Well, I made it to Dubai without much fuss, though it was a good thing I allowed plenty of time for the trip to the airport through Dublin traffic. The Aer Lingus plane to London took off 25 minutes late for no apparent reason, and no explanation was given: we just sat there, myself surrounded by seriously overweight ladies on nearly all sides. That was a short flight, thankfully, followed by a bizarre assault course dash, across Heathrow to Terminal 4, that led to the right plane in plenty of time. The 7-hour Dubai flight was much more pleasant, food was nice (if a little bland), and the pretty Indian girl in the next seat, on her way to university, snuggled up in her sleep… but her mother was there too, also asleep. Never mind: she was – literally – half my age.
My work in the IT business has given me an appreciation of Irony, so it was no surprise when my first evening, after landing in Dubai from Dublin, was spent at an Irish-style pub. The “Irish Village” is the best Irish Pub in the Middle East, if they are to be believed; and it’s not like there’s much competition in that field. My friend Mark took a bunch of his workmates out to “wet the baby’s head”, and wet it we did, though I was extremely cautious, since by the end of the evening I had been up for 36 hours with less than two hours sleep. After the pub I had my first experience of temperatures in excess of 40° at midnight, courtesy of a hot breeze from the general direction of Oman.
Yesterday, Friday, was the designated “sightseeing day” and we joined the other “Friday Drivers” on the less-packed roads. I don’t drive at all, but if I ever moved to Dubai I would have to learn, since taxis are the only public transport that serves the residential areas. The roads… where do I start… they’re big, and in generally excellent condition, though many roadworks are in evidence. But the drivers… think L.A. at double the speed, with the concept of “lane discipline” as well-understood as that of as signalling.
Big cars are the order of the day, just in case some al-qafir cutting across three lanes sends you off into the overpass pillars. (Mark’s Jeep Grand Cherokee is currently in for a major service, and we’re in a little Toyota right now, so I can see why he went for the Jeep.) Fuel is about a quarter of the price it is in Europe, so gas mileage is not a priority. Navigation to a new area involves a map, and you had better not lose track of where you are, because most streets are numbered, not named, and the numbers are duplicated in different, even neighbouring suburbs. “31st St? Is the 31st St. in Jumeirah 3, Bur Dubai or Jebel Ali 2?”
My friends are in an inland area called Mirdif, a new development of villas. I didn’t believe the word “villa”would be apt, but it really is. I forget whether they have five bathrooms or six, but all four bedrooms are “master en suite”. I have my own luxurious accommodations, and the rest of the place is equally huge and luxurious: it even has a lift betweeen the two floors, just in case that shopping is heavy. Which it was yesterday, in preparation for another party today, a “shower”for the ladies only.
It seems to me that shopping is a way of life here: big air-conditioned cars transport you between big air-conditioned homes and big air-conditioned malls, and the places we went to yesterday – Friday, the Muslim equivalent of Sunday – were heaving. Now, after midnight, I’m still awake enough to update these pages. In nearly two days here I’ve been out of air-conditioned areas for about 15 minutes, total, and I think I’m catching a cold. But the next couple of days will be quieter, I should get some time to sit outside – in the shade – and sweat it off…