Tuesday, July 27, 2010

International Traveler- Dubai!

Dubai was amazing!  I am so fascinated by the UAE now.  The people were so pretty and mysterious and the culture and sights and sounds were so interesting.  My first trip abroad has left me wanting more!

The long flight wasn't nearly as bad as I was expecting.  We had about an hour or so hop over to Washington DC and then it was about 14 hours or so to Dubai from there. I was able to fall asleep for about 3-4 hours with the help of my Ambien.  I also watched 2 movies, so it really didn't seem like much downtime.

I was even in the middle seat in the middle row!  There were 2 seats, an aisle, 5 seats, another aisle and then 2 more seats.  The plane was huge and packed!  I was in the very middle seat of that middle row so I had to ask 2 people to move every time I got up.  (I only got up once because of this!)  I was freaking out about being trapped in the middle at first but it really wasn't that bad.  I think it was because everyone on my row was a part of my team and not strangers.

Airplane food sucks though.  I didn't really like anything we got, but I ate some of it anyway because I was starving.  We were served a meal when we first got on the plane (pasta) and one a few hours before we landed (I can't remember what that one was but it sucked too.)

First off Dubai was hot.  Really hot.  It felt like walking in to an oven every time you opened a door to go outside.  And it was NOT a dry heat.  It was VERY humid.  My sunglasses and camera lens practically stayed foggy when we were outside.

I didn't exchange any money when we got there.  Instead I just pulled some out of the ATM with my debit card.  I had called both my banks to let them know I was going to be over there so they wouldn't freeze my account.  They charge about a 3% international fee every time you use your card, but I still think it was better than exchanging money.  Their money is called Dirhams (kind of pronounced like Durham- a city right beside Raleigh which I thought was ironic).  One thing I loved was that you mostly used paper.  There was no tax and everything was rounded up.  Sometimes you would get change (called Phils) but not often.  The exchange rate was about 3.67 Dirhams to every dollar.  The cost for things was about the same as the US for the most part, except some stores you could find things really cheap.  Designer stores seemed to be cheaper than US prices.

Dubai was so different but really similar to the US at the same time.  There are so many different cultures there.  Almost everyone we talked to wasn't from there originally.  Most were from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkey, Yemen, Lebanon, or India.  But we did not talk to anyone in the traditional Arab dress (white robes/headdress for the men, all black for the women).  They don't talk, smile, or even really look at you.  But they look so elegant and mysterious!  I was fascinated by them!

There were some Europeans and Japanese/Chinese vacation, but we didn't see any other Americans really.  We definitely stood out.  One night when we all went out to dinner, the whole restaurant staff took a picture with us because we were the most Americans they had ever seen.

Oh and I am not sure who it is, but some people group over there does not believe in deodorant.  I would catch whiffs of the worst body odor ever at random times.  Also the Russian men in speedos at our hotel were pretty gross.  And in every public bathroom there were these spray faucets beside the toilets and drains in the floor and most of the time the floor was wet.  I don't know if they were taking showers in there or what but it was pretty gross.

Overall though the city was really clean and modern, but everything was concrete high rise buildings and roads.  No green.  A few patches of sand for parking lots here and there.  Everything was really opulent and you could tell A LOT of money was put in to that city!

For transportation we took the hotel shuttle bus a few times.  They packed us in there.  They even had these pop down seats that folded down in the middle of the aisle and every single seat was filled.  We also took a lot of taxis.  The taxis scared the crap out of me.  They drive really fast and kind of crazy, but you start to get used to it.  The roads have like no traffic lights.  There were a few, but mostly every intersection was just a round-about you had to merge on to.  We also took the metro a few times.  It was the nicest, cleanest metro I had ever seen!

We stayed at a resort right on the Persian Gulf in the next city over (Sharjah) which was really pretty but the water was so hot, I did not swim in it.  It was like the temperature of a jacuzzi and not refreshing at all.  I mostly stayed in the pool if we were outside (the water was cooled).  It was too hot and humid to be outside though. You would be sweating within 5 minutes even at nighttime.

Internet in our hotel sucked.  Think back to dial up speed about 15 years ago.  We each paid $50 per room for Wifi that hardly ever worked.  I think I was able to send about 5 emails last week in total and they were all really short!  I'm not sure if this was just something with our hotel or all over Dubai.

