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Around the World in 210 Days

Day in Dubai

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES | Sunday, 13 January 2008 | Views [3790] | Comments [4]

If you saw Annie's comment on her own guest blog (how vain), we are in India now. Before you hear about monkeys and mayhem, here is what we wrote at the Dubai airport while waiting for our flight...

Today was perhaps the strangest day of our travels.  As many of you might realize, we left Istanbul yesterday evening, and had a 15 hour layover today in “Dubai” of the UAE.  After explaining to Annie that due to our intensive efforts to plan our trip in India, we had failed to plan for a day in Dubai and thought that we might stay in the airport for the day, she insisted that we at least try to check out what might be the most ostentatious city on earth.  We knew that due to the length of our layover, we would be able to get a free temporary visa.  So after this conversation, Andrew began pulling up pictures on wikipedia of the man-made islands and we warmed to the idea of a visit.  It was only then, that we discovered our airport was not in Dubai, but rather a twenty minute drive away.  Rather than worry about it, we simply decided to ask the tourist office at the airport. 

            Our flight left Istanbul at 2 in the morning and arrived at 8 this morning.  (There was a two hour time difference.)  We stumbled sleepily out of the plane.  We had 50 YTL left from Istanbul ($42 US), which we exchanged for 102 (AED) Arab Emirate Dollars.  We’ve read that airports give some of the worst exchange rates, but it was only while standing in the passport control line that we realized we had paid approximately 12 dollars (US) more than we should have.  Andrew, Alex’s absolute hero, went back to the exchange desk and demanded his YTL back, and….they gave it to him, even though he didn’t have a receipt!!!  YAY!! But that’s not the strange part. 

            We decided to withdraw money from an ATM like we usually do, only the ATM wouldn’t take our card.  So we headed toward the information desk with no money, but plenty of ambition.  When the word tour confused the poor man, we were escorted back through security to the Duty Office, which looked nothing like a tourism office, but more like where we would be interrogated for smuggling.  Still we spent 15 minutes waiting for someone to arrive and looking over the map of Sharjah that Andrew had pilfered from the information desk.  Finally we decided we would go at it alone, with no money to buy things, and no information about where things could be bought.  Really, if you have been following this blog very closely, it was an ideal situation for us, as not spending money is something we are quite adept at.  We walked down the palm lined boulevard for 10 minutes until we came to an Oasis, actually a gas station called the Oasis.  But, because they took credit cards, we were able to get some water and crackers there (for what we think equals about 90 cents).  We happily carried on down the boulevard for another 15 minutes as taxis honked to see if we wanted a ride.  We ignored them all, believing that we were only a few miles out of Sharjah, and knowing that we had eight hours to burn.  The sun was shining, it felt like a beach resort, and we were having a wonderful time.

            Just then, a car slowed down ahead of us and honked three times. We looked curiously at it and then each other and quickly conferred.  We decided that we would happily take a ride if it was offered, (And no we weren’t hitch hiking).  We hurried our pace and the guy in the car asked if we wanted a taxi.  We still do not know why he asked if we wanted a taxi, but at the time we felt like we had been tricked by his plain white car.  We backed away from the car, but then he explained the ride was on him.  So knowing that we had no money, and therefore nothing to lose, we jumped in the car.  We explained to him that we had no money, and he pulled out some 40 AED and tried to give it to Andrew.  At this point, we were thoroughly confused…that didn’t go away throughout the day.  We explained that we wanted to go down to the city center and he said that’s 15 kilometers away.  Alex tried to get out of the car again, but the guy gestured for us to stay.  We drove for awhile, and Andrew told him, his name is Amith, that we were going to go to the beach.  A fair way down the road, at which point Alex was pretty certain she wouldn’t have been so happy walking, Amith slowed down and parked at the beach.  Then he explained that he would wait for an hour and then take us to the city center. We tried to refuse, we honestly did, we offered to walk from there, but he explained that he was on a three day holiday and that he would be waiting when we were done.  Again, we were pretty confused, the situation was just weird.  He now knew we didn’t have any money, had offered us his, and was now acting as personal chauffeur.  We spent an awesome thirty minutes at the Arabian Gulf.  We got some nice photos including when Andrew waded into the water (Yes, it was cold).  We sat on some rocks next to some fisherman and wrote in our journals, and marveled that instead of sand the waves watched up scores of coral and shells.  The weather was perfect, and we were congratulating ourselves on our successful lack of planning and pondering what on earth the guy in the car was thinking, but deciding that perhaps he was just a lonely guy with nothing better to do.  After this we headed back to Amith’s car and climbed in.  He asked where we wanted to go, we said downtown Sharjah was fine, and he said Sharjah wasn’t that good and that we wanted to go to Dubai.  Ok we said, and we were off. 

