she said (UAE): "I MIGHT HAVE MADE A REALLY BIG MISTAKE"
June 29, 2015
Sometime around Mid April...
Asia was always the "safe" part of this trip. I know Asia. I know the Asian script and what to expect about how things operate and how traveling here works. Once we left Asia, it would be a whole different ball game, all new world knowledge built from scratch as we go. It was actually really energizing to be heading into "uncharted waters" for a nice change of pace.
Ah we were finally catching our panic-booked flight to Dubai, Bridger finally visiting his long awaited dream destination. Even though we know Dubai is expensive and really doesn't belong on this kind of long haul trip, we're just doing it anyways for a brief one week stopover. On Dubai leave day, we were up early (again!) and headed to the Cebu City airport. As we were checking in the attendant asked us two questions that made the hair on our back stand up: do you have a visa (from what we can gather it's issued on arrival for Canadians so why is she asking?!) and do you have a freaking onward freaking ticket (I've never read a thing about Dubai requiring one)?! We explained ourselves on both counts and the flight attendant diasppeared for a nervous 5-10 minutes before arriving and waving us on our way. Why do they doooooo this to us.
Our flight left from Cebu City to Manila straight to Dubai after this. We couldn't believe it was a direct flight from Philippines... no complaints from our end! In the Cebu City airport we were sitting at the gate and there was constant, super loud, super unintelligible announcements constantly so we tuned them out, naturally. Until I, goodness knows how, happened to hear "last call flight blah blah to Manila". Wait what?! I didn't even hear first call or notice people starting to board, how are we at last call?! So basically we very easily could have missed our flight while sitting at the gate for said flight...that takes a special kind of stupid doesn't it?
In the Manila airport the two of us somehow got in a bit of a brawl (we really need some friends here to temper this 24/7 togetherness!) and ran away from each other for a few hours. I went to the gate about half hour before boarding time was supposed to start and people were already boarding and the crew were obvioulsy hoping to leave earlier than scheduled. What is with you Cebu Pacific, do times mean nothing to you?! Bridger usually rolls into the gate about 15 minutes after boarding time starts but I still hoped by some freak of nature, he had already been at the gate early and maybe he was on board already. Checked with the flight attendant and nope not on board and I really had no idea where in the airport he was. Haha then the flight attendant found strange that I had no idea where my boyfriend was...sometimes I forget that it actually probably isn't normal. Super...they're calling last call just as our ticket-stated boarding time is about to start and Bridger is somewhere else in the airport. Do I just get on and pray for once in his life he'll get to the gate actually before boarding time or go find him? Sure enough, just as I'm contemplating the financial choice of save myself or go to Dubai with him, my guts start rumbling and I realize that there is a toilet emergency brewing (thanks frappucino) and I need to run away to the bathroom before I get on that freaking plane. The flight attendant guy doesn't want me to leave because then they would be at another unaccounted for passenger and he wants me to just go on the plane. So, I do what any self-respecting volatile guts human would do and pretended I was going to find Bridger but instead I ran away to the bathroom! Sure enough, when I come back, I'm informed that he's still not on the plane. I linger for a few more panicky minutes before eventually choosing to go to Dubai by myself if that's what it comes down to. Well, he's on the freaking plane when I get on! Gaaaaaah!
Flight was booked last minute, under duress, without any choices, with Cebu Pacific, Philippines discount airline so we just kind of did it and didn't think about it again. Until we got on the plane and we realized that we actually had no idea how long this direct flight would be. We estimated maybe like 5 hours, clearly without ever consulting a map because we were blindsided to find out it was actually 9 hours long! We hadn't mentally prepared to be on a plane for 9 hours, almost as long as to get from Canada to Asia not to mention the fact that we hated each other and there was also no complimentary drinks or food for the entire 9 hour flight...I've never heard of anything like it.
