Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Dubai to Abu Dhabi and Home at Last!

January 25th. Dubai to Abu Dhabi and Home at Last!

It’s a good thing that I have set John’s alarm or we might have slept several more hours. I shower, dress and leave our room quietly to check on the times for breakfast. A handful of guests are eating breakfast in the canvass covered courtyard and I am happy to discover it is only 9:15 A.M.  John’s phone was set on New Deli time, not Dubai time and there is a 1 ½ hour difference. While John showers, I send e-mail to Art with our arrival information into S.F.O. and attempt Skype again without success. A few minutes later, my computer rings and it is Art calling. It’s heartening to hear his voice and both John and I talk excitedly with him for several minutes.

We sit in the canvas shaded courtyard and enjoy strong coffee, creamy yoghurt, omelets, tahini and Arabic bread and with map and guidebook in hand, make our plans for the day. For $55 each, we could take the guided tour on the double-decker “Red Bus” and be limited to their schedule, or we can take taxis to the same sites for what I hope will cost about half. I look over the Red Bus itinerary and make note of their stops, starting the farthest away and working back towards our hotel.

Bastakiya Dubai

Bastakiya guard and John

We stash our luggage in a corner of the tiny office, close the heavy wooden doors to this artsy, 9 room guest house and navigate from the maze of the historical district out to the main street. There are very few tourists out yet, but each time I lift my camera to take a photo, a nuisance-some tourist rounds a corner of this historical labyrinth and pops into my view finder. I’m sure they are equally irritated when John and I pop into one of their photographs.  I am taking a photo of John in the narrow shaded lane when a security guard crosses. He spots my pointed camera, beams and indicates that he wants his photo taken beside John. I happily oblige and show him the image in the back screen of my camera.  He walks beside us and tells us he is from Nepal and proudly shows us his laminated identification work card.  If I understand correctly, he has a two year permit; works for 9 months, returns home for 3 months and repeats the process. In broken English, he tells us that Nepal is poor but the USA is good and is helping in Nepal. He relays that his family was “bad” but now they are a “nice” family because he has work in Dubai and can send money home. These brief encounters are much of what makes traveling such a joy.

The taxis in Dubai are metered, starting at 3 dirham, and in less than a minute we are scooped up and are driving towards the Dubai Marina.  I have been told to expect the 25 minute drive to the Marina to cost about 60 dirham and the meter shows 58 dirham when we arrive.

John at Dubai Marina
Dhow at Dubai Marina

An elegant pedestrian promenade curves along the waterfront and shimmering yachts are moored in this inner harbor, reflecting the morning sunlight off the water. Wait staff are readying the sidewalk Cafes and restaurants lining the promenade. Although there are many tourists and foreign families out with their children, it is Friday, a holy day, and there are few Arabs out at 11:30 A.M. (It is no wonder since they were all at the Dubai Mall at midnight last night!) Earlier, we considered taking the metro to the Marina, but on Fridays, even the metro does not open until 1:00 P.M. Except for the futuristic high rises and sky scrapers piercing the skyline, we could be strolling along the marina at Cabo San Lucas or any number of other upscale harbors in sundrenched parts of the world.

Marty at a Dubai Marina Cafe

Arab women walking the Marina Promenade

We take turns taking photos of each other, leaning up against the railing, boats and skyscrapers in the background. Although there are many small and medium sized yachts in the marina, John wants to know where the big boats play?  We succumb to the touristy lure of Captain Jack’s, 1 hour dhow cruise, a circular loop of both the inner and outer harbor. 120 dirham later, ($33) the two of us are settled comfortably into overstuffed tribal upholstered beanbags on the canvass shaded deck of a large wooden dhow.
Captain Jacks Marina and Harbor Cruise
The boat could easily accommodate over 50 passengers but we are two of less than 20 other passengers on this cruise. The dhow motors out of the harbor and I wish immediately for our jackets that we have left stored with our luggage back at the hotel. John points out several immense yachts moored in the outer harbor, but surprisingly, they pale in comparison to the jaw dropping yachts we sae in the harbor at Cairns, Australia. A helicopter sits atop a helipad and a ribbon of a runway, constructed on pylons, with yellow and black reflecting girds at its end, stretches out into the ocean. It is cold and foggy outside of the inner harbor and the skyscrapers have all but disappeared excepting the tips of a few, peeking eerily out and above the fog bank.
Helicopter and Fog
Fog on the landing strip in the outer harbor

