the Russell tour of Dubai

Yes, it’s been a while since I wrote, I know. I have two good reasons (excuses) for this, first, the hard-drive on our laptop crashed during the night, about 2 weeks ago. It seems that a particular windows update that downloaded and installed itself automatically (this little Vista nastiness has now been disabled) conflicted with the anti-virus I was using causing a crash. I removed the anti-virus but then the machine would not boot properly, anyway, long story short I did a panicked backup, removed a whole lot of programs, bought a new hard-drive just in case and now the problem seems to have gone away. But nevertheless I will be installing Windows 7 on the new drive and hope that it’s slightly less evil than Vista. Next step is a Mac I think.

Anyway, enough of that story it’s not very interesting is it? The second, and much more fun, reason for my absence is that we had some “old” and very dear friends visit from home, and spent 8 days showing them Dubai and some of the UAE. It was fabulous to be able to spend each day with them and not have to work, so every cloud does have a silver lining somewhere after all. Being my usual obsessive controlling self I had put together a small itinerary of ideas and suggestions of things we could do for the time they were here, and surprisingly we managed to do most of the things on the list. Happily it also gave us a chance to do some things we had been meaning to try but hadn’t gotten around to doing yet. And so, in a nutshell, this is what their tour of Dubai looked like:

Day 1. Our guests arrived mid morning after a slightly delayed Emirates flight, and had a much needed nap. We then took them for a brief drive down to JBR and the Marina, showed them some of our suburb and the surrounds and came home before the worst of the afternoon traffic. Stu had made a lovely Lamb Bredie for dinner and we had a quiet evening at home catching up on the gossip and news from home.


[the lights on the Burj]

Day 2. After a slow start Stu took M&J to his favourite Indian restaurant in Karama for lunch whilst I met the gang from my recently completed temp job for a small farewell meal. Stu then dropped them at the Mall of Emirates for some shopping where I later collected them and brought them home. That evening we went to the Jumeirah Beach Hotel for dinner at Villa Beach. Our first choice for dinner was Le Classique, which I have raved about before, but sadly they are closed for renovations until October! Anyway we had a nice meal overall I think, I had the duo of duck which was delicious after a rather average salmon starter, but our guests seemed happy enough with their choices. They somehow even managed pudding (tragically I was too full). I think the best part was the relatively cheap wine Stu found hidden in the back of the wine-list which meant we could afford to have more than one bottle (the belt is a little tight with me not earning properly I am afraid). Being seated on the terrace meant we could easily watch the multi-colour light display on the Burj Al Arab, but as it was a little windy we stayed cool but did occasionally end up with a mouthful of sand when a particular gust was heading the wrong way.

Day 3. Stu and I regularly go for a Thai massage on a Friday morning, so we had made a booking for each of our guests, which they thoroughly enjoyed. We then did a spot of grocery shopping at the Spinneys before heading home for an afternoon braai, an opportunity for our old friends to meet some of our new ones. A lovely relaxing day.


[Al Qasr from the Meat Co]

Day 4. We wandered around the Souk Madinat for a while, trying not to get lost, which proved rather difficult. I don’t know why I find the place so confusing. We finished off with some lunch at The Meat Co overlooking the waterways of the Al Qasr hotel development, which is lovely. We were all very excited for the evening’s plans; we were off to sleep under the stars in the desert after a spot of dune bashing with a company called Beyond The Dunes who had been recommended to me by a friend here. At 4.15pm we were collected by a bright yellow Hummer and off we went. Our driver was amazing and didn’t set out to terrify us like the guy we used last time. He really respects and loves the desert and it shows. After about an hour we stopped and all took a turn at sand-boarding. Not being brave (stupid?) I sat on the board instead of standing but even so I managed to land badly and get another mouthful of sand. The worst part was climbing back up the side of the dune afterwards, hard work that. Just before sunset Ahid chose a random spot and we stopped to set-up camp, which was done quickly and consisted of a few carpets, camping chairs and cushions. Delightfully rustic. A fire was lit and some meat was barbecued for dinner. So lovely to sit and chat under the stars. The two other Hummers with the balance of the dune-bashers left after dinner, and then it was just the 5 of us. I have to say it wasn’t as comfy as I would have liked, the sand is not very soft when you are lying on it for a long time, and maybe it’s just old age but my hips really ached the following day. It also got very cold during the night, so not the best sleep I have ever had, but still well worth the experience. After a sunset breakfast we packed up camp and travelled back into Dubai. Fantastic, I highly recommend that (just take a pillow and a blow up mattress). Unfortunately Johnny injured his coccyx after landing badly on his second sand-boarding run, which put paid to his idea of playing golf later in the week, or skiing at Ski Dubai. Poor thing was in quite a lot of pain on the drive home.


