18.03.2010 - 23.03.2010
A few hours ago I arrived in Amman (Jordan)!! and Wow I finally found an Internet cafe in this crazy city.
But before going on about Amman I devote this post to Dubai where I stayed the last couple of days, including a trip to Oman.
Last Thursday, the Flight with the A380 from Paris to Dubai was a real pleasure - personal computer with games, e-mail, movies, BBC news etc.. and even tough not allowed, I got a sneak peak into the business class that is located on the second floor of the airplane! Up there it looks like an actual living room - real cosy with a bar & lounge and everything. Still I was more than happy with my Economy seat as I felt treated like a first-class traveller anyways.
At Dubai Airport I saw the first 'Emirati' dressed in their traditional clothes - dishdash (long white robe) and guthra (headscarf) for men and abaya for women. Harold & Petra picked me up and on the way to their apartment I got some first impressions as we drove through the city.
Friday everyone was off because this day represents "our Sunday" (no work, shops closed), whereas Saturday is just as our Saturday and Sunday is a usual working day. Anyways as Friday was off, Harold took me to visit the Atlantis Hotel on the Jumeirah Palm Island. The hotel is just huge; it includes a major aquarium, several pools, museums, shops, swimming with dolphins attraction etc.. Thank you staff for not noticing that we were walking trough all hotel without being actual guests
That afternoon we went to the beach to swim for a long while before we got ready for a party of Harold & Petra's friends - a real expat gathering of mainly Dutch people. The difference to former parties was noticable, a catering crew of about 10 people was present, welcoming us with warm, scented washclothes as it is usual in many arabic countries. Some expats certainly brought up interesting stories in the conversation. For example, I spoke to a guy that had worked with Yasser Arafat when he was living in Gaza or a lady that was so used to her Philippine maid that she just cannot cook anymore. And the occation of the party: None! It was a fun party - especially when some of those great expats couldn't walk straight anymore. So I ended up driving my 2 hosts home.
Saturday around noon we packed some camping gear and drove off to Oman. Wow what a difference - once you leave the city of Dubai there is nothing but sand, date palms, camels and once in a while a hut. In contrast to the UAE, Oman has several mountains. The border was surprisingly easy to pass in a 4wheeldrive Volvo van and within 2 hours we reached Hatta pools in Oman. This is a valley with lots of big rocks, natural pools and waterfalls. There we met a local who showed us where we could jump from the rocks and enjoy some swimming. (we were lucky as all this water will be gone in a few weeks time when it is too hot). Hence the local guy invited us to get into his car with him and we "drove" over this crazy uneven landscape. A wonder that the Jeep didn't fall over. OMG adrenaline pure, this guy must be insane - it definitely made the top 10 of dangerous things in my life!
When the sun was starting to go down we found a nice site in the middle of nowhere to set up our tent and make a camp fire with the wood. This place really is so quite as not even a proper road reached it. Seeing 1000 stars we had a little picnic and went to sleep in such an amazing setting. We were afraid to sleep in as it would be too hot then to have breakfast and break down the tent etc but no worries as I woke up around 7am from a group of around 300 goats that passed by our camping site during 30min to reach the higher valley.
Next day, Sunday we returned to the United Emirates and drove back to Dubai. Again I noticed this huge contrast between the Omani mountains and the Dubai skyscrapers.
Back home I enjoyed another swim and relaxing at the beach (that is by the way right in front of Harold & Petra's apartment where I'm staying). When Harold drove to work (yes that's normal on Sundays here), he dropped me and Petra in Old Dubai and I went to see the Dubai museum. That afternoon I also saw the Indian quater with all its smells and spices and we visited a temple. We also crossed the Dubai creek with a rather old-fashioned travel modes: a little boat where one crossing costss 20 euro cents! Later we went to eat some great Indian thali for another 3 euro per person. Sunday evening we went to see Dubai mall (biggest in the world) and Burj Khalifa (highest tower in the world, previously called Burj Dubai), where a beautiful ffountain show was shown!
Monday I hung out by myself in the city. Unfortunatly, I was denied to enter the Hilton free bus service that leaves next to the apartment so I was forced to take a taxi to the Mall of Emirates. This is another huge mall consisting of many chains from all over the world (Stradivarius, H&M, Mango, Second Cup, Forever 21, Cold Stone, Gucci, Burberry etc) and even includes the famous indoor skiing center with snowpark, chairlift and apres-ski party rooms. Then I took the new over-ground metro (no surprise - when finished, it will be the largested automatic system) to "Khalid Bin Al Waleed" to see some more traditional shops. But luckily I don't have to say goodbye to Dubai yet as I will return here on 15 April for another few days..
Great to read all your comments on my blog!
Hope you enjoy to read a little about this so-different culture and so-modern city.
To be continued with stories on Jordan. I'll be off into the browsing city of Amman trying to find my way back to the hotel.