Dubai Part X

I wish I would have had more to write about regarding my holiday in Dubai but ... I've been struggling. Despite its showiness – despite its commitment to extreme opulence, grandeur and the biggest/tallest everything – I found the city lacking in practicality, culture and, ultimately, heart. 

I felt like I traveled half way around the world to visit things I could see in my backyard. Mind you, they were bigger, taller, SHINIER things than what are in my background, but still. I didn't depart with a positive lasting impression. I have no yearning to return. 

At the end of the day, it ranks near the bottom of the list when it comes to my favorite destinations. 

Maybe I'm just bitter I didn't get to drive a shiny, metallic green Ferrari. 


I spent my final days away from the towering, glittering skyscrapers of which the city wants to be known and instead strolled through the traditional markets of Deira, repeatedly riding the abra and feasting at the Arabian Tea House Café, my favorite restaurant in Dubai. It was a relaxing time spent wandering about at my leisure, observing and participating in the theatre of the streets of the Old City. 

At one of the market stalls, I was drawn in by a beautiful teal embroidered robe. I paused to admire it and ended up with an invitation by the owner to share chai and traditional sweets. I accepted the offer, fully aware it was a ploy to get me to buy but also an opportunity for me to gain insight on real life in the U.A.E. In between haggling on price, we talked. 

I learned that the owner moved to Dubai from northern India after graduating with a degree in Business. The market stall he operated was a venture he planned to operate for just a few years, earning enough profit to help his family with back home. He was eager to return to India though. The original allure of the big city had dissipated. Dubai was expensive. The promise of riches it teased with was not as forthcoming as originally believed. The hustle-and-bustle was not for him; nor was the fact that, despite contributing to the economy and development of the nation, he would forever be an outsider there. I told him of my experiences over the previous two weeks and, after listening intently, he welcomed me to visit his home province one day to be shown real hospitality.

After an hour in the shop, I eventually got the robe, and a second one, along with a beautiful cashmere scarf for the price I was seeking. 

Dubai Creek (©Deborah Clague, 2016)

Dubai Creek (©Deborah Clague, 2016)

Dubai Creek (©Deborah Clague, 2016)

Dubai Creek (©Deborah Clague, 2016)

Iranian Mosque, Bur Dubai (©Deborah Clague, 2016)

Iranian Mosque, Bur Dubai (©Deborah Clague, 2016)

Detail of Iranian Mosque, Bur Dubai (©Deborah Clague, 2016)

Detail of Iranian Mosque, Bur Dubai (©Deborah Clague, 2016)

Burj Khalifa, Dubai (©Deborah Clague, 2016)

Burj Khalifa, Dubai (©Deborah Clague, 2016)

Burj Khalifa, Dubai (©Deborah Clague, 2016)

Burj Khalifa, Dubai (©Deborah Clague, 2016)

Burj Khalifa, Dubai (©Deborah Clague, 2016)

Burj Khalifa, Dubai (©Deborah Clague, 2016)

Tim Hortons in Dubai Mall (©Deborah Clague, 2016)

Tim Hortons in Dubai Mall (©Deborah Clague, 2016)

Old Souq, Bur Dubai (©Deborah Clague, 2016)

Old Souq, Bur Dubai (©Deborah Clague, 2016)

Owner of shop I had tea with (©Deborah Clague, 2016)

Owner of shop I had tea with (©Deborah Clague, 2016)

Arabic chicken dinner at the Arabian Tea House (©Deborah Clague, 2016) 

Arabic chicken dinner at the Arabian Tea House (©Deborah Clague, 2016) 

Stray cat in Deira (©Deborah Clague, 2016)

Stray cat in Deira (©Deborah Clague, 2016)

Billboards of Emirati leaders line the streets and highways (©Deborah Clague, 2016) 

Billboards of Emirati leaders line the streets and highways (©Deborah Clague, 2016) 

I couldn't escape camels. This smoking lounge was at my layover in Frankfurt Airport (©Deborah Clague, 2016)

I couldn't escape camels. This smoking lounge was at my layover in Frankfurt Airport (©Deborah Clague, 2016)

DUBAI PART IX

I've debated writing about some of the negative experiences both my friend and I encountered while in Dubai, but I'm not sure what purpose it would serve. There are good and not-so-good people everywhere. A terrible experience can be had abroad or at home. Besides, the scariest situation I've found myself was in my favorite place in the world, France.

