We spent December 30 in a jet lag fog. Dubai is 11 hours ahead of Fort Collins, so it’s just wrong according to our body clocks. After sleeping in, we made it to breakfast before they stopped serving at 11am. Time passes strangely when you’re all discombobulated with the time. When next we surfaced, we took an Uber to the Dubai Mall in search of a couple of Apple items. The first thing I really noticed on the drive was the petunias. SO MANY petunias! They are planted along the streets and freeways and fill the traffic medians. This seems like a strange use of a valuable resource in a land where 99% of the water comes from desalination.
We were totally lost from the moment of arriving in the parking garage of the mall! We are not typically people who shop a lot and this was overwhelming. We had to repeatedly find the information kiosks to figure out where we were, maybe where we had been, and absolutely where we were going. At one point we were ushered out by security people with lighted wands and whistles. Why? Still have no idea, but we joined the crowd watching the dancing waters show at the foot of the Burj Khalifa before working our way back inside. We ate at a Jamie Oliver’s Italian restaurant while listening to Christmas carols. It was all a bit surreal: ultra modern urban commercialism in a desert with piped in Winter Wonderland playing.
After a night of trying to sleep through body clock daytime, we spent the next morning reading, working, and settling into a new schedule. We were picked up at 2 pm by a delightful guide from Platinum Heritage Adventures. Oscar drove us through Dubai City and into the desert, past camel breeding and racing facilities, multiple palaces, housing and resort developments, and Green Mountain, a pile of construction debris maybe 20 stories tall. We transferred to heritage 1950 Land Rovers and traveled through the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve where endangered Arabian oryx and vulnerable sand gazelles are maintained, largely on crops such as alfalfa that are grown specifically as feed. The oryx are particularly lovely. We were then entertained with a falcon show and the day ended at a Bedouin style camp where we were greeted in a traditional manner with rose water (to remove the scent of camel) and coffee. We enjoyed passion fruit juice and appetizers of grilled oysters, prawns and strawberries. Dinner was lamb cooked for 6 hours in a charcoal pit, chicken tagine, roasted baby camel, rice, and vegetables all with an array of sauces and a wide selection of juices and nonalcoholic beverages. After dinner, we were entertained with a fire show and drumming. We ended the Bedouin evening by hugging a camel and admiring her lovely long lashes.
Oscar drove us back to our hotel in Dubai City. The central portion of the city was closed to both cars and the metro for the evening. We dropped off one couple who wanted to celebrate at the Burj Khalifa after Oscar told them they would have to climb over the highway barricades to join the crowds pouring downtown on foot. I hope they made it through the night safely! We have a great view of Dubai Creek and the Burj Khalifa in the distance from our room. Thousands of people streamed into the neighborhood to watch the New Year’s Eve show on the creek and from the tower. It was a lovely way to celebrate the start of a new year and our big adventure!