Dubai - United Arab Emirates

16 April 2002 - I awoke a little after 9:00 a.m., still a little groggy. I ate one of the oranges Jen had packed while I contemplated whether to throw on some clothes and run up to the hotel restaurant for coffee, or to do my morning routine, re-pack my bags and go to the front desk to change my room. I opted for the latter. I tried to call Jean Pierre on his cell phone but all I got was a reply in four languages informing me that the subscriber I called wasn't available. When I got to my new room, I dumped my belongings, then went to the restaurant where they were in the process of taking down the breakfast buffet. I managed to get a cup of coffee and a croissant. When I got back to the room, the phone rang. It was Jean Pierre and he and Donita were hungry. We agreed to meet in the lobby at 11:30 for lunch.

gold souk
Typical shop in the Dubai Gold Souk.

I had met Jean Pierre (JP) several years earlier when he lived in Knoxville, where he was an associate professor in the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Tennessee; but I had never met Donita. JP had left the Mooney in Singapore the previous year and was in the process of getting it back to Switzerland. JP and Donita had taken six weeks to this point, spending time in Thailand, Cambodia, Bangladesh, India and Oman. Now Donita had work to do in Switzerland and needed to get back, which is why I had the opportunity to join the expedition. During lunch we talked about the progress of the trip so far and worked on the plan to get to Switzerland.

Dubai has reasonably priced gold and other commodities as well as tourist attractions. We planned to meet for shopping later in the afternoon. At 2:30 we jumped in a taxi and off we sped. The Emirates isn't what I expected. Dubai is a high-charged blend of Arab traditionalism and Los Angeles. Marketplaces (souks) sit next to glitzy office towers. The temperature was in the mid-70s (22 C) with a nice breeze blowing in from the Persian Gulf. The wide, well-planned roads handle considerable amounts of traffic easily; but grind to a halt during rush hour. It's a very clean, modern city. Dubai has been called the Crown Jewel of the Middle East. I couldn't disagree.

When we arrived at the Heritage Center, which a touristy depiction of life in the desert in days gone by, we found that it wasn't open yet. We flagged another taxi and headed for the marketplace. It was about 3:30 when we arrived. Most of the stores didn't open until 4:00. We wandered around looking in the few stores in the gold souk that were open; I was looking for a new watch, and Donita was interested in fabric so we looked in those stores as well.

I didn't find a watch that made me warm and fuzzy but I did find a bracelet worth getting. The process of negotiating price was interesting. The seller stated what he wanted for the piece; I offered him half of that. After a few times back and forth, we agreed on about 70% of his original asking price.

basket makers
Traditional Arab basket weaving displayed at the Heritage Center in Dubai.
JP needed a new compact flash card for his digital camera, so we went off in search of that. It took awhile, we probably walked well over a mile, stopping periodically to ask where such an item might be found. Although those we asked didn't really know, they all tried to be helpful and each of the directions we got moved us closer to where we eventually found the card. Then we got another taxi and went back to the now open Heritage Center.

We found people engaged in making crafts like their ancestors had while sitting in front of dwellings typical of the desert lifestyle. The artisans courteously explained what they were doing and why. There were shops where one could purchase the things they made. We wandered around for awhile. I was fascinated by the two camels that were available for rides; but not so much that I climbed on one. When we'd seen everything, we headed back for the hotel as Donita was leaving for Switzerland that night.

JP and Donita passed on dinner; but I was hungry again. I went down to the restaurant and had lamb marsala (absolutely delicious) and a couple of glasses of wine to make sure that I would be tired enough to sleep. It worked, I was unconscious by 9:00 p.m.