Reading outdoors by my lonesome in Paris, several German men approached and surrounded me. Their harassment escalated from a seemingly innocent "hello, bonjour" to having them repeat the phrase "____ my ____, bitch" over and over again for what seemed like an eternity (but was probably closer to around three minutes). I sat still, my eyes lasered on the book I was then pretending to read, deep in frantic contemplation about what I would do if their words evolved to action. After getting no response, they finally departed (perhaps assuming I was deaf and taking pity on me). I left the scene as quickly as I could. 

Men don't really have to deal with this while traveling.

Or in life, in general. 

I suppose my surprise with Dubai was that the harassment came from women and not men. 


My first day alone, I decided to hit up the beach. From my hotel, there was a free shuttle to Jumeriah which is the public swimming area close to the Burj Al Arab. It was one of THE most spectacular stretches of sand I had ever seen. The water was a stunning aqua-marine and crystal clear, which was great because I have severe paranoia about swimming in open bodies of water where I can't see what's brushing up against me. Surprisingly, there were very few people on it. I had my own vast personal space, the closest beach bum near me was at least 100 yards away. In lieu of this paradise, everyone seemed to congregate at Atlantis Resort. 

A few days prior, my friend and I visited the resort which is located on the edge of Palm Island, a modern marvel of marine construction that has added 520 sq.km of private beachfront to the city of Dubai. It's pretty amazing for something constructed by man solely of sand and rock; from the air, I imagine you get a real sense of scale. From ground-level though, all that is visible are endless multi-million dollar residences and hordes of tourists clamouring to cool down at the Atlantis waterpark and/or grab a bite to eat at a restaurant bearing Gordon Ramsay's name.

The two things that stood outmost for me were: 

1) This creepy Michael Jackson doll in one of the gift shops:

2) The foreign workers toiling in the heat. Much has been written about the UAE, its lack of basic human rights for migrant workers, and various labour injustices that some characterize as modern day slavery. I cannot, for certain, state that anyone I observed faced this plight. But I was cognizant that much of this future megalopolis was built off the backs of those leaving their loved ones behind to seek greater opportunity, often propelled by blind hope and faith, and often not being allowed to integrate into the place they are serving. 


Rumour: you will never see a published picture of the Burj Al Arab from the vantage point of the Persian Gulf because its construction forms the largest crucifix in the Middle East (a detail not realized until near completion). 

Atlantis Resort at Palm Island, Dubai (©Deborah Clague, 2016). 

Atlantis Resort at Palm Island, Dubai (©Deborah Clague, 2016). 

On Palm Island, Dubai's skyline in the background (©Deborah Clague, 2016). 

On Palm Island, Dubai's skyline in the background (©Deborah Clague, 2016). 

Jumeriah Beach, Dubai (©Deborah Clague, 2016). 

Jumeriah Beach, Dubai (©Deborah Clague, 2016). 

Jumeriah Beach, the Burj Al Arab in the background (©Deborah Clague, 2016). 

Jumeriah Beach, the Burj Al Arab in the background (©Deborah Clague, 2016). 

Street art, Dubai (©Deborah Clague, 2016). 

Street art, Dubai (©Deborah Clague, 2016). 

DUBAI PART VIII

The first time I managed to actually get into Mall of the Emirates, I braved several lanes of traffic that didn't bother to slow down or even remotely give a fuck in terms of allowing me safe passage. As previously complained about, getting around Dubai is a nightmare as a pedestrian. Crosswalks don't exist, but even if they did, I'm not sure drivers would actually stop. Which, come to think of it, isn't that different from where I live now. Moot point, then. But I've been to many cities where traffic was chaos. The difference here and with, say, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, is that in other cities I've felt like an obstacle to overcome by the driver. In Dubai, I felt like a major inconvenience to all. 

