These posts are a couple of months overdue, but better late than never! I was limited to WiFi data on this trip as my service provider doesn’t have good rates in the Arabian Peninsula. The rates are literally a hundred times more expensive than in Europe! The hotel WiFi was too unstable and slow to be able to upload any content. Anyway, enough with the excuses! Cue the flashback music and journey all the way to in time with me to January 15th, 2014. . .
I took the past couple of days off from work to prepare for this trip, yet somehow I only finished packing about an hour before leaving for the airport! I had been preparing for this trip for a while (reading travel and culture books, getting vaccines and travel medicine, researching what to wear, making reservations for activities, etc.), yet somehow there were still enough tasks left to occupy two days. One of the books that I read was The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Travel, which was a gift from my sister. I think it was meant to be a joke in part, but when I saw that the very first section was how to control a runaway camel, I wasn’t so sure! My friend and travel partner, Laura, and I have a camel ride planned, and hopefully this isn’t an omen of things to come!
Boarding the plane was a bit stressful. Even though we arrived at the gate with plenty of time to spare, nearly half an hour, we barely made the final call for boarding! We would learn on subsequent flights later in the trip that this extremely early boarding process is the norm with this particular airline. Walking down the jetway to the plane, we were intercepted by two boarder patrol agents who chastised us for being the last people to board the plane and questioned us about the amount of currency we were carrying. I felt such a sense of relief once we finally boarded the plane and got settled into our seats.
We had a direct flight to Dubai, which was 14.5 hours. It was the longest flight I had ever been on. That number was kind of meaningless to me until I had watched three movies, and half of the flight was still remaining! Despite being in flight for that long, I was grateful to get it all over with in one shot and not have to deal with any connections. Regarding air travel, I think that there are diminishing marginal returns to discomfort after 8 hours anyway.
We arrived in Dubai the next evening, on January 16th. The only sign of us being in an exotic locale upon arrival at the airport were the airport workers wearing Emirati national dress. A travel representative picked us up in a van and drove us to our hotel in the Deira section of Dubai. It was dark outside by this time and kind of difficult to get an idea of what the city was like. At this point, we were still wondering what kinds of clothes were really appropriate to wear and were trying to get an idea by observing people from the van. We had heard and read conflicting things regarding what is considered appropriate attire. We decided to err on the side of caution by bringing conservative clothes – nothing low-cut or shoulder-baring or bottoms that hit above the knee. We would later find that we were more conservatively dressed than we needed to be, but I think it was for the best as many places had modest dress codes.
After unpacking, we decided to explore the hotel a bit and went to a cafe in the lobby. We called it a night after that, as we were both tired from the long trip and not having slept much on the plane. We also weren’t sure what was within walking distance of our hotel. We hadn’t passed anything recognizable on the way there, and the places we did pass appeared to be closed. We would later learn that the big shopping malls are open quite late. Apparently they are typically open until midnight on the weekends, but some were open as late (or early?) as 2 AM for the Dubai Shopping Festival that happened to coincide with our trip.