Part IV: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and the Strangeness of it All

When I was in Egypt, I felt calm, despite being manic with the amount of coffee I’d consumed. It was a healing place for me, no expectations upon arriving, but the none I had were exceeded beyond belief. Dubai was like this, in the most wonderful sense.

While in Cairo, I attended the World Congress of the World Federation of Mental Health. I’ll post about the Congress, the amazing delegates I met, the folks I interviewed, and who I worked for at the Congress, after Dubai.

After arriving in Egypt, I knew the trip would go fast, and I would be left with three, homeless, guide-less days in Cairo to attend to, at the end of the Congress. Some Egyptians recommended Luxor, some Alexandria, but I knew what I was doing even before the plane set down in Turkey: I was going to Dubai.

For one, even my mom said Dubai was safe, and that’s saying something. Though she may not always feel this way, I do, often times, take my safety into account. Secondly, a friend had recently had a layover in Dubai and said the experience was incredible. I also found out, through Facebook, my cousin is teaching English in Dubai. I immediately contacted him, and we made plans. However, it was my new friend made at the Congress who completely sold me on the trip, and, through him, I began booking flights and hotel, a day before I would leave.

Leaving Egypt was sad, I enjoyed my stay so thoroughly and absolutely, that when I do return, it will be to show someone I care about how amazing the city of Cairo is, and how hospitable the Egyptian people are. In the airport, I was cozying into a book on my kindle when I was interrupted by an energetic, Australian voice, ” Excuse me! You’re the PR girl from the Congress, aren’t you?” And thus began my exchange with David, who lives and works in the Australian health care system, and who caused me to be late for my plane to Qatar.

We were engrossed in our conversation, sitting down in the ‘Olde English Pub’ within the Cairo airport. Finally, we look up, and he says, “Blimey, you’d be boarding soon, won’t you?” And I run, to the top of the escalator, where ten men in white uniforms are screaming my name. It was like a dream, only, this time it was real- I was the last passenger, holding up the whole bus, on the way to Qatar. They grabbed my stuff, hauled me by the arms across the airport to the gate, where I was greeted by ten MORE men in uniform, saying, “You’re Amanda?! Amanda, please, come this way!”

I will never forget it.

Landing in Abu Dhabi, my friend’s Audi convertible is waiting for me at the airport. We cruise to Dubai, about 45 minutes away, and I am blown away by the picturesque view of cosmopolitan living out my window. Arriving at the hotel, we say our good nights, promising to connect in the afternoon, after he’s relieved from work. I slept like a log, or a baby, whichever you prefer. I conked out so hard, I didn’t wake up until 2pm. I rose, went to the restaurant within the hotel for, you guessed it, Turkish coffee and breakfast, listened to Celine Dion’s greatest hits, the music of the morning, and set off for the rooftop pool.

My cousin, Matthew, later informed me that every place in Dubai has a rooftop pool, but this was still a first for me. I was amazed, blown away. I couldn’t stop staring at the desert in the distance, the looming buildings and tall structures all around my tiny self. It felt so infinite. Much like the pyramids, but in a modern sense, witnessing that which man is capable of doing with an idea and his hands.

After getting quite lost, my cousin picked me up. We ventured off the Mall of the Emirates, where we witnessed an indoor ski slope, and had two hanging sticks of beef for dinner.

It was perfect.

After getting our car lost underneath the world’s second largest mall, and vowing to never do it again, we proceeded to do it again, this time, underneath the Dubai Mall, which is the world’s largest mall. At least we snapped this cool aquarium picture before losing his white sedan, amidst a sea of white sedans:

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world’s largest aquarium, in the mall

Seeing the Burj Khalifa, the World’s Tallest Building, was like seeing the Eiffel Tower, or anything you’ve read about, seen in movies and television, but had never actually witnessed before. It was majestic. The fountain show outside the Dubai Mall is the highlight of my trip to Dubai; my cousin and I couldn’t stop laughing, eating our London Dairy ice cream and watching the bursts of water and color shooting towards the Burj Khalifa. We needed a drink after this show, but there are no bars in Dubai, so we went home.

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Burj Khalifa at night

The next day, I had breakfast in my hotel, got my nails done by a young Syrian woman listening to Katy Perry, and lounged at the rooftop pool, before my friend picked me up, and we began the second part of my tour. First, we went to the beach, and met a young Tunisian actress, who was studying her lines in Arabic, and was cast in a television series. Then, we had some of the best food I have ever eaten in a beach-side Lebanese restaurant. Later, we enjoyed the Egyptian football game at an Egyptian restaurant, and played darts at the English pub near my hotel.

All in all, an excellent day.

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 Dubai at night

The United Arab Emirates also holds Abu Dhabi, an older but still polished version of Dubai, where I spent my last day, resting and relaxing on the beach, before heading off to Qatar, Turkey and NYC; I hadn’t seen the city lights in a while so I was looking forward to it.

123_abu_dhabi_beachAbu Dhabi Beach

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