Cranes in the Dubai Marina

Cranes in the Dubai Marina

Re-entering the Dubai Marina by Dhow
We catch a second taxi towards Palm Jumeirah, the “Crescent and Frond” development with the Atlantis resort at its tip. When one sees photos of Dubai, it is the futuristic Burj al Arab hotel and the Crescent and Frond community that epitomizes Dubai. 
Burg Al Arab 
Atlantis Resort
 I am disappointed that we can see little of this artificial island community, sans for the gated entrances to each “frond.”  Each “frond” is constructed along an artificial canal so that every luxury estate has a waterfront view. I catch a glimpse or two of a canal through the security gates but the aerial photos I have seen are stunning and I soon gather that this is a sight that must be viewed from above. When our driver drops us at the Atlantis resort, we are still hopeful that there might be a public view tower where we might be able to see the Crescent and Frond island community, but there are none. I have heard much raving about Atlantis resorts and perhaps the guest areas are lovely but I am not impressed. It is an unimpressive, mini-mall with shops and restaurants radiating out from a central dome. The garishly painted dome depicts a childish underwater scene that hangs heavily overhead and a series of misproportioned, leaping bronze dolphin chandeliers swing from the arched ceilings between the shops. There are 4 restaurant options and we choose the least expensive but even so, our shared bacon and cheese hamburger with fries comes in at $25.00. We pass on visiting the aquarium, knowing that we have seen some of the best in the world and make our escape by taxi to Jumeirah, the public beach of Dubai.
Handstand silhouette - Burj al Arab
Afternoon at Jumeirah beach- Burj al Arab 

Bikini clad bodies bask in the sunshine and children play on the half mile strip of golden sand. John strips off his shirt and we both take off our shoes and roll up our pants. We leave our belongings neatly piled on the beach and I realize that I am not worried about them being stolen. That is not to say that the possibility doesn’t cross my mind, but Dubai feels extremely safe and we head towards the crystal clear turquoise water.  There are no waves and the Arabian Gulf water is warm and children splash is the calm shallow sea.
Jumeirah Public Beach - Dubai
A Muslim woman stands waist deep dressed in her abaya and two Indian woman wade in wearing saris. I am grateful to be a western woman and almost feel that in solidarity, I should wade in wearing my jeans.
Women wearing abayas and saris in the Arabian Gulf
Three Indian or Pakistani men find a dead crab floating in the shallows and they laugh as one take photos of his friend, wearing it as a hat.  I run towards them, camera aimed and they pose happily for my photos.  John does hand stands and back flips on the beach and my heart fills with pride and love for this young man. According to our guide book, this is the best place to get an unobstructed view of the iconic, Burj al Arab. The sun is unfortunately, directly overhead of this futuristic architectural wonder, but we take the required photos of each other with Burj al Arab, an indistinct grey silhouette in the background. 45 minutes later, after having walked the stretch of beach we return to our pile of shoes, cloths and guide-book, dust off the sand and catch a taxi back to our XVA hotel.

Sunbathing on Jumeirah Public Beach - Dubai

Man with a dead crab on his head!

