After what felt like 4 minutes of sleep, we woke up at 8 to start our 1st day in Dubai.
Quickly sent some sms’s and email from the Business Centre and had a chat with an agent from Arabian Adventures. We decided that a trip into the desert is a must and booked an outing for the same day.
After breakfast, we decided to “explore” the neighborhood closest to our hotel on foot. As luck would have it, we were right on the infamous Khalid Bin Al Waleed Road (best know for its vast number of computer and electronic shops).
The first thing about Dubai that struck me was the traffic. Lots and lots and lots of it. People drive at breakneck speeds, hooting constantly and change lanes for no apparent reason (without indicators). There seem to be no such thing as a following distance on these roads. On numerous occasions I cringed in anticipation of the inevitable near collisions. However, after having a chat with Khalifa (our Dubian friend from SA), he confirmed that a huge number of deaths in Dubai are related to road accidents.
While on the car subject:
There is no such thing as a small car in Dubai. (Or even an old car). Apparently cars cost less than half of what we would expect to pay for them in South Africa. Fuel is also considered to be cheap (also less than half of what we pay). Further more, most people travel over long distances. The 'small' 3 litre engines on the city cars are still tame compared to the monstrous 5 and 6 litre engines on the SUV’s you find everywhere. I’ve never seen so many BIG vehicles before.
It unfortunately also doesn’t seem like anybody care too much for their cars. There doesn’t seem to be enough overnight parking facilities and it’s common to see 100’s of cars parked on sandy car parks. Seemingly having stood there for weeks. Some for months even?
Anyway, getting back to our 1st day adventures:
The first place we discovered was a huge hypermarket type shop called Carrefour (pronounced Car-For). Eventually I had to drag Lisa out of there. We could’ve easily spent another day just there. Even though no cameras are allowed I did manage to take some video. Oddly enough, the very next day when we went back there, the security insisted on vacuum sealing all our bags. The bigger bags had to be handed in at a special designated counter.
To Lisa’s dismay, no more pictures were thus possible. Place is awesome though compared to what we're used to back home. Virtually all personal health and beauty products we know (plus loads more that we don’t) are available for at least half of what we would expect to pay. Furthermore, it’s a full-on hypermarket - complete with foodstuffs and other household goodies. Even amazing fresh meat and fish counters. Everything at unbelievable prices.
Just by following the alleys & streets from Carrefour, we stumbled across a textile market (souk) right next to the Creek and from there strolled through Computer Street (as it’s known). We kept an eye out for some goodies we were interested in. The only thing we did buy was an extra battery for the video camera.
One thing we quickly learned was that bargaining is an absolutely necessity. The trick is just to know what things really (should) cost (in Dubai). Our initial standard offer was half of the asking price. Even that (we learned later) was too conservative. ALL the shops and vendors we bought from were more than willing to bargain. Sometimes they would offer a discount without you even asking. Although we never bought anything from shops in the bigger malls, some shops would also (apparently) offer some discount if you just merely ask for it
After having a quick shower, we were picked up by a driver from Arabian Adventures at 3 pm. Already in the car (waiting for us) were a German couple from New-Zealand, and a young Indian guy from Manchester with his new wife. The driver was Pakistani and he immediately started making jokes of the Arabs. He seemed like a jolly bloke and really put in some effort to make the journey as much fun as possible.
At a service station just outside Dubai we joined up with 8 or so other cars and headed into a private reserve another 30 min drive away.
The change of scenery was immediate and absolutely amazing. Even though you can find similar scenes up the SA West Coast and Namibia, seeing the desert opening in front of you really is something to behold.
The dune drive itself was unforgettable. Definitely not for the fainthearted though. The vehicles were monstrous 5.4 litre GMC Yukons with all the bells and whistles. The obvious ability of these superb vehicles did not detract in anyway from the phenomenal skills of their professional drivers. (Apparently a special desert driving license is required and it can easily take 6 months of intensive training to obtain.) This guy was stuck for all money and yet managed to somehow wriggle his way out.
We stopped for a brief visit at a camel farm just before a break on the dunes for sunset.
Heading out to an encampment, Lisa’s dreams came true when we had the opportunity to ride some camels. Aka - the tourist special. Some action shots included.
We got these two Scandinavian guys to film us, and they really took their job seriously.
As can be seen from Lisa's expressive face pulling, the up and down bits are rather frighting.
After a full course of Arabian foods and beverages, the evening wound down with a belly dancer and some stargazing.
Back at the hotel by 10, we decided to take a stroll to Carrefour and have another look around. The fun thing in Dubai is that most shops only closes at midnight. Never ending shopping.