Hello Dubai Pt. 2

sunet

The following day Ricky and Myla got up to go to work and I spent the day pottering around, going for walks and exploring more of Karama in the blistering sun. Walking around I was the only white girl in sight, and I got a lot of friendly, curious stares from passers by. A taxi driver even crossed a busy four lane street and followed me down a hill to offer a cab. When he saw how freaked out I was he backed away while trying to shake my hand and apologise – it must have been a funny sight! For lunch I had a beautiful chicken and spinach kaati roll, which is kind of like a filled chapati that is then grilled, with a fresh peach milkshake. Again, the flavours were out of this world, and I ate it while lamenting the fact that Inverness doesn’t offer such varied, delicious food. I’d arranged to meet with two UK friends that evening at the Marina Yacht Club on the other side of Dubai, an area which is known to house most of the expats. After struggling with picking through my clothes to find something modest to wear (settled on a knee length dress, vest to hide my chest and a long shawl) I got the metro at twilight, which was surprisingly busy with workers and shoppers. After half an hour of getting lost (I came out of the wrong exit and totally lost my perception, I thought I was facing the sea meanwhile I was facing the dessert, a thoroughly confusing ordeal), I met up with Vicki and Paula at the club who had wine waiting. The bar was on a terrace overlooking the Marina, and it was absolutely beautiful seeing all the boats lights twinkling, and the reflections of the surrounding skyscrapers on the still water. It was an absolutely stunning backdrop to while away the evening with drinks and dinner. Interestingly, the most substandard meal of my trip was also the most expensive – three times more than the prices in Karama. I had fried squid and dim sum, both were *ok* but so bland compared to the culinary delights I’d previously experienced. After a long watch up and gossip about men, work and holidays I left Paula and Vicki and got the metro back to Karama feeling happy and sunkissed from the day out in the sun. 

Unfortunately my camera is shocking and doesnt capture the awe of this scene

The Marina – unfortunately my camera is shocking and doesnt capture the awe of this scene

With my friend from the UK, Vicki

With my friend from the UK, Vicki

On my final day in Dubai I wanted to spend it relaxing, after all it was the last day of my holiday. After waking up fairly early I walked to the closest mall in the refreshingly cool morning air and had an extended breakfast at Paul, France’s most famous Boulangerie which now has chains dotted around Dubai. Since it was sadly way too early to indulge with a tart au citron I settled for an iced latte, toast and a pain au chocolat. The iced latte was out of this world, so incredibly refreshing and chilled, and the breakfast filling which spanned over two hours since I had dedicated that morning to updating Mr Journal. After breakfast I strolled around the mall and visited the local supermarket, Spinneys. Considering that Dubai has a high concentration of American, British, Australian and South African expats among others, you can imagine what a melting pot of variety is on offer in the supermakets. They stock the best items from every country: Tim Tams from Australia, Black Cat Peanut Butter from South Africa, Lucky Charms from the USA and a raft of M&S and Waitrose products from the UK. I was particularly impressed with the South African Selection – there was rooibos tea, Milo, chocolate logs, OMO washing powder and Ceres fruit juices amongst others, and the best surprise was how reasonable the prices were. The fruit and vegetable selection was mind boggling as well with all its exotic hard to pronounce produce. After buying some loose leaf rooibos I headed to a Korean restaurant under Ricky’s advice and had some fried chicken, with a fruit falooda from the Indian juice bar next door. I reckon you could eat out for every lunch and dinner for a week in Dubai and not even touch the sides of what variety of food there is to offer, it’s so exciting. The rest of the afternoon was spent packing up and chilling with Dobby, and when Ricky came home from work at 6 we took him on a walk through Karama and I actually had to take a shawl with me since it was windy and dare I say it a little chilly (I later found out it was 19 degrees, talk about acclimatising fast)

Breakfast at Paul, most delicious iced latte

Breakfast at Paul, most delicious iced latte

Chicken and spinach kaati roll with peach milkshake, that green dip it came with was sublime

Chicken and spinach kaati roll with peach milkshake, that green dip it came with was sublime