Mall of the Emirates is like any mall, really. There is a food court with fast food chains from all over the world. There are numerous fast fashion brands offering economical options to contrast the high-end boutiques filled with the latest Parisian creations. The only difference is the massive indoor ski hill, which is uniquely one-of-a-kind (they didn't honour the free pass my hotel gave me, so regrettably – and bitterly – there won't be any review). The anchor store at Mall of the Emirates is Carrefour, which is basically a French Wal-Mart. It definitely had the most foot traffic in terms of foreigners, both expat and tourist. This is also where I spent most of my time and coins stocking up on uniquely flavoured potato chips, souvenirs and books. At check-out, I received a coupon for 50% off plastic surgery at a local clinic. It was rather odd but not entirely surprising. Dubai is one of the most superficial places I've ever visited.  

On the way out of the mall, I ran into several men trying to sell me an iPhone 6. As I said "no, thank you" to one, another would pop up. I wasn't really bothered. My mind was focused on why they were there though; it became apparent that my earlier route of jay-walking across several lanes of busy, high-speed traffic WAS the only way into the mall and that it why they congregated there.  


DID YOU KNOW?
An unwashed vehicle in the U.A.E. will be subject to a dh500 fine (approximately $200 CDN). 

Hanging clothes from one's balcony will be subject to a dh500 - dh1500 fine (approximately $600 CDN). 

Eating, drinking or chewing gum on public transport will be subject to a dh100 fine (approximately $35 CDN). 


After a week that went by in a flash, my friend departed back to Canada. It was bittersweet. I normally travel solo and was looking forward to the adventure my subsequent time alone would bring, but she also brought a je ne sais quoi to the journey that I otherwise wouldn't have had. This was her first international excursion. A major one too. While Dubai had its challenges, her curiosity and genuine excitement at experiencing new things allowed me to view things in a different way as well. We may be polar opposites, but our perspectives are complementary. 

At the metro station near our hotel, we exchanged a hug and she gave me her parting words: 

"Don't worry. You look like a journalist."

In a country where women's rights and freedom of speech are often called into question, this wasn't entirely reassuring. 

Ski Dubai (©Deborah Clague, 2016).

Ski Dubai (©Deborah Clague, 2016).

Coupon received at Carrefour, Mall of the Emirates (©Deborah Clague, 2016).

Coupon received at Carrefour, Mall of the Emirates (©Deborah Clague, 2016).

I should be a spokesperson for Doritos. The yogurt and herb mix was amazing. 

I should be a spokesperson for Doritos. The yogurt and herb mix was amazing. 

DUBAI PART VI

Walking through the historic Al-Fahidi district, a sign caught my attention causing me to pause mid-stride. "What is this?", I thought to myself. "Should I? Could I?".

I loitered for a bit like a stupid tourist, a stupid (North) Americano tourist, which was exactly the sign's target audience. It tempted. It teased. By this point in my journey to the U.A.E., I was homesick for family and friends and windchill and, yes, greasy fast food. But could I stomach this? I had, after all, just made friends with these creatures the night previous while on a desert safari. 

I looked to the Heavens for guidance, as I regularly do on matters relating to the heart, mind and stomach. 

"Dad, should I do this?"

"You can't NOT do this, Lou*."

With that assurance, I strode into the restaurant and ordered knowing that my father's omnipresent spirit was sitting right next to me and we were both about to feast. 

"One camel burger, please."

Life is savage and strange. 

The burger was delicious. 


*Since childhood, my father's nickname for me was Lou. I can't even recall an occasion where he called me by my actual name. Predictably, this has caused much confusion in social settings. I believe it originates from my love of Disney's Huey, Dewey and Louie cartoons but this has never been confirmed and the actual origin shall remain an eternal mystery. 

