Through my eyes

living my life without regrets

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Dubai Sunday

Today is Sunday, the beginning of the week in the UAE. Friday and Saturday the people are off, Sunday, back to work. Stores are open from 10 AM – 8 PM. We had an exchange rate of $ 1US. = 3.65 Dirhams (DHS or DH).
Architectural Heaven in Dubai

Most of the people in the Emirates are Sunni Moslem, but they have some Shia Moslem. There is even a Catholic Church in Dubai. You can believe in anything you want, have any religious affiliation, but preaching it in public, demonstrating it in public, proclaiming your faith or even talking about it, are against the law here. Religious freedom is a given, but please keep it to yourself, don't try to convert anybody to your point of view in a public place. If you want, need to pray, do it in the privacy of your home or in the designated areas. I like this idea!

There are 2.5 million people living in Dubai and only 20% of those are native Arabs. The rest, 80% are from countries around the world but mostly from Asia, specifically India.
Another Unusual Building

There are only 2 seasons here: summer, when the temperatures are between 45 and 50 C. (120-130 F) with a humidity of near 100% and then winter, with slightly cooler weather (90 F) and much lower humidity. We arrived in winter, phew. Smiles…great! It only rains here 3 or 4 times a year, usually sometime in January or February. All water used in the UAE comes from the Persian Gulf – Arabian Sea. All drinking water is desalinated sea water and domestic oil is their power supply for the desalination plants.

Every Building is Different
There are 7 Emirates in the UAE with Dubai being the 2nd largest, the biggest is Abu Dhabi. Each Emirate is ruled by a different Emir (Sheik). The UAE was founded in 1971, right after the British left. Citizenship is difficult, some say impossible for foreigners to gain. All children assume the nationality of the father.

The UAE has no old age pension, no social security, and no health insurance for foreigners. Any foreigner turning 60 years of age must leave the country. Many foreign workers here have only a limited time visa, which can be renewed depending on the need for the person and the benefit for the UAE. It’s a tough law, but logically it makes sense.
Orderly Traffic With the Burj Khalifa In the Background

Traffic lanes are strictly enforced and traffic moves in a much more orderly way. Lashings are part of the penal code, even for foreigners. The laws here are observed.

Only native Arabs may buy property, all others can only buy leases. The maximum lease time is 99 years. When the 99 years are up, the property must be GIVEN back to the government.
Housing On the Jumeirah Palm Island
 Real estate might be the 3rd largest industry here (after oil production and tourism). Areas that decades ago were pure desert are today thriving with activity. There are 3, much talked about, man-made peninsulas, the famous Palm Islands. In addition, a new section named “The World” is in progress, where an additional 260 assorted sized islands are planned. Two of The World Islands are now ready to be used... One is purely offices, the other recreational no living accommodations - yet.

Real estate in the UAE is of the highest, most modern caliber. World renowned architects show their latest creations here. It is a wonderland for any city planner. Everything works in tandem, from utilities to traffic planning, to public transportation. From residential to commercial sections, every small detail is planned and executed. It seemed to me the world came here and showed what could be done and all was planned accordingly. The city was designed. It did not grow, it was grown.
Typical Arab Desert House Before 1966 With
Windcatcher Tower on Roof

Wind Tower From Inside
Our first stop on the city tour was the Dubai Museum inside the Al Fahaidi Fort. I am glad we saw this. The museum is housed in an old fort left by the British and contains a replica of a typical Arab house that was used in villages in the area. It was an eye opener. It was a small house, the walls made out of woven palm fronds, tied to a skimpy wooden frame. No nails were used. Everything was tied together using ropes made from plants. The floor was dirt but most areas were covered with a woven woolen rug. It was a desert house. Whatever the desert provided was used, nothing else. The unique feature was a chimney-like tower sitting on the side of the main room, which served as flue to let hot air rise. Air, coming in low through the walls, infiltrated the room and was then drawn up through this ‘chimney’(Windcatcher) creating airflow. It was badly needed when the outside temps were 50 C. This design was on every old Arab house and worked like a fan. Standing below the tower, we could feel the breeze as the air rose.

Walls Allow Shade and Breezes From Outside.
Woven, Woolen Rug on Top of Reed Mats
It is amazing to see this old house today and realize that this was the ‘normal’ house for many a family not so long ago. How long ago? Before the oil discovery changed everything?  Well, oil was first found in UAE in 1966, just 50 years ago. And Saudi Arabian oil only in 1938, that was only 79 years ago. To see this, to see what it was like and what it is now is almost incomprehensible. Wow, did they come a long way. They came from the Dark Ages to the 21st century, if I really think about it. There was nothing else I needed to see in this museum that could drive this point further home in my mind. No old weapons, no old dress, no old anything. From a shack-like house to the sky scrapers all around me is enough for me. And all of this happened to the Arabs just because they were lucky to be sitting on a huge oil lake. Oil, the only raw material besides sand is all they had. I was floored.
Jumeirah Mosque
I am still floored!

We had a photo stop at the Jumeirah Mosque, the only mosque in Dubai that welcomes non-moslems inside. Unfortunately it was closed that day but it made a pretty picture. The mosque is not that old, construction began in 1976. It can hold 1200 people.

Zabeel Palace is the home of the Emir of Dubai, now surrounded by walls, buildings, parks, etc, the compound was started in late 1950, then was altered, added onto, etc., etc. In 1950 it was in the middle of a sandy desert, today it’s in the middle of the city. Carol was on the wrong side of the bus to get any pictures, but it was just a drive by. They don't want any tourists traipsing all over their property.
Who Would Wear This Stuff and Where?