But we survived. Bridger had booked an Air BnB villa just outside of downtown and the hosts had said they'll pick us up from the airport. Loving free transport if not slightly nervous about a ride with all our gear with a random stranger, we accepted, passed all flight info and we were instructed to text when we get there. Sure enough, we get to the airport and can't access wifi to text. And we were stuck in the immigration line for an hour. And then even after the one hour line, we were still waiting for our bags, still without wifi. By the time we got some wifi it's like 1.5 hours past the time when he was supposed to pick us up at somewhere around midnight. We text saying it's so late and we can take a taxi no problem but the host absolutely insists on coming to pick us up and says he'll be there in 15 minutes. We pack up our stuff, head outside and wait for someone who we don't know how we will recognize or how he will recognize us to pick us up. We waited for about 10 minutes past pick up time and then started to worry he couldn't find us because of the above so, thinking Bridger is the more recognizeable of us two, he stayed with our stuff outside while I ran back in the airport get wifi to see if the host had texted that he couldn't find us or something. Nothing. When I came back out Bridger frantically waved me over and was visibly agitated. Then he said "I might have made a really big mistake!!!". Oh my god, you never want to hear Bridger of all people say this so my stomach dropped out... what, what, whaaaaat?!?! He tells me that the Air BnB guy and a girl drove up an SUV so he threw all our bags in the trunk (including our valuables and his passport/spare USD/bank card bag) and then I wasn't there and there was some sort of a frenzied "I'm not allowed to stop here, I'll drive in a circle and come back in 5 minutes" conversation between Bridger and the host and then he just drove off with all of our stuff, Bridger still standing on the curb in shell shock about what just happened! Haha I think more than anything he was worried that I would kill him. For some reason, and this is very out of character, I did not feel a hugely crushing sense of panic and/or anger (perhaps because I had my own passport/cash tucked away in my purse which was on me) and we just waited for the longest 5 minutes of our lives while crossing our fingers hoping we didn't just get duped by the most slick scam in Dubai, uneasiness made especially worse by the absolute insistence of the host to pick us up. Sure enough, they come back and we jump in and like that, we were reunited with all our stuff. A real, wipe the sweat off your brow moment! I took it as an opportunity to remind Bridger that his little valuables/passport/cash backpack is the equivalent of his purse and should never be freaking separated from him for any reason, any amount of time!!! The rest, what are you gonna do...it was nothing you could have expected or did anything differently about in the moment...except for never parting with your freaking most irreplacable stuff!! Lessons learned ;)
Our hosts were a guy who spoke mostly Arabic, a bit of English and a girl who spoke Chinese and a little bit of English...I'm not even sure how they communicated with each other?! At this point it was after midnight (4:00am Asia time), we'd been up for almost 24 hours and were starving so they were so nice to order and pay for KFC delivery for us. In Dubai we were told, everything delivers. Haha welcome to the middle east...your first meal is KFC! We pretty well inhaled it and crashed hard.
Turns out we were renting a room in a gated villa and it was a perfect little place out in the suburbs with a pool and shared bathroom/kitchen facilities which we were really excited about because we figured we could cook and save some cash. In all honesty we weren't really sure if our hosts lived there or what their scoop but over time realized that they must not because most of the time they were not around. Haha unfortunately our first official convo with the lady host was when Bridger tried plugging some cords/electronics into the wall and there was a loud pop--yep he just blew out the entire plug unit and the breaker. Fun times.
Bridger is always the cook in shared cooking facilities because, though I can hold my own in my own kitchen, the sheer unfamiliarity of a common kitchen combined with usual lack of supplies to make a recipe renders me pretty well flustered and useless. One night he was cooking up a storm in the kitchen and one of the other young Indian guys who was also renting a room in the villa came in and for lack of a better word, got really excited about us cooking for ourselves and completely took over. He and his brother were in Dubai for awhile setting up business as they were gold dealers so their family had packed them a whole pile of pre-prepared frozen food. Seriously, they were just the nicest, most hospitable people ever and ended up not only cooking our food for us but insisted that we needed some protein (umm, meat is too expensive for us) and gave us an entire batch of curry chickpeas to add to our otherwise, completely disgusting bland stirfry (umm, sauce is expensive too). And then not only did they do that and sit down and eat and chat with us, they couldn't give us enough food! Despite our great protests that we were actually full, they made extra of their salad so we could share too. And then Bridger informed me they wanted to share their "Swedish" dessert with us too. It was SO delicious and we were incredulous as to how they would have learned how to make this "Swedish" dessert living in India at which point we were informed that it was a "sweet dish"...from India. Obviously. We spent the rest of the night hanging out and chatting with these guys comparing notes about India and Canada and we learned a ton (of possibly biased, who knows...my Indian friends are welcome to confirm or deny!) information about India. Interestingly they felt that India was actually probably one of the worlds richest countries, however, it doesn't look so on paper because Indian families have their money buried in either property of jewellery...apparently both are continually purchased. They also informed us that the Gujurati people of India own most of the world diamond trade along with the Jewish people, who knew. And they felt that because Indian kids lived with their parents, so many people are so spoiled and that's why government is so corrupt because everybody has a sense of entitlement bred out of spoiledness but how that is slowly changing. They obviously grew up very wealthy themselves as they spoke of their butlers, servants and drivers but explained how their parents were a classic rags to riches story so they forced their kids to make their own way in order to instill a good work ethic. They also said that Indian people were exceptionally hard working and will work 14 hours without a second thought in order to get ahead.