The camel burger with fries and a mint-lemon beverage at  Local House Restaurant  in Dubai (©Deborah Clague, 2016). 

The camel burger with fries and a mint-lemon beverage at Local House Restaurant in Dubai (©Deborah Clague, 2016). 

In addition to a camel burger, I also tried camel milk and camel milk chocolate while in Dubai. (©Deborah Clague, 2016).

In addition to a camel burger, I also tried camel milk and camel milk chocolate while in Dubai. (©Deborah Clague, 2016).

The historic Al-Fahidi district, Dubai (©Deborah Clague, 2016). 

The historic Al-Fahidi district, Dubai (©Deborah Clague, 2016). 

The historic Al-Fahidi district, Dubai (©Deborah Clague, 2016). 

The historic Al-Fahidi district, Dubai (©Deborah Clague, 2016). 

The historic Al-Fahidi district, Dubai (©Deborah Clague, 2016). 

The historic Al-Fahidi district, Dubai (©Deborah Clague, 2016). 

The historic Al-Fahidi district, Dubai (©Deborah Clague, 2016). 

The historic Al-Fahidi district, Dubai (©Deborah Clague, 2016). 

The historic Al-Fahidi district, Dubai (©Deborah Clague, 2016). 

The historic Al-Fahidi district, Dubai (©Deborah Clague, 2016). 

The historic Al-Fahidi district, Dubai (©Deborah Clague, 2016). 

The historic Al-Fahidi district, Dubai (©Deborah Clague, 2016). 

Dubai Museum (©Deborah Clague, 2016).

Dubai Museum (©Deborah Clague, 2016).

Dubai Museum (©Deborah Clague, 2016).

Dubai Museum (©Deborah Clague, 2016).

Dubai Museum (©Deborah Clague, 2016).

Dubai Museum (©Deborah Clague, 2016).

Dubai Museum (©Deborah Clague, 2016).

Dubai Museum (©Deborah Clague, 2016).

Deira, Dubai (©Deborah Clague, 2016).

Deira, Dubai (©Deborah Clague, 2016).

Deira, Dubai (©Deborah Clague, 2016).

Deira, Dubai (©Deborah Clague, 2016).

Deira, Dubai (©Deborah Clague, 2016).

Deira, Dubai (©Deborah Clague, 2016).

Deira, Dubai (©Deborah Clague, 2016).

Deira, Dubai (©Deborah Clague, 2016).

Dubai V

Subtitled: "Abbi and Ilana take on the desert".

The excursion I most looked forward to during my time in Dubai was a desert safari I booked in advance. It would provide an opportunity to interact with the natural environment of the region as well as give me a break from the frustration of trying to get around the city. This was only my third day in, but Dubai's lack of being pedestrian friendly made me regret booking a two-week stay. It increasingly seemed a great place for a short layover while enroute somewhere else, rather than a destination in its own right. 

My friend and I were picked up at our hotel by a portly fellow from south India. In his van were several other tourists from the Netherlands and eastern Europe. I got comfortable in the front passenger seat. 

"You will all enjoy your day." the driver proclaimed as he turned onto the freeway. "There will be dune-bashing, camels – lots of camels – shisha, mehndi, bellydancing ... and the most delicious feast you will ever experience. Lots of food. So much food! You will come in looking flat like her and leave looking like me." 

He gestured in my direction. I wasn't sure if I should be insulted or not. The adjective he used, after all, was "flat" and not "thin". And his bosom did, upon closer inspection, appear bigger than mine. After turning his attention to my friend, and repeatedly commenting on her "strong" nose (which is near perfect), I decided that there was definitely something lost in translation. 


After about an hour's drive, we took a sharp left into the sands of the desert. There was no road marker – heck, there was no road. We just started driving in the sand until we met up with an all-black SUV that appeared to be waiting for us. 

