Monday, 11 August 2008

Here I am

Well, after days of packing and cleaning the house and traumatic goodbyes (mainly to Tombi the cat and my beautiful car) I finally made it onto the plane to Dubai.

Unfortunately I only got as far as Frankfurt and the connecting flight was cancelled. I'm afraid I cannot recommend Frankfurt airport as a suitable place to kill 12 hours. I was so bored with wandering around I checked in as soon as I could to get to see what was on airside in Terminal 2 - answer, nothing. You couldn't spend a cent!

Anyway, I finally arrived in Dubai 24 hours later at daybreak, after a sleepless flight. My neighbour insisted on poking me in the ribs continuously throughout the flight. I was quite surprised that even though it was quite overcast when we arrived, it was still 32 degrees and very humid - at 6am.

The heat is different to anything that I have experienced before. I've been in 42 degree dry heat before but the heat here is 40 deg + and very humid. Apparently this is only for a couple of months in the summer and then it becomes more bearable. However if you work inside as I do, there is no need to worry. Everything is air conditioned, sometimes to the opposite extreme where you actually feel cold. As you'd expect for a town that is essentially in the middle of a desert, it's extremely dusty.

I'd researched the area extensively over the web and had a fairly good idea of what to expect, however the size of the place surprised me. The distances are so much larger than I'd imagined. Possibly because I've become to small city blocks in the UK. You would certainly need a car to get around.

The offices are quite far away from the city, so the company provides busses to bus the staff in and out. It's so strange to see the place empty at 5:55 every evening, I dread to think what happens if there are deadline overruns. Perhaps that never happens here.

Over the weekend (Friday / Saturday) I went exploring in Dubai, Sharjar, Ajman and Umm al- Qaiwain. Taxi's are relatively cheap (compared to the UK) and I managed to hire a cab for about 2 hours for the same price as a cab ride back home from town in Edinburgh. The further away you go from Dubai, the more traditional and Arabic things become. In Um al-Qaiwain there are virtually no buildings over three storys.

The Burj Dubai, currently the worlds tallest building, in downtown Dubai looks a lot smaller than I imagined, mainly because it is surrounded by so many mega towers. Don't get me wrong, it's massive, but extremely slender and probably too high to fully appreciate from ground level.

The Burj al Arab is the worlds only 7 star hotel and was designed by the company that I work for. I've seen the photograph on hundreds of pieces of marketing material over the years and I finallt saw it in person. It will be a few years yet before I get to spend a night there, but it certainly is impressive from the exterior.

I had a couple of beers at the poolside of the Jumeirah Beach Hotel and it was so hot and humid that I was sweating liquid faster than I could drink. I must remember to take something to swim in next time I visit.

My temporary hotel accomodation is in Sharjah which is a dry emirate, which means that they don't sell any alcohol, hence the need to visit Dubai to quench thirst occasionally. It's more much conservative than Dubai, but far more relaxed than Saudi Arabia. Because of the conservative nature it doesn't attract as much tourism and is a lot cheaper, which in turn means that many people who are priced out of Dubai, live in Sharjah and commute to Dubai daily. The Sharjah / Dubai traffic is notorious.
In the local press there is a lot of promotion for massive new tower developments in the neighbouring emirate of Ajman. I though I't take a look as it's forecast to become the next boom town after Dubai. Although many of the towe blocks have completely sold out there is nothing actually built yet. I drove past and it's just plain desert.
I need to find somewhere to stay soon. By a process of elimination, I'd decided that I'll probably try and rent somewhere in Dubai. I's much more expensive, but the more relaxed lifestyle will probably suit me better. Visiting friends and family expecting to be accomodated in the guest suite may be disappointed, I think I'll be aiming for something small initially. Once I'm more settled, I can decide if buying is a good investment.
I'll keep you posted.

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