Saturday, April 30, 2011

Shampoo

This may seem like an unusually personal post, but I have to complain about a shampoo experience that has been playing out for me over the last few days.
If you know me, you know that I like to be clean, especially my hair.  I think dirty hair is gross – and I think most people are with me on that one.  A few days ago I noticed that my hair was not clean (unusual for me) – so I took a shower and washed it.  Makes sense, right?
After the shower, my hair still did not seem clean…”oh well” I thought, “maybe I did a bad job.”  The next day, I washed my hair again, and it actually seemed worse!  This was not acceptable.  So, I washed it again and really paid attention.  Inexplicably, it got worse. 
I started to get worried…was this because of the heat?  I have been swimming or at the pool almost every day…was this because of the pool water?  Was it because of over-washing from all of the swimming?  Was my scalp somehow sweating even if the rest of me wasn’t?  Was it some hormonal reaction?  Was it an allergic reaction?  And – most importantly – how would I fix it?
I decided to start by buying a new shampoo.  I mentioned this to my husband and he suggested I try his instead of buying a new one.  So I did – and it worked – my hair was nice and clean and shiny!  (and his shampoo smells incredible!).
So, what gives?  Well, I had been using a shampoo and conditioner meant to restore moisture and health to your hair.  While my dry ends appreciated this, the roots by my scalp did not need all of this extra moisture and the moisturizers were actually coating my hair with a kind of clear oily goop, making it heavier and causing it to feel unclean.
I still can’t believe that a shampoo can make your hair dirtier.
It is common here for locals and expats from certain cultures to oil their hair.  This means that they apply various scented oil products to their hair to preserve the health and strength of their hair.  These products are available in both drug store and designer brands and you can find them in pretty much any price bracket.  You can tell that someone oils their hair because it looks oily (no kidding, eh?).  I wonder if this practice makes hair feel unclean as well.  Maybe you get used to it – sacrifice for beauty, right?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Convenience Store Pricing


There is a convenience store chain operating in our apartment complex.  It has a few outlets (three that I know of), one of which is conveniently located in the bottom of our building.  I purchase small food items at this chain from time to time.  Usually I buy milk.  For some reason cow’s milk (as opposed to goat or camel milk) is sold very close to its expiry date in Dubai, so I buy it in small quantities and I am constantly buying it.

What I find strange is the “convenience” markup on the milk and other products in the convenience store.  The strange part is that there is almost none.  One example is candy bars.  A candy bar at the Carrefour supermarket (which is called a “hypermarket” here) is 2.25 AED (about $0.61 Canadian).  A candy bar at the convenience store is 2.50 AED (about $0.67 Canadian).  This is a tiny markup for convenience.

Another example is milk.  Milk is expensive here in Dubai.  One liter costs 5.50 AED (about $1.50 Canadian) at the Carrefour supermarket.   At the convenience store one liter costs 6.50 AED (about  $1.76 Canadian).  Again, a tiny markup.

The store even delivers items for no charge….very convenient indeed.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Apartment Living

We live in an apartment.  We have not lived in an apartment since we were newly-weds.  I was hesitant to go back to apartment living before we moved here, but I am finding that some aspects of apartment living here in Dubai pleasantly surprise me.  There are, of course, some negative aspects as well.  Here are my lists:

Positive:
·      The community of the apartment complex.  I can go outside almost anytime of the day to the pool, beach or playground and find someone to talk to and someone for my kids to play with.
·      Our spacious, bright, apartment with a good layout for watching the children when I am in the kitchen.
·      Concrete floors and ceilings dampen the noise from above.
·      We have our own laundry.
·      We have two parking stalls.
·      The apartment grounds – pools, beach, path (corniche-style), and playground.
·      The wide hallways.
·      The convenient restaurants, cafes and small shops – there are many services that are provided either right in our apartment or in one of the next buildings.
·      The gym – our building has a well-appointed facility and, of course, a lovely swimming pool.
·      Our amazing views.
·      The security – our private facilities have security and this means that there are never usually crowds on our facilities.
·      The garbage chute/dumpster system.  I hate having to keep my garbage on the side of my yard at home, waiting for garbage day.  I really like getting rid of my garbage immediately.