"This is a very special day." our driver stated before explaining that the SUV in question belonged to a member of the royal family of Sharjah. As if on cue, they – a "Sheikh" and two women that I presumed were his wives – exited the vehicle and proceeded to take selfies of each other, smiling and laughing as though we were on Hollywood Blvd and not literally the middle of a fuckin' desert.

It was one of the most ridiculous things I have ever seen in my life.  

Granted, there is a possibility that they were of wealth and power. Perhaps in the U.A.E., second cousins twice-removed are still in line for the throne. However, I couldn't get past my belief that anyone of any social standing in this country would want to spend an evening with a bunch of tourists more excited to visit a camel farm. 


The rest of the day's events went as follows: 

DUNEBASHING: This was actually more intense than I anticipated. It's basically 45-minutes of feeling like you are going to die in a rollover incident. Not for the faint of heart. 

My friend is faint of heart. 

While dunebashing, we came across some free-range camels wandering about and whatnot. 

CAMEL FARM: We visited a camel farm where the animal is bred exclusively for racing, a major sport in the U.A.E.. There were hundreds of the animals on-site, with a few more docile in nature used to give rides to tourists (the dismount of which scared me more than the dunebashing, tbh). 

Near the camel farm was our camp, where we could relax for a few hours and learn about traditional Bedouin culture. This included a falconry display, mehndi and smoking shisha, a glass-bottomed waterpipe in which flavoured tobacco is covered with foil and roasted with charcoal. Some reports compare it to smoking the equivalent of 200 cigarettes at once. I didn't feel anything, although, at this point of the day my friend and I were feeling naturally giddy. 

The evening was capped with, as our driver promised, a very delicious feast under the stars.

I'm still "flat" though. 

When taking this picture, I didn't notice the person behind me falling down the dune. 

When taking this picture, I didn't notice the person behind me falling down the dune. 


On the drive back to Dubai, I again sat in the passenger seat and conversed with our driver as everyone else nodded off in the back. After small talk about the day's events, we discussed our personal lives. I told him about my (now extended) year of adventure and how I was traveling the world in honour of my late father. He told me about losing his home and several family members in the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami of 2005, later moving to Dubai to earn enough income to send home and rebuild. As the conversation got heavy, he switched the topic to marriage, inquiring why my boyfriend hasn't proposed. 

"Because I'm a loser." I replied. 

The night was dark. Just absolute pitch-black over an expanse of seeming emptiness. And yet, at the side of the road, at this late hour, were groups of Emiratis who had parked their vehicles and started fires a few yards in from the highway. I asked the driver why they did this.

"This is how they get away from it all." he replied.  

Dubai Part IV

The Gold Souk in Dubai is pure extravagance. Curiously, no rose gold nor platinum is visible. Just pure yellow gold in every shape and form with an aim to make royalty of the common man (and woman). I don't like wearing jewellery, so, while neat to see, I really had no interest in purchasing anything. Besides, as one of the only visible tourists in the area at this hour, the touts had honed in en masse. 

"Je n'ai pas parlez anglais" I would state repeatedly and walked on, thankful that my years of French study have paid off in the memorization of at least one useful phrase. 

I wandered until I stumbled upon the Perfume Souk, which is less a market atmosphere and more just a bunch of fragrance retailers in close proximity to one another. I love perfume and wear it daily, never truly feeling like myself without it. Having said that, I am rather boring. I like smelling "fresh"; certainly not floral and definitely not musky, which is too strong for me, In the Middle East, the latter reigns supreme. Fragrances are heavily aromatic and lean towards earthy topnotes such as sandalwood, amber and oud. The bottles that hold them are intricately designed and embellished, like jewellery for one's nightstand. I regret that I didn't find anything to satisfy my olfactory sense but it was fun to window shop and just breathe in the air of the area. 

From the Perfume Souk, I then made my way to the Spice Souk to overdose on yet more scent. There were no touts here, just curious shop owners making every attempt to sell me saffron. 

"I don't know how to cook" I would reply. 