We knew that most everything that we planned to do in Dubai is super "touristy" so we had pretty well just resigned ourselves to "be on vacation" and just live it up and enjoy it all for what it is. And did we ever. Dubai is awesome by the way! We're not usually fans of touring big cities but we actually loved Dubai because there is so much to do. It definitely wouldn't have been a place I would have thought to go on a short vacation with friends or family or a honeymoon or anything of the sort, but I've since changed my tune because it was really, really awesome and I would totally recommend it as a vacation destination (though, fair warning, we have met several others since who hated it).
Our first day we headed out to Mall of the Emirates which was really close to where we live and used to be the biggest mall in Dubai before the Dubai Mall came around. More importantly it is the mall that has the indoor ski hill which we looked at but didn't pay for because it was a bit too expensive to spluge on, especially the first day. We wandered around the mall and were blown away by how many foreigners there were and I especially, that they were running around in tank tops. I know Dubai is very foreigner dominated but isn't this still a middle eastern country where modesty is kind of expected and appreciated? I dunno, being my first middle eastern visit, I always wandered around w long pants/skirts and t-shirts even though it was hot. At the mall, Bridger was really intent on getting his selfie stick and battery operated bluetooth clicker up and running for Dubai so we wandered around looking for the right sized battery. Haha selfie's have become so commonplace for us that we forget that the general population still regards them as totally lame, especially for men. We were sharply reminded after Bridger asked an electronics store staff memeber for a selfie stick clicker battery and his response was a very incredulous "why would you want one?"! Ok, I guess Dubai is not Asia... That evening we headed to do a Dhow Cruise, bsically a few hours dinner cruise on a "traditional" wooden Dhow boat down Dubai Creek in Old Dubai (New Dubai is the metropolis that you probably picture when you think of Dubai but Old Dubai is the original city before it became a world powerhouse). There were a few clear foreigners but actually most of the tourists were middle eastern so obviously Dubai is a vacation destination even for the middle east. The buffet was AMAZING with tons of options and delicious food so of course we did as you do at buffets and totally stuffed ourselves. As we were eating, the boat cruised down the creek and stopped basically at what I imagine was the desert because there was no development on either side and it was pitch black. They also had some "traditional" (I use quotations because it may be based on tradition but it is definitely for tourists) entertainment. One such thing was, like some sort of a horse costume worn by two people who wander around and literally surprise head butt guests...one of whom was me. I'm a fully grown adult who kind of saw it coming and let me tell you, it's still scarier than it looked when it happened to other people! On our way back we sailed past the new Dubai towering skyline headlined by the massive Burj Khalifa, the tallest tower in the world-- preeeetty awesome.
We wanted to go to the Dubai mall, the biggest mall in the world and since we were staying in the suburbs, we figured we'd catch a taxi. Turned out taxi/transport catching from our place was an endless pain in the ass. We quickly found out that Dubai runs on phone calls and there is a heavy assumption that everyone has a phone. This has never been true in any other country where a phone is a luxury, not an expectation. Anyways, we couldn't call because we didn't have a cell phone, the villa didn't have a phone and our hosts were usually not around. So we decided to walk outside and flag one down. Nope this was also a failure. There were several flying down the 6 ish some lane freeway in front of our place but obviously they can't stop. So we ended up walking all the way down to the metro station where luckily a taxi was waiting, good thing because the metro doesn't operate until 2 pm on Fridays because fridays are the middle eastern holiday day. After the multi km walk there, it felt so nice to get into the beautifully air conditioned taxi and then into the beautifully air conditioned mall.