Negative:
·      The noise from each side.  On the side of the master bedroom, our neighbor plays guitar constantly and watches TV loudly.  On the side of my son’s room is a hotel-style rental suite and the noise changes with the tenants.  Both sides can be heard inside our apartment.
·      The balcony.  I hate balconies because they are dangerous for kids.  Our balcony is constantly covered with sand from sandstorms and there is no water tap outside for easy cleaning.
·      There are occasionally cooking smells in the hallway from many of the other units on our floor - yech!
·      The noise of people in the hallway.
·      Bringing in groceries from the car – now I have to haul them up to our apartment.  When you couple that with the poorly designed malls here in Dubai that require you to drag your groceries across the mall to get to the parkade, I get thoroughly annoyed.  Why can’t the parkade ever be near to the grocery store?  (Don’t answer that – I know that they want me to walk through the mall and buy other stuff.)
·      Leaving the house takes at least 10 extra minutes when you add the time to get from our unit to the parkade and then out of the parkade.
·      The gym – I miss Curves!  The gym here is full of “beefcake” young men working out to loud rap music and hogging the machines.  The women on our gym are generally dressed to be noticed – and often so that their “surgical enhancements” are noticed as well!  It is really not my scene.  That being said – there are good machines.
·      The security – I hate having to carry ID and having to answer to the security guards every time I use the apartment facilities.
·      The communal living – we are close to our neighbors and are therefore exposed to some of their more unsavory habits. - i.e. smoking and sheesha.
·      The tourists – but that is not due to apartment living, but due to living at a tourist attraction.

If we were permanently committing to an apartment lifestyle, the negatives aspects would be important.  But, for our time here, an apartment is the best place for us.  The social “positives” far outweigh the “negatives.”  In order for our family to function socially in Dubai, we need to have a community and gathering place where we can make friends and socialize.  If we were living in a villa, we would have a more private play area in a yard, which would not encourage us to mingle with our neighbors in the same way that the grounds of our apartment building do.

March and April are Over

April is finished and now we have been here for three months (only twenty-one more to go!).  I did not have a chance to create a summary of March, so here is a brief list of things that we accomplished in March and April:

  • moved in all of our furniture and other possessions (with lots of help - thanks Mom and Dad!)
  • hosted our first visitors for a fun-filled three-week visit
  • bought two cars
  • registered our son in school
  • had our baby vaccinated for the second time
  • took weekend trips to Al Ain and Fujairah (ow we have visited all of the Emirates!)
  • gave up on swim camp and then went to swim camp
  • got curtains
  • learned to make Shepherd's Pie
  • attempted to rent a storage unit from our building management company
  • arranged for newspaper delivery
  • got comfortable with driving in the UAE
  • bought a printer

A Great Day

Today we had a great day.  My husband was away in Kuwait (so he didn’t have a great day!), but the kids and I just had a good time.  The house is not clean and the laundry is not done, but we truly had fun.

This morning we spent with friends at our pool, under sail shades with a fountain running.  The kids had great fun and we managed to stay out of the sun.  Before I went into the pool, I was changing the baby and my leg felt wet, near my ankle.  My first thought was “yuck!! The baby peed on my leg…”, but when I looked down, it was sweat – on my ankle – it was +37!  Anyways – the pool was just lovely in the heat.

Then inside for a nice lunch at home – spagh bol – and naps.  After naps, we met friends to go to the playground.  We walked over to the playground and the kids were playing and having fun, when another mom came over and told us that the plants had been sprayed with pesticides and the kids should not be playing on the playground.  We decided to take the kids to the beach instead and they had so much fun.  The kids played organized games, played in the sand and saw stripy fish in the ocean when they splashed around.

Then we walked home for a slightly late dinner and then bed.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Night Swimming

I’m not one for sports or exercise for the sake of exercising.  I don’t generally revel in using gym equipment and I really hate the idea of jogging.  I liked going to Curves and doing their 30 minute work-outs, but a big part of that was the good company and positive atmosphere (there are no Curves gyms in Dubai).  I also like going for a hike or undertaking the other physical tasks that are involved in my daily life (running after kids, lifting kids, cleaning house, doing laundry…these are all very physical things).

Despite my opinions about sport and exercise, I recognize the value of staying fit and staying healthy.  I, like many others, hope that if I try to live a healthy lifestyle it might delay or prevent the onset of various diseases.  Plus, I like to be able to do physical things when I want to – I like to be able to finish a hike or keep up with friends and family on a walk.

