One of the few positive things to have come out of our over-extended stay in Delhi last month (see here) was the time to have a good search for economic ways to get to Iran. It’s very difficult (and really impossible in our situation) these days to cross overland from India to Iran through Pakistan, as the visa for Pakistan is needed from one’s home country. So fly it was, and although we were expecting to fly with one of the budget Middle Eastern or Indian airlines, we were lucky enough to find a cheap flight to Dubai with Emirates, and fly in style!
We left the “security” of India, where we know a lot about how things work, to the unknown destination of Dubai- a city we’d basically only heard about in terms of how modern and expensive it was!
Not ones to rush through a new and potentially interesting destination, we looked into accommodation in the area, and quickly got deterred by the hundred dollar prices! Since we’d always wanted to try Couchsurfing, we thought Dubai might be a good place to start. Couchsurfing is basically a network of travellers or people interested in meeting travellers, offering couches or beds and hopefully a bit of cultural exchange in their homes around the world. Even though we don’t currently have a place of our own, we were generously allowed to join the club! Most people know about Couchsurfing now, but for those who don’t here is a link to the website:
The unusual thing about Couchsurfing in Dubai is that most of the hosts are foreign workers, with them making up 80% of the population. We were lucky enough to be hosted by the lovely Marjo from Holland, who immediately made us feel at home in her beautiful apartment on our arrival, and quickly introduced us to her fellow Couchsurfer friends.
|Breakfast in our Couchsurfing hosts apartment, Dubai|
They all kindly invited us along on a wadi (dry creek bed) walk on the morning after we arrived, which turned out to be a great adventure, not only the walk itself in a picturesque barren landscape, but the getting lost on the way there, and the discovery of yet another wadi on the way back. This was by far our favourite day in and around Dubai.
|The un-named wadi with new friends|
|Beautiful desert scenery|
The city itself was interesting enough to see with its spotless metro system, shopping malls galore- some with ski slopes, ice rinks and giant aquariums inside, iconic modern buildings, lovely beaches (a big surprise for us!) and pleasant waterfront areas full of cafes and restaurants, but for us, as visitors, the soul seemed missing, even though there was the biggest mix of ethnicities and peoples we had ever seen anywhere.
|Very organized fish market, Dubai|
|Beautiful display in the supermarket, Dubai|
|Surprisingly pleasant beach, Dubai|
|Giant aquarium, Dubai mall|
|Naughty student at heritage building, Dubai|
|Dubai by night|
There is ALOT of wealth around this city, and we felt very out of place amongst the immaculately dressed and manicured population! Although we stuck to the travelling by metro and bus, and bought food from the supermarket, we were surprised at the high prices. It’s very common to see fancy cars such as Rolls Royce and various expensive sports cars, as well as enormous yachts down in the marina area, and the famous Gold Souk in the “old” part of Dubai was quite an eye-opener with its opulent displays. The shops in the malls are a luxurious mixture of Jimmy Choo, Armani, Ferrari etc, and many Emirati people shop there in their abayas and dishdash (women and men’s robes).
|Plenty of bling, Gold Souk, Dubai|
Other things we learnt about Dubai:
· Carrying alcohol on the metro is punishable by lashing (luckily we had already put our Duty Free away in our backpacks when we first arrived!)
· Foreigners officially need a permit to buy alcohol, and it is totally illegal for locals
· Public phones are rare, and no-one uses them. EVERYONE has a mobile (except us!)
· Dubai residents may be busy, but they are very helpful and friendly
· Emeriti women used to wear golden masks on their faces- we were lucky enough to see an old woman with a leather one- apparently people don’t wear them much anymore
· No-one in Dubai knows where the ferry to Iran leaves from, or indeed that it even exists!
· Although there is at least one whole carriage on the metro dedicated to women only, men in Dubai are VERY polite in standing up to let women sit down on the train
· The different styles and colours of Emeriti men’s headdress and dishdash once indicated place of residence, but now is just fashion
|Model in old style mask, Dubai museum|