How to feel in the desert!
What a change! I’m leaving the airport in Dubai with mixed feelings. Saying good-bye to Indonesia and Southeast Asia was hard. And sad. Ten months of traveling around the world are coming to an end. I’ve seen so many amazing places and now I’m here in the desert. I’ve heard a lot -whether I wanted to or not- about the United Arab Emirates and especially Dubai. Honestly, not too many good things. I’m a bit worried… am I going to ruin my positive experiences from before? I mean, I’m a backpacker after all and supposedly they are not very well-liked around here. Dubai is a city for the rich and famous. I wish I could hide my worn-out backpack buddy right now and at least pretend to be a normal tourist with enough money. However, as soon as I enter the metro, I realize: Nobody cares! I see people from India, North America, Pakistan, Asia… everybody is busy or tired. No one seems too wealthy or fancy. But, would I use the metro if I were rich? Probably not…
The Metro Dubai is really nice, clean, modern and on time. Surprisingly. Someone said earlier: “It’s a game of chance, if the metro runs at all.” Now Dubai, the city of world records & superlatives is passing by my window. I can see A LOT of construction pretty much EVERYWHERE. Around 30 minutes later, I have to exit at a station with the wonderful name “Dubai Internet City”. Stop, not so fast! Leaving the train doesn’t mean leaving the metro station. You have to use a few moving walkways (so-called “Metro Links”) before reaching your desired exit.*
*What I learned later: Temperatures in the summer months can get up to 50 °C (122 °F). Every step outside is torture, so it’s more comfortable to use the Metro Links and stay cool inside with air-conditioning everywhere as long as possible.
How to find one person in a multi-storied apartment tower…
A hot wind is blowing outside. The sun is pretty intense already. Luckily, it’s just a short walk to my airbnb place. I booked a single bed in a high-rise flat in the Tecom area of Dubai with views over almost the entire city. There’s just one HUGE problem. A 35-storied building accomodates a great deal of people. How am I supposed to find Anas my airbnb-host? Somehow I forgot to write down floor level and apartment number… my Indonesian SIM-card is useless around here and there’s no wifi. What to do? I start asking the security guys for help. Maybe they have list of all people in the building. Haha! They can’t stop laughing. “Do you know how many people walk in and out of this building everyday? We don’t even know how many apartments there are. A list. Haha! There is no list. But if you have a phone number we might be able to call the guy.” A brilliant idea and they even let me use their cell phone. (I was smart enough to take a screenshot of my booking confirmation.) Finally, up to the 33rd floor! Anas greets me a bit worried. “You’re lucky that I’m home. Who travels to another country without knowing where to go exactly?” He’s a nice guy though and after a bit of warming up, we talk for quite a while: about the difficult life in Dubai, the mix of people, the working conditions… He explains that only around 8% of the UAE population were actually born here. Everyone else came or comes from abroad and if you lose your job, it’s time to return home.
His apartment offers all the amenities a backpacker could ask for – and it’s quite a good price for Dubai. I’m sharing the room with two other guys, but we hardly meet and don’t say more than “hi” to each other. After some “freshening up” it’s time to explore the city. I’m going to meet a fellow couchsurfer who offered to show me around and have dinner together close to the famous Dubai fountains. Dubai has such a vivid couchsurfing (CS) scene. It’s awesome! You don’t even need to sleep on a couch, just join and meet all those fantastic people out there to hang out. For example this guy: ME.
How to discover as many world records as possible. In a couple of hours!
Another Metro Link connects Burj Khalifa/The Dubai Mall Metro Station to the Dubai Mall. This 820 m long elevated, air-conditioned footbridge takes me to Rainbow World, I mean, the largest mall in the world by total area.
I’m really glad that I’ve met Onil before exploring this giant mall by myself. He knows where to go and where the coolest stuff is hidden. Are you ready for some world records?
- We start our tour with the world’s largest acrylic panel (Aquarium). It is 32.88 m wide × 8.3 m high × 750 mm thick and weighing 245 tons (according to wikipedia):
- The next record is waiting outside and is hard to overlook: Burj Khalifa, the tallest structure in the world standing at 829.8 m (2,722 ft). The size itself is impressive, but I’m even more fascinated by the beautiful LED show and… do you recognize the horse in front of the tower? Yes, it’s a sculpture by Fernando Botero, my favorite artist from Colombia:
- In front of the Burj Khalifa the evening highlight awaits: The Dubai Fountain, the world’s largest choreographed fountain system. This calls for a premiere on my blog. A video:
This incredible first evening ends with a delicious dinner at a Lebanese restaurant in Downtown Dubai, close to the fountains. (We’ve watched the show from almost every angle and circled the Burj Khalifa Lake for the best viewing spot. Here’s my tip: You have a great view over the whole man-made lake in front of the Burj Khalifa entrance.) What a change all this is… coming from Indonesia! I can’t wait what the next days are going to bring. Continue reading in SURPRISING DUBAI – PT. 2.