I do, however, enjoy swimming.  At home, it is a pain to go swimming.   I would have to find someone to watch the kids and then make my way to the pool.  I would then have to pay and only then could I go for a swim.  With all of that hassle, I always feel that I need to swim for a really long time, which is not my preference.

Here in Dubai, we have a swimming pool in our complex (actually there are 5, 3 of which are very close to our building).  I can go down at any time and swim – and I love it!  I enjoy swimming at night – the water is a similar temperature to the air (but it still feels chilly when I get into the water), and the stars are bright.  There are usually no other people in the pool and I can see the city lights while I swim.  It is a treat to live here and get to swim whenever I want (as long as the kids are taken care of).  I will definitely miss that when I go back to Canada.

As an aside, our pool is open from 8:30 am to 10:30 pm each day, and there is a lifeguard on duty for that entire time.  It is strange knowing you are the only person that the lifeguard has to supervise.  There are many hours throughout each day when he is supervising no-one at all.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Toddler Property Laws

When we had our first baby, the Calgary Health Region gave us a book called "Growing Miracles," which contains advice to parents for the first six years of a child's life.  I really like this book, and I consult it every so often with a question.  I also try to read it once a month for an update of the milestones coming up for the next month.

In the book, there is a piece called "Toddler Property Laws," which I found hilarious when I read it.  It definitely follows the principle of "it's funny because it's true."  Even more hilarious was my toddler's reaction to the piece when I read it to him - he thought it was so funny and did not see himself in it at all.

Anyways, here it is, reproduced from page 126 of "Growing Miracles:"

Toddler Property Laws

If I like it, it's mine.
If it's in my hand, it's mine.
If I can take it away from you, it's mine.
If I had it a little while ago, it's mine.
If it's mine, it must never appear to be yours in any way.
If we are building something together, all of the pieces are mine.
If it looks just like mine, it's mine.
If I think it's mine, it's mine.
If I give it to you, and change my mind later, it's mine.
If it's broken, it's yours!

- Unknown

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Indoor Day


Today, we didn’t go outside.  That’s not to say we didn’t leave the house – we went to the library and to run some errands.  We didn’t go to the pool, or for a walk or to the playground.  This wasn’t because it was too hot, the day just turned out that way.

It made me think – in Canada, before we came here, there were lots of days that we didn’t go outside.  It would get so cold and snowy in the winter and sloppy in the spring that it was common to spend an entire day without an outdoor activity.  But, here in Dubai, we have a routine where we spend a large amount of time every day outdoors.  I wonder if this will change when the weather gets hotter.  I hope not, we can still use the pool in the heat, and the beach and playground during the shady parts of the day.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Scavenger Hunt

Today is Good Friday here, but, given our plans for the weekend, we decided to have our Easter celebration today.  I made a substantial dinner, and I created a scavenger hunt for our son to find Easter chocolate.  This was the first scavenger hunt I have ever created for our son, and I found it to be a challenge to make clues that were the right level (not too hard or easy).

I think I hit it just right - I had 9 clues (maybe one or two more than necessary) and they were simple enough for him to solve after some thought...not immediately, but after some thought.  He scurried around a couple of rooms of our house and found all of his chocolates.  Too bad he doesn't like chocolate!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Dubai State of Mind

I was reading the newspaper the other day and there was a brief article about the YouTube parody “Dubai State of Mind.”  You can find it at this link:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fz8A1itDoTo  (yes, if you were wondering, this is an example of the important and riveting news stories that always get my attention).  This song is a parody of a song about New York called “Empire State of Mind,” which they played at the Yankees game that I attended last summer in New York.  The New Yorkers at the game went bananas for the song, singing and dancing – it really hit home for them.  It appears that this parody is having the same effect, it has “gone viral” on YouTube, according to the newspaper.
The parody is written by a Canadian about Dubai, and I am impressed by both the effort and outcome.  The story in the paper said that he forgot his iPod one day at the gym and came up with these lyrics while exercising.  Hmm…..when I forget my iPod I either watch the country music videos playing at the gym (why always country music in Dubai?) or I eavesdrop on the conversations around me.  Not quite as constructive as writing lyrics…. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Immature Tailgaters