The most interesting part of the UAE was the people though.  They were so beautiful and mysterious.  The men all looked like kings with their robes and headdresses and the women looked like mysterious queens hiding beneath their black robes called abayas. ( Although someone said they looked like dementors.)  Some would show just their eyes and have the most beautiful eye make-up on.  Some would show their whole face.  Some would cover their entire face and even wear their glasses on the outside of their scarf and black gloves so you could not see any part of them.  Some had plain robes.  Some had beautiful bling on their robes.  Most of them had really nice shoes and designer bags and sunglasses.  I said that would the perfect outfit for me because I love splurging on handbags but not so much on clothes!

I often wondered when I saw one man with more than one woman.  Were those all his wives, or were those daughters?  Also sometimes you would see an Asian woman walking behind a couple with the kids, and someone said they were basically like the family's slave.

I wondered what these people were like in their homes.  What did the women wear?  Did they laugh and talk?  What did their home look like?  Did the men wear their headdress even at home?

You can also tell they are concerned with status.  The men wore really nice sunglasses and I already told you about the women.  They also drive really fancy cars.  We saw a lot of luxury cars there.  Someone also told me their license plates show status.  Regular people have 5 numbers and the fewer numbers you have, the closer in relation to the Sheik you are.

I seriously can not expressed how fascinated I am by this place!  I ordered a book yesterday to learn more about the mysterious rich city:

I also brought back a little bit of their culture with me in the many headscarves I bought. Here is my roommate from the trip modeling one of hers at one of the many stores we went to at the Blue Souk:

And my henna:

This has spurred more random conversations with strangers than I ever thought!  It is already starting to fade after just a week, but they said it could last up to 2-3 weeks!
A lady came to the hotel and did it for us one day.  She did the whole thing freehand!  It is this paste stuff she squeezes out of a tube kind of like a cake icing bag with a pointy tip on the end.  You leave the paste on until it dries and starts to flake off (I left mine on for about an hour or 2 because supposedly the longer you leave it on, the longer it lasts.)  Then it is bright orange in color and darkens to a brown color.  The color and how long it lasts depends on your skin.  I noticed a lot of the women in abayas had henna on their hands there.  One even told my roommate in a mall to put Vaseline on hers (the one and only time one of them talked to any of us!).

The security on the way back in to the States was tight!  They scan your bags before you even get to the gate to check them.  Then they check your passport and ask you questions about your trip and your bags before they let you check in.  Then they check your passport again and stamp it before you can go to the gate.  Then at the gate they checked our passports again, pulled me into a room and patted my down completely- I mean everywhere!  Opened up all my carry on items and went through all my stuff by hand and then finally let me on the plane.  Then when we got to DC we had to go through customs which took forever!  They check your passport then you have to get your bags and re-check them and then go through the scanner for your carry on.  It was much different than flying just in the US.

The food on our flight sucked again.  We had a vegetarian rice dish when we got on and then a breakfast that consisted of runny eggs, soggy potato wedges, and jalapeno poppers (for breakfast!?)  Our flight landed in the US a little after 6 am and luckily I was able to get Starbucks after we made it through customs and security before the short flight back to Raleigh.

I was glad to get home and Cam & Bailey were so excited to see me!  I missed them so much!  I managed to stay up all day Sunday until about 8:30pm.  But I have been exhausted ever since then and have fallen asleep early every night!

I know this was long, but I have so much more to tell you!  I want to tell you about how I saw God working on this trip and about all my kids in our preschool class!  They were so cute!  I also want to tell you about all the touristy things we did there!  So stay tuned for more later this week!


Sam said...

it all sounds so fascinating! i can't help but think of Sex and the City 2 while reading this... and i love the comment someone made about them looking like dementors! hah! how mysterious and intriguing their culture is. i'm glad you got to go!

Deanna@MilesToRun said...

Loved your recap of your trip. It sounds like a great time with lots of memories. Can't wait to hear more!!

Amber @ A Little Pink in the Cornfields said...

That trip sounds amazing!!!!!!! I hope you post more pictures!
I couldn't help thinking about about SATC 2 too! :)

EKN said...

Can't wait to hear more!!!!

Shoshanah said...

I love all your pictures! As silly as it may sound I love the way their money looks, its just so colorful! And I think its really neat (in kind of a weird way) that how short your license plate number is, is somewhat of a status symbol

Heather said...

Great trip report! Dubai is on my huband and I's short list of travel destinations, and your post just reinforces that!
We never did figure out the sprayer in the bathrooms either when we saw them in Indonesia. :-)