When Myla came home from work that evening the three of us headed out to a Lebanese restaurant around the corner from the flat for my final meal in Dubai. These occasions are always tinged with sadness, and I felt slightly glum waiting for the hummus and flatbread to arrive knowing that in two days’ time I would be back at work in Inverness and back to reality. The only solace I gained from this was knowing that I would be back to work for 2 months only, before setting off across the Atlantic to Canada. Nevertheless, we had a fantastic meal of hummus, grilled chicken, olives and of course, baba ganoush and it was wonderful to see Ricky communicating to easily with the waiter with smatterings of Arabic.

More yummy Lebanese food

More yummy Lebanese food

After the meal, we strolled along to the Korean place I visited earlier that day to have some “bubble tea”, which is more a juice or milkshake with… balls of a different flavoured juice or milkshake at the bottom. The closest thing I can describe the balls is that it reminded me of those Persil Liquitabs you get for washing clothes – god knows what the skin around the balls is made of but it was a pleasant experience sipping the juice through a straw and getting the occasional pop of a new flavour. The guy who worked at the juice bar was a character who, when asked to take our photo, took great delight in snapping away from various angles and encouraging us to pose.  Since I was so full from dinner I didn’t want a dessert, however in hindsight I wish I had visited the bakery nearby to get some cake, although at this point I was literally bursting out of my trousers and the guilt was setting in.  

Bubble tea

Bubble tea

Eventually, it was time for me to flag a taxi to the Etihad offices in Dubai to check in, and I bid goodbye to Myla and Ricky (and Dobby) while leaving them with a bottle of Bundaberg rum I’d brought from Australia. The flight to Manchester was sombre and uneventful, apart from having a total weirdo elderly man sitting next to me who advised me as we were about to eat that he hopes he doesn’t black out while eating like he had done on the flight over 😐 Once in Manchester there was a delay for me crossing security to get into the domestic terminal because I didn’t have a print out of my boarding pass, which quite frankly was the last thing anyone wants at 6am after a long flight but I made friends with a border agent who was telling me all of his aspirations for the future. He hoped to get a transfer to work in airport security in a more exotic airport, such as Abu Dhabi (which is definitely more glamorous than Manchester!) but he had the usual fears and ‘what ifs’ that people hold that prevent them from taking the leap of faith to exit their comfort zone. I tried my best to encourage him and left him my business card, before finally getting clearance to go through and get my flight to Inverness.

 

My trip to dubai was a whirlwind stopover, which I was glad to have done since it eased the jetlag from Australia considerably. Thanks to staying with friends I feel I got to see a part of the city that normal tourists don’t see, and I am incredibly grateful for that. If you are visiting Dubai, I would heartily recommend visiting the Karama district for amazingly cheap and tasty eats, and friendly faces everywhere.

Korean style chicken with a fruit falood -basically a lot of fruit spaghetti things with what tastes like semolina with chuncks of dried fruit and nuts, cream and turkish delight - a meal in itself

Korean style chicken with a fruit falood -basically a lot of fruit spaghetti things with what tastes like semolina with chuncks of dried fruit and nuts, cream and turkish delight – a meal in itself

The friendly server at the bubble tea shop, what a character.

The friendly server at the bubble tea shop, what a character.

Boat cat

Boat cat

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Hello Dubai

Family photo! Ricky, Myla and Dobby

Family photo! Ricky, Myla and Dobby

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.

Delicious lamb kebab with chilli flatbread

Delicious lamb kebab with chilli flatbread

Genuine hummus is so creamy!

Genuine hummus is so creamy!

Ricky's baba ganoush, totally going to try and recreate this

Ricky’s baba ganoush, totally going to try and recreate this

Visiting a traditional sheiks house

Visiting a traditional sheiks house

For 1AED (17p)you could cross the creek on wooden boats, public transport is so cheap there

For 1AED (17p)you could cross the creek on wooden boats, public transport is so cheap there

Fresh coconut!

Fresh coconut!

Bento Box time!

Bento Box time!