So after five months in Asia, Dave and I packed up our bags for our favorite city in the world. Just across the river from Asia. Where the rest of the country and half of the city are. Oops? We left Osaka on an 11:30pm flight bound for…Dubai!
Emirates Airlines does this thing where they space out their flights from Asia and to Europe and vice versa. This is either awesome if you want to try and see some of Dubai while you fly nearly halfway around the world or terrible if you just want to get there already. You can either sit in the (very nice) Dubai airport waiting for your connection, or you can go into the city for a few hours. Emirates will sponsor your visa, give you a meal coupon, and a hotel coupon. Depending on your connection time, it’s a night’s sleep or a day out. We chose day out.
On the flight, I had to pretend I wasn’t crying but had some sort of “contact lens issue” (note: I do not wear contacts) because yes, I was that girl who cried when watching Les Miserables and Jean ValJean died. Or maybe I cried because I had to hear Russell Crowe sing for that long. YEESH. I also cried at the end of Silver Linings Playbook, mostly out of an urgent, desperate need to be in Philadelphia. Bradley Cooper knows how to make a gal homesick. Maybe it was just seeing a diner. Or rabid Eagles fans. Anyway, the stereotypes reduced me to tears and since I already cried once on an plane, whatever, right?
Once I wiped the crust from my shut-for-five-hours-after-weeping-on-an-airplane-eyes, we breezed through immigration at 5:30am after a 10.5 hour flight and found the hotel transit booth. When you check into your flight Emirates gives you all the vouchers you need but note: you DO need to apply for the visa and the vouchers online in advance of your flight so do your homework!
We checked into our airport hotel and each took a shower. We were careful to not so much as sit on the beds — the minute we might have done that it would have been over for us.
We then ate breakfast. What a difference 11 hours makes. Breakfast went from grilled fish and miso to olives, cheese, hummus and cucumbers in what seemed like a blink of an eye.
We watched 4 minutes of CAMEL RACING (!!!) in our room and then took off around 8am.
We were desperate for more caffeine but knew that we’d need to be back at the Dubai airport by 12:30 to make our 2:30 flight so we had four and a half hours to get the gist of Dubai.
So, we did what we’d normally do and hopped on the subway. Amid the commuters, we saw as much of the city as we could. Here’s what we managed:
1.) I was INSISTENT that we take the subway as close as possible to see the Burj Al Arab. I saw a show on the Discovery Channel once on it and have been captivated since. Unfortunately, you have to pay to drive up and pay to enter the lobby so since we were broke and had like 10 minutes to see everything we just took pictures form the closest metro station, shrugged our shoulders, threw up our hands, and went back into the air conditioning.
2.) Next, we hit up the Mall of the Emeriates. Bear in mind we showed up at like, 8:45am. I think two coffee shops were open but again — AIR CON!– so we had a coffee and relaxed for a few minutes. It was weird to have someone approach you in English to order something. A barista brightly asked us what we’d like. IN ENGLISH. Our heads spun. We were worried about learning Arabic — oops?! Two coffees please.
Then we went and gawked at where you can go skiing inside .
This is where I learned that the mall has PENGUINS. AND THAT WE WERE THERE THE DAY BEFORE WORLD PENGUIN DAY.
Also, this is when we began to feel verrrrryyyyy tired. We had like, 5 hours sleep thanks to Ambien. In typical fashion, I started getting intense about all the things we wanted to see. IMMEDIATELY. WE ONLY HAVE SO MUCH TTTIIIMMMMEEE! ALL! THE! THINGS! AAAAHHHH!
Dave just started talking like Consuela the maid from Family Guy:
we looked around the mall a bit more,
before heading to (sigh, Dubai) ANOTHER MALL.
3.) The Dubai Mall. We walked through it to get to the main event: the Burj Khalifa.
It was, truthfully, the nicest mall I think I have ever seen.
And then we went and gawked at the tallest building in the world.
It dwarfed the 50 story buildings next to it. Very impressive.
We sat outside for a while reminiscing about the Petronas Towers we saw in Kuala Lumpur:
The Burj Khalifa is TWICE AS TALL.
Then, we had time for a quick sandwich before it was back to the airport. We wanted to walk around the old town of Dubai a bit but we didn’t have enough time.
And 10 hours after we disembarked, we were back in a tin can in the sky flying 4.5 hours to our favorite city in the whole world: Istanbul.
So, all in all, I thought Dubai was interesting. It was an interesting mix of people: we saw more Filipinos and Indians than we did actual Emeriate people. The wealth in the UAE is astounding. I don’t think we ever felt so broke as we did there. The buildings are amazing. The types of cars we saw on the street, incredible. The clothing, from fancy hijab to flashy labels were impeccable. Everyone who was dressed like a schlub was either on a 10-hour layover or on vacation. If you lived in the Middle East and needed to let loose somewhere, I can see how Dubai would be a real destination.
I can imagine that as an expat there it may be a bit dull. We have a friend who lived there for two years and she seemed to like it well enough but is not interested in going back after her stint was over. It seemed as an expat you can either migrate from hotel bar to hotel bar to mall to hotel bar, work a ton, or be a housewife. No wonder everyone is dressed to the nines — all there is to do is shop! Also, there are so many people here to take jobs Emirates don’t want. It was interesting being back in a diverse place again. Japan is like, 99% Japanese. Koreans live in Korea. We haven’t been somewhere that was a melting pot since we were in Malaysia. And then the UAE had to go and beat their record for the tallest buildings.
Dave reacted pretty violently to it — he hated it. He snarked on it so bad. He whined as we walked through another mall. He was looking for CULTURE. And INSIGHT. AND AN EXPERIENCE.
I felt like we got a tiny glimpse into what it is like to live there. I can’t form a proper opinion in 10 hours but I can eat some olives for breakfast and take pictures next to a real tall building. Malls ARE part of the culture there. Dave wants to never return, claiming Las Vegas was hotter and more fun and served the same purpose with way more booze so why bother?
I was intrigued, but Dubai was not the most exciting place ever. Am I glad we slept horribly for 2 days to get a glimpse into life in one of the richest countries in the world? Yes. Would I do it again? Yes. Would I move there? Dubai-ous.