Thursday, June 15, 2006

Dubai - Part I

I finally made it to Dubai Airport at around 10:30 pm. The flight was all right, and the wait in London wasn’t too long, just enough to check all the stores, buy a phone card and call my friend Sam.
So I get to the airport, I get through customs, my first interaction with a local. Three questions:
Q1 - Visit?
1 - Yes
Q2 - What Hotel?
2 - No I’m staying at a friend’s house
Q3 - Mobile number
And I gave it to him, I actually showed it to him
So I walk through this loooooooong corridor and then I see a sign “VISA” so I go there, although there was barely anyone waiting. I gave my passport to the guy, asked him for a visa. He looks at me with disgust almost and throws the Passport back on the counter telling me “Canadian, no visa, go, go” I was like “Cool, Woohooooooooooooo” I might have said “Wooohooooooooo” outloud even. lol

WAIT! Don’t skip. I have to tell you about the most romantic unusual kiss I saw. It was while I was waiting in line for customs. A tall man in white walked towards a shorter man in army uniform, they slowly move their faces towards one another looking in each others’ eyes, and then.. there it was… the kiss! They touched noses and separated and started talking. Welcome to the Gulf :)

Meeting AM
Out of the airport, my friend AM picked me up and off we went to Scarlett’s at the bottom of the Emirates Towers for drinks before we went home.

It was the first time we meet in person, AM and I. We hit if off right away. She was all I imagined, outgoing, strong, extremely nice and friendly, and she talks fast just like on the phone lol. I felt like I was meeting a long life friend, not a stranger.

First Day
The first day in Dubai, I was happy to be left home alone while poor AM went to work. I slept almost all day long. I was lacking too much sleep for at least a month, and with the time difference, the rest was well needed. I also watched Arabic TV, yay!! :) MTV and LBC is how I got introduced to Chef Ramzi, who gives yummy recipes in the morning show and to Micho, who invites and interviews artists in a show called… hmmm... oops! I forgot the name of the show, sorry.

Hello? Anybody home?
Yiiiiiiiiii! How can I forget the first day incident? So here I was at home. I used the phone to call some friends letting them know I’m in town. I gave the number for callbacks, then watched TV, slept, unpacked, slept again, ate, watched more TV, slept some more. AM was supposed to return from work around 9-ish in the evening. So at 9 I was awake, well rested, settled and ready for Dubai. 9 pm passed, 9:30… 10 pm… 10:30 pm… I started to get worried. No one called all day. How is this possible? Not even AM? Ok so she’s busy the poor girl, but what about those so-called friends who said they’d call me back?
A little before 11 pm I called because it was really getting MUCH later than 9 pm and I hear on the other side of the line another worried voice.
- Where have you been? I’ve been trying to call you all day.
- Walla I’m home, the phone didn’t ring once and I was wondering why no one loves me in Dubai
- What the hell? I’ve been trying ALL afternoon, until now. I really got worried. I’m not done work but I left everything and I’m on my way home now.
- Could the ringer on the phone be off by any chance?
As I said these words I flip the phone and sure enough, the ringer switch WAS off all this time!! Kiss me again!!! I wonder who else tried to call and how many times and everyone must have thought I’m ignoring them. Couldn’t I have thought about the ringer off TWLEVE HOURS EARLIER?

Arabic Night at Saray
So after this incident, we got ready in minutes and we went to Dubai Marina for an Arabic night at the Saray Club. Can you believe there was traffic at MIDNIGHT? It’s a construction zone in Jumaira and it took us literally one hour to get there… at MIDNIGHT. We had to show our ID at the door and we didn’t miss checking out the bouncer.. not bad but too much unnecessary muscles :) The evening was nice and the place was full! It was fun to be out, listening and dancing to familiar Arabic tunes. The funny thing was the smell of cigarettes afterwards. Being in a smoke-free country, I haven’t had to wash my clothes and take a shower after a night out to take the smell of nicotine off. Was it that night we stopped at the Lebanese bakery for some mana’ish? I had man’oushi sandwich with hot tomatoes - among other things; it was so yummy. If it wasn’t that night, we definitely stopped twice at that place in the evening and had the best mana’ish ever, with some maakaron, the second time.