I was initially hesitant to drive in Dubai.  Traffic seems to move too quickly for my liking (the speed limit on the road from Dubai to Abu Dhabi was just changed to 140 km/hr to slow down traffic) and everyone is always honking and angry. I have since learned that some of the honking is polite – for instance, if another driver is letting you into the lane in front of them, they will honk.  I have also learned that the “anger” is really “passion” – and people here are just more expressive in their exchanges….right, but sometimes anger is anger.
I have become more comfortable with driving here, but as I log more hours on the roads, I get more annoyed with the tailgaters.  These people are incredibly immature and have no respect for anyone around them.  They tend to ignore safety concerns – they do not leave 3 car lengths between vehicles and they drive too quickly to safely stop.  This tailgating leads to big accidents – a few weeks ago there was an accident involving 164 vehicles (with one fatality) on the highway.
Sometimes the tailgaters are unreasonable with their demands as well.  When a car drives up behind me and is tailgating, if I can do it safely, I will move over to another lane to let them speed on ahead.  Yesterday, a car did just that.  I was driving down Al Wasl road, a 4-lane divided road.  The speed limit on Al Wasl road is either 60 or 70 km/hr.  The speed limit is immaterial because I was driving as fast as the rest of the traffic.  I was driving about 60 km/hr and a fellow drove up behind me in an extreme tailgate and started to lay on the horn.  This was ridiculous because I was driving right next to another car (a police car) and could not move over.  Safe distances in front of us were another two cars driving next to each other.
I kept travelling at the same speed as the police car, behind the other two cars and he kept honking.  Eventually he pulled over into a turning lane and started honking at the cars in that lane.  As he passed he shook his fist (passionately) at me.  What was the point of this honking?  What did he expect me to do?
People drive like this all of the time in Dubai, and I think it reflects the general immaturity of this society.  Everyone thinks only of their own priorities and what they want.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Swim Camp - Part 3


After the initial issues, we made it to swim camp today!  The proper location is more convenient for me and the camp was great.  There were more teachers than students and my son seemed to make a ton of progress in just this one class.  By the end of this class, he could doggy paddle (I'm sure there is an official name for it).  I know it's not a "real" stroke, but I see it as a first step toward being able to save oneself at the pool.

Swim Camp - Part 2

Well, I have figured out what went wrong with swim camp and I am hoping to take my son for the rest of the week.  Water safety is very important and I really want him to learn some basic skills.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Swim Camp

