Midterm exams and impossibly slow internet service have deterred me from blogging recently. However, the midterms for both my courses have been written and marked, and the internet seems to be working reasonably well right now. It is amazing to me how much I rely on the internet to motivate me to do work. On Sunday evening, I did have some time to write a blog entry, but I could not connect to the internet. I could have at least written a draft on my computer, but I used the connection issues as an excuse not to do anything that night except go to bed early.
The frustrating part of the internet service here is the random nature of the problems. This past week, service in my apartment has been slow to the point of almost useless at times, but at other times it is fine. On Monday morning I reported to the front desk that I was unable to connect to the internet on Sunday night and it was too slow that morning to even access email. I was told that I would have to be present for them to fix the problem. I asked why, and the desk clerk said that the problem might be with my laptop. I assured him that the problem was not with my laptop because it connected to the internet at work without issue, and it was picking up the signal very well. I asked if he could have someone look into the problem while I was at work. I have no idea if anyone did anything, but everything was fine that evening. However yesterday, for about an hour, again I couldn’t connect properly – and then everything was fine again. It is all just frustrating.
Last weekend I didn’t have any clear plans. I thought I might go to the beach at some point, and I considered exploring Madinat Jumeirah and/or Al Karama – two areas of the city I had not visited yet. On Friday morning I did some school work, and then some shopping. I had a lazy, late lunch and didn’t get moving out of the hotel until almost 3:00 p.m. I decided to head to the Madinat Souk which I had seen from the Burj Al Arab. It is a cluster of buildings with canals running through. I thought it was possible to walk from the Mall of the Emirates metro station to Madinat.
I was hoping to get a chance to walk, and I hoped to get a good picture of the Burj Al Arab along the way. As I exited the metro station, I realized that I had forgotten to bring a hat or sunscreen. I was hoping it wouldn’t be too hot at that time of the afternoon, and it turned out that the heat was not a problem. There was a very strong wind blowing as I was heading towards the gulf. Also, for much of the walk, I was in the shade of buildings. The only real problem, that for a long stretch at the beginning of the walk, I was adjacent to a sand lot. The wind and the sand together, meant I had to keep my sunglasses on, just to keep the sand out of my eyes. The walk overall was relatively pleasant. There was a good sidewalk the entire way, which is often not the case in other parts of the city. There was only one really busy roundabout to navigate. My only complaint was that the route was alongside a very busy street, so the traffic noise was not particularly pleasant. However, I felt that I finally had found a path that allowed me to stretch my legs. And, I did get a nice view of the Burj Al Arab as I walked along.
It took about a half an hour for me to walk to the entrance of the Madinat Souk. I arrived at the same time as a busload of tourists were being dropped off. This was a nice place to walk around, but it definitely felt like it just existed for tourists to spend money. You could go shopping inside, or eat at one of the many cafes or restaurants. Most of the restaurants had indoor and patio seating, where the patio looked onto a canal. You could also take canal boat tours, but I didn’t really see the point of that. I was not really interested in spending any money, so looked for a way I could get outside to walk along the canals.
I found my way through the Starbucks, out to the patios that were adjacent to the outdoor amphitheatre. There were several people who were doing a sound-check and setting for a concert. I watched them for awhile, and then decided to find out more details about the concert. A woman who was setting out cushions went to get me a flyer. It was for a band called Golbang, and it appeared to be middle eastern in nature. I had no idea what the music would be like, but I thought it would have been an interesting experience. However, it was now after 5:00 p.m. and the concert started at 7:30. If I had found this a couple of hours earlier I would have gone back to the hotel to see if anyone else was interested in going to the performance. As it was, I didn’t really want to stay around for a couple of hours for a concert that was scheduled to be four hours long, by myself.
A woman that I met at the expat women’s breakfast had told me there was a theatre in Madinat. I had been on the internet earlier in the day, and I saw that there were three plays scheduled between now and the end of December: a production of “The Sound of Music”, “The Blues Brothers”, and “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus”. I was most interested in the last production, but it was only being staged for three days, and this was the middle of the three days. I went to the theatre box office to find out if there were any tickets available, and there was only one left – for the next night. It seemed like fate that there was only one ticket left, so I bought it.
Afterwards, I decided to walk around the canals and take some pictures, and then I headed back to the main road. I wanted to get a picture of the Burj Al Arab at the entrance. Unfortunately, there were lots of people blocking the view, and the light was going down. I didn’t get a great picture. I turned around and headed back to the Mall of the Emirates. I briefly noticed that I could see Ski Dubai in the distance (which is in the Mall of the Emirates) on the left side of the road, when I thought it should be on the right side. But I didn’t think too much of it because I thought it would straighten itself out as I got closer. I guess I was being absent-minded as I walked, because it was a half-an-hour later when I really looked around to see where I was. I knew that I should have been very close to the metro station by this time, and nothing looked right. I turned around, and saw the Burj Khalifa in the distance. It was directly behind me when I knew that if I had been walking in the correct direction, it should have been at a 90 degree angle to me. At that point I realized that I had obviously been walking along the wrong road.
