Exploring Dubai

Dubai Travel Blog

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View of the Burj al Arab from the Wharf Restaurant

After waking I joined Mark downstairs for breakfast.  I have been accepted by one of their two cats now, and JJ sat contentedly upon my lap for most of my cereal consumption.

Soon we departed on foot to witness the American University of Sharjah, where Mark and Samia work.  It was exceptional and I can’t express what a gifted architect Mark is.  He truly dwells upon how his plans will suit creature comforts & displays a gift for managing the qualitative aspects.  We first marched to Mark’s office in an amazing building, dominated by an enormous atrium.

After introducing me to his assistant, we embarked on a foot tour of his campus accomplishments.

Mark at his "office"
  It is impressive and I’m hopeful of capturing a wee bit of it despite my lousy photographic talents.  We first entered his Student Center, which was thronged with students that spanned the spectrum from typical US “grunge” to “ghosts”.  Everyone appeared to be having a grand time and it was a lively, very hip scene.  Mark showed me the funky tube sculptures he created that served as conduits for the required wiring of internet-enabled PC’s that the students were enjoying…. precisely what I mean by balancing practicality with art!

The neatest part was when he showed me his daycare facility, which included gates he designed that were W.C. Escher inspired and replete with surreptitious lizards!  Although I was enchanted to see Mark’s work, at the same time I was disenchanted to witness how frequently he got nagged by his cell phone.

Mosque on campus of AUS
  In fact, he has to meet with the Chancellor at 8AM tomorrow and settle a ludicrous complaint over how many faculty dwellings might be jammed into a small plot!

After the campus tour, we stumped back to the homestead for a little while to wait for Samia’s classes to conclude.  She returned about 1PM and we loaded up her visiting nephew’s (Shahwali) stuff and headed for downtown Dubai.  I was surprised at how long it took to reach downtown from Sharjah (45 minutes), but we finally arrived at the Lime Tree restaurant around 2:30PM.

The amusing story here is that I was wearing my prescription sunglasses during the drive.  Mark had asked me to carry his glasses and some other stuff in my backpack before we left the apartment.

On the streets outside of the Spice Souk in Dubai
  We entered the Lime Tree and I quickly noted it was cafeteria style without any line at the moment.  So I hurriedly took off my sunglasses, grabbed my glass case out of my backpack and swapped specs to something more suitable for reading indoors.  My conscious thoughts became “perhaps I do have a spot of jet lag after all” because it was very difficult to read the menu boards (and not because they were written in Arabic…everything over here is labeled in good old English!).  It took me about five minutes to finally realize I had grabbed Mark’s glasses instead of mine!

Shared the silly dilemma with Samia & Shahwali as I substituted proper glasses, but of course not with Mark…he was off in a corner on his cell phone!

Next we deposited Shahwali at the airport.  Extended my hand for the farewell but got a big hug, which was cool….

We peeked inside the Spice Souk, but dared not enter (at least with Samia!).
and then there were three.  Time for Vance to thank his beautiful wife for this opportunity ----- off to the Gold Souk!  The Mark-Samia debates over proper paths continued and even got worse once we had parked and struck out on foot.  The ‘market’ section of Bur Dubai is a mass of retail shops & people…very confusing.

First stop was the Spice Souk.  Samia had told me what a bargain fresh saffron is in Dubai, and I took her up on the suggestion to get some as gifts.  Mark & I were forbidden to accompany her inside, because she informed us that “just being in the presence of a white male will double the price!”

So, we abandoned Samia with instructions to buy five one-ounce packages of saffron (her recommendation since one ounce is about the most you could reasonably use in one year…and a year is its freshness duration).

Vikram's Dubai story inspired me to add a picture similar to the one he took of the entrance to the Gold Souk...interesting to compare.
  Her estimate was 150 Dhiram (roughly $40-US), but her bargaining powers are exceptional and when we reunited she deposited the saffron into my hands and shared the good news that it had been gained for a mere 110 Dhirams ($30 for all five batches!).

Time for the gold.  We strode through a bunch of marketplaces before reaching the Gold Souk, and then to the store Samia frequents (her aunt apparently purchases great quantities there).  Some tidbits my hosts offered:

(1)                   pricing is based purely on the weight, with no mark-up for craftsmanship (mind-boggling)

(2)                   this is real 24K gold à I learned that US stuff is 18K tops…wow!  Mark & Samia both exclaimed how beautiful the color of pure gold is, and they were correct: the gold has a deep orange accent (versus white here)…very rich tones.

