A day in the desert

An unexpected day in Al Ain. 25 years ago, Anne and I packed our bags, and our children, and headed for an adventure in the tropics. Perhaps this was the start for a couple on the run? I’d taken a job in Papua New Guinea, and it was there, in Lae, where we met Geraldine. She was lecturing at UniTech, the same university where Anne had secured a job, and we became friends.

Dubai Skyline
Dubai Skyline

Much has changed in the 25 years since we last saw Geraldine.  We are all older, greyer, and hopefully wiser. Geraldine is living and teaching at the University in Al Ain, 120km south east into the desert from Dubai, and on the border with Oman. In the tourist literature, Al Ain is called the Garden City, because of its greenery, but to the locals, its referred to as Sand Pit City. A stopover in Dubai was not in our original plans, but the devastating earthquakes in Nepal caused us to amend our itinerary, and as a consequence, we spent 4 extremely hot days exploring some of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Sheikh Zayed's Palace Museum, Al Ain
Sheikh Zayed’s Palace Museum

Anne had reconnected with Geraldine through Facebook a few years ago, and on realising our Continue reading

Embracing Dubai

We flew from Lhasa, Tibet, to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, in one day, so the least we could expect was a dose of culture shock.  We went from one of the least commercialised and underdeveloped countries in the world to one where retail malls are touted as major tourist attractions and development includes building fake islands.in the shape of a palm.  We left Tibet not being able to breathe due to the high attitude and became breathless in Dubai due to the vile heat which a 44 degree temperature produces.

P1110044 (2)We were excited to arrive in the Middle East and initially were drawn to the one of the older areas of Dubai, the Creek which has served as a minor port for vessels trading from India and East Africa.


P1110063 (2)We took a lazy abra ride along the Creek, sweltered as we wandered through the fabric souk and gulped down icy cold lemon and mint drinks when we lunched in the Bastakia area.

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Love the dancer behind me

We resisted the call of the malls as we are not shoppers but somehow we succumbed to the tantalising air-conditioning in Dubai Mall (the world’s largest shopping mall based on total area) and as we sank gratefully into the plush cushions of the Times of Arabia restaurant in the Souk area of the mall, we embraced Dubai.

This is a city with a population of 2 million but only 10-15% are local Emiratis.  The rest of the population are expatriates, chiefly Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshis, Filipinos and Somalis. About 6 million international visitors arrive each year.  I get a sense that Dubai expects all expatriates and visitors to spend significant time shopping and staying in ultra-expensive hotels.

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One of two indoor waterfalls with fake divers

Development is around every corner and huge air-conditioned undercover areas where you can shop, snow ski, Continue reading