Sky high in Dubai

Back in July last year, when my parents were booking the flight tickets for this trip, we only had a vague idea of where we wanted to go.  A travel agent was on the phone with my dad, and said: “On your way from Nepal to Germany, the plane stops in Abu Dhabi in the UAE (United Arab Emirates), do you want to stay there for a few days?”  We thought it would be cool to see the UAE, especially the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, but it would be very expensive and hard to find (cheap) accommodation, so we decided to stay for only 2 days.  But as we started looking into stuff to do there, we realized that 2 days is way too short!  And on top of that, my mom’s high school friend Heidi emailed us saying “We’ll have a place for you to stay in Dubai”.  We later found out that she and her husband Daniel, who live in the US, had invested in an apartment there, and let us stay there for our time in the UAE, and even arranged a driver for us.  A driver!  We couldn’t believe it!

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After a 5 hour flight from Kathmandu, we walked out of the Abu Dhabi airport and our driver, Sunil, was there to drive us from Abu Dhabi to Dubai.  Sunil is from Agra, in India (where the Taj Mahal is), but lives with his family in Dubai.  The drive between Abu Dhabi and Dubai was on a big highway in the desert, and it took about an hour and a half to get to the apartment.  It was on the 3rd floor of a 39 story building.  It was beautiful!  We looked around, and found stuff like:
“Look, there’s a nice, big kitchen!”
“Look, there’s beer in the fridge!”
“Look, there’s a second floor!”
“Look, there’s a jacuzzi in the bathroom!”
It was really late, so we went right to bed.  Like I said earlier, 2 days is not enough time in Dubai, so we packed as much stuff as we could into our time there.  This blog entry will be about our first day, and Kaia will cover Day 2.  Here was the plan for Day 1:
-go up the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building
-visit Hema, a friend we met in Bali who lives in Dubai
-go to the Dubai museum
-do the desert safari

We got up early, and Sunil brought us to the bottom of the Burj Khalifa.

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We got our tickets at the bottom, and went through the little museum before going up.  At 829 metres tall, the Burj Khalifa is the world’s tallest man-made structure.  It surpasses the 628 metre tall KVLY-TV mast, a communication tower in Blanchard, North Dakota that used to be the world’s tallest man-made structure, the 550 metre tall CN Tower in Toronto (that we’ve been up before), that used to be the world’s tallest freestanding structure (meaning it doesn’t have any wires holding it up), and the Taipei 101 in Taiwan that used to be the world’s tallest building (meaning it has the most floors).  So, the Burj Kalifa beats all 3 of those world records!

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And the Burj Khalifa won’t even hold onto its title for much longer.  They’re already building the Kingdom Tower, a building in Jeddah, in Saudi Arabia that will be over 1000 metres tall!

After looking around the museum a bit, we headed for the elevator and went up, up, up…

The Burj Khalifa also breaks the world record for the world’s fastest elevator, at 10 metres per second.  It only took about a minute to go up to the 124th floor, at Observation Deck 1.  Let me tell you, I would not recommend it for people who are afraid of heights!  We were way, way up, and could see all of Dubai.

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This is what the observation deck was like.
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This big pond is where they do the Dubai fountain show.
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This is the Dubai Mall, seen from above.
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This is actually a reflection off the glass on the outside of the building!
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That's a lot of car ramps!
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New skyscrapers are constantly being built in Dubai. Sunil told us over 60% of the world's cranes are in Dubai.

I want make it clear that the reason Dubai has so many tall, expensive buildings is because the country is extremely wealthy, because of its oil reserves.

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Our clothes that day show that we've traveled the world. My mom's shirt and Kaia's pants are from Nepal, and my shirt is from Fiji.
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This building is the Burj al Arab, the world's only 7 star hotel. I wish I could spend a night there!
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The islands off in the distance are man made islands, still being built. They're called the World Islands, because they'll be the shape of the world's continents.
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This is a train for the Dubai transit system. All the trains are driverless, and all the tracks are elevated above the ground. Why? Well, probably because they had enough money to do it! It's a good example of the way of thinking in Dubai: We can build anything we can imagine if we have enough money.
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This is a beautiful mosque!
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One of the men on this billboard (I think the one on the right, but not sure) is Sheik Khalifa, the sheik (king) of the UAE. When the economy tanked in 2008, the company building the Burj Dubai, as it was called back then, didn't have enough money to finish building it. So, Sheik Khalifa gave them money to finish building it, and they named the building after him to thank him.

Dubai is built in a desert, so we were wondering why there’s a big city in such a desolate place, but one of the reasons Dubai became a big city is because half the world’s population is within a 5 hour flight, making it the “business capital of the world”.

