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Dubai: In the Beginning

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES | Monday, 5 April 2010 | Views [283]

There was chaos. Sweet, decadent chaos.

Brace yourself as you're launched into a city racing to become as big and as bad as the biggest and baddest in the world, but with no real clue as to how to go about it or to sustain itself. Lonely Planet itself needs to remind you that Dubai is NOT the capital of the United Arab Emirates, it just thinks it is. A very small, badly planned and tightly built city, ever expanding amongst a mess of cranes, roadblocks, scaffolding and construction arrays. Oh how I long for the gridlines and trams of Melbourne at a time where the taxi drivers get lost for an hour on a twenty minute trip. However, you can't help but fall in love with the place. There's a keen awareness that the traffic is chaotic, that the rubbish from masses of apartments can't be managed, and that the government compounds are the atrocious hellhole you would only land in for a month if you were desperate for a roof over your head. In distinct contrast, customer service is the highest I've ever seen, from our five-star hotel right down to Jeans West. Everybody knows it's haphazard here, they know the traffic is shit, but heck, they're out to make the best shot of this place that they can, and realise that the people and their relationships are the things that hold the chaos together in some sort of quasi-order. At last, our journey has begun, and I intend to fill you in on all the good bits, quirky bits, and utterly stupid bits along the way. Andrew's had his fun in Thailand, now it's my turn to do it - without all the spelling mistakes.

Welcome to Dubai.

Waiting in Melbourne at 2.30am for our flight. I was starting to feel like we lived here. I like flying. I really do enjoy it. It's the portal to adventures, journeys, and all kinds of cultural experiences. But fourteen hours on a plane is enough to test the patience and circulation of the most avid flyer, even with Emirates. With less than average service, tightly packed economy seats, and a body that's already been nine hours around the world less than 48 hours before, I have to say it was the hardest flight I've ever endured. There was however a bright light at the end of the airbridge. Not only was hour transfer waiting on arrival in the airport, he was standing waiting at the very end of the tunnel (customs anyone??) ready to take my 12kg carry-on (no, I don't know how I got it on either) and guide us through to a guest lounge for some unknown reason.

After three or four attempts Andrew was able to finally communicate the message that he was indeed here to live and work, not to holiday, and that he did actually need to go to the Visa desk. None of this bothered me though, as I'd been plied with delicately soft dates, coconut cookies and whatever I wanted to drink. Add to that the discovery of free wifi, and I was a happy girl for the hour that we were stuck in Visa purgatory while a staff member of Arab Media Group drove to the airport to deliver the Visa that Andrew was promised on arrival. Snapshot of things to come? I think so.

Fast forward.
Manic racing trying to keep up to our Pakistani transfer host. That dude is fast!
Tracking down our luggage after it went around the carousel for an hour. Done!
Buying UAE Local sim cards with no knowledge of the currency exchange rate. Done!
Realising that the transfer host had already had my passport stamped with my Visa.
Racing to the carpark to our transfer vehicle. Phew!
....wait. That's us? The white Mercedes stretch limo?
<insert religious deity here> help me.

This is where it starts. Where we regularly look at each other and discuss our level of insanity or how we've actually ended up here. Our journey takes us past the newly opened Burj Dubai, scraping the skies and towering over every other building in the city. Traffic races past us as our driver slides easily through the chaos, talking in broken English about how to get here and there in Dubai. I'm gobsmacked, and then we arrive at our hotel. No, it's not Atlantis or the Burj Al Arab, but it's amazing all the same!

Completely decadent and fit for a princess such as myself, we not only have a huge bed coated in pillows, but also a lounge room, executive desk and a bathroom that takes up the better part of half the apartment. Split into three sections involving a toilet/bidet combo in one room, double vanity in the middle with a TV Andrew fondly watches while using the facilities, and a separate room for the double head shower and epic bathtub. Seriously, the wardrobe opens from the bedroom side AND the bathroom side, just for your convenience. Also fitted with a GIANT LCD TV, complete with the Cricket Channel, Andrew is in heaven.

Two weeks you say? Heck, let's stay for a year.
Oh wait, there's the hotel services price list. Maaaaaybe not.
My credit card's already hurting from the $1000 guarantee on the room.

Hunger eventually drives us out of the hotel and towards Dubai Mall, and incredible mix of the most amazing and exclusive brands, but all a good dose cheaper than Australian prices. Andrew needs to be thankful we'll be moving into a small apartment, otherwise my shoe collection would explode. It was a nice relief to confirm that pretty much everybody speaks English, and really, we shouldn't be in too much of a hurry to use Arabic as most of the expats don't speak it anyway! We explored the mall, filled our tired and weary bodies with Lebanese delights and oooohed and aaaahed our way around the equivalent of Collins Street in Melbourne, but without that heavy feeling of being priced out of the market. Once Andrew had given in to temptation and purchased some new clothes, a taxi whisked us back to our hotel when we realised just how little sleep we'd had in the last couple of days. All in all I have to say, that by the time we arrived back to our luscious hotel room that night, I was feeling very, very good about our latest escapade.....


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