A few people have asked what my impressions were of Dubai and I’ve kept them waiting far too long, sorry about that. I shall give the uber-impression first and then work into the details of the trip.
I don’t like any country where I need a visa or where I feel that my freedom of movement, action or speech is unduly restricted and could be removed at any time at the whim of an official. This dislike is heightened in any country where being British, or European, means absolutely bugger all and gives you no guarantee of reasonable treatment, or let’s say the sort of treatment one might expect at home in similar circumstances. Therefore, I would never consider living in the UAE, nor many other countries in that region and do feel somewhat uncomfortable when I am visiting these places. Having said that, the UAE is perhaps the most relaxed of the Arab states and so I should add that my feelings are based on numerous (business) trips to – Kuwait, Saudi, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, Jordan, Israel, Lebanon and the UAE in the past. This particular trip went surprisingly smoothly, one exception being the “incident at the border” (more later) and were you to take a holiday here you might easily leave wondering what on earth I’m talking about.
Overriding impressions of the place are of money, an obsession with very tall buildings and of living on a construction site. As the American’s say “your mileage may vary”. It was however, a far more interesting trip than I expected and I certainly feel like there is little that can be done that we didn’t do.
On to the trip itself. The first order of business must be to thank our hostess, Dorota. I generally don’t like staying in other people’s homes. I always feel I’m intruding, that I’m going to break something or that it’s just not a great situation for either party. However, it is undeniably cheaper than a hotel and therefore has its attractions. :) Dorota’s place was ideal as we had our own room and en-suite bathroom, the rest of the place was plenty big enough for us all and as we ate out there was no extra strain on catering. Dorota herself was the most genial hostess, always made us feel welcome and went out of her way to show, and drive, us around. Thank you.
The journey between Dubai and Warsaw is a pain. There are no direct flights so a connection is essential. Having looked around, British Airways seemed to be the best deal with a sensible airline and so travelled via London. The whole journey time, assuming no delays, is at least 16 hours but when you include the time at each end it turns into a full day. Whether you fly overnight or during the day, that’s just too long to spend flying. Were there a direct flight from Warsaw, the journey would be considerably more humane. Overall, BA did a good job. Not their fault that wind caused delays arriving at Heathrow on the way to Dubai resulting in us only just catching the Dubai flight but our bags missing it! Apparently, transport of baggage from Terminal 1 to Terminal 4 is done using giant snails who take over an hour to make the trip. In Dubai we were advised our bags would come “later” and compensated with a credit card good for 70 quid. This turned out to be more like 40 quid and we spent well more than that on all the stuff we needed to live until the bags arrived. The messing around with bags, and lack of sleep, also meant we forgot to buy the wine from arrivals duty-free. So not a great start.
Day 1 – was spent getting orientated, worrying about missing baggage and enjoying the experience of a sandstorm. A sandstorm is essentially a lot of wind and all of it is full of sand. Standing outside in a sandstorm is a good way to exfoliate, or have yourself a ‘piling’ (peeling) as it is known in Poland. All orifices not covered up will be filled with sand. Open your balcony door and the apartment is full of sand. Swimming pools, ornamental ponds, lakes, roads, fountains……all covered with a layer of sand. Three guys spent the rest of our stay cleaning the sand from the bottom of a large ornamental pond close to the apartment. Sandstorms are fun, but a bit of a pain.
We drove up the trunk of the Palm Island on the first day. As it is still under construction, we were not able to get anywhere with an interesting viewpoint and so didn’t bother going back when the weather improved.
Day 2 – baggage arrived in the morning. After that we went off to see the ‘old town’ and the Dubai museum which were both interesting although the old town is more of a Disney reconstruction than the real thing. We then headed up to Abu Dhabi where we visited the fantastic mosque that is the resting place of Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan.
This truly is an amazing project and we were lucky to catch it at a good time because the construction was largely finished but it was not in use yet, so we were able to get access no doubt a lot easier than we would otherwise. I hate to think how much it has cost, but there’s no doubt it is impressive. After the mosque we looked around Abu Dhabi and had a very nice fishy meal at Vasco’s.