… it’s a case of “goodbye Dubai”.
Maggie and I spent 48 hours in Dubai en route to our recent travels in Europe. We wanted to supplement what we had experienced there in 2014.
Even if you have not personally visited Dubai, you have probably seen numerous images of the ever-increasing number of over-the-top property developments, especially luxury hotels and shopping malls. Indeed, the airport’s arrival hall gives you a first impression of what to expect!
By current standards, our hotel, the Sheraton Dubai Creek was middle-aged and modest. However, our room was spacious enough and very comfortable, and the hotel’s various facilities had undergone a makeover recently. We patronised the bar lounge, restaurant, breakfast room and cafe and we were more than happy with the food and beverage services.
The hotel provided a free shuttle-bus service to the Dubai Mall, which is best known for housing a vast aquarium. After some restorative bathing, sleep and a light lunch, we took advantage of the shuttle ride on our first afternoon.
These images from our time at the mall range from fashion icons, through a tasteful modern take on a souk, the latest in dinosaur discoveries and said aquarium, to neighbouring skyscrapers in various stages of construction for the mall’s owners.
We had intended to revisit the Dubai Museum in the old town next morning but, by the time we had caught up on sleep, the sun had already driven the ambient temperature towards 40C. So, we went straight to the Gold Souk, to fulfil Maggie’s main ambition for our visit to Dubai – a new necklace.
After 20 minutes or so of window shopping and negotiating our way through a series of entreaties to enter a shop here or to buy a very expensive watch there, we found one shop whose display seemed promising and at which we received the politest of encouragements to go inside. It was a comfortable, organised and, ultimately, completely satisfying experience. (Discretion dictates that I do not post a pic of Maggie’s new necklace. Suffice to say, she was happy and, remarkably, I didn’t need a shot of smelling salts.)
Later in the day, we returned to the Dubai Mall, ostensibly to enjoy a meal of ‘Arabic’ food at a recommended restaurant, followed by ‘the world’s largest orchestrated water fountain display’.
Before an early dinner – we had an 8.30am flight ahead of us – we explored more of the mall’s cavernous ‘arcades’ and came upon something of a confectionary curio – a vintage Citroen van, in which the most beautiful ice-creams were being sculpted by a team of four men and women. As we queued for one of these treats, we heard one young Arabic couple say “we had those in New York”; from another, “we saw these in Paris”. As you do!
After the obligatory photograph, we enjoyed several minutes of conversation with the second of the above couples, who were visiting from neighbouring Oman for the weekend. In addition to travel-story exchanges and their eagerness that we should include their home country in our next itinerary, they willingly fulfilled my desire to understand more about the various ways in which muslim men and women are dressed. Thank you.
Next, to dinner. Well, it differed little from what I have eaten at Lebanese restaurants in Australia over the last 40 years, except that the quality was below average. So, no plate-pics. But we were entertained by an athletic young man, performing an exhilarating and colourful ‘whirling dervish’ routine.
From dinner, a brisk walk took us to the setting for the water fountain show. We discovered that, not only is it ‘the world’s biggest’, but it is also very brief. Arrive 30 seconds late, as we did, and you will miss ten per cent of the show.
So, given that we were both at the beginning of our vacation and six-hours out of our time zone, this modest group of experiences was quite adequate. Why, then, are we disinclined to visit Dubai again?
There are two reasons, both related to human dignity; one macro, one micro.
For this visit, our accommodation was located beside Dubai Creek. This meant that journeys by bus or taxi took us past some of the quays at which imported goods are unloaded from a fleet of relatively small boats. These boats go back and forth to large transport ships anchored in the deeper waters off the coast of Dubai. The unloading task was being undertaken by teams of men, principally from the Indian sub-continent, with little or no equipment to aid them, in the baking sun. From such labours, luxury hotels are made.
The micro reason? While we were dining at our hotel on the first evening, two Arabic men, circa 70 years old, arrived to sit at the table next to us. It was evident that one of them was in a position of some power in relation to the hotel, possibly ownership, as kitchen and floor staff scurried and double-teamed to respond to his every wish. Then a waiter came to announce that his “guests” had arrived. Two 20-something Asian women joined the table, dressed in a style that left no room for doubt as to their source of income. We’re not at all prudish, but we did feel discomforted and offended by the scenes of male-domination and female-humiliation which ensued.
So, we flew out of Dubai with a slightly bad taste in our mouths. Perhaps a glass of beer in Amsterdam would wash it away?!
Thankfully, it did. Proost!