Monday, November 15, 2010

We are in Dubai! Alternate title: slightly disappointed with Dubai

Once the hubs and I decided on a location for our Eid break, I went to my happy place and started investigating things to do in the city and creating a spreadsheet itinerary of our trip. I do this with just about all our travels, and I really do enjoy it. We haven't previously been able to travel much, so I've always wanted to make the most of our time away from home. I'd love to be one of those "Eh, we'll get there and play it by ear" kind of people, but I HATE being one of those "Man, I wish I'd made reservations in advance" kind of people. So I investigate, find out my options, and make sure we don't miss something we'd really like to do.

I'm not sure why I feel the need to explain away my neurosis to all of you, but I just did.

ANYWAY, I say all that because I think I might have to retire the spreadsheeting for a while. The past couple of trips we've taken have been a bit of a let down and I think it's because all my planning led to so much build up that when the trip didn't turn out to be as awesome as I thought it was going to be, I was really disappointed.

Such has been the case with Dubai.

Dubai is like the Las Vegas of the Middle East: it's got all kinds of things you wouldn't expect to be possible in the desert and their only purpose is for the shock value. Case in point: Ski Dubai.

Ski Dubai is in the Mall of the Emirates. It's a "ski resort" in the middle of a the middle of the desert. It possibly creates the biggest carbon footprint of anywhere in the world...but it's a novelty, and Arabs love novelty.

The hubs and I knew from the start that we had to go skiing in the middle of the Dubai desert 'cause....well why not!? Why go all the way to Dubai and not say you went snow skiing in the desert!? We knew Ski Dubai would be a tourist trap, but even paying for lessons and a day pass for both of us was going to be cheaper than one day pass and equipment at the slopes at home. We had to take the opportunity.

Well, when we arrived, we found out that we had to book lessons in advance, something the website didn't say (see first paragraph for proof that I, of all people, should know what the website said). Add to that the fact that the cost of the lessons was different than what was posted online, and I was so disappointed that we weren't going to get to ski in Dubai. BUT, they were offering a "super pass" to their snow park, and for just AED 200 ($55) per person, we could have unlimited chair lift rides and access to the other stuff that didn't include skiing/snowboarding. Why not? We came all this way, we had to play in the snow.

The snazzy outfits were included in our pass. We had to buy the hats and gloves. (That's Charles, one of the housemates. He rode down with us.)

It was so funny to see the hijabs and gutras poking out of all the winter wear!

We did have a great time- not sure it was $55 worth of fun- and we took some funny pictures, but I am still so disappointed that I'm going to be walking away from Dubai without having learned how to snowboard.

Then there was the Dubai Aquarium. Its website makes it sound like a legitimate aquarium, something similar to the Tennessee Aquarium that I love so much. And if there's one thing I love, it's a good aquarium. So of course it was on our spreadsheet.

You even have to pay to go past the rope behind us. That's the "VIP" section. VIPs get to touch the glass.

No no, in fact the Dubai Aquarium is just a super-sized version of a fish lover's salt water tank. It's literally just a giant fish tank. Of course that's impressive in its own right, but COME ON! I don't want to pay $30 to walk through a big tunnel with a bunch of tourists and then "ride" in a glass bottom boat, which is basically just a platform on the surface of this giant fish tank! I wanted to learn! I wanted a real aquarium.

Again, I was disappointed with this Dubai novelty. Too much build up, not enough delivery of entertainment.

Then today we went on a desert safari day trip. I went out on a limb and booked with a company that has mixed reviews on TripAdvisor. It's not that the company didn't deliver what they said they would--finally some truth in advertising! We went dune bashing, off roading on giant sand dunes, but only for about 10 minutes. Right when I was really enjoying myself, the bashing was over!

Malik, our driver, stopped at the top of a dune and let us take photos.

We went to a heritage village, which had creepy life size dioramas of what life was like in an old Emirati village. That was kind of cool, but I would have liked to have been guided around rather than just set loose for 20 minutes while our driver waited for us under a tree.

The fort was not actually under attack...don't worry.

Let's play "Write your own caption."

We went to a natural spring in the middle of the desert mountains which was ridiculously cool and beautiful, but as I was crawling out of the back of the SUV, I rolled my ankle like a champ and had to hobble my way down the hill to see the water. I was in too much pain to really enjoy it and I was afraid that if I took my shoes off, the swelling would get too bad for me to get them back on! (I know both of my mothers are cringing as I jump up and down on every nursing nerve in their bodies right now. Yes, I RICE'd it, Moms. I just waited until we finished our tour first).

This was taken post trauma.

Like I said, the desert safari being a disappointment was not the company's fault. They delivered exactly what they promised. But it just wasn't as fun as I thought it was going to be and I have this nagging feeling that if I had gone with a different company, we would have had more fun.

Anyway, we were supposed to go on an over night safari tomorrow, but since it still really hurts to walk, we've cancelled that reservation and I think we're just going to head back to Saudi Arabia early. The King has so kindly extended our Eid vacation (somebody's taking care of his Zakat!...little Islamic humor, folks), so we have a whole week before we have to return to work!

What will we do with ourselves? I don't know. I haven't made the spreadsheet yet.

Vicariously yours,

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