This blog entry will be the last of the current series- picking up the last couple of days with Anthony and Jayne.
On Sunday, a working day here for many, despite Eid, Anthony had to do a day of training and assessment on emergency procedures. Very generously, Jayne played host for the early part of the day, leaving the kids to do homework while she drove us around the "terraformed" Palm - a man-made island shaped like a palm tree, with another similarly constructed ring around the top. This entire construct is filled with apartment blocks and hotels, with the Dubai Atlantis as its crowning glory. We still struggle to get our heads around how Dubai works. How could anything like this pay for itself- even at the exorbitant rates they charge? Apparently when the Burj Al Arab was built (the iconic sail like hotel) the main sewage line wasn't connected, so there was a fleet of waste trucks running around the clock to deal with sewage! I suppose that is no more improbable than the residential area we drove through that has so much greenery it is like a jungle. Imagine the cost, or the consequences of a power failure that would stop the watering system, even in places like Anthony and Jayne's garden.
After our drive we went to the hotel Al Qasr for morning tea and a view of the aforementioned Burj. In typical Jayne style, we drove up, said we were having coffee with guests, and had the valet park the car for us. On the forecourt of the grand, Arabic style hotel, were parked Rollers, Lamborghinis and the like. Our humble Audi 4wd went downstairs!
In an environment more than a little redolent of the Raj, we sat under fans on the verandah sipping tea, coffee and chocolate while we watched the world go by for a while. Very civilised!
The evening was taken up by what was described as a desert safari. We were picked up at A and J's place in a 4WD driven by Qismat. The vehicle already held a Korean family of mum, dad, daughter aged 6 and Grandma. We ended up in the very back seats. Thank goodness for short legs. Off we set for a 40 minute drive to the red sand part of the desert. Pause to let air out of tyres, then about a half hour of what is known as dune bashing. Cresting dunes, plummeting down the other side, sliding nearly sideways down others, driving along dune edges. The crazy thing is that it was like a gathering of locusts, with probably thirty or forty vehicles doing the same thing in our sector of desert, and other groups visible in the distance. A bit of a blight was that in the depressions among the dunes you could regularly see clusters of plastic water bottles. We drove past what seemed to be a camel pen, and an oil rig (the only obvious sign of the oil industry we saw on the trip). We stopped for a chance to climb a couple of dunes and take pictures, then proceeded to the encampment that was to provide the evening's entertainment. The dune bashing is not recommended for those prone to motion sickness!
The area looked a bit sad and worn, with its camel rides, quad bike rides, henna stalls, bar, sand writing etc. The news was that in a little over an hour there would be some dancing then a meal. The temperature wasn't too bad, and there was enough going on around us to pass the time, although I think the gap was really to encourage spending, and we didn't cooperate. At this stage we were wondering about the value of the excursion, but the dancing proved to be excellent, two different shows- lots of belly dancing as well as some other kinds including the style in which men spin and their costumes flare out like flying saucers -like what we might call whirling dervishes. A quick drive, this time on the road - saw us back home in about half an hour. All in all a good evening, although if you are looking for a genuine insight into desert life, this isn't it. We can look for that next time.
Monday, Anthony free from shackles took over guide duties with Sophie, and we drove into town, parked near the Creek, where all the dhows tie up, and paid a visit to the Dubai Museum, which is a pretty good overview of Dubai history in the old Dubai fort. Sophie provided additional commentary. If you go, bring a torch, because many of the signs , while in English, are in the dark!
Back into 37 degrees or so- but it didn't feel as bad as it sounds due to the air being dry. We wandered through the textile souk. The award for the most original line went to the holder of shop 33 with:"Good to see you again". When we had never been there before. Like most of Dubai it is a rebuilt souk, with none of the crumbling decline you normally see in places like this. It didn't have much charm. Lunch by the creek watching the traffic go by, then a short cross creek trip in an abra (a traditional small boat) to cross to the gold souk. These abras are of an indeterminate age, but are, unlike much of Dubai, old and well worn, with old Diesel engines often belching black smoke behind them as they made the five minute diagonal crossing. One dirham fare.
The gold and spice souks were very like the textiles souk but with different products. The preference for 24 carat gold, with its almost orange colour, and lots of sparkle made for a brilliant display in the jewellery section, while we saw many of the spices with which we had become familiar on the food tour in the spice section.
Another abra and back in the sun to the car, registering 42 degrees on its internal thermometer, but soon blessedly cool.
The evening was spent in the shadow of the Burj al Arab watching its light show as Anne and I took J and A to dinner on the banks of a miniature of the creek, complete with its own electric abras - at 75 dirham a ride! The traffic was reasonably quiet due to it being Eid, but got congested at the entry to the complex housing our restaurant. Jane smartly got valet parking again and we settled down to a lovely evening at The Meat Company. Yes, we know there was one in Parramatta, but not with a view like this.
Home, a drink- Jayne had to abstain as there is a zero limit for drivers her - pack and bed for 0600 rising.
In the morning, we bid the kids adieu as they headed off to school with Jayne- complete with kit for three sports and school. They had more luggage than us. Then Anthony dropped us at the airport, which is where this blog finishes.