Dubai was a very pleasant surprise. We were expecting it to be hot and sunny but were still taken aback by day-time temperatures of forty degrees Celsius – we were quickly reminded that in Summer, temperatures can typically reach fifty degrees.
We had planned to break our journey to Shanghai, China, with a five night stop in Dubai, to visit Marilyn’s niece Martine and her family – husband Michael, daughters Ella and Freya. As expected, it was really lovely catching up with the family, and meeting the fun family dog called Rupert, a mixed breed desert dog who didn’t seem too put out by the extreme heat.
Martine and Michael made us very welcome and showed us more of Dubai than the average tourist sees. Some highlights for us included the:
- Dubai Mall and its amazing and huge aquarium ,its “Candilitious” store that must be the largest sweet shop anywhere in the World, and, of course, the designer shops and range of restaurants, all being bright, airy and comfortably air-conditioned, immaculately clean, with knowledgeable and attentive staff. We also visited the Mall of Emerates’ that houses the Dubai dry ski slope and toboggan run, not to mention every high street name imaginable.
- Dubai museum which provided an extremely interesting and well presented history of Dubai’s development and life both in the desert and beside the Gulf.
- Old Dubai, by the port (the Creek), taking a ride on an old wooden water taxi and visiting the spice market.
- Architecture, with dozens of sky-scrapers, including the tallest building in the World. Not forgetting the famous Palm island and its mansion style houses, all built on reclaimed land and surrounded by sea.
- Local food which we very much enjoyed, especially the salads which included a wonderful selection of fresh herbs.
- Opportunity to meet some of Martine and Michael’s friends, and get an insight into life of the large expatriate community – we were surprised by the large number of expats compared to local Emiratis – we observed large communities of Indians, Pakistanis, Philippinos, North Americans and Europeans – all the communities seemed to coexist comfortably but the Westerners, Asian and Emiratis all lead largely separate lives.
Alf was taken by Michael to the fish and vegetable markets which he found amazing. The fish market was enormous, containing a huge variety of Gulf fish, large and small, all incredibly fresh. The majority of the people were of Indian origin, traders, porters and customers. As it was Friday, it was interesting to observe Emeratis shopping for the week before going to the mosque. However, like Michael, there were a number of expat buyers to be observed.
Dubai is an unusual place to visit, but if you are looking for a boozy trip then it is not the ideal place as it is only the large hotels and a handful of restaurants that have an alcohol licence and alcohol is quite expensive too when it’s available.
It was sad to say goodbye to the family and we look forward to returning to Dubai on our return journey to Europe.