Welcome to the new improved Las Vegas….or Dubai, United Arab Emirates as some call it.
Apr 16th, 2010 by Jeff

If you’re flying in from Mumbai to Dubai be prepared for some culture shock.  Flying into Dubai’s new international terminal is like stepping into the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, minus the smoke, liquor, weirdoes and scantily clad women.  After arriving at our gate we rode the moving walkway through large arched hallways made of glass, marble and glittering gold for probably a mile.

The girls infront of the lift, notice the waterfall in upper background.  I could only get in two of the elevators.

The girls infront of the lift, notice the waterfall in upper background. I could only get in two of the elevators.

The girls stopped briefly on our way to make use of the bathrooms (see Tessa’s post).  Once through customs, we entered one of three glass elevators the size of a small living room in front of the 150 foot tall, 100 foot long waterfall. The elevator brought us down three stories to the baggage claim area.  From the airport we hopped into an immaculately clean, large Toyota sedan and were driven to our new accommodations.  This was about as polar opposite as it comes to our experience of arriving in Delhi’s international airport (look back in the blog to get our take on that).

As far as accommodations go Dubai was another couchsurfing success!  Our gracious host for our time in Dubai was a delightful, funny and intelligent young woman by the name of Staci Haag.  She took all of us into her nicely appointed two bedroom apartment in Dubai proper, which ended up being a great departure point for our explorations of the city.  Even thought she had work obligations for the week, we stayed up chatting into the night, discussing her work in promoting democracy in the region and the trails and tribulations of working in the environment that is the Middle East.  Her stories were all very interesting and entertaining.  (We certainly wish her the best with the work she is doing there).

After our time in India, we all decided we needed some good all American style consumerism, and general merriment.  Therefore, the first item on our agenda was hitting some of the UAE’s gianormous malls for some shopping.

Butterfly cutouts hanging in on of the malls huge atriums

Butterfly cutouts hanging in on of the malls huge atriums

Here again, the Las Vegas analogy comes into play.  We went to a mall that had different themes to the sections, (like Rodeo Drive with the upscale shops and an old time Arabic bazaar).  We went to the mall that has a full size ice rink, the world’s largest saltwater aquarium, an indoor ski slope, and a water show outside in their fountains.

Water fountains sync'd to musical score outside the mall.

Water fountains sync'd to musical score outside the mall.

This mall was right next to the world’s largest skyscraper.  We had originally planned to go skiing here, but after looking at the cost ($80/per for two hours) and the size of the hill, we just decided it just wasn’t worth the cost.  It was pretty cool (and a little weird) to see this inside the mall.

Once we were done exploring the malls, we had our sights set on one of Dubai’s two water parks for some good clean fun.  The girls and I choose to go to the Atlantis Resort water park out on the famed artificial palm tree shaped island.  (Kate opted out on this adventure.  When she saw some expat’s that had nice blonde hair she inquired about their colorist; after that she was on a mission to restore here beautiful hair to it’s normal color from the stripper blonde shade she acquired in Thailand.  She knew this would be an all day job).  This park had some great slides built into a pyramid type tower about six stories tall.  On some of the slides you rode on tubes down a curvy bumpy track and where deposited into a lazy river which you could either ride back to a conveyor, or dump yourself into the rapids ride which would take you around the park.  Also, on the highest level of the tower you could go without a tube down an almost vertical drop through a tube in a shark filled aquarium and out to a waiting pond.  Phoebe was tentative at first, but later in the day got up the courage to do it.  I was very proud of her, seeing as she was probably the smallest person I saw taking the plunge on that particular slide!

On our last full day in Dubai we were invited to a party thrown by some of Staci’s friends.  Unfortunately, only the girls and I went, since Kate had one of her dizzy spells and just needed a day in bed.  We had a great time at the party as it was like a traditional American Bar-bq, with the added touch that it was the day before Easter and the host had eggs for the kids to color.  Tess and Phoebe both grabbed and egg and went to town!  We all enjoyed the grilled chicken, sausages and a garden salad, while the girls regaled everyone with stories from our adventures.

Our quick stay in Dubai was most pleasant and a much needed respite from our third world adventures.  We got in enough time to prep us for our next stop, Cairo – which we knew would be a little challenging!  We all agreed we enjoyed our quick stop and would be happy to go back and explore a little more.

(Listen to “Ode to Joy” while reading for full effect)
Apr 15th, 2010 by Kate

At that moment, no-one else in the world was as happy as I was- this, I was absolutely certain. I felt like I was a balloon floating away in a warm breeze. It just felt so right- so perfect. It felt like I belonged to the world again. One of the few great things that I loved about my life in my world was there.

There was toilet paper. A whole entire giant roll of it was sitting on one of those extra large holders. I felt like I had never seen so much toilet paper in my life.

And the bathroom was clean.

And it smelled slightly of citrus.

And the walls and floor were yellow and sparkly and spotless.

I felt like crying.

No, I am not being cheesy. When you are in India for a month, you really start to question if once in your life, there was ACTUALLY something existing called toilet paper. It seems like the clouds, always just out of reach. I swaggered over, half in a dream and took a big chunk off of the roll. I then blew my nose just for the heck of it. I regally threw the tissue into the metal garbage can and took another whiff of what I am sure must have been one of those highly toxic antibacterial sprays.

At that moment, I felt like I could raise my arms up and a symphony would strike up Ode to Joy and the whole bathroom would sparkle in gold. I might have actually cried, but I was too overwhelmed to remember.

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