I never give up….except for today…
We had one of those days where nothing was spot-on.  This morning, we had curtain guys scheduled and then we were registered for story time at the library.  Although the person who booked the appointment for the curtain guys promised they would be finished by 10:00 am, when the fellows showed up at 9:50 am, it was obvious they would need more than 10 minutes.  When I asked them about this, the one who spoke English said “yes, I arrived before 10:00”…and I didn’t bother to pursue it further.  (Dubai has “broken” me in this respect.  In Canada, I would likely have argued with the serviceman about the difference between arriving before 10:00 am and finishing before 10:00 am, but here the subtle nuances of both time and the English language are ignored, and there is no point in arguing.  Sigh.)
Story time was at 10:30 and the library is about a 15 minute drive (factoring in getting the kids in and out of the car, etc.).  The curtain guys left at 10:55 and we dashed to the car and drove to the library.  When we arrived at 11:15, the story lady was still sitting in her story chair, so my son was excited and said “see Mom – they haven’t started yet!”  I had to tell him that they were done and everyone was leaving, not arriving.  The story lady took compassion on him (or me?) and offered to read him a story even though story time was finished….I was so grateful.
We left the library a while later and the next order of business was to fill up the car.  But, there were about 15 cars in line at the petrol station (a common occurrence here), so I decided we could do it later, even though my tank was very low. 
We prepared and ate lunch at home, and then the kids napped.  While they were napping, I confirmed one last time the location of swim camp, which is where we were headed this afternoon.  I programmed the GPS to take the car there, and I double-checked the GPS location against the map on the swim camp website.  The swim camp was a 33 minute drive away, and factoring in possible construction (always an issue in Dubai), traffic, getting lost and time to change at the pool, I decided to leave 1.5 hours before swim camp started.
I woke up the kids and got everyone into the car.  The baby started screaming right away, which is unusual for him, but not unexpected because he has been feeling poorly for the last few days.  I followed the GPS through the freeways, cloverleaves and highways of Dubai, past malls, camels and loads of semis (they call them “lorries” here).  There were two construction diversions and a couple of new roads, but I expertly maneuvered through the changes and I only added 7 minutes to the drive, so, in 40 minutes, we arrived at the site of the swim camp. 
The camp was scheduled to be held in a brand new school, but I was still a bit surprised that there was no road to drive on to get up to the school.  I thought to myself “good thing I’m driving a small truck, it’s perfect for this gravel road!”  The baby cried for the full 40 minute trip (but I could not find anywhere to pull over because I was literally on the freeway or highway the whole trip) so I was eager to get everyone out of the car.  It was not obvious which gate I should park near (all of the schools are gated here), so I drove to the one with the security guard booth and dragged the kids out of the car.
There was no security guard in the booth, so I wandered toward the administration office.  I wiggled the door but it did not open, so I peered inside and saw a desk and a few cases full of trophies.  Then a man yelled at me from across the path, he was a construction worker and there were many of them working on a nearby building.  He told me that the school was not yet opened, and I was probably lost, as there are two schools with the same name.  I was aware of the two schools, but I also knew that this was the location on the swim school website map (the other location was about 5 minutes away from my house and I would have been overjoyed if the camp was located there). 
The baby was still fussy, so I decided to feed him and change him before we moved on.  I was taking care of the baby in the car when the security guard returned to his booth.  He asked me if I wanted the pool, and told me that while the school was closed, the pool was open.  This made sense!  He told me that I could get to the pool by driving back out to the road and using the last gate.
I packed the kids up and we drove onto the road and took the next exit for the school, so that could access the other gates.  The last road to the school had been gravel, but now there was no road and I was driving on sand.  This didn’t seem right, but I could see the gates.  I found the last gate, but there was no parking and it was shut tight.  I peered in and saw a lovely pool, but no other people anywhere.  No security guard, no other swim students, no parents and no teacher.  I drove (in the sand) all the way around the building and the only people present were the construction workers and the security guard that I had already talked to.  I tried to call my husband to check the website and give me the swim school phone number, but he did not pick up.
By this point in time, it was 5 minutes after the swim camp was supposed to start, so I decided to give up.  There was no-where else to check and no-one else to ask.  Of course, this is when I got stuck in the sand.  For a few terrifying seconds my truck spun out, then I wised-up and decided to apply winter-driving techniques.  I let the truck roll forward without any gas and soon became unstuck.  Oh, and did I mention that the baby was still screaming at this point (yes, an hour and a half after we left home, he was still crying).
Once I got to the road, I started to navigate back toward home.  The roads were all newer than the GPS maps, but I found a consistent set of signs pointing to the Palm Jumeirah, so I navigated without the GPS (!).  The baby calmed himself down but as soon as he was calm, my phone started ringing and this made him cry again.  I didn’t answer the phone, so a couple of minutes later it started ringing again…..right after he had calmed down again.  I was pretty sure it was my husband calling me back, but there was nothing I could do at this point.
We passed a petrol station without a line and I swung in to gas up and calm the baby down.  Once the baby was calm, I ventured back out into rush hour traffic and he immediately started crying again.  We drove home and parked and seconds later my husband pulled in.
Once we arrived at our apartment, I re-checked the swim camp website and confirmed that I was in the right spot….I still don’t know what happened.
As for the baby – he is feeling better now.  He was having tummy trouble and it has since resolved.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Fair

Today I told my four year old that for him to get something he wanted would not be fair to everyone else  (what he wanted was not a physical thing but for us to do something in a certain way).  He told me that it was fair to him, just not fair to me.  I told him that I didn't think he really knew what fair was.  He responded by telling me that he did know...."fair is when I get it the way I want it."  

I think that pretty much sums up the thinking of a four year old.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Curtain Appointment

I have just had a bizarre experience with booking an appointment for the delivery of some curtains.  Although the experience was bizarre, it was not unique; this is generally how home-service appointments are booked in Dubai.

Last week, the day before we were going to go to Fujairah, the curtain store called to let me know that my delivery appointment was the next day.  This was news to me.  I said I would be out of town, so the woman on the phone told me that they would reschedule and she hung up.  I thought nothing more of it.

Today she called back and said she had scheduled the curtains for tomorrow.  But again, she picked a time that I was not available.  Again she said she would reschedule and hung up.  She called back a couple of minutes later and said she had rescheduled for Saturday between 3 and 4 in the afternoon.  I'm not sure what my plans are on Saturday, but I don't want to commit my weekend to waiting at home for a curtain guy, so I told her that did not work either.  Again she said she would reschedule and hung up.

