Tuesday, 11 October 2016

In Dubai, part two...

Tall buildings, there are lots of them in Dubai
Dubai is a bit like a city made up of all the duty free counters of every major airport in the world. Imagine it, all the perfumery, watches, expensive suitcases and top-end clothes brands, not forgetting the Toblerone and the Blue Man Group, all rolled up together and turned into a city, made ultra-comfortable by the temperature being hotter outside than it is inside. It's a glitzy, gaudy, glamourous place full of aspirations and tall buildings and I can't make up my mind what to think of the place. Do I like it? Or do I hate it? I'm not sure. Half of me says no, I don't like it. The other half begs to differ, although I would say that Abu Dhabi is more my style – quieter and a little more refined, perhaps, whereas Dubai is a place full of brands, even awful brands, like Nando's. But I've seen Pizza Express, Applebee's, Costa, Café Nero, Starbuck's; it's one of those cities that likes to make its visitors feel at home and if you're a Brit, well, all the brands you love and hate can be found here.

Dubai is defined by its tall buildings, its vertigo-inducing structures that loom up large from virtually everywhere, peppered with little golden windows that betray a hotel or black holes that identify an apartment block in which nobody is home. And why should they be? They're too busy out on the town enjoying themselves, marvelling, no doubt, at how wonderful it is to cover everything in Christmas lights, and gawping, wide-eyed, at magical fountain displays. It's the Vegas of the Middle East, a city that never sleeps with restaurants – some restaurants – open until 0300hrs and the heat of the night, which, at this time of year is not as oppressive as you might think, making strolling around after dark a pleasurable experience. All year round you can get away with shorts, flip flops and a tee-shirt, not that I've had the time to wear any of them, although I did bring the flip flops and the tee-shirts.

Dubai comes alive at night...
If there had been a swimming pool I would have used it. Put it this way, it's now almost 2330hrs and I would happily dive into an outdoor pool at this very moment, although, right now, I'm no longer outside but in the air-conditioned coolness of my hotel room. I can hear the air con system now as I write this and, believe me, I'm very grateful for it. And if I was going to sleep rough anywhere, here would be the place. It's so warm out there that I'd imagine it might even be a little uncomfortable bedding down for the night, I wouldn't need a sleeping bag, put it that way, although I'm guessing the temperature drops a little bit as the night progresses.

Today I checked out the metro system, which runs through the city in both directions. I think there are two lines, the red and the green, and today I was on the former, although, just like in London, probably even more so, it's jam-packed with people, so much so that in the end I didn't bother to take it and took to wandering around, checking out different restaurants as possible venues for my last dinner in Dubai, eventually settling for Le Pain Quotiden, which is also to be found in the UK (at St Pancras International opposite the entrance to the Eurostar terminal). I ordered salmon and quinoa risotto plus a couple of mint lemonades, a new experience for yours truly and worth every drop. I finished off with a mint tea, a Chia raspberry pudding, which was a bit like putty, although I managed to eat the lot. Later a Tiger beer and then a taxi back to where I write this.

I fly back to London tomorrow, but I don't have to get up too early, unlike today. I had to be in the Ritz Carlton for 0800, which was difficult after a broken night. When the alarm went off at 0630hrs I pressed the snooze button and then, 10 minutes later, resigned myself to getting up, going through all the motions and then heading downstairs for breakfast (Coco Pops, tea, scrambled egg, something akin to Bombay aloo, two slices of buttered toast and I think that was it). Then I jumped into a cab and headed in the direction of where I would be spending most of the day – the Ritz Carlton. Then, having spoken to the concierge, I decided to buy a metro ticket and head back to my hotel, which I did without too much grief (it wasn't until later that I found myself unable to get on the train due to the sheer weight of numbers).
Who left the vacuum cleaner in the corridor?

One thing I will say about Dubai, it's a safe city. Somebody told me earlier today that it's so safe you could leave an iphone on a table in a busy restaurant and nobody would steal it. I saw a decent-looking bike unpadlocked outside a shop, so I'm guessing it is safe as you wouldn't leave it outside a shop in the UK, and certainly not in London or Manchester or any town or city in the British Isles for that matter. Everybody seems friendly enough and life goes on: trains run on time, cars roar back and forth along the highway, people interact with people, meals are eaten, taxis hailed and people like me sit alone in hotel rooms blogging. I might watch a bit of TV as there are English language channels and then I'll drift off to sleep, pack my suitcase in the morning (after a hearty breakfast) and then head for the airport and my flight home.

My hotel is no more than a 20-minute cab ride from the airport, then it's the usual security hassles followed by a leisurely cup of tea and a read before boarding the flight and heading for London. Goodbye room 417 of the Ibis World Trade Centre, it's been nice knowing you, and goodbye sunshine as I'm heading back to an autumnal England full of cloud and rain and Strictly Come Dancing.

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