Dress Made Entirely of Gold Disks
The Gold Souk, wow! Very elaborate, ostentatious necklaces, tiaras and rings. bangles and a chain-mail-like dress that would cover the whole front of a woman, like a dress all in pure 24 k gold.
One Very Large Ring
Some were even studded with diamonds and pearls. It was so over the top that I wondered if anybody would ever buy such jewelry. But looking at it logically, these businesses are here to sell items, to make a living from selling these. So, what do you think? Somebody “is” buying, they are in business.
One store had the world's biggest ring (not for sale) but it attracted tourists to the store. All of the gold is imported, mostly from India. The area of the gold souk is large, one store next to the other, all overflowing with exquisite, if strange to me, jewelry. It was a sight to see.
I Recognized Only Cinnamon

The Spice Market for 1000’s of years has been selling just that, spices. The colors, the smell is unique to those narrow alleys, walks and backyards. It is a world unto itself. Interspersed among the spice shops are souvenir shops. We had an explanation of various spices and sampled some chocolate covered dates. Yummy!

I would have had to buy an assortment of pins just to get a camel pin for my hat. With a lot of nice smiles, a lot of head nodding and shaking, with pantomime and my good looks, I finally got the man to just sell me just the one camel pin, I was very proud of myself. I showed the acquired pin to Carol who cheered with a hearty "Oh, for me? Thank you!" And the pin was gone. It's on her hat now!
Burj Khalifa

Burj Khalifa tower: the highest building in the world, 820 meters high, 160 floors. The elevators get to the top in record setting time, 60 seconds. The building was named in honour of the president of the United Arab Emirates and ruler of Abu Dhabi, Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan; Abu Dhabi and the UAE government lent Dubai money to pay for its construction.

We had a 12 clock noon appointment and were on time. But, of course, we had to go through the security check line. There were hundreds of people in line and one by one we had to pass the pat down, the x ray machines. It took forever, and then came the ticket endorsement line, a stamp on the back of the tickets we all held which took an additional 10 minutes.

View From the Top. Desert Can Almost Be Seen Outside of Dubai
So, ok, I stood in line, waiting. Then the line was held up because of the picture takers, you stand in front of a blank wall and later they superimpose your face to postcards with the Burj Khalifa in the background. I am still in line, but I walked past this photo business, voicing my frustrations with: "This is ridiculous". Then we had to walk through long corridors until we came to a fork in the line. Express tickets right, regular tickets left. We were directed left.

OK, I lost it. Loudly I said: “This is idiotic, I'm out of here“. I turned around and left the group to finish their tour. No way am I spending hours in line to see Dubai from the top. It does not matter how rare the view, how high the tower. So, I cannot tell you how it was seeing Dubai from the top. (But I can - see my pictures and see the video of the fountains at the Burj Khalifa below. Turn on your speakers.)
Fountains at the Burj Khalifa

After the Burj we had a quick visit to the beach. Yes people were suntanning themselves, some women in small bikinis. Nobody seemed to mind, nobody really paid attention to them.
Nobody Seemed to Care What
Bathing Attire Was Worn

We also stopped for a photo op at a hotel where rooms go up to US$ 12,000.00 per night.
I truly wish them a good night’s sleep; if they sleep 8 hours that would be $ 25.00 a minute.
Some people don't seem to care about that.

A few of our group then went on their own to a mall just to see the ski slope and the bob sled track this mall has. Yes, real snow in the desert. It is held artificially cold at -2 C and people really ski there. I did not go.

In 2020 the world expo will be in Dubai, there is lots of hectic building going on to be ready for the expo. It is a bit outside of the downtown area but in time it will blend together, making Dubai an ever larger city. The city spreads out and keeps on spreading out.
Our Dhow For a Dinner Cruise

In the evening we ended the day with a Dhow ride and dinner on the Dubai creek. Yes, Dubai has a “river” of some sorts. Well it had one, now filled with saltwater, since the fresh water in the old river was used a while ago already and is now all gone. Still, they call it a creek and it is navigational for quite a few miles inland. Tunnels run under it for traffic to flow easier, ferries cross it to move people and it adds a nice touch to this desert city. Cruising boats are for hire for dinner parties. Fiona organized for all of us to have dinner together on this night-time excursion. The lights were on, the mood festive. Some ladies wore their best dress, made a gala out of it, very nice. Except one thing, we had to wait 40 minutes for the last 2 people to arrive. The Diesel engine was chugging, idling, waiting. The food was being held warm.
Birthday Cake, Birthday Girl and Two Young Admirers
The fumes from the exhaust were objectionable after some time. The main waiter was telling us start eating, while we waited on the pier. He urged us not once but a few times until a man from our group blew his stack telling the waiter we will eat once we are on the way, once we are moving, not with the fumes all around us. Finally the young couple showed up and we left the pier. Fiona felt embarrassed, especially since today was her birthday and Gary even had made arrangements for her birthday cake. In the end all had a great time. There was a family with 2 little girls on board, celebrating something. Fiona gave both of the little girls her birthday cake. Ah, the smiles! Carol then gave the girls some Canadian pins she always carries and the girls were so proud. There was lots of picture taking and smiles. The food turned out good as well. What ends well is well.
Showing Off Their Canadian Flag Pins

It was a busy day, sometimes trying, but all survived.

Entertainment on the Dhow Dinner Cruise (Turn on your speakers.)

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