Ok so I haven’t blogged since January thanks to being so busy at work and being a little bit crap. But had I have blogged they were likely to be work related rants which would have a) worried my mother and b) got me the sack (thou shalt not post anything to do with Al-shitty online and have signed a contract agreeing to that).
But as I have recently ticked ‘ride a camel’ off the expat bucket list I had to tell you all about it.
Two years ago I had an amazing 10 days in Italy to be bridesmaid to a very special friend. When she text to say they were spending their anniversary in Dubai I was throwing my credit card at flights and hotel quicker than I do when Chloe have a handbag sale. Well a bridesmaid’s duties never end right?
So I took the Thursday off work and jumped on the FlyDubai 7pm flight out of Kuwait on the Wednesday night. FlyDubai make Easyjet to Benidorm look classy. I know Arabs write in squiggles but how hard is it to match the number on your boarding pass to the number above the fricking seat? No wonder the crew always look miserable as boarding is like herding cats. Wheels up and two fizzy wines ordered and I had an hour to read my book.
Immigration at Dubai international can be horrendous. Well the morons from the FlyDubai flight are competing with AirIndia’s low budget equivalent after all. Usually a few huffs and waving my British passport around gets me queue jumped but this time around the normally slow Arab staff were moving at a glacial pace whilst trying to train the newbies. It took an hour and I was 4th in line. I’d love to see the photo they took of me for my immigration records – not my happy face I can assure you. After a quick detour to duty free for my Sauvignon and champagne fix and I saw the cab line. Leading all the way past arrivals and up to departures. Thankfully cabs in Dubai are highly efficient and what looked like hell lasted about 10 minutes. At the front of the queue the man in charge pointed at a black limo and said I should go in that and not a cab. ‘Will they charge me the same fair?’ I asked. When the response was a chuckle and a no I walked towards the standard cab and told them to leave the limo to the tourists.
I am the sort of person that finds the nutter wherever I go. I attract them. The cab driver was a prime example. After explaining where I was from he decides a girl from Kuwait shouldn’t be kept from drinking and proceeds to drive like Jenson Button down Sheikh Zayed road. I was trying to text my friends to let them know I’d arrived but twice my phone went flying out of my hands as we swerved in and out of traffic at 140km an hour. Then he decides I’m in a different hotel to the one I said I’m in which starts a heated discussion followed by him shouting ‘fuck’ and ‘shit’ at the roadworks around the Marina. He then asks if I prefer Pele or Maradona as the World Cup starts soon. It was a relief to get to the hotel and as I threw 100 dirhams at him he was swearing at the underground parking system.
The hotel was one I’d used before so they upgraded me to a balcony room. I threw my bag on the bed and went straight to the 35th floor outdoor terrace where my friends, and more importantly my prosecco, were waiting.
Thanks to a bottle of prosecco and half a bottle of duty free Sauvignon (in bed, at 2am, watching a film) Thursday morning was quite sedate! Late breakfast at IHOP and a few lengths of the pool before getting changed for the Desert Safari. I was super excited by this and had a glass of wine to celebrate. Something which I nearly saw again an hour later.
We set off in our 4×4 and after an hour pulled in to an area surrounded by a few shack-like ‘supermarkets’ and the desert.
The road literally ran out!
It was also the last toilet stop and a way of the locals selling crap to tourists by dressing them up! Not sure I needed to spend 50 dirhams on a ‘made in China’ purple head scarf but I did. It’s now a table cloth on my coffee table.
The stop was also required to let the pressure down on the tyres of our 4×4 so once this was done we were off to play in the sandpit. By ‘play’ I mean Mohammed, who was obviously trained by the cab driver the night before, threw us up and down the sand dunes. Sharp turns, sheer drops to the side, steep climbs and plunging drops, over and over again. My breakfast, my wine and the recently purchased diet coke were dangerously close to pebble-dashing the windscreen. Then fate intervened and a back tyre came off! The half an hour sat in the sand whilst Mohammed dug out the car and fixed it really helped. Getting back in the car took a lot of persuasion at this point. He promised to take it easy but by that point the slightest bump was causing a wave of nausea through all passengers. Much to Mohammed’s delight. When we finally came to a fence and crossed in to the camel farm no one could get excited by the site of wild deer and camels. We wanted off the ride. As we pulled up to camp the relief was immense. Getting out on shaky legs we took in our surroundings. In the middle of nowhere was a Disney-looking take on an Arabian campsite. Complete with Pringles stand and a bar that stocked Grey Goose. The Corona really helped settle my stomach.
We then had henna tattoos, ate pakora and rode a camel. We didn’t ride him very far but after 15 months of only seeing them from a distance I finally got to play with one. And he was quite friendly despite the master whacking him on the nose to get him to move.
There was then belly dancing and music before Mohammed came to collect us. His joke about taking the same route home wasn’t appreciated. Neither was his ‘watch out for the snakes’ comment which sent me flying across the sand and throwing myself head first in to the car!
Tired and happy we returned to the hotel.
Friday could only be spent one way. Dubai brunch. Friday brunches are an institution in Dubai and involve 4 hours of stuffing your face with food and drink for a set price. I had been given a tip on Table No9 at the Creek and as I’d never been that side before I’d booked us in (thanks Alex, I owe you a beer).
It’s one of the more expensive brunches I’ve seen but well worth it if you’re a foody. For a starter you choose a breakfast item, for main a lunch item and for dessert is a tiered stand of cakes, scones and cheeses. I chose English muffins topped with crab, poached eggs and hollandaise followed by lamb and minted potatoes. And I was stuffed! The food was rich, tasty and presented perfectly. It was a shame the wait was so long between courses and the table next to us had a feral child but I’d definitely go again!
Unfortunately I’d gone to Dubai with a cold and after all the excitement, excess and air conditioning I felt rotten by Friday afternoon. I could only manage one drink at Barasti (and that’s unheard of as I love Barasti) before my bed was calling. So our last night ended up being a quick bite to eat on The Walk and in bed by 10pm. But, it was the best weekend I’ve had since I’ve been out here and felt so blessed to share it with two very special people.