26.07.2011 40 °C
Monday 25th July
Dubai, Hot and Hotter
Arrived Dubai 6am and we were given plenty of time to admire the vast shiny, bright airport while we walked a few hundred metres to Arrivals, about 20 minute wait at immigration and about 2 lots of security screening, very secure we felt it must be. The immigration official had not so much as cracked a smile the whole time we were in queue and then quite suddenly after handing over our passports, this chap asked where we had been and how long we were to stay in Dubai and with a big grin said that he hoped we have a nice visit, goodbye, all in Italian! After all this time our suitcases were about the only ones left, circulating very lonely on the baggage carousel. Then through more security and next thing we were outside into the heat. What a shock that was!
We had agreed that the flight from Rome was one of the coldest we had been on, everyone had used their blankets and even asked for more, not sure why it was so chilly. Then going from the cool airport and walking outside into 36 degrees C at 7am. Pretty quickly we were in a cool taxi, speeding to our hotel, getting a running commentary from our English speaking driver, ranging from the weather, to where to visit, to the incompetent other drivers, standard taxi talk, the world over.
Only about 20mins to our hotel, the Crowne Plaza Deira, a very flash place, right up to our standard (the low, special price that is). Very nice of them to let us check in at that time of the morning so we made the most of it with a quick shower and a snooze (in the bed which was probably a King King size, HUGE) till 10am, ready to see the sights.
The hotel tour guide suggested a full day and night of guide tours, all could be arranged at short notice and was obviously disappointed when we asked for a map and where we could walk to. No map available but directions to a nearby shopping mall about 300m down our street. So off we went, realising pretty soon why there were so few people on the street, they had all melted! Got to the mall and had morning tea and agreed that sightseeing today was not on, lets find our way to the massive Dubai Mall and stay cool. However, apart from taking a taxi, the best way was walk to the Metro train station and take the Metro. The station was about 1km so we were a bit sun struck by the time we arrived and then even more amazed when we went inside.
Not only was the station big, bright, shiny and new but as we were looking at the map a Metro staff person came over, gave us directions and even took us to the ticket office and told them which station we needed tickets to. We later realised that almost everyone involved in people (tourists) can speak very good English and getting around is no problem at all. The Metro trains are also brand new, clean and cool, a far cry from some of the trains in Rome. There are fines in Dubai for eating or drinking on the trains.
Off the train a few minutes later onto an awaiting bus to take us to the mall, a 10 min ride, giving us a good view of some of the skyscrapers and the massive building projects underway in this district.
Entering the mall is like walking into a whole new world and we easily filled in a few hours walking around admiring the internal attractions. As well as the normal shops there is a massive Aquarium, a full size Ice Skating rink, waterfalls, special shops for buying gold and countless other ways to spend your money. You can even hire an electric cart, with driver to ferry you around to your favourite stores. Apart from lunch I am afraid the little money we spent would not have even covered the cost of air conditioning, however I suppose they don't rely on tourists like us.
Enough of walking about aimlessly we decided to return to our hotel, so seeing the bus outside the mall we made a quick dash, the driver kept the door open just long enough for us to get in. Swiped our ticket and beauty, there were 2 seats free up the front as it was busy down the back, so we sat in those 2, no problem, the bus takes off. After a little while Peter was looking around and noticed a small but quite distinct sign on the windows near where we are sitting "this area for women and families only" and he sees a barrier just back behind our seats. Oh dear, Peter is in the ladies only section, what is the penalty for this offence? Without a moments hesitation he dives under the barrier and grabs a seat in the correct section and spends the rest of the trip waiting for the bus police, but none arrived and I think exception was made for dumb western tourist.
Once back at the hotel we made a bee line for the outdoor pool, located on the top floor. As expected it was quite warm in but refreshing none the less.
Dinner was a modest affair, taken in one of the hotel restaurants, mostly because they also served alcohol although this didn't help Sue who was served Soda after discussing with and ordering Cider with the waitress.
Took an evening stroll up to the mall, it was not much cooler out but more people were out and about, especially in the cool of the mall. While walking along we could hear the calling from the Mosques and it was incredible how you can hear the echoes all over the city. The main reason to go to the mall was to use the free WiFi at the coffee shop, it seems the better the hotel or more business oriented it is, the more they want to charge for WiFi and on our cheapskate room rate, there was no way they would supply it for free, even for 1/2 hour. Anyway got coffee and WiFi and returned for an early night, as a late evening river cruise did not really appeal to us in this heat. Obviously July is not one of the prime tourist months precisely for this reason. Would be nice to return to Dubai during a cooler time and have a much better look around. However it did serve a nice purpose of breaking the long trip home.