            Amith had told us earlier that he needed to exchange his car for a pickup truck at two o’clock, so he would show us Dubai and then drop us off in downtown Sharjah.  On the way he told us that if the police asked, we were friends of his.  This made both of us regret our decision to take him up on his offer of a ride.  He explained that it was because there is a huge fine if citizens are caught performing the duties of cabs, so we would have to pretend to be friends of his, and he told us to call him “Mit.”  Dubai’s skyline looks like something out of a sci-fi movie, and they are currently building what Amith said would be the tallest building in the world.  He drove us through the city and out to one sky scraper that resembled a sailboat and took us into a shopping center that was full of delicious smells and a Starbucks.  We were fascinated by the number of American restaurants including KFC, Hardees, Pizza Hut, Burger King, McDonalds, etc.  Around 2:00 we left Dubai and he mentioned that his friend was waiting for the car.  We told him it would be fine to drop us off and take care of that, reiterating for the 1000th time that we could get a cab. (Bluffing of course as we didn’t have any money).  Rather than driving to drop the car off, he took us to a vegetarian Indian restaurant that was simply amazing.  We had a thali, which is a Sampler Platter served with Indian bread and rice and is essentially all you can eat.  Before sitting down, Amith explained we had to wash our hands, at the hand washing station near the kitchen as they would be our main utensils.  We had a moment alone and we quickly shared our suspicions, but decided the food smelled too good to act on them yet.  Instead, we dug in whole heartedly, unfortunately right-handedly only, into the most delicious Indian food either of us had ever eaten.  Tearing the bread one handed turned out to be difficult, but using the spoon was surprisingly the hardest.  After what seemed like four courses, we got up to pay, and once more Mit took over and settled the bill. That voided our theory that he was doing all this for lunch on us.

            Now that he was sufficiently late getting the car to his friend, he dropped us off downtown with the promise to return later and pick us up.  He dropped us off in the middle of Sharjah at a store which had the lowest prices we have ever seen.  It was called Gift Market, and all items were between 1 and 5 AED, or .36 – 1.50 US.  To be honest, if we had had any AED we would have taken care of everyone’s souvenirs, with two for Spanky.  We decided on a few items to purchase, but they wouldn’t accept credit cards for less than 100AED so we left the items there and went outside.  Lulled by the shining sun, the nice breeze and the belly full of Indian food, we decided to sit out any more shopping and do some people watching.  

            Men here are dressed most often in long flowing white shirt dresses, some with pants beneath, some without.  They have their head covered with a white or colored caftan that is held in place with rings.  The woman are less likely to be dressed religiously, but those that are, sport burkahs or the head scarves we saw in Turkey. We’ve even seen kids wearing this attire.  As we were lazily watching the people and pondering on the oddity of Amith, lo and behold there he was.  He had finished early and come looking for us.  He seemed worried that we were sitting down instead of shopping, so he took it upon himself to show us the mall we had missed out on.  Finally sleepy and still overly stuffed, we explained that we would like to go to the airport.  It was about five, and we had been told by the airlines to make sure and be back by six.  So Mit walked us toward his truck, which was close to his office.  It was then that it happened, he asked us if we wanted to see his office, we of course said yes and he opened the door.  Inside were stacks and stacks of tubes of Silicone, some boxes of tape, and two desks.  He asked us if we could illegally import the 12 boxes of Silicone into the US.  We told him that unfortunately our bags were already pretty heavy, so we wouldn’t be able to on this trip…no just kidding.  He showed us his office, and then we crammed into his truck (no back seat) and headed for the airport.  The traffic was pretty bad, so not once, but twice he went the absolute wrong direction to take “shortcuts” which took us through the creepy industrial parts of Sharjah.  It took 45 minutes to get back to the airport, but part of that was because he insisted that we stop for one more photo opportunity with him and a distant University.