The taxi ride to the bus station is just 10 dirham and I leave John waiting curbside with our luggage while I go in search of tickets. There are dozens of busses, moving in and moving out, all new and well maintained and orderly lines of mostly young male immigrants waiting to board the appropriate busses. It appears that the immigrants are invaluable to the infrastructure to the UAE. They fill the service, construction, merchant and security jobs in a similar way that many Mexican immigrants do in California. I surmise that their work week is over and that these young men are heading back to a shared apartment in the outskirts of Dubai or Abu Dhabi, their temporary home until their work visa and contract expire and they can return home to their native land and their family. I am directed towards a low cluster of buildings, the perimeter consisting of a string of hole-in-the-wall, Middle Eastern restaurants. I enter a central courtyard and see a line of over 30 men waiting for the toilet. Another long line snakes around the ticket window and I take my place at the back. Seconds later a security guard escorts me to the “ladies only” window where I am next in line. The two bus tickets to Abu Dhabi are only 25 dirham each ($8 each) and I walk quickly back to find John. We wait in a long line as the double-decker bus for Abu Dhabi fills but luckily, we are first in line for the next bus which is already pulling towards us. An official escorts other ladies from further back in our line to the front and John is motioned to step back. I am first to board and choose the seat behind the driver with unobstructed views, saving the adjoining seat for John. John takes care of seeing that our luggage is loaded beneath the bus, takes his seat beside me and within minutes, we drive away. We fly along the 5 lane freeway, skyscrapers zipping past us reflecting the late afternoon sunlight in their mirrored glass surfaces. I relax into the journey contented and resigned that our trip will end easily at a sterile airport hotel. As we enter the outskirts of Abu Dhabi, and as dusk settles in, we see the striking and immense silhouette of the new, Sheikh Zayed Mosque, one of the world’s largest mosques. Two days is simply not enough time for these cities and I hope to come back one day and visit this impressive mosque.
Leaving the skyline of Dubai
 Dubai skyscrapers 

We arrive at the Abu Dhabi bus station in just 1 ½ hours and I realize I have made a logistical mistake. Our hotel is out by the airport and we are in downtown. Perhaps, had we taken a different bus, it would have dropped us at the airport? We hail yet another taxi and drive towards Yas Island in search of the Yas Viceroy Hotel that I booked for $120 on Priceline many weeks ago.  After just one wrong turn our driver deposits us at the entrance to a futuristic hotel, seeming built in the center of a professional auto race track. The organic roof of our hotel is constructed of interconnecting rods and pods, surreally illuminated by changing colored lights.  I have stayed at the Ritz Carlton in both London and Paris, slept on rooftops in Greece, safari tents in Africa, hostels in Europe and flea bag hotels around the world but tonight’s hotel and room is a surprise. After the formalities of check in, the desk attendant from Romania subsequently shows us to our room.
Our sitting room at the Yas Viceroy, overlooking the racetrack
The illuminated roof above our room
Our spacious, ultra modern room has a large seating area with a kidney shaped purple couch, a curvaceous white resin chair and coffee table and an extremely large, flat screen T.V. Our hospital Romanian demonstrates the remote control options for the lighting and the sound system in the room and with a push of a button he opens the automated sliding shades that cover the floor to ceiling sliding glass door. Our door opens onto a narrow balcony overlooking a slanted corrugated metal roof and a brilliantly lighted race track just below. Initially, the three partitioned bathroom with frosted sliding glass doors between the shower, bidet and toilet and wash stand and bathtub seems luxurious, but the frosted glass lacks privacy and the arrangement is confusing.
Room door opening over the roof and racetrack below
Abstract transparencies, Yas Viceroy Hotel, Abu Dhabi
 As soon as our luggage is delivered, John slips into swim trunks and we head to the roof top swimming pool. The rod and pod roof has a circular opening in the center and a full moon is framed and suspended above. We are in a flight path and every few minutes the silhouette of a plane passes by the moon. The alternating colored lights illuminate the pool in an ever changing pallet of purples, greens and blues. I feel as if I have stepped into a Star Trek episode.
John swimming in the Yas Viceroy roof top pool
John, Yas Viceroy roof top pool
There are 5 restaurants in the Yas Viceroy hotel and all are expensive.  We peruse the various restaurant and menu options and choose the Arabic restaurant after we spot a Mezze selection for two that includes a choice of four hot mezzes for 100 dirham. ($35) The sign at the entrance to this elegant restaurant requires “upscale casual” dress and at best, John and I are wearing “frumpy traveler.” We straighten our shoulders and step inside.  The interior décor is minimalistic Arabic style with soft golden lighting and a curved bar with glimmering bottles of liquor reflected in the gilded mirror behind. A dozen or more ornate shishas (waterpipes) are clustered at one side of the bar. A hostess glides towards us, welcoming us and asking if we wish to sit inside or if we might prefer to sit outside?  We were unaware of the outside option but obediently follow her to an expansive patio overlooking the race track. There are tall obelisk shaped heaters to warm the night, flames rising high, and a half dozen other diners sit at tables at the edge of the patio watching the cars race around the track. We do not have reservations and are seated at a table off from the railing but this allows us watch the other diners and we still have a good view of the race track.  We splurge and order two Arabic beers, ($6 each) the mezze platter and sit back and watch the show.  In the corner against the railing is a canopied table with about 8 Arabic women, the adult women all wearing black abays; a pre-teen girl, an infant and a nanny are part of the entourage. The women are between 18-24 years old and one of them is smoking a shisha, blowing white clouds of smoke into the faces of her friends with no mind for the baby.