After looking around on the observation deck, we walked back inside, where there was, of course, a gift shop, with all those little souvenirs and knickknacks.  There was also one of those green screen photo stands, to make it look like you’re hanging on the building and stuff.

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We were considering doing it, until we found out the price.  90 UAE dirhams, equal to about 30 American dollars.  A bit too much for one picture!

There was also the most ridiculous souvenir ever: a stuffy Burj Khalifa!

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It defeats the whole purpose of stuffed animals. In fact, it isn't a stuffed animal, it's a stuffed glass and metal building!

Then, we went back down, down, down to the bottom, and explored around the Dubai mall.

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This is the Star Atrium. You may have noticed the irregular star shape in the photo of thhe mall taken from the tower.

The mall is huge!  It’s way bigger than the Toronto Eaton Centre.  There are several atriums, and hundreds of stores, but it seemed like most of them sell fancy clothes and cosmetics.  It was hard to believe that all those stores can stay in business!  It’s not even the only mall in Dubai.

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The stores in the mall are pretty fancy!

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There was even a hockey rink in the mall! As Canadians who missed an entire hockey season, we really wanted to get on and skate!

There was also a huge aquarium in the mall, with lots of fish, sharks and rays.  It was beautiful, but nothing compared to the scuba diving we’d done earlier on the trip!

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Then, Sunil picked us up from the mall and brought us to an apartment building where a friend we met in Bali, Hema, lives.  You might remember Kaia’s blog entry about Ubud, in Bali, Indonesia.  We did a bicycle day tour, and met Hema.  She’s from India, but lives in Dubai, since she’s a flight attendant for Emirates airline.  When we told her we were coming to Dubai, she invited us to visit her for lunch.  At her apartment, we met her and her neighbour, Aditi, also an Emirates flight attendant from India.  In fact, all residents in the apartment building are Emirates flight attendants!

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That's Aditi on the left. The red caps and white scarves are part of the outfit for female Emirates flight attendants.
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One of Hema's hobbies is painting, so she had some of her own artwork on the walls of her apartment, like this one of the Buddha.

Lunch was, of course, Indian food!  Nice, soft naan bread with different kinds of curry.  Delicious! 

After lunch, Sunil brought us for a quick visit to the Dubai museum. It was mostly about the life and culture of the Bedouins, the indigenous people of Arabia. It was pretty cool, but we don’t have any photos.

Then, we went on the desert safari, recommended to us by a few people.  The guide/driver (I can’t remember his name), originally from Pakistan, drove us out into the desert outside Dubai.

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In Dubai, it can got so hot in the summer (50 degrees Celsius) that all bus stops are air conditioned!
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The Dubai skyline is so distinct, with the Burj Khalifa rising way above everything else.
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The sand blows onto the road!

We got to a place where tire tracks went off the road and into the dunes, and we followed them.

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Our guide letting air out of the tires. Notice the shadow on the car.

None of us expected what followed.  It turned out that the desert safari included dune bashing, or in other words, driving up, down and all over sand dunes!  This didn’t exactly fit in with our sustainability idea of this trip, but it sure was fun.

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The sand was SO nice, so we got out to play around on a dune for a while.

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Careful, Kaia, your pants will make you blow over!
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Now that's what I call "natural art".

After a while of dune bashing, we got to a setup of huts and a stage, the main part of the desert safari.

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The first thing we did there was ride a camel!

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These are our surprised faces when the camel sat down quite abruptly.

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My dad held a falcon, which I believe is the UAE's national animal.
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My mom got henna art on her hand. When you take the mud off, it leaves an orange mark for several days.

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We watched the sun set over a dune.

After a while, everyone got called in for a buffet dinner.  It was so good!  I filled up my whole plate before even realizing there was a barbecue too.
Once everyone was seated, the show began.  It started with an Arabian man dressed in a hard-to-describe outfit.  He did an amazing dance, where he kept spinning around and around for almost 20 minutes!  We couldn’t believe he didn’t get dizzy!  My dad gets dizzy after only one turn.

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He twirled these plate things while he was spinning.
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It got darker while he was dancing, and he lit up little lights attached to his many skirts.

He spun non-stop for his whole performance.  The second other performance was a woman doing a dance with a cane and a cape.

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After the show, we got driven back to the apartment, and slept soundly that night.  Thank you Daniel for paying for the desert safari!  We really enjoyed it.

We packed in a lot of cool stuff into our day in Dubai, and we still had another one left in Abu Dhabi.

Jake

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