Before I start I want to tell you about the best flight I had of my life from Brisbane to Singapore. Being 6″1, flying can be a hit or miss experience. If I cant secure an emergency exit seat I spend those first 20 mins boarding the plane in trepidation, eyeing every overweight sweaty person walking up the aisle and praying that I don’t get trapped next to them. On the way over all three of my long haul flights had large important businessmen next to me, and I was expecting the same on my return. When I went to check in at Brizzy there was literally no one in the queue, I got a bit worried thinking I had gotten my flight times wrong, but I hadn’t. At the check in gate, there was only a handful of people milling about . I couldn’t believe it, was I really lucky enough to be flying on a near empty flight? No, I couldn’t get an exit seat for this flight but I got one better – a window seat with literally no other passengers in my peripheral vision. The Etihad cabin crew were so personal and incredibly accommodating, they kept walking past and handing me snacks and drinks off a tray. At one point I had two muffins and three drinks, the one guy kept walking past saying “Here, have some more” – which NEVER happens on normal flights! I was able to stretch my legs out and sleep a few hours and watching some mediocre films. One of the crew even tapped my shoulder while I was watching some Maggie Gyllanhaal one to have a discussion about the film. The only other similar experience I had has on a flight from Johannesburg to Amsterdam with KLM, where the flight was about half full and I got a whole middle 4 seats to myself, but this flight wins in overall experience.
I came crashing back down to earth (not literally) though when I arrived at Singapore airport where the flight to Abu Dhabi was crammed full of Filipino spiritualists all dressed in purple robes – the advantage being that the nun lady next to me was so tiny she only reached my waist, so she didn’t even have to get up from her seat to let me past, AND she didn’t speak a word of English so I didn’t feel bad about not making small talk. After 8 hours, the plane touched down in Abu Dhabi at midnight, and after an hours wait I got the shuttle bus to Dubai and arrived at Ricky’s apartment at 2:30am. Ricky is an old friend from Inverness, who has been working in Dubai for four years and lives with his girlfriend Myla. Back in 2005 we were both little emo’s going to gigs, taking road trips and generally being young and carefree – nowadays Ricky is a hotshot consultant and im doing my thing. Its fascinating how times change.
Since the last time I visited, Ricky and Myla have gotten a rescue dog- the most precious Pug called Dobby, who was snuffling a lot and seemed like a happy guy. After catching up and getting a good nights sleep the following day the three of us headed to the creek area of Dubai. Having spent the last three weeks in the Aussie lifestyle of just throwing a bikini and dress on it was difficult to adjust and be in heat and having to dress modestly, even though I wore a tee I still felt eyes on me because I was wearing shorts. Ricky assured me that people just stare because I am white, and in their culture staring isn’t considered rude. Ricky lives uptown in the Karama district, which was a strong indian demographic. Not only is it a cheap area to live in, there are also incredible little restaurants lining the streets that have such diversity: Korean, Ethiopean, Lebanese, Filipino – the list goes on.
Since my backpack was completely full (I was worried the zip would burst) I decided to spend the rest of my travel money experiencing the vibrant and varied food that Dubai has to offer. I wasn’t disappointed, for lunch we ate at an outdoor Lebanese restaurant that was situated right on the creek. I knew it was a good restaurant as soon as my drink arrived – fresh guava juice. It was the most beautifully refreshing drink I had tasted in memory, so cold and sweet. For lunch I had lamb kebabs, where the mince had pine nuts mixed into it and then it was shaped like a sausage and grilled, which was presented on its own mini bbq with some flatbread and tomato. This dish was outstanding, I don’t know if it was my jetlagged state or what but I was seriously impressed. Ricky let me have some of his baba ganouch which was so zesty and healthy tasting, and Myla had a chicken shwarma roll which had the same grilled deliciousness. The Creek area of Dubai is a quaint selection of cafes along the river, with gold and spice souqs nearby. When we wondered into the spice souq I was taken aback at how forward the hawkers were, they would hold out a pashmina/frankincense/bag of spice and force you to touch it. If you made eye contact they would start yelling at you about how you should buy from them. “Madam! Madam! Where are you from?? You like?” I couldn’t handle it. I felt awful ignoring the vendors and ended up keeping my eyes on the ground until we got out, since if you showed the slightest interest in anything the hawkers would descend on you. The sad part was that there were some interesting scarves and clothes which were dirt cheap, but I felt so worn down by the constant harassment that I just let it go. The insane part is that apparently these guys are tame compared to the ones you get in Egypt or Morocco, so god knows how I will cope with them if I visit there.
We spent the rest of the afternoon walking around and after a quick nap at the flat we went to Bento-Ya for dinner, a Japanese restaurant near the stadium for an authentic bento box. I was horrified to discover that my jeans were suddenly way too small for me, damn all those wines and puddings in Australia! In Dubai, the weekends are placed over Friday and saturday, so a Saturday night in Dubai is very different to a Saturday night in the UK. There are still crowds around, but the streets and metro are quiet. After another excellent meal (chicken teriyaki bento box for mains and a matcha cake for dessert) we leisurly made our way back and I had another brilliant deep sleep. As far as first days go in a new country, it was pretty spot on! Ricky and Myla(and Dobby) are so accommodating and welcoming, and knowledgable about Dubai it was such a pleasure to spend time with them again.