Wednesday 27 February
Ok, so we boarded and took off on time and 14 hours later we arrived in Dubai. We think we both managed to get to sleep for quite a while after dinner and a movie. A bit bumpy from time to time. Passed through the vast terminal building, collected bags and got the car. Driven out to Manuela and Guido’s villa in a tightly controlled residential estate. The sun was just coming up and it was hazy. Wide roads, especially the main highway through the emirate, the Sheik Zayed Road which varied between six and eight lanes wide, each way. We passed the CBD with its many, many high rise buildings and, of course, the burj khalifa, the tallest building (in the world?).
Manuela and Guido were delighted to see us, the kids not so sure, but they were taken off to school shortly after we arrived. After a coffee we were taken by Manuela to the old souk (market) by the creek. It was like stepping back in time, except for the prices! and reminded us of our visits to Marrakech, the noises, the sights and smells. Spices of many colours and smells piled up each side of the alley, fried fruits, teas and all sorts of things. We visited a few of the spice stalls/shops and bought a few things; Manuela had some things to get so we happily followed her around. Stall holders very assertive in trying to get us into their little shops.
We crossed the creek to Dur Dubai on the public ferry or ‘abra’, which cost one dirham each way (about 20p). No ‘health and safety’ rules here. We just sat on the raised deck, no handrails, no gangplank and smelly, smoky diesel engine. It was fun though as the abra made its way past other abra plying the same route and avoiding the sea-going boats as well. Dur Dubai also had a souk, this was the textile souk, clothing and fabrics and pashminas all draped on rails outside the little shops.Ruth bought some cushion covers, Manuela some clothes and before we left we tried some street food - pakora, chick pea patties (can’t remember their name!) and samosas, all very good. So back on the abra to re-cross the creek and back to the car to collect young Pietro from school.
Lunch and relax. Manuela took the children for swimming lessons while we just chilled. In the late afternoon Manuela drove us to the marina district for a walk along the beach road. It was still hazy and cooling a little. The water did not look inviting though the beach was ok. Just behind the beach ‘strip’ was a series of high rise apartments, it all looked very new, lots of restaurants and a little market. Back for dinner - barbecue, which I was given charge of, and the results were very good!
Bed. It had been a long day after an overnight 14 hour flight and we were now very tired.
Thursday 28 February.
We slept very well and didn’t emerge until after the children had been taken to school. Lovely breakfast and them we set off to visit the Dubai Frame, which we had seen when driving to the souk yesterday. Set in beautiful parkland and formal gardens the Frame is intended to allow visitors to view the old and the new of Dubai. There is an introductory tour at ground level telling Dubai’s story, from humble desert-dwelling beginnings to the ultra-modern city it now is. The Frame is 150 metres high and 105 metres wide and the cross-beam is an enclosed walkway.
Then, the ascent; the express lift took us to the top and to the cross-beam. The lift had a glass back wall so we could see the city ‘unfolding’ as we ascended. The views from the top are amazing. The old city is all low rise, two or three storeys high, alongside Dubai Creek, all pale sand coloured, monotone with just a string of trees near the Creek. The new city however is totally different, all high rise, the designs of the buildings differ and they seem jammed together. The Burj Khalifa stands out, soaring above the other buildings. The cross-beam of the Frame has a glass floor and it was quite unnerving to look down to see the ground far below. Had our photo taken by some hi-tech machine putting us in ‘The Frame’, a bit of fun!
Off to the Dubai Mall - claimed to be the largest shopping mall in the world (and they are building an even bigger mall about 10 minutes away!) for some lunch. Quick lunch at a Lebanese restaurant; delicious! Children to be collected, but first to her house to collect some baking she had done this morning for ‘international day’, then Manuela drove us to the schools. High security at each school - Manuela had to wear and show her security pass to get in.
That evening Manuela and Guido had planned dinner at a restaurant overlooking the Dubai Fountain, but first a visit to the Dubai Mall Aquarium. It is huge, the largest indoor aquarium in the world; three storeys high and with a glass tunnel running through at ground level. Sharks, rays, turtles and lots of fish, many deep water species. Lots of other exhibits in the aquarium aside of the main tank, very interesting but there were also lots of children running around screaming and shouting. We were glad to get to the end.
Dinner was good, it was Italian food, very well cooked and presented and we had a good view of the musical fountains in the lake below - much larger than the Bellagio fountains in Las Vegas. The fountains played every half hour and one of the presentations celebrated chinese new year with the Burj Khalifa illuminated from top to bottom with a special show. All quite amazing.
Friday 1 March
Woke to find the sky grey with occasional spots of rain. Still quite warm. Friday here is the first day of the weekend being a holy day and many shops would be shut. We wanted to get flowers for Manuela, and were told the local supermarket would be open. Guido lent us a bike each and we pedalled off. It was awful, a strong hot wind and the air gritty with sand, visibility was very poor. We didn’t get very far before walking the rest of the way. Got the flowers (and some chocolatey dates), walked back. Finished packing. Car arrived, off to the airport, checked in, customary glass or two of champagne in the lounge, boarded and set off for LGW.