Beach & Buddha Bar
The following day it was AM’s day off and we went to the beach! I wrote about my day at the beach in Dubai in a previous posting ("Sunshine, sand and salty waters"). After that we went in our wet cloths to the Lebanese restaurant to have some yummy Lebanese food. We ordered more than we could eat LOL then off to home for a quick shower, and then some errands to run.
At night, we made it to the Buddha Bar for drinks. It’s a restaurant/bar unique with its lounge chill-out musical genre. I fell in love with the décor! Dim lighting, red décor, a huge statue of Buddha in the centre, a high ceiling in the restaurant area, where the statue is and lounges on the side and at an upper floor around the centre, looking down at the restaurant and the Buddha statue. Beautiful :)

My first taxi experience was frustrating but then turned funny when it was explained to me. So here I was ready to leave the house to the City Centre, I have the Taxi company number, I call and give them my location. Having no key to the house, I make sure I have all the things I need and off I go downstairs waiting for the taxi. The building has many entrances and although I told the person on the phone “back entrance” I was almost sure it didn’t registered, although the voice answered “In sha’ Allah” (with God’s will). So I stood downstairs in a strategic place where I could see some of the traffic to the front of the building while standing by the back entrance. Half an hour later, still no taxi… 45 minutes… I’m starting to curse. A woman in black passed by, I ask her if she speaks English, she didn’t and I didn’t feel like talking to her in Arabic.

A few minutes later a western-looking woman comes out of this door so I stopped her and asked her for a cell phone, she didn’t have one, but she had the time to talk so she tells me all about how she came to Dubai to meet the love of her life – who is still in Egypt – and how her kids back home are happy for following her dream and her heart. She’s about 55 maybe, from the USA. Then she tells me that we can help each others, she helps me and I help her, she hands me her “business card”, a yahoo email address with not even her name in the email address. She tells me all about poor girls who come to the UAE promised some job and end up doing something else… I wasn’t paying too much attention as all I wanted was to call the taxi company again or have a lift to the mall, which she said she will see if she can arrange with her co-worker who she was waiting for while chatting with me. As she was ready to leave, a taxi came by, so she leaves with her friend, wishing me luck and asking to keep in touch… SURE!! But the taxi wasn’t mine and it didn’t stop :(

Yeah! Friendship?!
At this moment, a tiny Indian man comes to talk to me. He’s new in Dubai, he works for an insurance company for a few months now. I didn’t quite understand why he was there. The mall that’s at the building was closed that day. He said more things what I wasn’t even listening to, then I ask him for his cell phone and I call the taxi company. I was told that they called me back and no one answered... They called me back? I didn’t know that they call back. I didn’t give them the number. The little I knew about how advanced the system was in Dubai! LOL
So then we agreed that I was waiting downstairs, that I had no call back number and that the taxi better be here as soon as possible. Uffffffffff… An hour later the taxi was here. Not fast enough. The Indian guy wanted to have a "friendship", more importantly an "enjoyable friendship", he said that with all his teeth showing; a huge smile of happiness when he said these words. I ended up taking his phone number to please him, instead of the kiss he asked for and of course promised I will call. Too bad I accidentally lost that piece of paper where I wrote his number in the taxi.

Finally my taxi is here. The driver was nice enough to explain to me the system: You call; they call you back when the taxi arrives, this is when you go down. This way you know the taxi is yours and not your neighbour’s and you don’t wait in the heat for long. Heat they say and I say DAFAA (warmth!). It was a beautiful sunny day, not one cloud in the sky and temperature of 35C degrees. 15 minutes and 15DHS later (less than $3) I’m at the City Centre. I went straight to the bookstore to buy a map of Dubai, then spend the rest of the day at the mall.

Enough babbling for one posting. I’ll be back later with more on my adventures in Dubai.