            When he dropped us off, it was as quickly as he had picked us up. He did not ask for anything but for us to call him when we make it to India. We shook hands and said goodbye. After checking in, we settled down to ponder the bizarreness of the day. We had expected at most to sit at the beach for a while, or maybe hitting up a McDonald’s. Instead we got a personal guided tour of Dubai, a fantastic lunch, and a new-found fondness for letting strangers pick us up and drive us to remote locations.

Tags: Beaches & sunshine

 

Comments

1

Okay I have officially just given up on ever seeing you too nutjobs again. Our ENTIRE vast fortune goes to Daniel and Ryan and Spanky gets what they don't want.

You two are the kind of people who they stick in an episode of 24 and when I see them injected into the plot line I say...

"nobody would be that dumb, no one is going to just get in a car with a complete and total stranger who is using the name of a Republican presidential candidate in an the remote playground of gazillionaire Arab princes. Who writes this crap?"

I bet "Mit" was planning to kill Andrew or force him into male modeling and sell Alex into white slavery UNTIL he saw her famous glare.

You want to hear the irony of it all? If only you had told your old man that you would be in Dubai...I have hook ups there.
My old college buds Austin and Debbie Chamness have a niece living In Dubai (who I have known since she was one year old) who works for a branch of the US government that I shant name (but it consists of some very familiar initials).

By now I am sure you are in India and voluntarily being used as mules transporting "substances" for the Punjab mafia.

That doesn't bother me as much...because at least it doesn't sound so weird to say my Texas loved ones were killed by Indians. That has a sort of Western Lonesome Dove-ish sound to it. May Shiva and Ganesha have mercy on your reckless souls and may Krishna's 1, 2, and 3 not let you be too goofy.

AND... Sarve Santu Niramaya
(may everyone be free of disease)

  Richard Jan 14, 2008 12:23 AM

2

shannon do you remember when you were younger and you would stop for people and give them rides and bringing people home because they looked like they needed help? well where else in the world would you be rewarded for your good deeds, your in the middle of the good deeds and being nice gets you to heaven or at least your kindness payed back tenfold place on earth. i think it's pretty cool that you two had such a wonderful day and met a really nice person, who knows he may have been a friend or relative of one of my families in calif. i am in awe of the faith you put in your fellowman, sounds like something i would do or maybe done when i was young and trusting and did do. now to come back to my senses. are you nuts, you do not agree to lie to the police, what if they ask you to spell his name, then what? you can agree to be long lost family on the black sheep side of the family. i do hope you are taking alot of pictures and you need to save all the money you can so we can go back to these places together. maybe instead of a body makeover i will spend my money on a grand trip. or if you two keep this up (going off with strangers in a strange country, no money, no gun) you can use the money that you will get from causing my early death from heart failure to finance your return trip. one of you two need to be the grownup here and keep the other safe from themself. so andrew we know that shannon is not ever going to grow up and realize that the world is not oz. so you must be the tough one and not let her lead you into this false sense of everything is beautiful world that she sees behind those rose colored glasses. you do know that i cannot let the girls read your blogs as you two are not good examples for them. if they did this i would kill them and put them out of my worry. so please keep in mind that young and impressanable girls will follow in the footsteps of you two, and then determine what you would say to them if it were them doing the dumb thing and act accordinly. hope you two continue to have a wonderful time, and please visit a tatoo shop and have your name and contact info. put on your body, as it may be the only way we ever know what happened to you when you disaper from the face of the earth. love to you both, keep safe and let us hear from you often as now we will worry if you have been spirited away by friendly people. mom

  mardi Jan 14, 2008 3:13 AM

3

Okay, can you say CREEPY!!! What are you guys thinking?! Stick with the beach next time. And just as a thought, walking might be a good plan to burn off all those extra pounds that you two are putting on due to the super-sized goodie stash that Annie brought you.

  Stopthisinsanity Jan 14, 2008 8:51 AM

4

Hi. Im from Angola but im living in cairo(egipto) i wanna know if its possible to me make that course,or what i have to do?

  Nazira Lucio Jul 31, 2008 1:56 PM

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