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 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|
|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|
|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|
|Burg Al Arab|
|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|
|Women wearing abayas and saris in the Arabian Gulf|
|Sunbathing on Jumeirah Public Beach - Dubai|
|Man with a dead crab on his head!|
|Leaving the skyline of Dubai|
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|
|Room door opening over the roof and racetrack below|
|Abstract transparencies, Yas Viceroy Hotel, Abu Dhabi|
|John swimming in the Yas Viceroy roof top pool|
|John, Yas Viceroy roof top pool|
|Yas Viceroy Rooftop Arabian Restaurant|
|Inhaling mint and Grape shisha|
|Exhaling mint and grape shisha|