Of Endless Sand and Aircon Appreciation

The last trip where it was just me and my dad was back in 2007, where after I graduated, I would no longer be entitled to the travel perks I enjoyed from his company. Thus I made up my mind to travel as much as I could that year, which included the official Taiwan grad trip, a France-Spain sojourn to find a good friend, as well as this Dubai-Moscow flight of my dad’s, after which I would officially enter the working world.

Dubai was HOT. It was June and it was blazingly hot. Singapore might be hot from time to time, but this felt like being in an oven, a sensation of being baked in your own skin. Even the wind that blows is warm and offers little respite, other than some ventilation. THANK GOODNESS FOR AIRCON. There was even a day where we didn’t step out of the hotel grounds because it was just wayyyy too hot (and also, nice hotel!).

Winter’s a better time if you have serious touring on your mind, where you can head out to the desert and drive around the sand dunes in comfortable weather. But summer… I still remember the heat. Yowza.

Flying into Dubai was also an experience – so much sand, as far as the eye can see…

sand, sand, everywhere
This is actually a diorama in the museum of the desert, but that’s pretty much what I saw when flying in.

but you don’t see any of it in when you’re in the City. It could almost be any other metropolitan city at first glance. Daddy had come here several times before, so he was pretty familiar with the place and took me around, and even deigned to do the more touristy things he usually avoids. My only knowledge of this place so far was that Daddy always bought back nuts and choco-dates from here! And also, one thing I picked up from him was my love for Kebabs as a quick meal solution.

One funny story was of us heading to the Dubai museum to poke around. We arrived and found it closed, only to be opened in 1.5 hours, and so decided to find somewhere to sit down and have a drink while waiting. It turns out that it was Friday and prayer time – everything in the vicinity was closed! The only thing that was opening shortly was the local KFC, and already there were a whole bunch of people waiting around outside for its doors to open. First time I’d seen so many people eager for KFC! we hung around a bit and oh, blessed aircon when the door finally opened…

Dubai is built around a river, which has a simple but amazingly efficient water taxi system. There’s a constant stream of people and there’re always boats ready to go. No waiting involved, just walk onto a boat and sit down and you’re off to your destination while the intrepid boatman collects 1 durham per person and steers the boat with his foot. Very impressive!

a river runs through it

Across the river on the Dubai side (my hotel was on the Deira side of the river) visit the Al Fahaidi Fort, which also houses the Dubai Museum.

mini fort

Don’t be fooled by this small looking fort (it’s like, 30m x 40m? that’s like 4 netball courts laid side by side, Not very big for a fort right?), the museum bit extends underground and is pretty comprehensive. Basically it’s a museum which traces Dubai’s development and has lifesize dioramas of Dubai life.

Its development is similar to Singapore, small country boom into major metropolis, only faster because they have oil money. Oil money is no joke – the First Class was full on the leg back, mostly because a sheik and his entire family (harem?) were all in there! I was pretty lucky to get on board…

We wandered around the reconstructions of Dubai city life in the comfort of aircon, and not having to worry about taking pictures of other people (apparently it’s rude to take their picture, especially not allowed for the women) and taking goofy ones of our own.

what are you reading?

Me and my camel pal

(These models? All lifesize and pretty damn lifelike, but they are NOT REAL. I think it might be pretty freaky if you’re accidentally locked in here for the night!)

Primitive Aircon

These funny towers are called wind towers, and they’re a primitive sort of airconditioning system. Something about the air getting blown from the top to the bottom and getting cooled, but really I’m not quite sure how it works.

Dubai also is the first place where I saw shops with loads of cheap clothing in the market…. for men. Not many women out really, and quite a number of them are covered up all over. I was in jeans most of the time, and I was baking; I don’t know how they do it in all-black clothing and only their eyes showing (the looseness is cooling perhaps?).

Streets of Gold

This is the gold souk (souk = market) on the Deira side, which is basically an entire row of gold shops. Like seriously, I wonder how they can stay in business. ALL GOLD down the row. They have other sort of souks around, like the spice souk, electronics souk, fabric souk… we got pretty lost in the area, it just seemed like one gigantic souk to me. Good thing my dad is someone who ‘smells’ his way around (his words exactly) and is generally always able to navigate us back to somewhere familiar.

Dubai was just a stopover for the real highlight… Moscow! More on that later, wherein me and dad navigate Cyrllic, Circuses and Churches.

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