The Dubai Mall is full of attractions and our original intentions were to just wander around and not shop. We hit up the giant aquarium. It cost about 30 CDN to get in. We opted, surprise, not to pay because, we rationalized, you can just watch the tank from the outside and we figured since we're scuba divers we've gotten up close with underwater life before so the walk through tunnel wouldn't be as exciting. The aquarium was really awesome so we spent awhile just watching the sting rays fly through the water (they are amazing to watch move), the sharks slowly lurk around the tank and the tons of brilliant colorful fish swim about.
After that we checked out the indoor ice rink which was cool but we figured something we could do in Canada. We checked out the statues of humans leaping down waterfalls... I'm not sure what exactly this represented? I found camel milk chocolate...who knew camels were milked. It was also delicious.
And we ended up shopping in all the stores we don't have at home and ended up buying so many things in said shops-- NOT in the plan but so much nice stuff AND it's awesome because in Dubai they ask you if you want to pay in dirham, the Dubai currency OR your own currency which is great became then you can avoid currency conversion fees-like we needed another reason to buy! I finally found replacements for my haggard underwear. I almost didn't because they were too expensive (5 for 99 Dirham) but the lovely salesgirl went into the back and dug out a random mixed bag of cheap underwear (3 for 30 Dirham)...turns out I wear size small, medium and large, who knew. I also found a really cute little denim dress that I don't need but was so cute I tried it on...and then the staff laughed at me because it was backwards. And that's how I realized it was a dress that you could wear both forwards and backwards (well it wasn't really but I decided that it was) so of course, with that level of versatility, I had to make the purchase. Bridger also indulged in several non-essential items...easy to justify this early in the trip. We eventually stumbled into the REAL highlight of the mall--Tim freaking Hortons! A very expensive Tim Hortons with the friendliest staff who were equally excited for us that Canadians found Canada again. Bridger ordered a chicken wrap, coffee and a water and I ordered a french vanilla, boston cream donut and a water and mine alone was about 10 CDN-ouch. Of course we went to take a picture of ourselves in front of our Canadian Tim Hortons abroad and as we did, the manager called out as many staff as he could to come be in the pictures with us haha.
I guess Tim's has been open in Dubai for a few years and when it opened, there was a lineup of Canadians waiting outside. And then he heard two Arabs walk by and say "What's going on?" and then "It must be a Holy day for Canadians" haha. Sidenote: it's funny because on the road when we tell people that we are from Canada they say "ooooh Canada!!!" or "yaaaaa Canada!!!" which is often followed by a thumbs up haha...so either people love Canadians or we're known as hippie stoner people who love giving thumbs up...
I always knew this but to see it is a different thing-Dubai has such a large expat community. It is literally a city made up of people from all over the world from England to Africa to Asia with a handful of true Emirates. People work the entire range of jobs from professional to labour to customer service/retail. And everybody said the same thing-they came here to make money. We remember being so blown away that there was a direct flight from Philippines to Dubai but we totally got it in Dubai-there are TONS of Filipinos in Dubai as well. I think they must be the single biggest out-migrating group of people in the world. We ourselves have thought about doing the expat thing for awhile in Dubai so part of our trip itinerary was to check out if that would still be a possible plan and I can say with certainty that it is definitely still a consideration at some point. We really loved it! There is always so much to do, it's easy to get around and we really felt like it was a very "livable" city. We also were told over and over how lucky we were to be Canadian/have a Canadian passport because apparently we would be highly employable and "we can work and go anywhere". Not that we needed any more reason to love Canada but again, another reminder of how lucky we all are.
