I arrived in Dubai around midday, and was met at the airport by my Uncle, Shane.
As soon as we stepped outside the air conditioned terminal, the heat hit me. 40+ degrees, just like India. Except this time, because it was Ramadan, there would be no drinking water (or eating) in public.
Luckily though, I had the comfort of my auntie (Jen) and Shane’s air conditioned apartment for 5 days.
As we drove towards the apartment in Dubai Marina, I couldn’t stop looking at all the amazing skyscrapers around me.
When we got to the apartment, I had a bath (first BATH since August), and then the plan was to go to the gym/pool and shops around the marina to get to know the area a bit. But I didn’t make it that far. After the bath, I fell asleep for two hours, didn’t even manage to get my legs on the bed!
I woke up just before dinner, at this point I realised Shane was a pretty good cook. We had salmon and salad while sitting on the balcony overlooking the Dubai Marina.
Day 2 started with a bike ride down to the beach with Shane. It was incredibly hot, so I only lasted 20 minutes before riding back to the apartment.
The rest of the day was for me to try and get some answers on my visa situation for the UK. I wanted to apply for the UK Working Holiday Visa while traveling within Europe. I paid £20 for a phone call to a visa expert working for UK immigration, and they were useless!! They couldn’t answer my question and kept directing me to the wrong areas of the website. What a waste of time and money.
Next I called a third party visa management company, who told me they didn’t know of anyone who had managed to get the visa without returning to their home country – still not a definite answer either way. As a last ditch effort I paid £5 for an email response from UK immigration. Well that was another waste of money. They literally responded telling me all they can do is direct me to relevant areas of the website – but these areas didn’t have the info I needed! For anyone thinking of applying for this visa from outside their home country, beware of this bullshit.
I finished the day thinking that all hope was lost, and that I’d go for an Irish WH visa instead, which I can apply for from London as a tourist.
That night we went out for an Iftar dinner – the dinner banquet to break the fast. It was a fantastic buffet dinner with Jen, Shane and Jens colleague Steve from Belgium.
On Friday (the first day of the weekend in the UAE), Jen, Shane and I went for a drive into the desert. We visited some man made desert oases, found a luxury desert resort for lunch and also they showed me a bicycle track network which winds through the desert for something like 160km’s. Just seeing the contrast of this desert compared to the city of Dubai was amazing.
The next day (Saturday) we drove down to Abu Dhabi to see the Sheik Zayed Mosque. It was a very impressive building, built by the descendants of the Taj Mahal workers. We did a tour of the mosque and then went for a drink at a nearby hotel (most luxury hotel restaurants seemed to operate throughout the days during Ramadan). I was hoping that Zoe, who I met in Nepal on the Mt. Everest Base Camp Trek would be in Abu Dhabi and we could meet up, but we missed each other by only a few hours.
On Sunday, the first day of the Emirates working week, I took the metro to the Dubai Mall, the biggest shopping mall in the world. Attached to the Dubai Mall is the Burj Khalifa, the biggest man made structure in the world at a massive 828m – it is amazing! I paid 350AED for a ticket that gave me access to levels 148, 125 & 124.
I was also lucky that it was a pretty clear day, and had spectacular views of Dubai and beyond. I hung around in the mall for most of the day. The food court was open for non-muslims, and even just walking around the mall was really interesting. Outside was still a searing hot 40 degrees, but I did duck out briefly to get some photos of the Burj Khalifa.
That night we were joined for dinner by one of Jens friends Michael, who was also working an expat role in the UAE and was moving soon to Saudi Arabia, a very interesting prospect.
The following day, was my last in Dubai, with an early morning flight to Athens the next day. Shane and I went down to the Burj Al Ahrab, then to the Dubai old town, which was unbelievably different to the Dubai Marina area – it actually looked like a normal city for a change.
We went to the historical museum, which told the story of an old pearl diving/desert dwelling nomadic community transforming into the current-day Emirates, fueled by the discovery of oil.
We headed back to the apartment and had our final dinner together, before saying goodbye. I woke up at 3am and caught a local uber-style ride to the airport to catch my plane to Athens (connecting in Istanbul).