How do I even begin to describe this magical city? I think I'll start with a few photos.
What is Dubai?

Is it a rich place? Is it an oppressed place? Is it just a bunch of buildings clumped together in the middle of the desert? Maybe.

To me, Dubai has been a crazy dream. A dream that started with a jolt but has since turned into an adventure.
The first day was crazy.

Picture a wet sauna, if you will. Now imagine going into one fully clothed, carrying a 10 pound backpack and a camera. This is how Dubai is in August.

I know I've mentioned the heat before, but this not your average hot-day-in-Texas, my friend. I'm talking about blistering, hard-to-breathe, mind-numbing heat. Heat so crippling to the senses that you forget to even drink water. All rational thought is blurred.

At first, I considered throwing in the towel (no pun intended) and reroute to Jordan - Ethiopia - anywhere else but here. But then I gathered my senses: If some of these ladies can do it fully-covered, how could I complain? I sucked it up and braved it Emirati-style. And you know what? It's not so hot anymore (okay it might still be a bit).

Dubai is like an alternate universe. One one hand, everything looks exactly the same. You have your teenagers that fill up at the movie theaters, your shopping moms that can't resist a sale, that one Cheesecake Factory that always has the long wait, and the husbands who sit impatiently inside clothing stores.

Yet somehow everything's in Arabic and the dress is a little different.
If there's one good thing about the heat though, it's that it scares away most tourists from the outdoor sights.

Wandering the streets and corridors of Old Dubai, I was often the only tourist among a sea of busy locals, peering into the lives of people who live so far away from what I call home. But this is their home.
But Dubai's not just the massive skyscrapers you see on The Travel Channel.

With some of the original 18th century city walls still intact, I fell in love with Old Dubai for what it showed: remnants of the quiet little fishing village and trading post Dubai once was. Before they found all that oil.
I also decided to make a day trip to Abu Dhabi to see what the fuss was all about. The Sheikh there decided to build himself one of the biggest mosques in the world.

As you can see, it was so hot it was virtually empty. I felt like the Sheikh himself. Of course, I'd be spending all my money building other things.
At my hostel, I made a few more friends - particularly Dirk from Germany, Ryoya from Japan, and Guillermo from Spain. We shared a lot of laughs and long conversations about how crazy different things were back 'home.'

That's the beauty of traveling alone. You open yourself to meeting so many different people that you learn from. People you wouldn't ever meet if you traveled in a group or with a tour.

Dirk and I did a little exploring through the old 'souks' (Arabic for market) and the upscale Jumeirah neighborhood, famous for one of its hotels in particular...
You can't exactly just visit the 'seven-star' Burj Al-Arab. You need to be a hotel guest (only $1,800/night!) or have a reservation at one of their fabulous restaurants in order to even go inside!

So I checked their menu. An appetizer? $150. Entree? $250-350. Caviar? $900. I think this was the lunch menu.

However, I did gain beach access to the hotel via dressing up and pretending to be a guest at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel. That one's only $600 a night, I think. What a bargain!
Believe it or not, the water was hot! I'm not talking lukewarm, I mean hot water.

After the beach, I decided to splurge a little and do some skiing at the new SKI DUBAI in the Emirates Mall! Only 10 minutes from the beach.
If you ever ask a stranger to take your picture, there's about a 90% chance it will turn out like this.
I never thought I could be sweating my skin off at a beach one afternoon just to then freeze my ass off at the top of a ski lift an hour later! Only in Dubai. Those words ring true in so many senses.

On a random note, I saw a woman on the subway in a full-body burqa with an "Oi Oi Oi (Danza Kuduro)" ringtone. Good times.

As for today, I got frustrated with my tablet (wouldn't let me blog/upload videos), so I bit the bullet and bought a small computer; electronics are supposedly cheaper in Dubai, they say. At least it came with a nifty Arabic keyboard!
Dubai is truly one of the safest cities I've ever been in. Crime (even petty crime like stealing) is almost unheard of.  I'd certainly have a higher chance of a heat stroke walking out late at night than running into any trouble.

So how do you put a city like this into words? You really can't.
5 days in and I have hung out with 11 people from 7 different countries. Thanks, Dubai, for some wonderful memories.

(See you soon, Oman!)

P.S. It took me 4 excruciating hours to upload these pictures on this sad internet connection. Thanks for reading!
8/24/2012 10:46:05 am

the last city light picture is amazing!
I guess Dubai has tallest building and slowest Wi-Fi in the world.
7 star hotel is much smaller than I thought.
good luck for week two.

8/25/2012 02:14:49 am

Good job for gaining the access to the hotel, I probably give up if I were you, but you should try the lunch menu at least an appetizer and take lots of pictures for later showing off.

The mosques is gorgeous, I will definitely visit it if I get a chance to be there. The city night-view of Dubai is pretty too. How about if it compares with the Victoria harbor in Hong Kong?

Love your smiles in the pictures. Be Safe!

Your Sister
8/25/2012 06:22:25 am

The Mosque with the pool is unbelievably amazing!

Your next adventure is going to be challenging! No more first world problems anymore! I agree with Mom, you are very photogenic! And I cracked up so much when you said 90% strangers take pics of you like that lol...

Miss you already.


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