Monday, October 14, 2013

Destination: Dubai!

Tom's job takes him all over the world to visit his team of investment people and also to company or outside group conferences. Sometimes partners are invited to the company conferences. I like those. Most of them have been in places I've never visited before and they're always first class. The hotels are great and the event planners organize activities for the partners. Now that I've gone to several, there are faces I recognize among the group. Knowing others a little bit has made it even more fun.

This October's conference took us to Dubai. It is the weirdest city I've seen! It is all very new - mostly built after the 1970's! It was extremely hot and surprisingly humid for a desert location. The sky never had one cloud in it - just a solid grayish haze. It looked artificial. Between the sky and the very modern high rise buildings, I felt like the Jetsons were going to come by in their flying car any moment. There are very few trees or anything else green - some palms and shrubbery that is irrigated. It adds to the feel that the place cannot be real.

there are no clouds here - this was taken through a car window on the only day with less haze
mosque amidst the highrises

There is water dividing the two sides of the city of Dubai. They call it a creek because once it was. It has been dredged and widened so it can accommodate larger vessels for trading purposes. It's a river now, but still called the creek. The wooden boats called "dhows" taxi across the creek continuously. The larger dhows provide hour long tours of the creek area. We rode on both.

tour boat like the one we rode

dhows carry passengers across the creek all day

about to cross the creek
water taxi stand

world's tallest building, Burj Khalifa, in the hazy distance
in front of the Burj Khalifa

I learned a lot about the United Arab Emirates. Since I knew basically nothing about this country, there was plenty of room for new knowledge. There were nine Emirates under British protection. In the late 60's Britain announced they were not going to renew the agreement which provided the protection. By this time, oil had been found in the region. Qatar and Bahrain decided to become independent nations. The other seven joined together to form what is now the UAE. Abu Dhabi is the capital  - its ruler is always president of the UAE. Dubai is the financial capital and its ruler is always vice president. Abu Dhabi has the greatest land area and Dubai has the greatest population.

Only about 20% of the population of Dubai are locals. The others are all foreigners and will always be. No one else can become a citizen of the UAE no matter how long you live there or if you have been born there. Children take the nationality of the parents. They want the locals to stay and therefore they take care of their own. When you get married, you get 20,000 dirhams (approximately $5,500) from the government. You get another 20,000 upon the birth of your first child. The goverment provides you with a home, free medical care and free education! There are many jobs that can only be filled by locals. Gas is 50 cents a liter or $2.00 a gallon and there is no income tax. (The last two are true for everyone.) That's quite a lot of encouragement to stay.

only saw children in western clothes
We saw the whole range of attire on women: completely covered in black, including the head, with only the eyes visible, to western clothes. Men often wore white pants with a long white tunic over it and a red and white head scarf. I don't think it's fair that the men get to wear white and the women wear black. It's even hotter wearing black! We came to understand that there are still fashion statements for the women covered in black. The robes may have some decorations around the hems, also in black. Fashion statements are also made with sunglasses, shoes and handbags. We're told they also wear colors underneath (did catch a glimpse of this).  Seriously, wearing two layers in that heat?

Tom and I went to Dubai earlier than the conference intentionally so we could explore a bit together. We bought tickets for the hop-on-hop-off bus to get around the city. It included entry to the Dubai Museum. Here there were exhibits on the history of Dubai - what life was like before oil was discovered. Diving for pearls was big business. Notice the photos below. There is a rope to recover the basket with the oysters and pearls, but no help for the diver! Also, the diver appears to be wearing a clothespin for a nose-clip. Ouch!

upper right = wind tunnel

We also learned about wind tunnels built into buildings. They "collect" any breeze and direct it down into the living space for relief from the heat.

modern wind tunnel

The modern buildings also have wind tunnels. In the foreground, notice the umbrellas to shade the parking area. We saw shaded parking lots all over the city.

Dubai's Jumeirah Mosque, by day and by night

standing in the Arabian Gulf

There is also a beach with bathtub temperature water. I don't think it would be one bit refreshing.  The blue and pink (male and female) changing rooms on the beach are for anyone to use. I definitely wanted to see the sailboat hotel even though we didn't stay there.



Dubai is a shopping destination for many. I didn't check prices, but the lack of tax can be very helpful. I believe they have the world's largest shopping mall, but there were at least three in the city. One has the largest indoor ski slope (I didn't ask how many others there are). Next to the ski slope, was a restaurant named St. Moritz decorated like a Swiss chalet complete with fondue on the menu!
direction sign in mall

mall interior

view into Ski Dubai

Another of Dubai's malls has an ice skating rink (Olympic size, of course) and an aquarium.

skating with a head scarf - a look I'd never seen before

mall interior
Not your average malls, but there were many of the same retail shops we're used to seeing. We actually did some shopping because my little camera died. I guess it's been overworked this last year. I chose something as close to identical as possible. I didn't want any learning curve on how to use it. I needed to charge the battery and have it good to go the next morning.

I love this store, but did not go in!

I'm certain some will recognize this one

The residents of Dubai must also love American health food. It was fun to recognize the logos and see the name written in Arabic. 


The Zurich sponsored partner activity was a trip to Abu Dhabi (about a 75 minute car ride). First stop, Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. It is one of the largest in the world and allows visitors (as long as you are properly covered). I'd been to a mosque in Kuala Lumpur and had an idea of what to expect from the wardrobe police. I had on loose fitting slacks, a shirt with sleeves almost to the wrist and a scarf on my head. No good! My slacks were ruled "transparent" and I had to don the complimentary black robe. Yay. One of my partners in crime had on clothing that was too tight. The mosque is amazing and the pictures don't do it justice. It was worth wearing the robe and besides - it was air conditioned once we got inside! UAE is a land proud of their superlatives. This mosque has the largest chandelier and the biggest carpet in the world! 

second on the "no" list is too tight!

from the car

approaching entrance




interior with chandelier and carpet
ablution or women's foot washing room


Next stop,

Here falcons are waiting their turn for the appointment with the doctor. They'll have a pedicure, their teeth, beak and wings checked and maybe even a vaccination. The falcons all have hoods on so they can't see and are on leashes attached to the perches. Falcons are extremely popular here and therefore, big business.
I look more calm than I felt
 We are definitely annoying this falcon with our interruption of lunch time. The quail went away very quickly.

landscape between Dubai and Abu Dhabi - pretty? Not!
Before we left the country, we had to visit some "souks" or local vendors. We actually bought a carpet for our apartment's entryway. Negotiating is not something we enjoy doing so we probably overpaid. We also went to a spice souk, gold souk and were able to make our own perfume blend. 

spice vendor explaining his wares

gold souk

that's a lot of gold

the choices - we could mix up to 3 scents together

I'm not a big fan of perfume. It always smells too strong on me and I can't get away from myself. However, I did want to participate in this experience. I may never wear my mixture, but I have a little bottle of my personal perfume from Dubai. How many people can say that?
careful pouring

We were told that the crime rate is extremely low. Whatever the reason, police get to drive BMWs.

supposed to look like a wave

I can't help myself, here are a few more interesting buildings

diagonal part is entrance to metro

air conditioned bus shelters
Tom and I are not golfers, but a few of the conference attendees played (in the heat). Does this golf course look like a fun place to be? 

which are the traps - the sand or the grass?
Dubai was definitely an interesting place. I wouldn't want to live there, but I'm glad I had the chance to visit. Where to next? Dublin in November!