Well, kind of. I wrote this blog post while on a flight, but the in-flight wifi is too slow to post pictures. So it’s really ‘direct to you from London, England’. Which is also quite exciting. Most people go to Oman or Bahrain for a visa run, but I like to spice things up a bit. So I’m currently sitting on a flight to London, with (thankfully) an empty seat next to me, seeing as the lady on the aisle isn’t super friendly. My Facebook has just popped up saying ‘are you ready for the snow today in Gez?’, and I certainly am not, but hopefully we will not be stopping there. I’m flying economy – at this stage, money is worth more to me than seven hours in business class – but hopefully I’ll get to try out business class soon. My UAE visa had technically run out – you get a grace period – and I need to re-enter on my spouses visa, which will hopefully be waiting for me at the airport next Tuesday. We will see!
I’ve had a busy last few days. Catherine arrived from Nepal late Friday night, after getting the coach connection that Etihad offers for free from Abu Dhabi. On Saturday morning, we went for brunch at Lime Tree Cafe in Jumeirah (well, a NZ style brunch. A Dubai style brunch is something else entirely, and definitely not in the budget at the moment). After that, we went for a walk to look at Jumeirah Mosque, and headed in the direction of the beach. Being Dubai, this wasn’t as easy as it seemed. Google maps told us we could go down an alleyway and be there in five minutes, but of course, the beach looked like a giant construction site. After weaving in and out of streets and alleyways for about 2.5kms in 33 degree heat, I was just about to call an Uber when a kindly gentleman in a car yelled at us to go one more street. I guess it was obvious that the sweaty white people were looking for the beach, and thankfully, we were there very quickly. It was a nice beach, if you ignored the construction sites flanking it. Much like the beach I visited last week, it was pretty sparsely attended compared to what you would find in New Zealand. While we did have to avoid a few jellyfish, it was a nice relaxing walk.
Later on Saturday, we went down to Al Barsha Pond Park to the Ripe Night Markets – similar to what we have been attending on a Saturday morning at Zabeel park. We chowed down on burgers at a very civilized wood pallet picnic table, and Catherine and I sampled our first taste of camel ice cream, which was delicious. I was pretty excited to try it and I could hear the salesman telling Matt that they offered home delivery, while Matt was surreptitiously trying to stop me from hearing that bit, lest he come home to a freezer full of camel milk goods. We then caught a cab down to the marina to have a look around. I really like the marina area – its the sort of image of Dubai you see on the marketing material. However, I remembered when I was looking at apartments in Dubai, that a lot of the ones near the marina weren’t that expensive in the scheme of things. After seeing the traffic jams, tourist trap restaurants and how close the buildings are, and how loud the local mosque is, I think I understand why. It’s a cool area – and very pretty – but at least where we are feels a bit more secluded, up on the 58th floor.
Matt had to work on Sunday, so Catherine and I headed out for an adventure. After battling through the crowds of Asian tourists at Dubai Museum, we walked to the Al Bataskiya historical neighbourhood, where we had a drink in a shaded courtyard of a local art gallery and hotel. After nearly forgetting to pay (I had visions of me getting deported, and was grateful Catherine remembered) we wandered through a few other local art galleries and shops, and I purchased a lovely falcon cushion – which I’m sure Matt is stoked about (along with our new friend, Basil the alpaca).
We managed to catch an abra across the creek – with my fending off an offer for a 25 dirham private boat, we’ll take the 1 dirham option with the riffraff, thank you – and wandered through the gold souk – which was pretty mediocre, to be honest. With the exception of local craft markets, I always find markets to be a bit disappointing – crap is crap the world over, whether its Shanghai, Sydney or Hong Kong. We managed to escape the crowds, get the metro to Dubai Mall, and find my planned lunch spot in less than 15 minutes from the metro link, which has to be a new record. After some amusing lunchtime tips from our waiter (“ma’am, you have ordered a piece of bread with salad on it, and you a bowl a meat with sauce”), we managed to locate the movie theatre at Dubai Mall, and went and saw Beauty and the Beast… because hey, why not. There was a write up about it in a free Time Out magazine we grabbed, where it said it was a feminist reawakening of the original (it was not). But it was air-conditioned, and actually quite enjoyable to watch.
I think taking someone to the movies is a good metaphor for living in Dubai. It’s not terrible, but it is incredibly frustrating. People walked in and out of the theatre constantly for the first twenty minutes, which consisted of so many previews and ads we weren’t sure they would ever stop, after which the door was finally shut. However, all throughout the movie, the people surrounding us pulled out their phones and played on them, or called people, and everyone in our row got up and went to the toilet (at least twice! sometimes three times!) except us. In what was probably the greatest metaphor of life in Dubai, someone wandered through checking something off a clipboard for no apparent reason. The mishmash of ethnicities seems to mean that a system of etiquette is thrown out the window entirely. You just have to laugh – like at the look of disgust on the tellers face at Waitrose when I DID NOT WEIGH MY CAULIFLOWER BEFORE BRINGING IT TO THE COUNTER, clearly the greatest of all sins – because otherwise, it would completely wear you down.
I’ll arrive in London later today, and hopefully be able to catch up with Anita after she finishes work. I’ve got a bit planned for the week – hopefully, catching up with Oliver on Tuesday, going to Matilda with Anita on Wednesday and seeing Penny on Thursday, then off to Bruges on Friday.