Bridger has been obsessed with the Burj Khalifa for a long time. So even though we penny pinched as much as we could, this was one that he was desperate to splurge on and splurge he did-he bought two VIP tickets to go up the tower which were 170 USD each. I had to bite my tongue on this one because it was the thing he wanted to do most of all and I was excited for him to do it the right way, though the cost was nothing short of highway robbery. We had to book our time far in advance and he choose the time around sunset so we could watch from the top...good man. We "checked in" and were taken to a VIP room where we were served "free" tea and snacks before heading up to the 140th some floor to the VIP observation deck, higher and with far less people than the people going up on a regular ticket.
A visit to the Burj was always something that we talked about and were going to do so I didn't really think too much about it until we started to go up the elevator and my ears were popping like crazy and I realized how high we are actually going...and then I started to get a little claustrophobic feeling and worried that maybe I actually did have a fear of heights after all and what if I puked all over the VIP room? Or worse, what if I had to go to the bathroom (much like I can make myself nauseous by thinking about being nauseous I can also make myself have to go to the bathroom by thinking about that too) and, I was convinced, there wasn't any toilet up there because a plumbing system from that high seems implausible and then I would be stuck in an elevator desperately needing to go to the bathroom but I can't get out for 100+ more floors?!?! Haha, on a sidenote, I remember my first world trip when I was 21 and I felt like it was so transformative and that I was such a different person traveling than I was at home. I remember having this major depresso meltdown when I came home where I could see the "traveling Ashley" start to slowly slip away and the "Canada Ashley" slide back in piece by piece because ultimately you can't hold on to it forever. I think I experienced the same thing for the next few years as I continued ot travel around. It's kind of what I've come to expect while traveling so expected no different on this one. But, through this and other instances, what I've come to realize this trip is that this really no longer applies. Maybe it's because I'm older and I just am how I am by this point, but I am officially the same person on the road and at home. I make friends the exact same way, I ruminate about things in the exact same way, I'm really good at researching and finding stuff out and really bad at stepping back at relying on chances just like at home, I make inappropriate jokes and say obnoxious things and curse the same and I achieve 0 to full blow panic in 2.5 seconds..just the same. Haha, not sure if this is good or bad but its fact these days...
Anyways, it turns out I really am not that afraid of heights because it didn't feel nearly as high as I thought it would (still really high though!) nor did I have to go to the bathroom so we had a really nice time haha. It was a pretty exceptional birds-eye view of Dubai including the desert that is not nearly that far outside the city edges as we would have thought and the Dubai fountains which play choreographed to music fountain shows every half hour much like the Vegas Bellagio. It also gave this really cool top view of these very traditional Arabic block houses that reminded me alot of Aladdin (I subsequently checked if Aladdin was on Netflix-sadly it is not).
It was a perfect time to go up the tower because we got to get a day view of the city, then watch sunset from the top which was actually not that spectacular because the dust/smog really created a hazed out yellow sun and then we got to see the city at night with all the lights. Our time frame was actually only for like 1 hour or something and at one point we looked around and nobody from our group was up there so I'm not sure that we were still supposed to be up there still, but nobody stopped us. So it's really a cool thing to do!
But overall, Bridger, true Canadian loyalist, thought the CN tower was better...
After this it was evening so we headed out a few minutes in advance to watch the Dubai foundations. Haha a few minutes in advance...who do we think we are, royalty?! We couldn't even get close to seeing the fountains so Bridger just pushed in close as possible and held our GoPro stick way high in the air over everyones heads and I, being the shortest fully grown human in Dubai, "watched" the fountains on the guy in front of me's phone as he held it up videotaping.
We missed a really cool, lively middle eastern song. Once it ended, people cleared out and we moved our way right to the rail and waited another half hour for the next show for a real view. Turns out it was Enrique Iglesias "Hero"...not quite as charming. Watching the fountains definitely gave me flashbacks to Vegas and then I started to think about how much Dubai actually reminds me of Vegas in general...lots of lights and glamour and everything is excessive and flashy. But Dubai is WAY better than Vegas (I also really don't care for Vegas so take this with a grain of salt if you will)--you get all the best stuff of Vegas but also with a totally different culture and experience.
We took a taxi home from the tower and the driver was by far the friendliest driver we had yet but, just a TERRIBLE driver...several last minute screeching turns that he didn't even slow down for and at one point, a last minute turn...directly into oncoming traffic. He said "oops".
