Things have sped along quite quickly since Matt and I went to China. He was on reserve for about five days after we got back, but was called up to go to Jakarta for a few days. It’s getting hotter here, and harder to go out during the day, though the night is still not too bad.
Ramadan started on the 26th of May, and we flew out to China the next day. The beginning of Ramadan is always confirmed very close to the actual start, as its based on the moon. There is a moon sighting committee responsible for signaling the start, which is announced with two cannon shots. Yes, seriously. Matt had warned us this was going to happen, but I still wasn’t quite sure he wasn’t kidding. Every night just after 7PM, a cannon shot is fired to signal the start of Iftar, when the fast is broken. If you are sitting anywhere near the windows of our lounge, you are very sure to hear it.
Ramadan here isn’t as difficult as I thought. In saying that, I imagine things are slightly different in other Emirates, or throughout the Gulf. I suspect Dubai is very liberal compared to others places. It is still a little… quiet though. Some food courts are open in the malls, and most hotels seem to have one food outlet open for lunch. The malls are incredibly quiet during the day. They don’t play music during Ramadan, and for obvious reasons, you can’t eat or drink. You can duck into a toilet cubicle and have a drink (obviously from your drink bottle, what were you thinking?!), but for obvious reasons, that doesn’t appeal too much. Some malls have little barriers or fenced off areas you can duck behind to eat or drink, but you can never find one when you need one. Which is ironic, given that Matt managed to find a restaurant serving pork and beer for lunch the other day. Dubai is a place of strange contrasts.
I haven’t been to many of the Iftar feasts, because I’m not much of a buffet person. I can understand why people who have been fasting since sunrise might be a little hungrier, though. When Matt was in Jakarta, Bianca and I went to an Iftar at Tom and Serg. We had intended on going to Alserkal Avenue, which turned out to be a bit of a Ramadan fail on my part. I’d looked on the website, which said a few of the galleries were open, and the Iftar would start at 7.05PM. Unfortunately, it didn’t state that the galleries were all fairly far apart, or that the temperature would be 38 degrees at 6PM, and that no where to even sit would be available until 7.05PM. Oops. Even my cab driver seemed a bit bewildered at my choice of destination. Luckily, Bianca came and rescued me in her trusty Range Rover, blasting the air-con for my comfort. We had a drink at the Brunswick before driving to Tom and Serg. The theme was Ramen vs Roast, and Bianca, having been previously with her husband, sensibly chose the modest sized ramen meal. Mine was delicious as well, but slightly too plentiful. A giant plate of roast chicken, lamb, beef, roast potatoes, garlic, onion, and delicious yorkshire puddings. I arrived home afterwards very full.
On Monday, Matt and I decided we would head out to the Palm. I’d never been there, although Matt went to the waterpark when we visited last October. It is a bit convoluted to get there without a car – we walked to the metro, took it to the marina, hopped on the tram and then onto the monorail. I’d somehow expected the view from the monorail to be a beautiful vista of the ocean over some low rise housing, but it actually travels through a bunch of high rises first… then half finished malls and apartment blocks. I’m glad I’ve been on it now, but I wouldn’t rush back! We headed over to Atlantis to visit the Lost Chambers Aquarium. It was very Dubai, more style than substance.
It was definitely worth visiting, don’t get me wrong. We got in for half price, the fish were super colorful, and while a few tanks were a bit small, the big ones were awesome. I liked the fact that you could sit and admire the fish in the quiet. But there wasn’t really any information about what you were looking at! Apart from a few screens that told you a bit about the fish from Finding Nemo, there wasn’t much other information. Ah well. It was a very nice and relaxing way to spend an hour or so. And it was air-conditioned. Always a bonus.
After visiting Atlantis, I asked if we could head over to the Palm Boardwalk so I could get a photo. Once we were there, I had the brilliant idea that we could walk to the Sofitel for lunch. It wasn’t that hot! And it was only 1.6kms! It might not have been hot, but by the time we got there (without being able to drink anything on the way), we discovered just how humid it was. Yikes. We must have looked a wee bit sad dragging ourselves through the hotel lobby, but luckily, they seemed to be used to sweaty, lost people. We had a nice lunch at Maui Beach (the website had claimed it had ‘Maori motifs’, but we didn’t see anything of the sort) and dried out, before getting a cab back to the Marina metro station, and heading to the Dubai Mall for a few hours.
I’ve been planning to visit Charlie, Sapphire and Alexandra in Russia, and a few days ago I got my invitation number from Charlie to go to the Consulate in Dubai and apply for my visa from the 20th of June. Great! I logged on to the website to book and appointment. The first one available was on the 4th of July. Fantastic. After finally getting hold of the Consulate, they advised I use an agency to apply, so I booked an appointment on the 11th, hoping I would get the visa back by the 22nd. And then I thought, eh, you know what? I’m just going to show up. It was at WAFI mall, so at least it was easy to get to.
I wandered into the visa agency, and it was packed. There were people everywhere, and I joined the back of a very long line. After a few minutes, I asked the guy in front of me whether I was in the right line for Russian visas. Turned out, there was no line for Russian visas. I walked in, and had my application completed in 30 minutes. Record timing. I guess we will find out whether it was worthwhile if my approved visa wings its way back to me on the 18th, but it definitely seemed a lot easier than the Chinese Consulate. I didn’t even have to get a non-objection certificate, which was lucky, considering Matt was flying somewhere over the ocean to Adelaide. The relative success of my visit braced me for the 40 degree temperature outside… which wasn’t that bad, until you look at the ‘feels like’ temperature – 50 degrees. I’m pretty sure my shoes melted a little.
About two weeks ago, Matt got an email that we were going to have our apartment fumigated. Great! We’d had a few bugs around the place and we were going to get it done anyway. We asked at the lobby desk when we would have it done, and were told the 7th. So, before Matt departed for Adelaide, we cleaned out all of our kitchen cupboards and packed away everything throughout the house, or in various suitcases stacked in the lounge.
By lunchtime yesterday, no one had showed up, so I went downstairs and asked. Sorry, that email was a mistake, and you shouldn’t have been told it was going to get done at all. It is only for cabin crew. I’m not sure why cabin crew are more susceptible to attracting bugs to their apartments (insert crude joke here), but apparently, pilots weren’t getting the fumigation done. Grand. I’ve spent the last two days surrounded by boxes of pots and ingredients, but luckily, have arranged for a fumigator to come on Saturday at our expense.