Samia and Vance shopping at the Gold Souk

(3)                  finally, they stressed you can only appreciate your purchase after you have left.  The Gold Souk is nothing but walls and walls of the stuff and really does overwhelm you --- your particular item doesn’t look so special when you are viewing it in a room of pure gold!

Another thing Samia told me was not to be hasty, we could always return.  Fortunately / unfortunately I was captivated by the splendor of the event --- the vast quantity of gold, its unfamiliar color, the crowds of like-minded shoppers and the interaction between Samia & the shopkeeper.  Samia modeled many necklaces and earrings, and I was focused upon selecting a set that complemented the bracelet I had already picked out.

Any guesses what one of those gold belts would set you back???
  Samia was uttering Urdu to the shopkeeper’s Hindu in a spirited exchange.  I was using a calculator that was lying around to indicate counter-proposals to Samia and after much bickering accepted a sum that was vastly beyond what I intended when I entered…but I was a very satisfied customer (fingers crossed that Kim will be too!).

Opulence describes the balance of the evening.  We headed to Jumeirah <Jumeirah is where all of the posh resorts are, like the Burj Al Arab, the “Wadi World” waterpark and the site where the massive off-shore “Palms” are being built, which is a man made island supposed to house vacation residences & resorts…and is visible from space its so enormous…unfortunately Mark informs me its sinking, delaying further efforts at the moment!> and stopped at the Royal Mirage for a drink before dinner.

Successfully in front of the store where I scored Kim's gold (that red bag I'm clutching holds serious jewelry!) --- I can return home now!
  Oh my gosh!  Nothing like sampling the remoteness of Oman to set you up for being dumbfounded by aggressive ornamentation  It was dusk, we were seated by the beach amidst a palatial expanse of gardens, fountains and palm trees tastefully accented by flood lights…simply incredible.

We also had an exceptional view of the Burj…a magnificent sight in its own right (Mark exclaimed that he would prefer staying somewhere like the Royal Mirage so you could pay less to stay in Jumeirah and have the splendid view of the Burj as a bonus!)

But none of the many restaurants on site could seat us, so we reserved seats at an Italian place they enjoy and got back in the car.  Then Mark dialed up a Pakistani buddy who knew the maitre de at the Wharf…a restaurant at the next-door resort, the Mina A’Salaam.

Mark, Samia & I also visited the Emirates Towers...you can get up to the 40th floor for terrific views.
  Mark hung up and received a call three minutes later instructing us to head for the Wharf were we had outside seating for 8PM (this at 7:40PM)!

I was awestruck by the architecture of this resort…still under construction.  It was traditional, with many wind towers and left a very authentic Arab culture feeling.  I for one would prefer to stay at a place that reinforces local culture rather than creates some high-tech grandiosity.  We met Omar, who immediately seated us and was impeccable from every perspective…just what you would expect from a world-class resort.  The meals were similarly superb and we all opted for evening specials, Samia ordered the crab, and Mark & I scored the red snapper.  It was a mellow evening accentuated by the gently breaking waves of the Persian Gulf.

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View of the Burj al Arab from the …
View of the Burj al Arab from the…
Mark at his office
Mark at his "office"
Mosque on campus of AUS
Mosque on campus of AUS
On the streets outside of the Spic…
On the streets outside of the Spi…
We peeked inside the Spice Souk, b…
We peeked inside the Spice Souk, …
Vikrams Dubai story inspired me t…
Vikram's Dubai story inspired me …
Samia and Vance shopping at the Go…
Samia and Vance shopping at the G…
Any guesses what one of those gold…
Any guesses what one of those gol…
Successfully in front of the store…
Successfully in front of the stor…
Mark, Samia & I also visited the E…
Mark, Samia & I also visited the …
The Burj....worlds tallest hotel …
The Burj....world's tallest hotel…
A late add - just because I am ret…
A late add - just because I am re…
Dubai Sights & Attractions review
The only mosque in Dubai which permits non-Muslims to enter
Okay, so I didn’t enter this splendid mosque, but I just read a comment by a fellow TravBuddy expressing dismay that he couldn’t enter any mosques… read entire review
photo by: vances