Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Would You Like to Buy a Camel?

Yes, that's what I said: Would you like to by a camel?

Although much of the "old life" of the UAE seems to have been swallowed up in the past 50 years of modernization, there are still some things that never change (much). A short drive (relatively speaking, since it took me nearly 24 hours to get there by plane) outside Abu Dhabi, there is a camel market. Yup, they sell and trade camels. I guess it makes sense, but still - who'd a thunk it.

Anyhow, it's a big open field surrounded on all sides with sellers of all sorts, sizes, ages, and styles of camels. I'm not quite sure who buys them - or why (except for those guys who offer rides to people on safari), but hey - camels: they're tradition. The market is right near the border with Oman, so I guess it's actually an international camel market (not to mention the fact that - like everything else in the UAE - the people doing the selling weren't actually from the UAE). I met a camel sellers - presumably working for the camel owners - from Pakistan, Iran, and Egypt.

Ah the memories. If only I could have fit one in my carry-on bag, I'd have brought one back. I mean really - who doesn't want a camel?

Desert Safari - Rollercoaster

I went on a safari back in January in Africa. Amazing indeed... And when Rachel suggested the same - a "Desert Safari" - as an activity not to miss in Dubai... once again: I couldn't say no. Honestly though, when they (the sales people) started describing it with words like "dune bashing" and "roller-coaster" I really didn't "get" it.

The afternoon/evening started with a drive through - and over - the desert. They intentionally found the rougher terrain and steeper hills... to better prove (test?) the theory that Chevy Tahoes will not roll over (regardless of what conventional wisdom or expectations of gravity might otherwise dictate).

We stopped for some amazing views of the desert and ended with camel rides, a belly dancer (always a good thing) and dinner (beduin style). A very cool day-trip indeed, and highly recommended, even if the only animals I saw were the camels (which makes me wonder how they get away with calling it a "safari").

Oh well - amazing nonetheless. Plus, I got 2 tattoos for free as part of the package deal (alas, they'll wash of in a week). Dang (or not).

Hot and Cold in Dubai

Dubai may lack in "culture" these days - as the whole "we're still trying to figure out what to do with this much money" thing works itself out. But, in the mean time - there's ample "crazy" things to do. The Atlantis Hotel (just completed out on Jumeirah Island) has an amazing (and free - thank you) indoor aquarium.

And although it's hot in Dubai (80f in December, and 110f in August) and very humid all year round (didn't expect that did you).... don't let any of that stop the winter fun. They built an indoor ski slope and we just couldn't say "no."

So, although I didn't get in any skiing this year in the US (despite my recent trip to snowy UT and my recent non-trip to snowy Idaho)) - I did have a wonderful afternoon hitting the slopes in Dubai. All real snow, too! Fresh snow everyday... It's 31 degrees during the day and 5 degrees at night.

Look closely at both images and you'll see how..
1) crazy big the indoor aquarium is
2) what an amazing assortment of fish they have
3) the types of lifts (yes, plural) the slopes have
4) the style of AC units they've installed
- not something you see everyday on the "mountain"

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Tall, Mall or Palm...

Tall buildings, and lots of them. That's what Dubai has. Jen and I took a bus tour around the city (it took all day and we still didn't see everything) and the end result was "no matter where you look there is a tall building being built." But if you look out (instead of up) you'll likely see a mall. This is the only city bus tour I have taken (and I've taken a few around the world - I like them) that stopped at 5 different malls (as attractions in the city). We only got off the bus for one of the malls (thanks).

So, tall buildings and malls - eh? That... and man made islands in the shape of palm trees (the national symbol). Seriously, this may rank as "number one sign you have too much money" (building a plethora of different custom-shaped island leisure complexes). I'm just sayin'.

But hey - for a guy traveling the world in search of leisure - good for them (and good for me). It was really amazing to see
1) what the wealth has afforded them the opportunity to do,
2) how they hope to thereafter maintain that wealth based on today's imagination

The city is really hard to explain in words. It's kinda like "Vegas without the gambling and with a little more class." And it's kinda like someone decided to build another Disneyland (except much larger) and let people in before it was finished.

Since things are changing here so fast, and since they have so much planned (or in progress), I'm hoping to return in 10 years to see what's left of today and what tomorrow brings.