[the stunning red sand in the Sharjah desert]

Day 5. Mandy was feeling the need for more shopping, and was on a quest to find True Religion jeans, so we decided to try Deira City Centre for a day of shopping. I also wanted to visit this much advertised new store, Iconic. I had hoped they might have the cut and size she was after. Sadly they don’t stock that brand at all, however it is a very nice store and actually a really nice centre. I will definitely be back! Dinner was a roast chicken done at home on the Weber braai, yummy, my favourite.

Day 6. In more or less a repeat of our last touristy outing to Abu Dhabi we visited Ferrari World at Yas Island (sadly not yet open), showed them the Grand Mosque and the Emirates Palace Hotel, and finished off with lunch at our favourite restaurant, Al Safadi. Abu Dhabi is always an interesting contrast for visitors to the UAE, less flashy than Dubai, quieter looking and more green; they really enjoyed the contrast I think. M&J decided on our way home that another massage was in order, followed by yet more shopping. Stu and I had the night off 🙂


[time to ride on the train]

Day 7. A very busy day this turned out to be. We wanted to get tickets to the Burj Khalifa observation deck which meant we had to go to the Dubai Mall, as bookings are no longer available online (don’t get me started on the ridiculousness of that) or over the phone. I suggested we take the metro from MoE to Dubai Mall and kill two birds with one stone so to speak, more shopping for Mandy, and I could get the tickets for the following day. Also I had not yet been on the train so was keen to try. We bought a single trip, gold class ticket from the counter, as the machine would not take my money no matter which way I fed it into the slot (so annoying). At 11 dirhams each I didn’t think it was too bad. The train arrived quite soon after we got onto the platform and off we went. It is very quiet and smooth actually, and it was pretty empty at the time we rode it. Only downside after all that is when you arrive at the Dubai Mall station you then have to cram onto a feeder bus to the Mall itself, which negates the gold class ticket a little bit. Oh well, teething problems I think. Whilst my friends shopped I queued for At The Top tickets. For 25 minutes. Double sigh. I rejoined M&J (who were still, shockingly, in the first shop they had entered, after all this time) and we did a bit more shopping and had a spot of lunch at Vapiano, overlooking the old-town island area lake thing (does it have a name please? anyone?). Happily we did find True Religion jeans at Dubai Mall for Mandy, but by this time we were seriously running out of time – we had high tea booked at the Burj Al Arab for 4.30pm, and still had to get home and changed. So I did have to drag them out of there a little bit. High tea (with one glass of bubbly) was amazing! The Burj Al Arab is stunning. Expensive yes, but so so worth it at least once in your life.


[inside the Burj Al Arab, looking up]


[the walking tour map]

Day 8. Eeeek another busy day actually. We started with a walking tour of Bastakiya as per the recommendation on the National Geographic website. This is a part of Dubai that is very old and traditional. We left my car in Satwa and taxied the last part as I wasn’t sure of the parking situation. And boy was it a warm day. We walked around a bit and then had a juice at the Basta Cafe which is lovely. After that we headed down to the creek and caught a water taxi, or abra, to the other side. For 1 dirham only. Wow. Here you really see the older, working part of Dubai. It has a completely different flavour down here. Our ultimate goal was the Gold Souq, Mandy wanted some earrings. However when we finally got there she felt a little overwhelmed at the size of the place and ended up buying nothing. We then taxied back to our starting point, and my car. The driver and I almost came to blows however. He tried to charge us “tax” for the bridge toll, and wasn’t happy when I reminded him that taxis had been exempt from the road tax for almost 2 years. I wonder how many unsuspecting tourists he catches this way. When we offered to call the police to resolve the matter he quickly let it drop and drove off. Cheeky!


[the Abra ride]

From there we drove down to the Dubai Creek Golf Club and had a bite to eat. Johnny was really sorry he had hurt his back and not managed any golf as the course there is stunning, but at least it gives him motivation to visit again. We concluded the day with our trip up the Burj Khalifa. I had timed the tickets for just before sunset, at 6.30pm, and by the time we got up there the sun was just about to set.


[looking up at the rest of the Burj Khalifa from the outside deck]

The observation deck is on the 124th floor, so not quite at the top, but close enough. The lift ride is quick and quiet, except your ears do pop rather alarmingly. There is a portion of the deck that goes outside which is nice as inside the lights are too bright and reflects badly off the white floor so that once the sun has set completely you can barely see anything at all. Rather sad really. We bought some souvenirs that still say “Burj Dubai” – maybe one day they will be worth something. 🙂


[Dubai Mall and the Dubai Fountain from above]

We ended the evening by watching the fountains and then headed home, exhausted quite frankly.

Day 9. Sadly we had reached the last day of their visit, and I dropped them at the airport. What a lovely week we had.

Thanks for visiting us guys, we loved having you.

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