Yas Viceroy Rooftop Arabian Restaurant
John is fascinated by the racing cars.  The track is a professional one but John tells me that he thinks the drivers are just wealthy Arab men who just want a place to race their “toys.”  John has watched videos about this on U-tube; that racing on the streets in the UAE became a problem and now the men with their Porches and Ferraris can reserve the track for an evening and burn rubber and testosterone without endangering others. John critics the drivers; most of who are cautious when coming to the curves but he applauds one driver in a red Porches who seems to have little fear and tears around the track much faster than the others. We soon surmise that the women, seated at the corner table, are somehow related to one or several of the drivers. Our four mezze plates arrive along with a basket of varied Arabian breads and a dish of pickles and olives.  The spread is ample and we dip pieces of bread in hummus and share tiny lamb shanks, sausages and calamari as we listen to the revving and downshifting of the cars. This is the final night of our trip and John asks to smoke a shisha.  A shisha, with two flavors of tobacco, costs 60 dirham ($16) John asks flavor advice from the shisha attendant and subsequently orders mint and grape tobacco.  A few minutes later an ornate silver shisha is set on the floor beside John’s chair. It is 2 ½ feet tall and with tongs the attendant places hot coals in the dish above the prepared tobacco, puffs on the hose several times to get it started, and then inserts a fresh mouthpiece and hands it to John. John leans back, inhales and blows white clouds of mint scented smoke in my direction. I too take several puffs but inhaling smoke is foreign to me and my head spins on the second inhalation.  We laugh, take photos of each other and when the coals burn low, head up to our luxurious room for 6 hours of sleep.
Inhaling mint and Grape shisha
Exhaling mint and grape shisha 

Our trip is over and it has been amazing throughout. John and I are well matched as traveling companions and ending it with two days in futuristic Dubai has been perfect contrast to the chaos, colors and culture of incredible India.

Monday, February 11, 2013

New Deli to Abu Dhabi and onto Dubai

January 24th
New Deli to Abu Dhabi and on to Dubai
Our phone rings at 12:30 A.M. It is our wakeup call and our car and driver are due to arrive at 1:20 A.M. to transfer us to the Deli International airport. We managed a solid 3 ½ hours of sleep and shower and pack quickly. We work our way through various airport checkpoints, and by 3:00 A.M. have cleared security and wait for our flight to board. The flight time between Deli and Abu Dhabi is 3 ½ hours and John and I fall asleep before the plane even takes off. We ignore the stewardess whispered offer of dinner and I sleep until the pilot loudly announces that we are 30 kilometers away from Abu Dhabi, waiting for clearance to land. The view below is breathtaking in the early morning light and I wake John. He is in a deep sleep and snarls at me but when he looks out the window and sees shrouds of fog wisping over golden ripples of shimmering sand, he too is awed by the unusual beauty of it.

Shrouds of fog over the UAE
We circle for over an hour, waiting to land, and when we finally deplane we are an hour and a half behind schedule. Both John and I feel surprisingly rested and anticipate the day. Immigration is quick and easy and the agent, dressed in a white throbe and keffiyeh (Arabian headdress) is warm and friendly. Our luggage appears quickly and we choose the custom lane with “noting to declare,” smile at another white throbed official and exit into the terminal. No one is waiting with a sign to pick us up but ticket holders on Etihad Airlines can take advantage of a free express bus to Dubai.

