the same problem in the Old Souk, which we had visited earlier in the day, I just really wish that people would leave you alone to browse in peace! Anyway, we survived to souks and the ridiculous heat and decided that we would end our day with the free hour long cruise on a traditional Arabic dhow up and down the Dubai creek. The cruise was interesting and a nice way to end the day, although a little confusing as I’m pretty sure we were on a party boat which is not where you expect to have a tour. The whole thing was pretty poorly organised though, we got off the half-hourly bus to be told that we had to wait, in the middle of nowhere, for a boat that would be along in 45 short minutes. Suffice to say that it was a very hot wait.

After nearly dehydrating to death twice we didn’t venture into the wild in the middle of the day again, but instead went for a very, very posh brunch one day where I drank actual champagne and nearly died at the sight of a whole table of cheese. For a few hours I was living my dream life.

We did venture out on one more occasion, and went on a desert safari where I did not actually vomit. A desert safari, or dune bashing, is basically going out into the desert in a convoy of land cruisers that drive up and down the dunes at speed, presumably to try and make you vomit. I’m not describing it very well but believe me when I say that it was a really fun evening and an experience that I’m not sure you could ever replicate. Flying up and down sand dunes is something else altogether. While waiting for the safari to start we also got to climb some sand dunes, which was fun until I got sand in my eye (and then lived with sand in my eye for about two days). Barry also tried to push me off a dune or two which was probably a lot more fun for him than it was for me. After the safari we went to a desert camp to continue the experience by eating some traditional food, smoking some shish and watching some traditional dances. Somehow we managed to go over Eid so there was no belly dancing (which Barry was more than upset about) but we did get to see a traditional hat dancer, who mainly spins around with a massive skirt and other assorted items, which was really something. I also had a go at the spinning part of the dance and, while I thought I was moving quickly I was told that I mainly just looked like a terrified rodent.

I don’t know how, but I keep managing to go on holidays where there’s a definite lack of alcohol. Sri Lanka didn’t physically have any, we lost out in Tioman thanks to Hari Raya and Eid in Dubai meant that on my last night we had to wait until sunset before we could order any drinks. All this travelling really is introducing me to a hard, hard life!

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Anyway, I had a great time in Dubai and did not die from overheating, which was a minor miracle. The obvious solution to not dying from the 40 plus degree heats would just be to spend all day shopping, but I think that might have killed me quicker than the sun.

 

Leah Out X

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