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First impressions on Dubai

April 28, 2006

I arrived here in Dubai about a week ago and my first impression of the place hit me early on. Although the gangway was airconditioned and it was close to midnight, I could feel the heat and humidity pressing down on me. But I was expecting that. Actually part of me was happy to just land. It was a very long flight. I have no status on KLM (which should change after my trip to Singapore next month) so I was in the back of the bus. Thankfully I wasn’t in a middle seat, but the rather large guy who WAS in the middle seat kept reminding me he was there. There wasn’t any chance of changing seats because EVERY SINGLE SEAT WAS TAKEN. I haven’t seen such a packed flight in a very long time. I had no idea Dubai would be so popular.

The plane was a 777–200, and came into service just two weeks earlier. But the downside to that was that the software was still a bit buggy according to the flight staff. Hopefully it was only the entertainment system that had flaws. It worked for the first 10 minutes of the flight, enough for me to watch their lonely planet episode on Dubai. For the rest of the time we were limited to one movie at a time, and no audio apart from the movie audio. I had hoped to catch up on some reading on my laptop, but this also happened to be the most tightly configured seating arrangement I had ever experienced. There was zero leg room (even worse than the old Miami-Tallahassee Piedmont Air flights I suffered through 10 years ago). Oh well, time to catch up on podcasts on my Carbon. 

The flight itself was fairly uneventful, but I was a bit worried when we hit some nasty turbulence over Iraq. Yes, this flight went right over Baghdad. I looked down, but all I saw were clouds.

I was here to teach a Rightfax class as well as a Alchemy class. Two classes, back to back. and the day before I flew here I finished another Rightfax class in Vianen. Today is Friday and the beginning of the weekend here so I get to relax a bit. Today I am planning on visiting the Dubai Museum which is located very close to the Sheraton Four Points where I am staying. Later this afternoon I am taking whats called a “Desert Safari”. This is really just an excuse to surf the sand dunes in a bunch of Land Cruisers. I think dinner is provided as well. Tomorrow I think a little snowboarding is scheduled with a coworker here. Yes, snowboarding. There is a ski area here in the middle of the desert. I will be sure to take the camera.

I have had my camera with me all week, but really most of what I have seen has either been inside my hotel, inside the ExecuTrain facilities on Oud Metha, or in a mall somewhere at night. Thats either because I have been so crazy busy with these classes, or because that’s most of what’s here. Life here seems to revolve around the mall. I am picturing a Dubai-based SoCal Valley Girl and trying to imagine the accent. Driving around the city, Ghassan, one of my colleagues based here, kept pointing out malls. I asked about older parts of the city and there aren’t that many. He said if I want to see what it looked like before, I need to visit Heritage City, a mock up of what it used to look like before the high rises started sprouting a couple decades ago.

Today there are skyscrapers everywhere you look. A few nights ago we went to the Marina near Internet City after dinner at the Madinet Jumeira and an hour of shisha. Standing there overlooking the water I could see towers being built in every direction. If you could peel away the first group of buildings, there would be another layer of towers being built behind it. I was told 25% of all the worlds tall cranes are here in Dubai. Looking around that night I can believe it. In most cities around the US, there may be one or two of these tall building cranes. No matter where you stand here in Dubai you are almost guaranteed to see 50 without moving.

Well, its 9:30 AM and I spent a bit of this morning finalizing my next trip to Singapore and Australia. Now I am going to head out the this Heritage Village place and the Dubai Museum. Now I start having fun…

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