In Dubai we applied for our Rwandan visa and booked our one way flight. It was official...we were going to Rwanda next! We were super excited to be heading to Africa but a little sad that Jordan, Turkey and a possible Greece/Eastern Europe had officially gotten the cut off this trip because we just didn't have enough time to hit up this part of the world as well as Africa before Bridger's return to work July 1. But still, we're going to Africa!!! Exciting and also a little bit utterly terrifying.
One of the things that came recommended to us was to go on a "desert safari". And one thing we learned about Dubai through the process (and through ordering taxis) was that having a phone in Dubai is expected and a given. We signed up, gave our address and said to correspond by email because we didn't have a phone nor did our villa. This company seriously asked us about 4 times for a phone number and I repeated the same thing over and over again. Sure enough they were late to pick us up. I got an email saying that the driver has been waiting outside our place for 15 minutes so could we please go out. We said, we've been here, no driver. Then they asked for our phone number again. Repeat. They asked me what I was close to. I said I don't know, I'm a tourist so I don't know the area...it doesn't seem like we are close to anything. They asked us for my phone number. Repeat. I sent a google map marking our exact location, both zoomed in and out. They asked us for our phone number. Repeat. Then they had the nerve to tell us that they have other guests waiting and asked us to go to a car dealership to meet the driver. Ok we're freaking tourists, we don't know where that is. We look it up... like 2.5 km down the street. Ya sure, I guess all tourists have cars in Dubai too. Soooo we'll just walk there...we'll be there in 45 minutes, wtf?! Then the driver emailed and asked for our phone number. Reeeeeepeat. Eventually we'd been at this for so long that I would have been embarrassed to get in the vehicle with the other guests who obviously think that WE are the ones holding up this operation as we were made to feel that way in every correspondence. In related news I'm not sure that anywhere outside of Canada uses maps because we have showed SO many people maps and it does just as good as staring at them in silence. Anyways, it had been an hour by this point so we just said screw it, go without us, we're bailing out. And they wanted to know when we could rebook. I said I wanted a refund because we didn't think we had another day at this point to do it. They asked again if we could rebook on a particular day so I said I don't have time to discuss this right now, Bridger and I will talk about it and email you back later. And then later I sent them a scathing email about how brutal that whole experience was considering that THEY are the ones who know the city and should be able to find people who have given a very clear address not to mention that we were made to feel like it was OUR fault. At the end I explained that since there was no refund option, we had rescheduled our entire plans to go on the only day they could offer us. The response back was a cheery confirmation of the date and a period...not a word about anything else in the email I spent an hour writing. GRRRRRRR!!!!
We had to find new plans for that night now. Leave it to Bridger, he found out that Dubai has an "Irish Village". Hey, surprise, why don't we go?! We were going to take the metro so ordered a taxi to take us to the metro station (like 2 km down the street) using a cool Dubai taxi ordering app. After requesting one, we kept getting the message that taxis weren't available, but sure enough it showed a taxi waiting at the end of the street for so long. We figured, as always, this guy couldn't find our address so we walked over and Bridger walked up directly up to him. Ok walking is the wrong word--Bridger felt embarrassed that we were taking a taxi for such a short distance so he pulled out a create-a-limp and he limped directly up to the guy thinking of course it's ours. Turns out, he was at the mosque for prayer time. As we looked around, so were about 10 other taxis! No wonder there were none available...all the drivers were parked at the mosque and inside for prayer time. Even though we were surrounded by taxis, we couldn't get one!
Well, now what does Bridger do with his fake limp?! He can't just walk away normally now so he maintains his fake limp as we walk further down the street hoping another taxi will rescue us from a walk to the metro station with an injury (i.e. a hot, sweaty walk). A few more minutes maintaining the fake limp and we got one, Bridger explaining that you know, we would walk but he can't because he hurt his leg. So the guy drove us 1 km to the metro station. Turns out in Dubai there's a minimum fee so even though the meter said like 1 dollar, we paid about 7. After a brief credit card refusal situation, we got on the metro and took it all the way to old Dubai. Instead of a $25 taxi ride we took the metro for like $3. The metro was a gamechanger in our Dubai finances! If you go, learn how to use it, you'll save a ton of money not relying on taxis anywhere. Anyways we went for a $20 each meal dinner and a $10 each drink hang out (pretty standard in Dubai) listening to "Irish music" (i.e. An American guy singing nothing close to Irish music). After a quick almost $100 bill rung up, obviously we couldn't stay too long so we got out of there.
