Tuesday, March 11, 2014

day 1: no rest for the weary

nothing ruins a chic outfit like a scrunchie.
We departed Dulles at 10 a.m. Saturday and arrived in Dubai at 8 a.m. Sunday - a 13-hour flight + 9-hour time change. There isn't much to tell about the flight. Per usual, flying anything other than a U.S. carrier was a far superior experience. The seats were more comfortable, the food was above average, and they even gave us warm towels at the beginning of the flight. I loved the flight attendants' little hats, but couldn't get over the fact that they were also wearing scrunchies.

The sun went down about 5 hours into the flight somewhere over the Atlantic, and rose again over Saudi Arabia an hour or so before we landed. I tried sleeping, but was mostly unsuccessful.

Flight Stats
Meals Consumed: lunch (chicken), snack (pizza), breakfast (omelette)
Movies Watched: Blue Jasmine, The Bling Ring, a really depressing British film, and Meet Joe Black, which I turned on for some background noise while trying to sleep
Hours Slept: 1-2

i'm not going to lie, i enjoyed the chicken.
saudi arabian sunrise

After landing in Dubai, we made our way to our friend's house to drop off our bags. Now would be a good time to tell you a little bit about our host. We met Rob in our church community group at Capitol Hill Baptist a couple of years ago. Rob works for the state department, but was in DC for a stint to learn Farsi - one of the many languages he speaks. We became fast friends with Rob. We had a lot in common, and I honestly don't think you can meet Rob and not love him. He has a big heart and a very incredible story about God's redeeming love. Anyway, we love Rob so once he shipped out to Dubai, the seed was planted that we wanted to visit.

Dubai wasn't at the top of our list of potential travel destinations, but sometimes you can't say "no" when a good opportunity falls into your lap. We wanted to visit Rob, and it didn't hurt that he offered a free place to stay (thanks in part to our tax dollars!) and that flights were affordable. So there you have it. The story of how we ended up in Dubai on a Sunday morning in March.

Our digs for the week...and this is just part of one floor.

After dropping of our bags, we stopped for a quick breakfast at a bakery. Rob's apartment building was conveniently attached to a mall (naturally) so we took full advantage of the mall's services all week including the taxi stand, bakery, and ATM.

The name of the game all day was sleep deprivation. We were tired, but we knew the worst thing we could do for the jet lag was sleep before it was nighttime in Dubai. In an effort to stay awake, we left the house and hit the streets.

Just so you're oriented, here's a little bit about Dubai's geography. This is in my own words from what I gathered while I was there so please excuse any inaccuracies. I may just be making this all up.

The city is very spread out and has mostly grown from north to south along the coast. It takes quite a while to get from one end of the city to the other since it's so big and traffic is bad. It's basically split into a few major sections - Deira, Bur Dubai, Downtown, Jumeirah, Marina - all of which have their own vibe. Together, it makes for a diverse and fascinating destination.

Deira is the oldest part of the city on the north side of the Dubai creek (btw, oldest isn't really that old). It's home to the gold/spice souks & is a melting pot of all the different cultures present in Dubai. I loved this part of town because it was colorful, diverse and full of great food.
Bur Dubai is the area south of the creek that is newer than Deira, but older than downtown. It's a mix of the two with established spots and newer areas still under construction. This is where we stayed (right by the BurJuman metro station), and I loved that it allowed us to easily visit both old and new Dubai.
Downtown is home to a lot of the skyscrapers, malls and the Burj Khalifa - the world's tallest building, which looms over the entire city. It's the glitz/glam Vegas-y section of the city that is most synonymous with Dubai.
Jumeriah is the beach. This is where most of the resorts are located. You can arrive in this part of Dubai and completely forget that you are in a Muslim country. You'll find 2 things here that you won't always see in other parts of the city: non-conservative dress and alcohol. This area reminded me of Mexico, the Caribbean or any other high-end beachy resort destination.
The Marina is at the south end of Dubai. We didn't explore much in this area (and never saw the actual marina), but it seemed to be a mix of Jumeriah & Downtown with both resorts and skyscrapers.

View Dubai in a larger map

We wandered around the art gallery section of Bur Dubai and explored the streets and shops near the creek. We then hopped on a little boat for a tour of Dubai Creek.

We stopped for a light lunch at the Arabian Tea House. It was so nice to be sitting outside in the airy cafe enjoying the lovely weather. The weather all week was perfect, high 70s-low 80s, sunshine and just enough of a gulf breeze to keep from getting too hot. Meanwhile, back in DC they were preparing for a little snow storm.

Later that afternoon we rode the metro back to the apartment to wait for Rob to get home. The work week in Dubai, like most Middle Eastern countries, is Sunday-Thursday so even though we arrived on a weekend, it was a workday for Rob. We passed some time playing chess. Neither of us are any good, but Jon knew enough to teach me which ways the pieces can move. It was fun way to keep from falling asleep.

their metro stations rival our nicest airports

That night Rob took us to dinner at an Italian restaurant near the Dubai Mall, the largest mall in the world (more on that later). Rob said he had a genius plan to keep us awake down the stretch, and it was, in fact, genius. We ate outside on the patio overlooking the Dubai fountains. Normally, I'd scoff at the idea that looking at a few measly fountains could overcome my desire to sleep, but these were no ordinary fountains. They played a 3-5 minute "show" every 30 minutes. I don't really know how to describe them except that it was like watching the water equivalent of a good fireworks display. The fountains & lights were perfectly synchronized to the music. Jon called them the dancing waters.

Finally, it was time to sleep. Have I mentioned how tired we were? I thought sleeping would be a breeze, and it was...for the first few hours. By 2:30 a.m. we were both wide awake. The jet lag monster had reared its ugly head. We stayed awake for a few hours watching the Oscars red carpet show and talking about how annoying it was that we were both awake after being so tired all day. We finally went back to sleep around 5:30 a.m. for a few more hours. That night was rough, but I do think our master plan worked. We managed to survive the rest of the week sleeping on a normal schedule and not needing any additional naps. Take that, jet lag.

One down, six to go.


Post a Comment