I know how incredibly slack I have been in posting lately and I promise to do my best to catch up. Once I begin my posts about South Africa it will become more clear why I am so behind. For now, I will fill you in on our experiences in Dubai.
Our stopover was a 3 night, 4 day stopover in one of the most exorbitant places in the world. How could it possibly fit into our “budget?” We did everything we could to cut costs and maximize our experience. For example, a hostel bed is $30 CAD per night, but there are strictly male and female sections with zero tolerance for mixing. That was our cheapest, but least viable option. We next looked at hotels but most of the “cheaper” options were so far from all of the things we wanted to see that it would be more expensive getting around than the hotel itself! We decided to try our hand at couchsurfing, and it turned out to be an incredible experience that also minimized our costs. For those of you not familiar with couchsurfing it is a website that you pay a yearly membership to and it consists of people all around the world willing to host you in their home for free. You simply search a city and all available hosts pop up. Some hosts have a spare couch in the living room, others have a spare bedroom you can use. At the end of the experience you both review each other so everyone knows neither of you are crazy and it would be a positive experience for others to stay/host you. It is a really amazing community of like-minded people who for the most part, really want to show you where they live and allow for you to have an amazing time.
We landed in the morning and thought it would be a breeze to clear passport control and security seeing as it is one of the largest airports in the world. Not the case. It took us an hour and a half to get through passport control! We then collected our bags, bought a few bottles of wine at duty-free as otherwise there is no place to purchase alcohol (besides restaurants, by the glass) as you technically need a license to consume alcohol in your home. We took the metro into the downtown area which took an hour but was a very seamless ride. By that time we were set to meet our host in a few hours at a starbucks so we decided to hang out there and have a coffee and use the free wifi. We met a fantastic guy from the states who was there for business and we had a great chat about traveling, Dubai, life, and other musings. He even offered us the spare bedroom in his 2 bedroom hotel room in case things didn’t work out with our couchsurfer!
We met our host early in the evening and ran a few errands together before heading back to his apartment for a lovely homecooked curry meal and a few (many) drinks. It was really interesting to learn more about life in Dubai and what it really is like. For example, I had read online all of these “do’s and don’ts” in Dubai, but within 5 minutes of sitting in the starbucks I had witnessed all of them being broken. Women were walking around in basically underwear for shorts and a croptop for a shirt, when I had read you should strictly abide by the rule of always covering your legs and shoulders. Apparently, in the area where the “expats” (I hate that word, I prefer to call them what we call everyone else, immigrants) live everything goes and is tolerated. That is just one example of many where the rules are bent for the rich foreign community living there.
The contrast between the rich and the poor is extrodinary in Dubai. At any moment you will see a myriad of the most expensive cars money can buy, but in the background are the thousands of workers brought in by companies to work to the bone and pay pennies for the entire days work. 12 hours of manual labor in 43°C heat equates to $5 USD for the whole day. Does that shock you? It certainly shocked me. Furthermore these workers live 2 hours outside of Dubai in camps, so are bused in and bused out each day. The companies used to take their passports on arrival so they couldn’t leave, but recently that has been made illegal. Now they simply withhold the amount of a planeticket home from their pay and use it as a bargaining tool when they want to go home. It is incredibly sad how immoral these companies are. As incredible as it is to see the buildings in Dubai and all that we as mankind have created, it was also a bit sad knowing the amount of people that worked on these buildings and created such incredible things and were paid basically nothing for it. Yes, it is more than they potentially would have made at home doing a similar job, but it is not acceptable to use that as an excuse. The cost of living alone nixes that argument. But, I digress.
Our second day in Dubai we had lunch at the Burj Khalifa, currently the tallest building in the world, at the Armani restaurant. We sat outside on the patio and were overlooking the fountain where every hour or so they did a water show to music. It is marketed extremely well for what it is, but it was nice to see. We did not pay the $100 USD to go up the Burj as it was too expensive and we have heard from people it is not really worth it. We did get to read all about the process to build it and that was really interesting.
We then went the Dubai Mall and walked around in the glorious air conditioning and peaked in the windows of the top designer shops in the world. I noticed a lot of people in workout gear and sweating and remarked there must also be a gym in the mall. Not the case. People go to the mall to workout because it is too hot outside! People go for runs in the mall, and all the trophy wives power walk around with their hand weights. I cannot imagine a life where I had to go to a mall to exercise because it was too hot outside!
We then made supper for our hosts and we all headed to bed early as we were exhausted from the previous night.
The next day we had a late lunch at the apartment and then headed to one of the souks to have a look at the Palm Hotel, the worlds only 7 star hotel. We of course, viewed it from afar.
We then sat in a nice pub and had some great beer and great conversation. We had some fun with the app that guesses your age by facial recognition. Unfortunately, mine was never under 30. Chris’s ranged from 21 to 41, depending on the light. We found an excellent picture online later in the day where a guy was standing infront of the sphinx and it guessed his age as 41 and the sphinx’s as 56.
That night we headed to the Marriott bar for happy hour where we had some incredible views of the sunset over the palm. It was really spectacular.
We then headed to the famous atlantis hotel for a buffet supper as our hosts had a really great 2 for 1 coupon. We ate until we were stuffed!
The next day was our last day, and also happened to be out 4 year anniversary. We decided to officially celebrate in wine country in South Africa as our money would go a lot further. We did however splurge on each other by buying a few articles of clothing each. Also, the movie “Mad Max” came out that day, which was a day earlier in Dubai than the rest of the world, and Chris was super keen to watch it, so we caught the matinee showing. The movie was really awesome, I highly recommend seeing it! Our day felt very ordinary, which was very welcomed. It was a great taste of familiarity.
The movie ended at 6:20 pm and our flight was at 10:30 pm, so we spent those 4 hours absolutely dashing around Dubai to pick up our bags, get the metro to the airport, then get through the insanity within the airport. Again, for being one of the largest in the world it was a total gongshow. We made our flight with mere minutes to spare, and I feel like we haven’t slowed down since.
I hope you enjoy our (interesting) take on Dubai, and I look forward to getting you all caught up on our time in South Africa!
*A special thanks to our amazing couchsurfing hosts who made our time in Dubai infinitely better than it would have been had we stayed in a hotel. It was a very special first couchsurfing experience and we will always remember their kindness.