You say Hello..and I say Dubai...Dubai, Dubai!!
Trip Start Oct 12, 2011
14Trip End Nov 02, 2011
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Where I stayed
On Board the MSC Lirica
Our plan was to head for the Burj al Arab, a 7 star hotel built on its own man made island. Since its construction in 1999, the sail like structure of the hotel has become as iconic as Big Ben or the Eiffel Tower. From there we would 'pop in' to the Madinat Jumeirah, a complex of souks and hotels making up its own beach resort.
Our intention was to then head for the Burj Khalifa. This is the tallest building in the world. I intended to book a trip to the top on our return next week. The cost of this 1-hour experience is £20 if you book in advance
On leaving the ship, a fleet of taxis were waiting for that elusive (or not, in some cases) fare who would hire them for the whole afternoon to be taken around the sights (if the price was right).
Well we weren’t ‘Coming on down!!’ Roisin and I started walking past the waiting taxis on to the nearby feeder road and started walking. We had only been walking for a minute or so, and starting to regret this decision as the port entrance seemed much further than just the short walk that the map had suggested. A car pulled up behind us and a man in a suit got out of the passenger side:
"Sir, where are you going?" asked the man.
I replied with, “To the Metro station.”
“It is a long way. Get in. I will drop you there” said the mysterious man.
One of the passengers had mentioned that it was not possible for civilians to wander the port on foot, as it is a military base. We saw no evidence of this but didn’t want to argue. The sun was already starting to taunt us with its; ‘Is it hot enough for you, yet??’ tactics!!!
20 minutes later, we were standing outside Al Jafiliya metro station. As we were waving our saviours a fond farewell, Roisin and I looked at each other and wondered, “what the hell had just happened here??!” No money had changed hands. No trying to sell us a private tour. The mystery man was none other than a representative of Sharaf Shipping Agency, the official shipping agents for MSC in Dubai.
On reflection, I am sure that MSC are in collusion with the Dubai taxi federation as this lack of available information showed no consideration for the safety and well being of their passengers.
A day ticket for the metro cost 16 dirham (about £3). Public transport is much more fun than being cooped up in some taxi. This metro station was a highly polished, fully air conditioned establishment and had lifts to access all areas as well as spotlessly clean toilets (Roisin’s observation, not mine!!!)
Although called the ‘Metro’, the majority of stations are raised above the ground only submerging to subterranean level when passing under the Creek, a small river that separates old Dubai from the more modern, cosmopolitan areas.
My first impression of Dubai is that it is big. Bigger than my Berlitz pocket guide suggests! It is spread out and all the major roads are at least 7 lane duel carriageways
All the station names are in Arabic so this was fun trying to decide that we wanted to alight at a squiggle, straight line, a squiggle with two dots underneath it and a back to front ampersand!!! Fortunately English is the second language in the UAE therefore all street names etc…are also in English. Spoilsports!! People have it too easy these days!!!
The Burj al Arab came in to view as we pulled into the First Gulf Bank Metro station. It didn’t seem far from the metro station on our map. We also had visual contact and it didn’t look that far away. It took us over an hour to walk from the metro station!! On the minus side, we took the wrong road and ended up walking through a residential area. On the plus side, this area would put most of the properties in Chelsea to shame. This was obviously one of the more affluent areas of Dubai
We finally made it on to Jumeira Road and there it was, straight in front of us; The Burj al Arab (lit, Tower of the Arabs). It is not possible to wander in to the 7 star hotel without a reservation. High tea would cost approximately £150 each. Cocktails start at about £25 each. We decided that we weren’t hungry or thirsty enough and just marvelled at this masterpiece of civil engineering.
Whilst doing my research I did not find any 6 star hotels in the world. There are thousands of 5 star hotel and then there is the Burj al Arab; a 7 star hotel. How did they decide that this should have a 7 star status? Did someone decide that the facilities obviously were superior to 5-star status and if there was a 6-star hotel it would also be in excess of this??
The Maderat Jumeira is designed like traditional Arabian architecture and boasts 2 luxury hotel resorts. We had come to stroll through the souk that, although only constructed in 2004, has managed to maintain an air of authenticity of centuries gone by.
We started our leisurely amble with a delicious ice cream. Roisin had to try Smurf flavour!! We ended our visit to the Madinat Jumeira by being invited to a Halloween party!! This seemed surreal in these surroundings!
We left the party and headed back to the Metro station. This time we look the more direct route. This took only 25 minutes. The sun had now set and the Imam had started calling for evening prayers.
3 stops further up the line we alighted at Dubai Mall. This took less than 10 minutes to find our way to the entrance of the mall and to purchase tickets for the Burj Khalifa.
There was a distinct lack of walkways leading up to the main entrance of the mall. This was obviously designed for large cars to drop off their owners judging from the type of designer shops advertised. We’ve never seem so many locals in national Arabian dress and the numbers of Bentleys, Rolls Royces and Mercedes all jostling for position seemed to be the norm.
I noticed that the length of the head dresses varied greatly. I wondered if this has any connection with ones wealth. For example someone with a tea towel on his head is not as rich as the man with a tablecloth wrapped around his bonce!!! I spent 10 minutes examining this theory by checking the cars people were driving but could not make any correlation between the length of head dress and the size of their car
The most surreal image came when a young man in a brilliant white dishdasha entered the mall sporting a rather grubby Ferrari ball cap!!
We took a taxi back to the ship. This took about 30 minutes. The fares are all metered in the UAE and are tightly controlled. The meter started at 3 dirham (60p) Our final fare came to 29 dirham (£5.80)
The following morning we decided to take a visit to the gold souk. Only a few kilometres north of the port on the other side of the creek in the old part of the city.
Feeling confident, we headed straight for a taxi and hopped in. As he pulled away, he switched the meter on It said 20 dirhams. The price was 30 dirhams before we even got to the port gates. It wouldn’t surprise me if this 17 dirham surcharge was the payment to MSC for providing all this business!! It is only £4 but it’s the principle. I reluctantly paid the £9 taxi fare but ensured I only gave him the correct money
The gold souk was not what we expected. It was an under covered series of shops. Most actually had the rate of gold for that day displayed. You would be expected to haggle for the best price but we both agreed, this is a very personal thing and gold is really as valuable as someone is willing to pay. As long as you stick to a budget and see something you like within that budget then every ones a winner. You may get a few quid knocked off the price but I wouldn’t go hunting for that bargain for investing in order to make a few quid. It just ain’t going to happen!
Whilst there were some exquisite pieces of jewellery on display, neither Roisin and I (but mainly Roisin) didn’t see anything that stood out and said ‘Buy me’…Phew..!!!
On exiting the souk, the plan was to have a wander through the old city ending in taking an abra, the traditional dhow-like water taxi across the creek. However, the sun was beating down, time was pressing on and the ship wouldn’t hang around. We left that plan for another day. We took the Metro to Al Ghumbaiba then from there a taxi (£4).
We set sail for the short trip down the coast to our ultimate destination Abu Dhabi.