Starbucks in the Abu Dhabi Airport
John gleefully spots a Starbucks and tells me he is “down for one!” Having ordered dirhams before our trip, I pass him a 100 dirham bill and head off to investigate the express bus. When I return to Starbucks, John hands me a cappuccino and tells me that he thinks these may be the most expensive cappuccino and latte that we have ever had. We do the math and figure that two “grandes,” (not “ventes”) cost $17.00.  Mine is delicious and when the caffeine takes effect, I have no regrets. The express bus is waiting just outside the terminal door; John loads our luggage into the belly of the bus and we climb onboard.  Within minutes we are driving along an ultra modern 5 lane freeway bordered by date palms and desert. John points out that the cars traveling this highway are all expensive and new and we laugh and observe that there are no tut-tuts, motorcycles or livestock traveling this ultra modern expressway. We are alert and watch out the window but there is little except desert and the occasional silhouette of a mosque until we near Dubai. The industrial and commercial outskirts boast all of the familiar U.S. companies. We pass large block buildings wearing the logos of IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, Citi-bank, Ford, Ferrari and Toyota; presumably their corporate or manufacturing headquarters.

Riding the bus into Dubai
The bus ride into Dubai
As we enter the city, skyscrapers loom upward beyond the vision of the busses window. The reflective glass on these soaring buildings shimmer the colors of steel, blue, green and occasionally fiery gold in the morning sunlight.

It is nearly 11:00 A.M. when the bus deposits us in the outskirts of Dubai. John offloads our luggage and we head for the nearest taxi. I hand the driver the printed conformation of our XVA Art Hotel with the address clearly printed. He is confused and in broken English, asks me to speak the address.  I phonetically pronounce the address, Bas-ta-ki-ya, and he beams in recognition and tells me that it is “no problem.”  We quickly grasp that he cannot read, but being the cautious traveler, ask the approximate price of the fare?  He repeats his “no problem” mantra and points to the meter on his taxi.  We settle into the back seat and trust to fate. 20 minutes later and after a few wrong turns, he drops us off in front of the Bastakiya, a meticulously restored section of the old city. The meter reads just 30 dirham, less than $10.
The historical Bastakiya district
The historical Bastakiya district
 The small compound is a maze of narrow lanes, snaking between two-story, beige stucco buildings, all of them with wind towers. The district was built in the 1900’s by Iranian merchants and the rectangular wind towers, with four triangular flues that channel the breeze downward is a means of ventilation and cooling before air conditioning. It takes us a few minutes to locate our guest house, hidden on the back side of one of the lanes and discretely identified by a small sign; XVA Guesthouse.

John in front of the door to our room. XVA Guesthouse
The heavy, double wooden door is open slightly revealing a pretty, canvas shaded courtyard café. A half dozen marble topped tables with rattan chairs askew are in the patio and a covered arched arcade lines the perimeter. There are only 9 rooms in the hotel and all open up onto one of two patios.  Our room is off the back patio and the receptionist unlocks the padlock on the double wooden door of our room, revealing a small sitting room with a couch, a second room with a double bed and a private bathroom.  I tell her that we need two beds and she indicates that the couch makes into a bed, points out white cotton bathrobes and slippers in the curtained closet and makes her exit. The rooms are cool white stucco with cubbyhole shelves built into the thick paster walls. I booked this guesthouse online and although it was quite expensive, $260, I am pleased with the location and the ambience of the small hotel.
Tourist shop in the arcade
Covered shopping arcade near the Dubai Creek

We regroup quickly, leave our secluded guest house and head out to explore the old section of Dubai.  We are just a few blocks from the Dubai Creek and walk through soaring, arched wooden arcades lined with tourist shops selling pashmina scarves, embroidered dresses, curved toed Arabian sandals, spices and tourist nick-nacks. The merchants pounce on us and once again, their aggressiveness makes it unpleasant to stop and look. We power on in search of lunch, leaving the tourist area and choosing a hole in the wall Shawarma café. I worry slightly about the sanitation as we sit at one of two tiny formica tables and order Shawarma platters and a fresh squeezed mint and lime juice.  I recollect the wonderful Shawarma meal we enjoyed off a side street in Quito Ecuador with no ill effects. By my standards the meal is disappointing but John is ecstatic about the food, happy to be eating anything other than stewed Indian curries. I pay our $15 bill and we head off to the Dubai museum.