A few minutes later, she called again and said she had rescheduled for Sunday between 3 and 4 in the afternoon.  This conflicted with my schedule.  I told her, and she was about to hang up and I said, "hold on - why don't you just ask me when I'm available?  I'm available on Sunday morning."  She put me on hold and then came back and said she had booked an appropriate time on Sunday.

I can't believe that they would just book and rebook random times that may or may not work over and over again until they hit on a time that works.  This type of booking makes no sense - I feel sorry for the woman on the phone, she has an incredibly frustrating job.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Vaccinations


Today I took our 4 month old for vaccinations (the 4 year old came too, but he didn’t get any needles).  Going to the doctor here is quite different than in Canada.  It starts when you call to make your appointment.  When you call in, they attempt to fit you in that day if at all possible.  This is true of a lot of service providers and sales people in Dubai.  They want to deliver the goods or services immediately.  If they cannot deliver immediately, they seem worried you will move on.  In Canada, I phoned 6 weeks in advance for a vaccination appointment at our clinic and all the appointments were booked during the three-day window I had available.

When you get to the clinic, you are offered coffee, tea or water and there are also drinks for your child.  There is only a short window of time to consume your beverage of choice, because the appointments run on time.  How unlike home!

We saw the doctor for a full 30 minutes and he did a complete examination on the baby before we were handed over to the nurses for vaccinations.   Back home, we only see a nurse during the vaccination appointment.

The nurses hold your child while he is being vaccinated and then they comfort him afterward.  This is also different than home.  In Canada, I typically have held the baby during the needles and then I feed the baby to comfort him immediately after the needles.  The nurse told me that they hold the children so that the children don’t associate the pain and negative feelings with their mothers.  Hope it works!

The last major difference between a vaccination visit in Canada and a vaccination visit in Dubai was the bill I was presented with before leaving the clinic.  I had the option of paying with cash or credit card - it was a steep bill.  

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Visitors


Well, we just said good-bye to our first visitors.  They were with us for three weeks and we will really miss them.  It is interesting to host visitors in a “new” hometown.  Even though we live here, it seemed like we were on holiday during their visit.  We toured new areas of the UAE, we ate “holiday food” (i.e. junk food), and we stayed up late.  We spent lots of time out of the house and the housework fell behind.  We will spend the next few days on catch-up chores and getting back to normal life, which will help fill the void left by our visitors.

I hope that we have many more visitors, I enjoy hosting and it certainly helps time fly by!

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Creek


Late this afternoon we went to the Creek.  We parked at Shindagha, near Port Rashid and then walked through Bur Dubai and the Bastakia (an old souk) a bit, then took an abra (water taxi run by the transit system) across the Creek to Diera.  We walked along the riverbank to the other souks and saw dhow boats being loaded with cargo, everything from TVs to washing machines to stuffed animals.  Some of the dhow boats were headed for Iran, apparently a 3-day trip.  The scene of small dhow boats and cargo being loaded on those boats looked like the third world, against a backdrop of excessively modern and grand skyscrapers.

We ate dinner and then walked through the very busy electronics souk and the spice souk.  We walked back to the banks of the Creek and caught an abra back to Bur Dubai.  The abra ride was pretty amazing, it was dark and the dhows, abras and dinner cruises were all lit up.  The mosques and skyscrapers were lit up as well and the call to prayer was sounding in the background.  After a quick walk back to our car we drove home.

Long Weekend in Fujairah

Last weekend we went away to Fujairah – the only Emirate that I have not visited to date.  (For those of you who are keeping track, the Emirates are:  Abu Dhabi; Dubai; Umm Al Quwain; Ras Al Kaimah; Ajman; Sharjah and Fujairah.)  This is why I have not updated my blog much in the last few days – normal service will resume from this point.  We went from Thursday to Saturday – my husband took the day off.

The drive to Fujairah was through varied countryside.  We left Dubai and entered a sandy desert dotted with small bushes and drove through to Madam, where the plant life disappears and you see pure dunes of red sand.  The dunes are tall and shift in the wind before your eyes.  We drove onto an off-roading trail at Big Red near Madam, but quickly had to leave because our truck was sinking into the sand.

