This trip to Dubai-Moscow in 2007 was the last time where it was just me and my dad travelling together without the rest of the family (the first time was in 2004 to Seoul-Vancouver). I got to enjoy travel perks since my Dad was a pilot, that I would no longer be entitled after I had graduated and was deemed ‘independent’. Thus 2007 was a very busy year of travel for me as I tried to travel as much as I could before entering the working world – going on a grad trip to Taiwan with my school mates, visiting a good friend in France and exploring Spain, and this particular trip that would bring me to Moscow via Dubai.
VISITING DUBAI IN JUNE
Dubai in the summer is HOT. It was June and it was blazingly hot all day. Singapore might be hot from time to time, but this heat 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.
My Dad had stopped over here several times before, so he was familiar enough with the place and took me around, though for him some of the touristy stuff was a first as well because he usually didn’t bother when he was working and on his own. All I knew about Dubai back then was from the stuff my Dad would buy home – lots of nuts and chocodates (chocolate covered dried dates!).
THE DUBAI MUSEUM AND AL FAHIDI FORT
The strongest memory and funniest encounter I have of this trip was when we headed to the Dubai Museum and Al Fahidi Fort to poke around one afternoon. We arrived and found it closed, only opening 1.5 hours later, so we decided to find somewhere to sit down and have a drink while waiting. It turns out that we had forgotten that it was Friday – an important prayer day in Muslim culture and during prayer time, everything in the vicinity was closed!
The only thing that was going to open was the local Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet, and there were already a whole bunch of people waiting outside for its doors to open. Definitely the first time I’d seen so many people eager for KFC to open! We hung around a bit with the crowd and heaved a sigh of relief when the door finally opened and we could rush into the cool air.
We did finally go into the museum and fort to visit though, thankfully also air-conditioned, so it was a nice way to wait out the worst of the scorching afternoon heat.
Don’t be fooled by how small the fort looks – the museum bit extends underground and is pretty comprehensive. The museum showcases Dubai’s development from its beginnings in the desert to its present day metropolis, and has lots of life-size dioramas of Dubai life as well.
Dubai’s development reminds me of Singapore’s – a small country morphing into major metropolis, only even faster because they have oil money. Oil money is a thing – I got upgraded to First Class because of my Dad’s perks, and the First Class from Dubai back to Singapore was absolutely full on the leg back, with only one seat I was lucky to get. I’m pretty sure this is because a rich Emirati and his entire family, toddler children included, were all in First Class that day.
We wandered around the reconstructions of Dubai city life in the comfort of aircon – the fun thing about dioramas and wax models is not having to worry about whether it’s ruse to ask someone for a picture! They were pretty lifelike though, I would not want to be accidentally stuck in this museum overnight.
WALKING AROUND DUBAI
Dubai is built around a river, which has a simple but amazingly efficient water taxi system. There’s a constant stream of people using the boats so there are always boats ready to go. There’s very little waiting involved, you just walk onto a boat and sit down and you’re off to your destination while the intrepid boatman collects 1 Durham per person during the journey, as he steers the boat with his foot. Very impressive!
We also saw some interesting looking towers called wind towers, and they are built such that the building functions as a primitive sort of air-conditioning system – something about the air getting blown from the top to the bottom and getting cooled – it’s a pretty cool (pun intended) idea.
Dubai also is the first place where I saw shops with loads of cheap clothing in the market…. mostly for men – pretty unusual since most markets are catered towards ladies. There weren’t that many women out really, and since it’s a Muslim country quite a number of the women were all covered up all in all black garb, with just their eyes showing. I wonder if the loose-fitting but black burqa is actually more cooling than being in jeans like I was though? I should have gone for loose linen pants probably, I was baking in my jeans.
This is the gold souk (souk = market) on the Deira side, which is basically an entire complex of gold shops in a traditional market place. You have to wonder how they all manage to stay in business with that much competition around. We found other sort of souks around as well, like the spice souk, electronics souk, fabric souk… we got pretty lost after a bit just wandering, it all felt like one gigantic souk to me. Good thing my Dad is someone who ‘smells’ his way around (those are his words exactly) and is generally always able to navigate us back to somewhere familiar so we made it back to the hotel unscathed.
This little jaunt to Dubai was just a stopover for the real highlight of Moscow, wherein me and Dad navigate Cyrllic, Circuses and so many Churches.