The museum is excellent and John takes his time to read the signs beside each exhibit.  We get lost in an underground labyrinth of life sized montages depicting life and the history of Dubai and watch a 15 minute film about the warp speed transformation of Dubai from the 1920’s to the present. 1 ½ hours later, we have a much better grasp of the remarkable transformation of a small desert town to a futuristic city of power.
Dhows on Dubai Creek
Dhows on Dubai Creek
 We exit into the sunlight and walk towards the “Creek,” the life blood of earlier Dubai. The creek is a river running through the city center and beautiful, antique wooden dhows are moored on the far bank. A dhow is a wooden cargo ship and many of these colorful vessels are close to 100 years old. They are moored at the Deira warfage, are weighted down with tons of cargo, owned by Arabs and manned by foreign crews. Smaller dhows ferry locals and tourists from one side to another for the price of 1 dirham; about 35 cents. We climb onboard and in 5 minutes are deposited at Diera. With map and guide book in hand we navigate to the covered gold souk, disappointedly un-exotic, but staggering with the excessive amounts of gold jewelry draping the window displays and lining the shelves.  We enter a few shops and I surmise that the casual ambiance within is backed up by plenty of security cameras and weapons as well.
Marty in the gold souk - Dubai
Gold necklace on display

We wander the narrow streets of old Dubai and are repeatedly approached by Pakistani and Indian men wanting to show us designer hand bags and beconning to us to follow them. My ear cuff designs are copied and counterfeit in China and I am strongly against buying counterfeit goods. John however is intrigued and lustful and he follows one man down twisted alleys and up several flights of dirty stairs to a fourth floor clandestine “showroom,” filled with copies of Louis Vutton, Channel, Gucci etc. I have no choice but to follow John and I sit stone faced on a plastic stool while John inspects counterfeit sunglasses, belts and t-shirts.  As I sit watching the sales man “work” John, other tourists arrive gleeful to purchase “best quality copies of designer goods.”  It is difficult to make our escape but when we are again at street level, I lecture John on ethics. This is the first and only time on our trip that we have had any conflict and John does not understand my point of view.  He wants to buy a pair of sunglasses, a wallet and a belt and I decide that this does not warrant a fight and quietly follow John, who follows a second and then a third man to tiny upstairs rooms packed full of counterfeit goods. I am curt with the sales men who try to interest me in a designer bag and tell them I would be embarrassed to own one. They don’t know how to handle me and at one point, I am moved to a stool on the upstairs landing and a young Indian man sits beside me and we talk about his family back in Kerala, India.  I am sure he has been instructed to get rid of the “old bag” so that they may make a sale to John but it is interesting to talk with him and he is happy and proud to be living and “working” in Dubai and able to send money back home to his family. I am almost relieved when John eventually makes a purchase so that we can move on with our day.
Spices and Shishas
John in the souk

It is late afternoon and the light is perfect and I take many photographs from the dhow as we motor back across the creek and to the Abra, ferry station in Bur Dubai.
View of Dubai from the dhow
We decide to go to the Dubai Mall for the evening and the receptionist at our guest house recommends that we take the metro instead of a taxi.  This turns out to be bad advice because we are repeatedly misdirected but we eventually find the station, descend, purchase tickets and after two transfers and seemingly miles of underground passages followed by more miles of lighted glass “habitrails” that funnel us up and over brightly illuminated boulevards, we arrive at the mall.  The mall is immense, stunning and overwhelming.  John and I are giddy with delight and culture shock. We eventually find a map of the mall and after some quick math we conclude that there are between 900 – 1000 shops and eateries.
Aquarium at Dubai Mall
The "Underwater Zoo" Dubai Mall

The mall is 4 levels with an aquarium and underwater zoo that boasts the largest sheet of glass of any aquarium in the world. There is an Olympic sized ice rink, a Souk, a Fashion Avenue, a Village, an indoor waterfall and an expansive outdoor area with Venetian style bridges spanning moats of water and dancing fountains that surpass the Bellagio’s dancing fountains in Las Vegas.

