I’ve never had the urge to place a tick next to Dubai on my list of most desirable destinations to get to in this lifetime. But I was given an opportunity that no one could refuse, which included the word FREE.
A 3 day, 2 night trip to Dubai in May, 2009 sponsored by the Dubai Tourism Board
(remember to have a look at the slide show of memories after the story)
Being in the travel industry, it’s a must to experience destinations first hand so you can sell the product confidently. Knowledge is key. Off we went on Emirates Airlines, 5 ladies with a “when in Rome” attitude. Excitement mounted, keeping in mind that this was not a destination on my list of desirable destinations. But travelling and experiencing new destinations is addictive.
We arrive in Dubai at the time the sparrow released the said fart, and we were dying to just get to our hotel. Upon exiting the airport to catch our transfer to our hotel, a wave of heat smothered us. There are only 2 seasons in Dubai: Hot and hot-as-hell.
Now, as this was a trip sponsored by a tourism board, they had ensured that not a second in their prized city was left without an experience, so that we could go home and confidently promote the destination to our clients with options other than hotel, transfer and flights. It’s all about the touring of the city, it’s all about the what-more-is-there-to-the-destination, that matters. Clients, one or more, will request a random tour, and we, the experts, should be able to give the correct advice and information.
We had a few hours in our fabulous hotel rooms to freshen up. We were spoiled, put up in a 5* hotel in the Deira area, which is a 15 minute drive from the airport. Huge beds, heavenly pillows that were seductively taunting us to give them a chance (wish I had given these pillows more of my attention during my 2 night stay) and a bathroom that echoed due to its size.
The sun finally rose during our freshen-up-allocated-time, and we met the bus with other travel industry representatives from South Africa loaded in it, in front of the hotel. Our first tour was a City Tour, taking us to the Museum, the market (for the legendary Dubai shopping experience), a dhow boat ride on the Creek ending up at the Souk for more shopping. A woman’s dream!
The shopping was magnificent! You have to plan what you want to buy before you go to a market or a Souk, otherwise you will be swallowed whole into a frenzied money-spending abyss. And you have to master the art of hackling to get the right price. Do not twitch when in the negotiating phase. The people of the market are seasoned veterans. They will work on your empathy strings and tell you that the price you’re asking for will not put food in their children’s mouths, but this is their ploy to exploit you of your hard-earned shopping dollars. Leave your heart in your hotel room when you head out on a shopping spree in Dubai.
From there we toured through Deira, through the Creek area, through Bur Dubai to a mosque for a viewing. Did you know that 80% of Dubai’s population is made up of ex-pats and the 20% balance of the population are natural residents? (Now you know). Even though the majority of the population are not Muslim, the primary religion is Muslim, and this is very prominent in Dubai. Friday is the start of their weekend, no flimsy spaghetti strap dresses bearing shoulders and knees are permitted to be worn in public, during Ramadhan no eating or drinking is permitted from sunrise to sunset in public, and 70% of the hotels are dry hotels (in other words they do not serve alcohol).
En-route to the famous Jumeirah Beach, we drove past the Burj Tower (Burj Khalifa) which was then still in its building phase. Dubai is plagued with construction sites. For as long as I have been selling Dubai, it’s been under construction. But hats off to the architecture and designs. This is the true definition of out-the-box thinking and creativity.
Arriving at Jumeirah Beach, we saw the infamous Burj Al Arab, where a bottom of the range room in the off-season is R5000 per person per night. No cars are allowed to drive up to the entrance of this hotel, unless you are a resident of the hotel, a VIP or on a tour. This infamous building was truly an amazing sight to lay my eyes upon.
A bit of sightseeing and a sweat provoking hour later, we arranged with the tour bus to leave us at Wild Wadi Rum water park and we would make our own way back to the hotel, because we had 3 hours to kill before the hosted dinner that evening. We caught 2 taxis to Atlantis Hotel on the Palm and had a heart stopping, life flashing before our eyes, prayer filled experience. OMG! The taxi driver, whose services we were cursed to use, almost killed us on the road. He was a Muslim, racist. Every car on the road driving in front, behind or on his side with an ex Pat or Indian driver behind the steering wheel, seemed to appear to him as something demonic and he was obsessed with the urge to ram them off the road. 30 minutes of torment late, we arrived at the Atlantis Hotel, we flung open the taxi doors and ran inside after we threw the money at him with no tip as a survival method to save ourselves.
Atlantis Hotel on the Palm. The replica of the iconic hotel in the Bahamas. We weren’t fortunate enough to do room inspections, but we had a memorable walk around the hotel where non residents were not banned from roaming and the sights were jaw dropping.
An hour later, we made our way back to our hotel and readied ourselves for the hosted dinner. Thus far, we had not managed to sample any form of alcohol, and at dinner we were offered wine. When we each asked for a second glass of wine, we were each given a glare-stare that would make you shrink, ashamed that you acted like the ungrateful Oliver Twist asking for more.
