Sunday, February 23, 2020

Goodbye to Dubai

Tomorrow, I’ll fly to Chicago. Hoping for good weather there - no snow.

Today, I’m packing, cleaning up and generally getting ready. Soon, I’ll return to the beach.

That said, here’s a final camel-on-the-beach photo.

Thank you for traveling beside me. I loved receiving all your comments and emails as you shared this adventure with me.


PS - The date/time is wrong - I fly on Tuesday, February 25. I think the browser clock is still on EST...

Jumeriah Beach

One reason I chose the AirBnB I did was because of the washing machine, balcony, enough room for Paula and me but also - and maybe of utmost importance - was its closeness to the beach. It’s a quick elevator ride to the JBR Plaza, another short walk to the elevator which goes to the beach level and then a trot across the promenade to the beach.

The water was warm and usually calm. One day it was a little choppier, and it was fun to feel the waves.  All kinds of different shells (mostly whole with few broken into pieces) and coral are to be found. Some stones had fossil-like etchings on them. Most (if not all) beach front hotels have cabanas and loungers available. Restaurants/carts are everywhere selling ice cream, mocktails, snacks, etc. There are also souk-like booths selling wares.

The turquoise water reminded me of Bermuda.

We had breakfast here at Eggspectation one morning. It’s a restaurant based in Montreal.

I especially liked the coral.

I taught Paula how to play Honeymoon Bridge. She’s a natural!

The skyscrapers are right there near the beach.

A foot washing station. Bathrooms and showers are also nearby.

Dubai Aquarium at the Dubai Mall

Today was my second to last day, so I decided to return to the Dubai Mall and see the aquarium’s three story viewing tanks of sea animals. Tram and metro got me there quickly, although it was quite a long walk from the metro stop to the actually mall (all indoors).

The Dubai Mall is the largest in the world. It has every possible shop/brand you could think of along with an ice skating rink, aquarium, restaurants of all sorts and the dancing fountains. (Just to name a few of the attractions.) I took in two more shows of the fountains (they play every 30 minutes), and each performance featured different music. The daytime shows seemed a bit shorter than the night time version. Majestic.

The viewing tanks are filled with all kinds of sea creatures actively swimming. I took several videos (these for some reason are not able to be opened on the blog, so I’ve stopped posting them) and some photos. I could have gone into the aquarium for which there was a fee, but I was ready to leave and wanted to head to the beach. 

My aquarium alternative was a crepe with roasted bananas, ice cream and caramel sauce...

Dubai Metro and Tram

Since I’ve been on the metro and tram most days, I thought I’d post some photos. I think I posted about the Ladies Car which is the best place to sit as it is not as crowded as the regular cars.

On the ferry, they had an informational video about the metro which I found interesting. It's all electric and was built so that areas that were less accessible would be more accessible via public transportation. Trains arrive every 2-5 minutes. Payment is with a ticket or a NOL card on which you can put money and can be topped off. (My choice - faster and way easier. Also able to be used in cabs since they are under the heading of RTA - Roads and Transport Authority.) You much “check in” on a machine - like the NYC subway as your enter and then must “check out” when you leave. Yesterday was the first time I saw security on the train asking everyone for their ticket/card. He had a device which scanned the tickets.

Many, many times - probably almost all my trips, someone stood up for me so I could have their seat. There is very much a sense of hospitality and respect for elders here. The metro/tram is clean (no eating or gum chewing), on time, air conditioned and comfortable. Once I figured it out - which direction to head based uptown the final station, how to switch from red line to green line, etc. it was a pleasure and faster/cheaper than a cab.

The tram was a little trickier since the station closest to the apartment involved switching platforms, but once I figured it out (about 2 days ago... I was still learning easier ways to access the tram line that went to JBR) it was a short walk from the AirBnB to the station.

Tram seating.

Interior of a metro station with turnstiles to enter.

Picture of Burj Khalifa as taken from the metro.

Metro platform.

Inside of tram car.

Another view of metro platform.

Exiting the metro.

My NOL card.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Desert Experience - Dinner and Entertainment

Desert Experience - Al Khayma Camp, Henna Tattoos and Camels

The Al Khama camp was arranged in a large circle with tents bordering the outside for shade. Long, rectangular tables were set up for six with poufs to sit on. When we arrived, Syed gave us a tour of the camp before leading us to a table arranged with snacks - dates and lugaimat, water, soft drinks, coffee and tea with milk and sugar - sort of like a chai. It was tasty.

Then Paula and I decided to get a henna tattoo. (When in Rome...) The women were very skilled and fast. My artist asked me where I wanted to the tattoo and when she was finished, she directed me to wait an hour for it to dry, rinse and then it would last a week. Some of the henna was thick and peeled off early, but it left the same faded design that was intricate and attractive.

Before getting on the camel, we read the extensive instructions including carefully and swiftly getting on as the camels get impatient and start braying their complaints. Full disclosure - our camel was braying. It’s tricky when the camel stands up and sits down as you’re swaying from high up.  It was a short ride and a lot of fun.

Soon it was time for the buffet dinner featuring many kinds of Emirati food including salads, kabobs, chicken, pasta, mixed vegetables, and soup. Dessert was mixed fruit and a sort of pudding made with bread, sugar and milk. Very good.

 Lara, Jackson and Paula entering the camp.

 Finished product!

You can see the henna applicator looks like a cake icer.

Desert Experience - Rest Stop and Dune Bashing

We had bought tickets for a “Desert Experience” which included a pick up in Dubai, dune bashing (??), dune surfing, transportation to the desert camp, Al Khayma, a camel ride, buffet dinner and entertainment. It was to be a 6-7 hours excursion.

Syed, our driver, picked us up at JBR, and we were off. Four others were in our group - Julie and her 6 yo daughter from Denmark who were living in Ghana and a Lebanese couple on their honeymoon - Jackson and Lara. The trip into the desert took about 45 minutes before we stopped at a rustic market square with bathrooms and several markets selling the usual array of scarves and snacks. It reminded me a little of Africa.

From the market, we traveled in a caravan before stopping to deflate the tires to 15 psi. Then we were off! It was quite a roller coaster-like activity and initally, I gripped the bar beside the window and the underneath of the seat, my eyes sealed shut. But soon, I was able to open them and "enjoy" the beautiful red dunes that are always changing. The Toyota Land Cruiser was smooth, and Syed was a skilled driver. I'm not much for roller coasters and the like, but it was a fun adventure.

We stopped at the crest of a giant dune for photos and also to try dune surfing. When it was my turn, I decided to sit and also put my feet/legs out to the side like when I did on the luge years ago in Lake Placid. The ride was down a very steep dune and at the end, I did put my feet on the board which made it more fun. The walk up was quite a hike – very steep and hard to do. As steep as a ski hill which might take five minutes (seemingly) to ski down. 7/8 from the top, Jackson came down and extended his hand to help me up the rest of the way. That was a huge help.

Soon I was ready to try again and have my feet on the board. I told Syed not to push me, sat down on the board, placed my feet in front of me on the board and away I went. It was a lot of fun, a little scary at the very end with so much speed, but very exhilarating.

Syed was terrific. He had the habit of calling me Ma-Ma! And also Granny. I wasn’t offended. I know foreigners will often refer to elders as Auntie, Mam, etc.

Jackson and Lara both "surfed" on sand boards and that also looked like fun.

We soon left and headed for a highway to enter the desert from a different area. The caravan stopped and the drivers all inflated the tires to 30 psi. They used an automatic air machine connected to the battery of the car for inflation.

Shortly thereafter, we arrived at the camp.