This was enough to stop them dead in their pitch, pausing for a moment to quizzically look me over and ponder which planet I was visiting from. 


From Deira, the metro stopped at Dubai Mall enroute back to my hotel. I decided to check it out, less for the shopping and moreso to take photography of the Burj Khalifa from its base (the tallest building in the world is adjacent to this largest shopping centre in the world). Following the herd who were also getting off, I made my way down a long – SUPER long (seriously, I cannot stress how long this was) - walkway into the mall proper. It was good exercise. Thank God, it was air conditioned. There were moving walkways but I decided not to take advantage of them as I was traveling faster than the hordes casually using their service.

Searching through the mall for about an hour or so, I couldn't find an exit. I did find a café serving camel milk lattés, as well as a fast food joint curiously specializing only in corn-on-the-cob. I also found a Japanese bookstore where I purchased several flip animation books to add to my growing collection. This was a win but my feet were getting sore and I decided to give up. Perhaps people live in the mall?, I thought to myself. I can't get IN the other one and I can't get OUT of this one. What are the fire codes like here? 

Back at the hotel, defeated, I met with my friend who had spent the afternoon nursing jetlag. She had also stopped in Dubai Mall on the way back from the Souks. "Hey – did you see how to get out of the mall to access the Burj?", she asked. 

Dubai Mall (©Deborah Clague, 2016).

Dubai Mall (©Deborah Clague, 2016).

Multi-coloured panels illuminate a portion of the long - L-O-N-G - walkway into Dubai Mall (©Deborah Clague, 2016).

Multi-coloured panels illuminate a portion of the long - L-O-N-G - walkway into Dubai Mall (©Deborah Clague, 2016).

The aquarium at Dubai Mall (©Deborah Clague, 2016).

The aquarium at Dubai Mall (©Deborah Clague, 2016).

The skating rink inside Dubai Mall (©Deborah Clague, 2016).

The skating rink inside Dubai Mall (©Deborah Clague, 2016).

The "souk" portion of Dubai Mall (©Deborah Clague, 2016).

The "souk" portion of Dubai Mall (©Deborah Clague, 2016).

"The High Dive" artwork in Dubai Mall (©Deborah Clague, 2016).

"The High Dive" artwork in Dubai Mall (©Deborah Clague, 2016).

Dubai Part III

The first "official" day started with this: 

A camel race on TV. It We settled on it to provide background noise in lieu of some of the other channels that seemed to exclusively showcase the many achievements and feats of ruler Sheikh Mohammed. I'd never seen a camel race before. I'd honestly never seen a camel run before, falsely believing that they just moseyed about the desert all chill and whatnot. They can actually run up to 65km/hr. It was fascinating to see. They were as gangly and graceless as I imagine I looked back in high school gym class. This made me appreciate and bond with the animal in a way that would become rather awkward a few days later...

At 9:30am, we left our hotel and made our way to the closest metro station, Sharaf. I wanted to take my friend to "Old Dubai", the Deira area, where we could get lost in the sights and sounds of traditional middle eastern markets and have the opportunity to experience something very different from back home. I also may have wanted to buy pajamas. The driverless metro was incredibly efficient, with trains coming every five minutes on the dot. The female-only cars were also appreciated as it was often incredibly crowded and, of course, THAT HEAT. The cars are air conditioned, but one still can't escape the draining exhaustion brought on by THAT HEAT. I'll write more on it later, but as someone who just left a Canadian winter, I felt like I was going to spontaneously burst into flames everyday. 

It was still considered early when we arrived at the market. It appeared to be in preparation for a later tourist rush. The eight men for every one woman statistic was never more apparent than when we were touring this area at this time. We were, literally, the only females walking about. At one point, both of us glanced at each other telepathically communicating that we weren't to leave the other's side. 

"Louis Vuitton, Prada. Designer bags."

