Avid readers will have noticed a gap in the narrative. Non avid readers will have noticed nothing, so just skip this paragraph. Oops. Too late.
Our trip from the Milan apartment to Anthony and Jayne's place in Dubai was smooth and easy. Giancarlo dropped us to the airport. We had already done on line check in, so the only obstacle was dealing with a single scanner for all the luggage getting to the departure gates. The Emirates lounge was quiet and beautifully stocked so our wait passed comfortably, and in no time we were seated in business class thanks to Anthony's family concession. It could become addictive.
Dubai airport seemed deserted (perhaps a good image given its location!). No trouble getting a cab - a very skilled woman driver who knew where she was going and managed the multi lane 120kph motorway with skill. We knew A and J would likely be out, so just let ourselves in. In about 20 minutes they arrived with the boys - Sophie was at a sleep over. We chatted until we faded and hit the sack. Thanks for the room, Sophie.
We rose in leisurely fashion on Saturday, and Anthony gave us a tour of the local area as we picked up the boys from swimming. Next stop was the Dubai Offshore Sailing Club where A and J are members where we had breakfast/number 2 brunch. We were able to sit outside- the breeze made it bearable- about 35 degrees. Driving around we were constantly struck by the massive growth, and the almost absurd reality of so much development and so much artificially maintained green in the middle of nowhere. As the day went on we began to appreciate just what an artificial construct this place is. Emiratis, middle class and wealthy expats, and the immigrant workers from the subcontinent and Philippines make for a complex social structure. Separate compounds - like Silicon Oasis where A and J live with a boom gate and security guard. A re-creation of western type suburban life in the Middle East. Tracts of desert and scrub. The Academic city with a swathe of universities and campuses. Multi lane highways. Skyscrapers- some, things of great beauty, others not so. Massive shopping malls with every exclusive brand known to humanity. Space age metro. Air conditioned bus shelters (!). The heat. The haze. The Dubai Mall with its own acquarium and zoo. So much for first impressions.
The best part of the day was catching up with A and J and Mark and Andrew. The boys continue to impress us with their maturity and their sense of humour. Sophie was still away. Anthony took us around the Dubai Mall when Jayne took the boys back home. The mall is a monument to conspicuous consumption. Vast air conditioned spaces house the big jewellers, the big fashion houses, the big everything.
After parting from Anthony we wandered around a little more then made our way through the long air conditioned tunnel to the Dubai Mall Metro- a good 10 minutes in pretty heavy crowds. We managed to get a ticket to Al Rigga, about 8 stops away and made it there with 5 minutes to spare before meeting our guide for the Frying Pan food tour. Jayne had suggested we book this in advance, so it was all set when we met our guide, Arva, an Indian woman who had started this business a few years ago. We had a group made up of another Aussie, a couple of Kiwis, an Aussie originally from Roumania ,5 Scots and a guy who said he was from Singapore, but sounded very Aussie.
We spent the next five hours in visiting restaurants, bakeries, take away places and spice shops and sampling all the way. Palestinian food, Iraqi food, Iranian spices, Lebanese pastries, Emirati dining in a tented and catered restaurant and an Iranian restaurant with an oven filled with pebbles. All with a very lively and informed commentary and a pleasant group of partners.
We finished about 11, flagged down a cab and then found that he had only the vaguest notion of where we wanted to go. After both phoning a friend and stopping for help from another cabbie, he finally got us home around midnight.