Friday, January 16, 2009

Catching up... Dubai

Dubai was...
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...modern, and seemed to be constantly denying its culture and history. Billboards proclaiming the advantages of living in the latest luxury penthouse suites. Malls everywhere. Construction everywhere.

...a little too much, too over the top. Global village, at Dubailand! Energy conference Jan 16-19! Swim with the dolphins at the Atlantic Hotel! Ski indoors at the Mall of the Emirates! Shop, spend, buy!
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...reminiscent of the middle east- men and women wearing traditional outfits. Mosques. The call to prayer five times a day.
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...full of Indians, here for work.

The food was great!
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We went on a package tour which included a camel ride (all two minutes of a photo opportunity!) and a dinner outside at a Bedouin emcampment with a belly dancer... Dinner was good, and so was the belly dancer- (Roxy, you still take the cake though! ;-) But the craziest part was the sand dune bashing- (warning Mom, don't read this part!) now THAT is the kind of activity that SUVs were made for... (While destroying the desert at the same time...) No waivers, no explanations, just watching while the driver let the air out of the tires, and noting the fact that there were roll bars in the car... We raced up and down the dunes, I was sure we were going to go tumbling down the hills- TERRIFIED!!! Guys, you would have loved it. Me, I would have preferred seeing a little more of the culture, seeing more of the differences between life there and my life... But no such luck.
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Dubai was like Disneyland, albeit mostly under construction. They had a huge aquarium, the mall where you could ski indoors, and the tallest skyscraper in the world. We tried to hustle our way into the 7-star hotel, but all our leads fizzled out. You had to book a reservation just to enter the grounds- coffee, cocktails, breakfast, lunch or dinner... Dinner was $850 dirham (at 3.65 to the dollar, that's about $230 USD). For coffee or a drink, it was $300 dirham- about $85... So I'll wait until my next trip to splurge on the Burj!
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We took a day trip to Abu Dhabi, which was like a smaller, but cuter, version of Dubai. The modern buildings there were original and creative. I found myself with a new appreciation for this type of art after reading the Fountainhead... It seemed as if architects had unbridled freedom to create buildings that fit the city with unlimited creativity. There were also beautiful mosques and palaces that we saw along the way. The landscape was fantastic- the sky was clearing after raining all night, yellow sands against a bright blue sky with billowy white clouds.
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Raining? Yes raining! We had thunderstorms the night before last. I guess it does rain in the desert- count us lucky to have experienced that! Lightning was cracking across the sky while we walked home from dinner at a delicious Lebanese restaurant.

The malls were pretty nice too- there was Rodeo Drive style shopping- Gucci, Prada, Marc Jacobs... There was the Body Shop, and a food court, and many stores similar to those in LA, along with scores of beautiful people. The nicest was the mall we went to on the city tour- it was, as our German tour guide explained, "like a mall, but different!" Basically, it was filled with only the finest of the fine, Persian rugs, silk sarees, gold-trimmed furniture, marble inlaid with precious stones, diamond jewelry, carved wooden vases inlaid with marble... I imagined that one day I would furnish my home with a few choice pieces. Now at least I know where to come to find what I want!
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And for those of us who just need some functional pieces at a functional price- well there was an IKEA store as well!

We went to a hotel which had a huge aquarium.
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The biggest difference between India and Dubai was on the roads- traffic was beautiful! Well coordinated, drivers stopped and gave pedestrians the right of way. Nobody honked unless it was necessary. And people drove all kinds of new and large vehicles- I realized that it has been a while since I saw people driving Hummers in LA. Not so in Dubai! Hummers, Mercedes, Lexus, all well-represented.

And I'd like to give a special thanks out to P.S. Rao Uncle, who graciously hosted us in the hotel-apartment that we shared with him in the absence of cousins Madhu and Bindhu, who were to have spent this time with us there in Dubai, but were unable to make it due to Bindhu having a fever, so they remained in India.

We landed in Guangzhou, China, today, and are in the midst of planning out the next couple of weeks before Pri and I part ways. I've already contacted Tanque, whom those of you in the capoeira community know of, and we'll probably meet up at some point before I head off to Hong Kong for some capoeira before I leave on my guided tour up the east coast of China. Whew! What a trip! The days are blurring together, and I hardly have time to keep up with this blog. But I do it because I like keeping in touch, and it makes me feel closer to home.

Love you all!
Akemi

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