With this, we decided that we had to get out and experience the night life with our “when in Rome” attitudes. We found a local bar where 99.9% of the people in the bar were ex Pats from Ireland, Australia and New Zealand. Of course we did our best to not pay for drinks, because 1 drink was about R50 and that was just a beer.
Many drinks later, we turned into superheroes and we showed off our talents, made many friends and were offered many drinks. One of my friends even tried to scrum a guy twice her size. The taxi ride back to the hotel was a giggle fest and the run up to the hotel room to speak to the toilet bowl, was done in superhuman lightning speed (or so we thought, I’m sure).
3 hours of precious sleep later, we had to wake up, shake up and rake up our “we can do this” attitudes off the bathroom floor and join the tour for day 2 of sightseeing.
Thank goodness we had strong stomachs. The tour for the day was a desert sand dune safari, followed by a dinner in the desert. Awesome. There was a convoy of 4×4’s driving into the desert, and then the fun started, as we were thrown around, up and down, stomachs sinking, hearts skipping a beat, adrenalin pumping, memorable moment of note. Funny enough, the hangover never repeated on any of us. We were having too much fun to think of the sickness.
A stop in the desert, and of course we tried to run up and down dunes. Looks much easier when they do it on TV.
We finally reached our harem-set-up where we were to be entertained and fed for the next 3 hours, treated like VIP’s. We took in the sunset, and whilst watching it descend on the day, it disappeared before it reached the edge of the horizon. That’s when we found out that the heat of the desert causes a “smoke screen”, a fiery haze and it looks like the sun just disappears, but it’s hidden by the haze of heat. A first time viewing experience. Tick! NOW Dubai was on my list of desirable destinations.
Food. Food. Entertainment. Camel Rides. Henna tattoos. Drink. Laughter. We were ready to go out on the town again. It was, after all, our last night in Dubai. We planned to go to the same bar we went to the previous night, because no one could suggest another venue for us. Back to the hotel we went, revised our going out outfits and got into a taxi prepared to retrace last nights tracks to the same bar. But as we drove a few kilometres from the hotel, we noticed signs up advertising a “Full Moon Beach Party” at the Atlantis Hotel. Well. We had to experience this for our client’s sake, right? Driver, Atlantis Hotel, please!
The queue to get into the Beach Party was ridiculous, and we were thinking, we were going to have to party sober because the cost of the alcoholic beverages clashed with our wallet’s magical monetary capabilities. This thought did not even manage to end in a full stop, when we were approached by 3 men asking us to pretend to be their girlfriends, so that they could get in to the party. That’s when we found out, in Dubai, men are not permitted to enter any bars or clubs without being accompanied by ladies, so we made a deal with them: we would play the role of their girlfriends, in exchange for sweet alcoholic nectar. Deal. Party was a go, and the hangover-potential was being nurtured. What a night. The music, the people, the vibe, the laughter and all that complimented an unforgettable evening was happening to us, there and then.
The party ended promptly at 2am, as all parties, clubs and bars, do in Dubai, and the taxi ride back to the hotel felt like we were on the highway to hell. The sponsored nectar that we consumed was not sitting well, because we had willingly over-indulged on it.
Finally back at the hotel, we collapsed in a pile on our beds and in a split second, being conscious was not an option.
Courtesy wake up calls rang on the room telephone only 2 hours after our collapse. The ringing sounded like a banshee in a horror movie. We had to pack and vacate our rooms in lightning speed, and make our way to the airport. We moved slow enough to not encounter any hangover-related incidents.
Hell! We were in hell, because of last nights overindulgence in fun. The longest drive to the airport, the longest check in for our flight, the longest wait in a MacDonald’s queue to grease up our fragile lifeless bodies. And finally, the long-awaited moment to collapse into our seats on the plane, had arrived, and we were able to close our eyes and sleep right through the 8 hour flight back to our home country.
Dubai made its mark on us in more ways than one, from creative jaw dropping architecture, to fantastic people, to amazing memories, to a pristine desert experience. We had slept a total of 5 hours in those 3 days, all for the sake of sacrificing ourselves to a worthy cause, which was to become specialists of Dubai, to delight our clients and their travel needs. Superheros were sacrificed, experience was rife, and memories were a plenty.
- Find a mix of Old World and New in Dubai | British Airways – Travel Industry News (travelnews.britishairways.com)
- Dubai tourism body rebrands the city to entice holidaymakers | British Airways – Travel Industry News (travelnews.britishairways.com)
- Dubai water taxis offer a stylish new way to get around on holiday | British Airways – Travel Industry News (travelnews.britishairways.com)
- Old dubai – Dubai, United Arab Emirates (travelpod.com)
- Clubbing in Dubai (ginosblog.com)
- A Kids Dream – Dubai, United Arab Emirates (travelpod.com)