Then we drove onto Fujairah and had fast food lunch (KFC) and then found our (interesting) hotel.  We stayed at Emirates Springs Apartment Hotel, which is located on the main road in Fujairah, within a group of really slummy-looking buildings.  The outside has peeling paint and loots sketchy, so I was really worried.  I had booked on Expedia and there was no way to get my money back.  Also, there was no vacancy anywhere else that I tried, so if we couldn’t stay here, we’d have to go home.  When we went inside the building, we were pleasantly surprised.  It was dated, but clean and grand.  Our apartment was large and clean with a nice kitchen.  My only real complaint about the place was the smoke – probably entering our apartment from the hookah room where many men were smoking sheesha in the building.  Still, our hotel was a big contrast to the Hilton we stayed at in Al Ain.

While the kids were napping, me and our guests walked around a bit and bought some groceries in Choithrams.  After naps we made supper and then headed out to drive south along the coast in search of a mangrove preserve.  We didn’t find the mangroves, but we passed the Fujairah Festival, a fair on the corniche.  We checked it out, but it was almost over, there were lots of people milling around and sitting on the grass.  Our older son spent some time playing at the playground and we walked through a tourist souk.

Then home for snacks and bedtime. 

On Friday we got up and went to see the pool at the hotel.  It was a lovely rooftop pool, with a view for miles and we could hear roosters crowing.  The city of Fujairah felt like more of a “real community” than Dubai, with people walking outdoors, working and a general sense of purpose.  It is also not nearly as wealthy as Dubai.  Then we drove to Fujairah Fort and walked around the area around the fort that is currently being developed into a historical village.

After the fort, we drove to Dibba along the coast line.  The beach is beautiful here with miles of corniche to walk on.  The weather was incredibly hot, so we didn’t spend too much time exposed outside, but we did eat a picnic lunch in the shade at the corniche.

We drove back to town through Masafi, where we stopped briefly to look at the oasis dam (which was completely dry) and after naps we headed back out in the truck, once again in search of the mangrove swamp.  This time we found it, right near the Oman boarder.  The mangroves are next to a beach that you can drive up onto on a gravel road for picnic or camping, etc.  We drove down the beach until we had to turn around at a military installation.  Then, on the way back to the mainland, we took the truck off-roading onto the sand.  It was really fun!  We drove down the beach and dipped near the water.  We stopped for a while and walked around on a rocky part of the beach.

Then, we headed back into town for dinner.  After the kids’ bedtime, our guests went for a walk through the streets and souks of Fujairah.

On Saturday morning, we drove back to Dubai, but we stopped at Hail Fort on the way.  Reaching this fort involved some primitive driving, but not quite off-roading.  Hail Fort was the most interesting fort that we have seen to date.  A local man came out and showed us all around the fort and made lots of jokes about niches in the walls being places for televisions.  The Hail Fort has been electrified so you can see the inside of the buildings.  The fort is located within an oasis that supports five families and it is located in the Hajar mountains.

Back in Dubai we went to the Wafi sound and light show “Return of the Pharaohs” in the evening.

Our trip to Fujairah remaindered me that there is a natural world around us, despite it being hidden beneath the manicured gardens of Dubai.  There are people here in the UAE that enjoy camping, a day at the beach and visiting historical places – all activities I consider “wholesome”   and “purposeful” in comparison with a trip to the mall.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Dubai Marina

Last Wednesday we went to Dubai Marina, the largest man-made marina on earth.  We went early in the morning and my plan was to get moving and walk quickly around the Marina Walk (about 8 km) before it got too hot.  I was really worried about the heat and the sun.  After we started our walk, I discovered I was worried about all the wrong things!

We parked at Marina Mall and walked out onto the Marina Walk – it was amazing!  A wide, clean walkway surrounding clear water and bordered by massive skyscrapers in all sorts of creative designs (my favourite is one building that is currently being built – the Infinity – it twists!).  We walked for a ways and then the construction started – we could not pass some areas because they were blocked off, so we had to go around construction sites.   Then, there were some parts of the path where pipes lay over the pathway so there were plywood ramps to cross the pipes, which is a big pain with the stroller.  Finally, the pathway had us beat when it was totally blocked off with a plywood barrier that was about 10 feet tall.  We had to leave through a hole in a construction fence and walk up a sandy construction site to the main road – where luckily a taxi was waiting for us.

The taxi driver ripped us off, he invented a 10 dirham minimum (not true as far as I know), but we were so grateful for the ride we paid 10 dirhams for a 4.50 fare.

The Marina is an amazing area and when it is completed it will be a pleasant walkway.