Cafe at Dubai Mall
Car Expo at Dubai Mall
Arab men, wearing white throbes and keffiyehs literally float across the marble floors of the mall. Amusingly, some push baby strollers and all wear designer watches and have a Mont Blanc pen tucked in the pocket of their white throbe. They are elegant, extremely handsome and presumably very wealthy.
10:00 P.M. Thursday night - Dubai Mall
10:30 P.M. Thursday night - Dubai Mall
The women glide along in their black abayas clutching designer hand bags and wearing expensive watches  and shoes that are barely visible below the drapings of their abayas. There are plenty of Western clad visitors as well and the mall is packed on this Thursday night.  The promenade between the store fronts is unusually wide and there are groupings of leather couches every few hundred feet.  Arab women lounge in these rest areas, gossiping and watching their children to play.  Men sit with other men at the sidewalk cafes, sipping coffee. Although we see Arab couples and families walking together, it is uncommon to see mixed gender groups gathered together.
Women shopping in Dubai Mall 
John and I are fascinated by it all and wander the mall for several hours until hunger motivates us to look for a restaurant.  We see the glittering of lights and illuminated fountains outside and exit the mall onto a lakeside promenade.
Dubai Mall, lakeside at night
John outside the Dubai Mall
 A Venetian style bridge arches over an artificial lake and fountains sparkle. Hundreds of people mill along the promenade and patio and others work their way slowly up and over the crowded bridge. Security guards keep the masses on the bridge moving and when I slow to take a photo at the top of the bridge, a guard chides me and motions me to keep going.  Once over the bridge, I am able to find a place to pause and gaze at the illuminated night time skyline of futuristic Dubai.

Burj Khalifa - The worlds tallest building
Skyline at night - Dubai

Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building looms above, a glittering silhouette. Outdoor cafes and restaurants line this side of the promenade, every table seemingly occupied. I am intimidated by such opulence but leave John at the railing and head through the far arcade to find a restaurant. Luck prevails and a table has just cleared at the restaurant closest to the bridge. I follow the hostess to a small table, in from the railing, but with an unobstructed view of the lake.  John is watching for me and I catch his eye and motion for him to go around and enter the patio from the inside of the restaurant.  Minutes later, he is seated beside me and another extravagant fountain show begins.  Alcohol is only available at tourist hotels or licensed night clubs so we order a tall bottle of sparking water. Just as in the U.S.A. there are expensive entrees on the menu but John orders chicken penne pasta and I order a large goat cheese salad and our bill is a very reasonable $55 including a tip.
Flaming fountains by night
Dancing fountains by night
 Every 30 minutes, a different “water” show begins. John is mesmerized by the illuminated dancing fountains, arching and spiraling, Las Vegas style in the center of the lake. The fountains subside and a series of holographic images float eerily above the water on an invisible screen, all choreographed with music.  The holographic images fade and fountains of flaming fireballs burst out of the water. It is a joy to watch John’s amazement and admittedly, it is a stunning water show, but if it were not for the towering skyscrapers looming above, I might just as well be in Las Vegas.
11:30 P.M. on Thursday at the Dubai Mall
11:30 P.M. on Thursday at the Dubai Mall
It is close to midnight when we try to find our way back to the metro and we take what we think is a shortcut but walk the wrong way around the perimeter of the mall. We have walked miles today and my feet hurt and my body aches and I want desperately to be back at our hotel. We back track, retracing our path through the mall, and are amazed to see all of the shops are still open and the mall still bustling. We pass back through the glass habitrail tubes spanning the boulevards below, along endless moving walk ways and finally down into the belly of the metro. At 12:00 P.M. there is standing room only on the train, we successfully transfer from the red line to the green line and have only 6 or 8 blocks to walk to our hotel. Many blocks later we discover we have walked the wrong direction, turn disheartenedly around and plod mechanically back in to our guest house hotel. I am utterly exhausted, set John’s phone alarm for 10:00 A.M. and slide gratefully between the sheets.