Everyone had prepared us that "Dubai was sooooo hot" so we were expecting to die when we got to the desert in shoulder season to summer. Of course, we weren't there in the dead of summer so can't comment on that but to be honest, the heat of Dubai was such a welcome reprieve from Asia!!! We were definitely hot at times but Dubai was worlds more tolerable because a) it is dry heat where Asia was god forsakenly hot but also humid which is way worse because you just stand there with beads of sweat dripping down b) In Dubai you are never far away from AC. Step in any building-AC. Step in a taxi-AC. In Asia everything is open air and thus, fan cooled so unless you have splurged the big bucks for AC in your room, you can never get out of the heat...ever. c) A breeze was pretty common when we were in Dubai.
We found out that the Jumeirah Mosque in Dubai gives daily tours as well as an information session around what Islam and being a muslim is all about. We took a taxi over. This taxi driver was also super friendly. He talked to us the whole entire way as he took the garden path to the mosque running up the meter to what we found out after was about double. Haha sooooo, beware of really awesome friendly taxi drivers in Dubai is the moral of the story. Anyways, of course I had to cover up with long skirt/pants and long shirts and a headcover but it was interesting because Bridger also had to wear full length pants/shirt as well. We got a demonstration of the cleansing ritual prior to entering the mosque and then a presentation by a really cheeky muslim woman originally from the UK all about the 5 pillars of Islam. Neither of us knew too much about Islam so this was an incredibly valuable experience. And actually it really cemented in both of us how similar the religions of the world are and also, how Islam is actually most closely related to Christianity and Judaism, so close actually that the prophets are the same. Muslims believe in Moses and Jesus as prophets, they just don't believe that Jesus was the last prophet, a title instead given to Muhammad who passed the most complete form of the creator to the people in the form of the Quran. Obviously having a background as Christian, we automatically draw on what we know of that faith to make comparisons and there were so many similarities--ultimately the differences come down to semantics. They both believe in the power of prayer as the link to the person and their god. Christians tithe and are called to help those less fortunate, Muslims are called to give Zakat. They both believe in the one true creator, Christians say it's God, Muslims call him Allah. They both speak to modesty and purity of thought. We were pretty riveted and at the end once most people had dispersed, there were a few asking more specific questions to the presenter. Though Bridger and I did not have questions per se, we kind of lurked in the background listening to her stories and explanations. Dubai has definitely sparked an interst in both of us to continue exploring the middle east and the muslim world as it is really very fascinating. So I'm sure you'll hear more from us on this end.
After this we immediately stripped off our clothes and headed to Jumeirah beach. Though there were rules around "no beach costumes outside of the beach", it was acceptable to bikini and swim trunk it up while on the beach. I just wear my bathing suit under my clothes but for some reason Bridger always is insistent that there will be change rooms so instead of just wearing his bathing suit as shorts or under his clothes, he carries his trunks. Sure enough, no change rooms so now Bridger is trying to find a somewhat covered place in downtown Dubai that he could strip naked and switch pants-a feat made especially uneasy (for me, probably not for him) by the fact that, even though Dubai presents as very modern and liberal, it really is still very conservative by law. Mission accomplished by a random bush and my sarong and we made it to the beach.
And it was amazing--white sand, milky turquoise water, calm with the Dubai downtown skyline in the background. We laughed as we finally found in the middle of a desert, what we had been looking for in the 7000 tropical islands of the Philippines! While we were swimming, this random guy swam directly and intentionally up to us and started chatting. He was from Sri Lanka and just visiting Dubai and of course, we assumed that beelining towards us meant that he wanted to do/say something or he had an agenda of some sort. After a good chunk of time it became apparent that he was after nothing and really just wanted to chat with us for fun!! He was lovely and we compared notes about living/traveling in Sri Lanka and Canada, shared some Dubai stories and then after awhile, he just politely excused himself and went back to his friends. Great day!