I reoriented myself, and discovered that I had been walking on a road that was parallel to the beach. I was about a 10 or 15 minute walk away from the monorail station that takes you to the Palm Jumeirah. I had been walking beside a wall most of the time. At the beginning of the walk, I could peek through a gate, and I saw statues of some gold horses. There seemed to be quite a bit of security to get through the gate. I wasn’t really sure what was behind the wall. As I approached the monorail station, I saw several signs by the gates that I passed that said “Beach Palace”. I have since learned that I was walking outside the beach palaces of Sheikh Mohammed and his family.
I thought that if I could get to the monorail station, I would be close to the Nakheel metro station. By this time it was getting quite dark. The path was still very good to walk on, but there were no people anywhere to be seen, only cars whizzing by at 100 km/h. I turned off the road and headed towards what I thought was the monorail station. Before I could get inside, a taxi drove up and the driver asked if I wanted a ride. I said that I just wanted to get to the metro station. He said that he could drive me there for 20 dirhams. I said I wanted to walk, and he asked me how I planned to get across the road. Unfortunately he was right. There did not seem to be any reasonable way to cross the six lanes of fast moving traffic on the road. By this point I was just too tired to argue, so I got in the taxi. It was a white car, which has different rules for fares than the regular yellow taxis. I knew that it was going to cost me much more than a regular cab. However, I got inside and told him to take me to the Mall of the Emirates rather than the Nakheel metro station. The driver told me that it would cost 35 dirhams to go to the mall. I said “fine”, knowing that it would probably cost less than half that amount in a yellow taxi. I just wanted to sit down somewhere and get some dinner.
The good news is that the taxi did drop me off right at a main entrance to the mall. At other times, I had been dropped off in front of a hotel, and had to walk about five minutes to get to a main entrance. At this point I decided to buy a ticket to see a movie and then get something to eat. Since the last time it had taken a ridiculous amount of time in the line up to buy a ticket for a movie, I wanted to get there at least an hour before the movie was scheduled to start. This time however, I got through the line quickly and I ended up having lots of time to eat and wait before the movie started. I watched “Conviction” starring Hilary Swank. The movie was ok, and pretty well acted, but predictable.
On Saturday I planned to go to the beach in the morning. However, I had a lazy start to the day and didn’t leave the apartment until it was almost 11:00 a.m. I had decided that I would try to walk to the beach from the Business Bay metro station. I planned a route that would take me along side Safa park for about half of the distance. This turned out to be a good choice. The park has a padded running track surrounding it, which was shaded by trees on either side. The padding on the track was nice after I had spend quite a long time walking on concrete the day before. It was also a quiet walk, beside a road with very little traffic. Once I got about half way to the water, I had to walk along city streets again. However, the walk was very pleasant. Once again the sidewalks were good, and the traffic was not bad. Even without the protection of the park, much of the walk was shaded.
I reached the beach about an hour after I left the hotel. I decided to go into Jumeirah Park to the semi-private beach – it costs 5 dirhams to get into the park. Along the way I got a good look at the public beach beside the park. The beach looked very nice, and it was less crowed than the park beach. The only down side was that there was nowhere to change or wash after getting out of the water.
I grabbed something to drink in the park before I headed to change. The temperature of the air and the water was much more pleasant than what I had felt a month earlier. I walked into water and was met by some good size waves. It had been windy all weekend. (When I arrived home on Friday at 11:00 p.m., it was windier than I had ever felt during my time in Dubai.) There really wasn’t much to do in the water. I couldn’t really swim because the salt water bothered my eyes. I alternately floated and just stood in the surf. What I was most impressed by was the power of the undertow. While I was floating, I was moving out to sea, without doing anything. There was a floating barrier about 20 or 30 metres off shore that you could grab onto to stop yourself if necessary. After about 15 minutes I was bored. I couldn’t imagine just sitting on the beach. I am definitely not a beach person. I can’t image just sitting on a beach for an entire afternoon, let alone for an entire week’s holiday. I decided just to wash up and grab some lunch before heading back to the hotel.
With the walking to Madinat Jumeirah on Friday, the unexpected long walk beside the Beach Palaces, and the walk to and from the beach on Sunday, I finally got my wish to walk around in the city. It was very nice, but I was definitely a bit sore by Saturday afternoon. Overall, it was very nice to have spent so much time outside.