We arrived in Dubai after a really enjoyable 7-hour flight from Newcastle. We flew with Emirates and they were great - delicious food, free drinks (lots of water to keep hydrated) and a good selection of films to watch!
We arrived at midnight, Dubai time, and got a taxi to our hotel. Coming out of the airport terminal the first thing we noticed, and which was to be a feature of Dubai, was the number of taxis available; dozens of them! In one small section in the taxi area there were pink taxis and the drivers wore pink uniforms. These are the taxis specfically for women, driven by women. Iain's cousin later poo-pooed them and told us never to use them as the women drivers didn't know their way around the place and never helped / couldn't help with your baggage. We still thought they were a great idea.
We showed the address of the hotel to the taxi driver and he seemed to be at a bit of a loss until we said 'Holiday Inn'. Again, later, we found out that there are three Holiday Inns in Dubai and the taxi drivers think it's fun to take you to the wrong one so that you have to pay another fee to get to the hotel you want! So, we were duly deposited at some Holiday Inn Express eight quid away from the Hotel we were actually booked in to. On the trip we could see the silhouettes of high rise buildings all along the route, and a huge number of cranes - some of which were on top of buildings which still had floors being added to them.
Once at the right hotel, we were really pleased with the room and facilities and had a fairly good night's sleep.
Iain's cousin was going to meet us the next day to show us around Dubai and we met up with him at 1.30 - not having had lunch as we thought we'd be having it with him, but he'd obviously had his! We grabbed a sandwich later on.
He took us around in his car and wasn't entirely positive about the place. He's really only there to get financially secure - ie make as much money as he can before moving on. Which I think is true of a lot of people out there.
Apparently, up until the recession, there were 50,000 people arriving in Dubai each week to work, so the building programme was aiming to provide 2,500 apartments every day to accommodate them! The majority of building work now, though, has come to a stop in a bid to save money.
Dave has worked in Dubai for four years and pointed out a building - a high-rise, of course - that, when he first arrived, had stood alone with the desert right up to its feet. Now, that building is not only one of the smallest buildings but is surrounded by a sea of others.
The traffic was heavy on our way back to the hotel and we were stuck in a jam for over an hour, which was fun!We had a quick shower and change and then got a taxi to Dave and Ida's flat where we were meeting up to then go out for a meal. Dave and Ida have a little five-month old baby boy, who was still up when we got there, so we got a couple of photographs of a very tired little boy. We had a Thai meal, which was delicious.
That day was the first day of a holy holiday to celebrate one of the ruling Sheik's birthday, so it was a 'dry' day when you can't buy any alcohol. You can't buy alcohol anywhere, anyway, except in hotels, and you also have to buy a licence to get alcohol for your private consumption at home, which is interesting!
We had the best night's sleep that night as we were so tired and slept in late the next day. Ida had recommended which Gold Souq to go to, but we hated it! It was dreadful. Bright yellow 24-carat gold in bucket-loads and pushy tradesmen trying to persuade you to buy their fake designer handbags and watches! Yuck.
Then, on to the public beach. The hotels have all the best bits of beach cordoned off for their guests' private use, so the beach was fairly lacklustre, to say the least. We watched the sun go down a bit behind the Berj, although the Jumeira Beach Hotel's hoarding rather spoiled the view.
We had dinner in the hotel and thoroughly enjoyed that and then set the alarm for 6am to leave the next morning at 7am for our flight to Melbourne.
We wouldn't rush back to Dubai, that's for sure. We decided that we're not the sort of 'cut and thrust' people who seem to thrive over there. We'd be like lambs to the slaughter! It was a very brash, cold, impersonal place and we weren't impressed with it, at all. But it was good to have seen it.