The Gold Souk was ridiculously over-the-top. I have never seen such grandiose creations made out of the metal before. I couldn't imagine where I would wear something so flashy ... or even how much some of the pieces would weigh (much less cost!). It would take great effort to move wearing some of the jewellery on display. My friend couldn't concentrate on all the bling though, as something else seemed to be distracting her. 

"Louis Vuitton, Prada. Designer bags. Come this way."

I recall traveling to China years ago and having a difficult time adjusting to some of the aggressiveness one faces by touts while simply walking down the street. I actually remember sprinting away in the French Concession area of Shanghai while a group of them chased after me, all the while yelling designer names as though it were a password that would eventually unlock my wallet. I laugh about it now ... but then, I just wanted to hide in a hole. The unrelenting harassment by these individuals definitely can decrease the amount of enjoyment one takes away from the day and their overall holiday. Now? It doesn't bother me. Just ask one of my exes – there is no one better than me at giving the silent treatment. NO ONE. While I would just keep walking, my friend, an all-too polite Canadian, would always stop and reply. "No, I'm not interested. Thanks."

"Louis Vuitton, Prada. Designer bags. Come this way."

"No, I'm not interested. Thanks."

"Louis Vuitton, Prada. Designer bags. Come this way."

"No, I'm not interested."

"Louis Vuitton, Prada. Designer bags. Come this way."

"NO. I'M NOT INTERESTED!"

"Louis Vuitton, Prada. Designer bags. Come this way."

My friend was done. Exhausted. She had experienced enough and wanted to return to the hotel.

It was 10:30am. After exploring for just an hour, I walked her back to the metro station and saw her off. She would spend the day by the pool and wander Mall of the Emirates.

I returned to the markets on my own. 

Gold Souq, Deira, Dubai (©Deborah Clague, 2016).

Gold Souq, Deira, Dubai (©Deborah Clague, 2016).

Deira area of Dubai (©Deborah Clague, 2016).

Deira area of Dubai (©Deborah Clague, 2016).

Deira area of Dubai (©Deborah Clague, 2016).

Deira area of Dubai (©Deborah Clague, 2016).

Dubai Creek (©Deborah Clague, 2016).

Dubai Creek (©Deborah Clague, 2016).

View from my seat of the "female-only" car of the Dubai Metro (©Deborah Clague, 2016).

View from my seat of the "female-only" car of the Dubai Metro (©Deborah Clague, 2016).

Dubai Part II

The first thing I noticed when traveling via taxi from DXB to Jumeriah, which is where my hotel was located, was how fast everyone drove. Sheikh Zayed Road, the main artery cutting through the United Arab Emirates and Dubai's core in particular, is an eight-lane highway (each direction) where everyone seems to be traveling at a minimum of 140km/hr. 

The second thing I noticed was how far-spread out the city seemed.


After initially being dropped off at the wrong hotel, we checked into the proper one a few blocks away. Our earlier friction had all but dissipated; we were in Dubai, wide-awake and ready to explore (even though it was late). The night air remained muggy and the streets had minor activity of mostly groups of men loitering about. I had previously read that males outnumber females 8 to 1 in the city, a very lopsided equation that is surely the result of the construction boom and foreign labour needed to fuel it. Knowing this, at the start of our walk I paid no attention to the remainder of my surroundings. My focus was elsewhere. 

We made our way to Mall of the Emirates which appeared to still be open. The act of simply crossing the street was problematic though as multiple lanes of speeding traffic circled the building. We figured we'd had a long day and were probably just missing where we were supposed to enter from. Abandoning this attempt, we decided to try again the following day. After all, we'd have plenty of time to shop.  

Walking back to the hotel, I now looked closer at where the hubs of male activity seemed to be congregating and noted a disproportionate number of massage parlours in the area. I'd add quotation marks to those words, but they could very well be reputable businesses. 

Reputable massage parlours that completely covered any visibility through their windows. 

Reputable massage parlours that were open past midnight. 


The following morning, I noticed a high volume of business cards for these massage parlours on all of the parked vehicles in the area. Some specifically advertised their "Russian staff".