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Vagabonding Our time being 'of no fixed abode'.


UNITED ARAB EMIRATES | Thursday, 1 November 2007 | Views [966]

It's a long story, but the easiest and cheapest way for us to get from Japan to India was via Dubai. My friend Helen live there with her partner Andy so it was a good excuse for visiting them.

Dubai has a reputation for throwing people in jail for little reason and it was no surprise although slightly nervewracking when the customs officers spotted Nick's dreads and pulled him aside into an isolate room for a wee chat. He managed to assure them in a few minutes that he was not stupid enough to bring anything dodgy into the country and we were soon on our way.

While Dubai is a muslim country it is less strict than some of the other arab countries. It has an 80% expatriate population and accommodates some non muslim practices (such as alcohol consumption). Andy has an alcohol licence for example so he can go to the specialised places and get booze. Apparently to get this you need letters from your employer, passport, proof of income etc etc. Then you buy quotas of alcohol based on your annual income.

30 years ago there wasn't much in Dubai at all, then the Sheik decided to get progressive and it's now a big trade centre. They have enormous malls and are building these crazy islands just off shore, out of sand from Iran (they have the wrong kind of sand in Dubai!). They in the shapes of palm trees or they're working on one called the world - you can buy property on the country of your choice. On land there are buildings going up literally everywhere. Enormous residential towers and the like, all trying to out do each other. One of the malls even has a skiing slope in it. It can be 40 degrees outside and people inside are skiing -it's totally mad - and an environmental nightmare. Apparently, Dubai is responsible at present for about 60% of the worlds carbon footprint. With all the concrete buildings going up (one of the worst offenders) this figure unfortunately seems quite believable.

One of the highlights in Dubai was visiting a mosque. There's only one here that allows it by operating an Open Mosque, Open Minds programme. The nicest thing about it was that we were by no means the only people there - there must have been 200-300 people. These days with all the bad press Islam is getting it was rewarding to know that there were still a lot of people with minds open enough to go along. The lady who took the tour was British, having converted 5 years ago (she'd been married to a local for 12 years before that). She gave very polished explanations although some things seemed a little superficial (particularly in respect to womens issues). For example, the ayaba (black covering robes the women wear) was portrayed as a form of the little black dress, more sliming than white etc.

The main highlight was a totally touristy experience - the desert safari! We were taken into the desert in a 4WD and then went dune bashing! Lots and lots of crazy four wheel driving over massive dunes (unfortunately I've left the disc with the photos in our hotel, I'll upload them later - they're fabulous!). There were 13 vehicles in all and we drove for ages, up down and around with a few stops (which was good as I went a bit green at one point). We watched the sun set over the dunes and then did more driving to a mock up bedouin settlement. There we could ride camels, get a henna tattoo, smoke sheesa (apple tabacco) pipes, dress in traditional dress, have traditional coffee etc. They feed us some amazing food and there was belly dancing to finish. It was a great afternoon/evening and although commercial, it was fun. We got totally stuck on the way out and our driver, having just pumped up the tyres again, eventually had to let them done so we could get over the dunes and out! Then later done the road there was an absolute scrum of 4WDs trying to get to the air hose to reinflate their tyres.

Other than that we did a bit of wandering around in the heat, looking at buildings, went to the beach and went to a comedy night with Helen and Andy. I met a colleague of Helen's from NZ who turns out to be from Morrinsville and her mother knows some of my family there... small world.

After 5 days in Dubai, we took a night time flight on Jazeera Airways (very good incidently) to Mumbai, India (formerly Bombay).

Stand by for photos at some point.

Tags: On the Road



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