Thursday, July 22, at the crack of dawn: I arrive in Dubai at 3:45 a.m. I am bedraggled and sticky; all attempts to clean myself up meet with failure. I try to exchange my Korean won for Turkish lira but they only have on hand 65 lira. I try to exchange for dinars, which I am able to do at an exorbitant price. I ask about dollars and they want to give me a measly $200 for 380,000 Won!! Should be more like $330!! I keep my Korean Won in hopes of getting a better rate in Turkey.
I ask 3 different people what time metro opens; I get 3 different answers. The airport is huge and gleaming and empty. Cavernous. Finally, I am standing at the information desk, asking about the Dubai city tour. A Japanese guy is standing beside me. The Arab woman tells us the city tour doesn’t start till noon, but I must be back at the airport by noon for my 2:30 flight to Turkey. The Japanese guy tells me he must catch the same flight to Turkey. The woman asks if we will see the city together (the Japanese guy and me). We look at each other. I say to him, what do you think? It might be a good idea, unless of course you want to go alone. We both shrug. He says sure, we can go out together. We both agree it will be nice to have some company to venture out into the strange city.
He introduces himself as Tomomi. He’s an architect and lives in Estonia. We get on the metro at 6 a.m. and head for Burj Al Arab, the tallest hotel in the world. As we sit on metro, I ask a bunch of questions and I find out that he went to Estonia for a girlfriend. The relationship didn’t work out over the long-term. He is returning from a month-long vacation in Australia, where he has gone diving and other assorted things with a friend. Now he is going to Turkey for 4 days to visit another friend and attend a wedding. He tells me he has a 5-year-old daughter who he takes to school each day and he sees one day of each weekend. The mother is not the original girlfriend who he followed to Estonia. He shows me an adorable picture of the girl.
The metro is air-conditioned, but I can feel the heat emanating from outside. We have a clear flat view of the city as we ride above-ground. All desert, sand-color everything. Heat rising. It is apparently 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Or more. We take a taxi from Mall of the Emirates metro stop to the Burj Al Arab. It’s a nice setting, palm trees and greenery around, but they won’t allow us in unless we have a reservation at the hotel restaurant. We take our pictures from outside the gate. It looks like a ship, sails filled with wind.
We walk several blocks to Jumeirah Medinat, a modern recreation of a traditional bazaar. It is hot and deserted; it is only 8 a.m. and it doesn’t open till 9:00. Another quite lovely setting, but a dead place. We wander about in the hot silence. It’s a lovely setting really, but too miserable to enjoy. Where is the chaos and the liveliness of a real Arab bazaar? It all seems like a fake version of the real thing. It’s like a person with no substance, no character.
We take the metro directly to the Dubai Mall, where we hope to see the aquarium and the fountain and to cool off.
Also, the entrance to Burj Khalifi, the tallest building in the world is in the mall, but they want 100 dinars to go to the 124th floor and it doesn’t open till 10:oo a.m. We satisfy ourselves by walking back into the street and looking at Burj Khalifi from the outside.
By now, it is only 9:00. I have an iced coffee that costs a fortune and we wander about the mall, checking out the huge aquarium and then wandering into the Gold Souk when it finally opens. All I want to know is: Where are all the people?? There is no one anywhere!
We take a taxi then to Bastakiya, where traditional courtyard houses can be found. The heat is unbearable and it is totally deserted. We see only two backpackers walking through. They look as miserable as we are. We happen upon a little courtyard art gallery, air-conditioned (??), or somehow cooler anyway. We linger there, poke around, sit on a bench, take a few photos.
We see mainly decorative tiles, tiles with Arabic script, a pretty tree with coral flowers.
We flag down a taxi to get to metro. We get ripped off, but we’re too tired to argue. Back on metro, back to the airport. Like everyone else, we stay encapsulated in our air-conditioned vehicles, grabbing any iota of cool relief.
The ~4 hour flight to Turkey is dandy. I sit beside a Turkish couple who are living in Johannesburg, South Africa. He works for Coca Cola and she works for Proctor & Gamble. They are traveling to Turkey for 4 days for a wedding. They say this is the wedding season in Turkey and if you take a boat down the Bosphorus at night, you can see celebrations and fireworks all along the shore. The guy is keen on the Istanbul Archeological Museum. He says it is full of history, which he elaborates on in great detail. After our chat, I watch the movie Valentine’s Day, but I fall asleep before the end. After my long wild goose chase through the cargo terminals in Seoul and my traipsing through Dubai, I feel filthy. I can’t wait to arrive at the Big Apple Hostel for a shower…. 🙂