Saturday, November 15, 2014

Dune Bashing in Dubai

After innumerable transits through Dubai airport, I finally had my chance to actually step out into this ‘city of gold’ in the Middle East.  Featureless sandy landscapes and dust storms were all I could see as my Emirates flight began its final descent. The barren landscape was only broken by man-made glory as our pilot brought us into a smooth landing.  Dubai clearly demonstrates both the triumph and excesses of mankind, of how you can make the impossible possible when you combine oil-money with clear vision!

Every building, mall, and man-made structure in this city attempts to be bigger, better or different from any other in the world.  As I drove closer to my hotel, which itself claims to be the tallest accomodation in the world, I could see buildings of every possible shape, many of which seem to defy the laws of physics! Clearly here was a place architects and builders could stretch themselves with no monetary targets limiting them.

As I peered out of the floor-to-ceiling windows of my room on the 53rd, there wasn’t much to be excited about.  The higher up you are, the worse your view - since now you see more of the sandy wastelands and dust storms in the distance.  Lower down and nearer lay man-made opulence, with a large canal, green areas, water bodies and gleaming buildings in this man-made oasis.

In the evening, the weather was surprisingly nice. A pleasant wind blew as we hopped on-board a dhow for a dinner cruise as the many buildings lit up in the evening hours.  Unlike the one we boarded, dhows began as sailing boats that frequented the spice route to India and beyond.  These boats may have been originally designed in China or even Portugal, but eventually were seen as symbolic to the region. For several years, African and Arab traders came to Kerala for their dhows.

After a dinner with local delicacies and several Indian ones, we drove back to the JW Marriott Marquis for a nightcap at their sports bar, which was a relatively quiet place with only a few residents and a few bored-looking African hookers.  The JW has a huge number of choices for food and drinks. I didn’t get to try many, but the Vault on the top floor is one I liked better.

The next evening was even more interesting. We were going Dune Bashing! This is something every visitor must do. A line of identical Toyota Landcruisers lined up to take us into the middle of the dessert.  As we got onto the sand, the drivers reduced tire-pressure so they get more surface-area on the sand and therefore more traction.  Then we were off on a crazy roller-coaster ride scooting up, down and side-ways on dunes that got increasingly more steeper and adventurous.  Yes, you don’t want to have a heavy lunch before dune bashing!

After 30 minutes, we gathered back with a brief stop to inflate tyres back to normal and a brief drive to a desert resort to give us a taste of Middle-Eastern hospitality.  Food, drinks, hookahs and belly-dancers kept us occupied for the next few hours.  We did the usual, silly tourist’y stuff like getting selfies with Arab turbans on, with a bored camel and then ogling the belly-dancers before heading back.

Dubai is obviously popular with both the British and Indians.  For the former, this is a wonderful city to earn good money while reminiscing about their glory days when they ruled this region, sort of the same reason they love Singapore.  But Singapore provides them the added advantage of eager-to-hitch local girls, if they are so inclined. Dubai can only provide them hookers! As for our fellow Indians, Dubai is clearly the place to shop, be seen, and if you are rich, get married in a place that showcases your wealth.  Our hotel was filled with rich Indians dressed in the most glittering clothes and jewelry for a multi-day wedding ceremony that was being held here.

No comments: