Dubai 2012: Play day

(This is the ninth post in a series detailing my work trip to Dubai, United Arab Emirates.)

Today we had an impromptu day off. It turned out to be a day earlier than scheduled because there are some things at the restaurant that haven’t been completed yet which throws a wrench in our plans. We still don’t have gas in the restaurant yet, which is very important in order to cook.

So, we had an off day a day earlier than planned and we spent it exploring Dubai and Sharjah, which is another of the seven Emirates making up the United Arab Emirates. First, we went to the Jumeira Park on the Persian Gulf.

At the beach, there were signs posted stating no cameras were allowed, but the majority of the people didn’t care about the signs as they were using their cameras, so I joined in and used my camera anyway. Took pictures of the beach, the sand and Megan, Heather and Reka (Cyprus) who went to the beach with me. The others went off and did their own thing. I wasn’t about to go all the way to the park and not go to the beach. Now I can say I’ve been in the Persian Gulf! And, I got a little bit of sunburn too. In NOVEMBER, at that! There’s no way I can get sunburn in Michigan this late in the year!

Also while we were at the beach, we could see off in the distance the Burj Al Arab, the 7-star hotel I mentioned in a previous post, as well as some of the buildings on the Palm Jumeirah, the man-made islands in the shape of a palm tree. On those islands, was Atlantis resort, which is huge. In addition to the Palm Jumeirah, we were able to see the World Islands, even though from the beach they just looked like a body of land. It would have been awesome to get to see them from the air though (or at least the Burj Khalifa!!!)

After the beach our driver took us to Sharjah where we went to a souq (sūq, or souk), a local market with local textiles, artifacts, souvenirs, and GOLD. Lots of gold.

Initially, the Central Souq was closed, so we went to a local Iranian buffet restaurant for some lunch. Then we returned to the souq when it re-opened, and boy was it a lot of fun. Here I had my first foray at bartering with the locals. Each shop had a bunch of random things from gold trinkets, to wood trinkets, cashmere and silk textiles, electronics, watches, colognes and perfumes, and souvenirs.

[From Left: Alin Dumitru (Cyprus), Tommy Knight (Lansing, Mich.), Me, Megan Marquette (Appleton, Wisc.), Shane Thomas (Tampa, Fla.) and John McDonald (Chicago, Ill.)

I picked up seven souvenirs for 90 Dirham ($25.71 USD). I’m not exactly sure what I’m going to do with them when I get home. I may keep them, or I may send them off to family and friends. I’m not quite sure yet.

After we went to the Central Souq in Sharjah, we went to the Naif Souq in Dubai. This place was unbelievable. There were easily at least 200 little shops within the market, each with varying products, much like the Central Souq but without as much gold items. The only thing I managed to buy here was a 16 GB SD card for my camera, because us photographers can never have enough SD cards, right?

I was pleased with how little money I spent considering how many things I got. I had bartered with a few shopkeepers at both places on new lenses for my camera as well as some iPads, however not only did I not have the money to buy either item (I was just bartering for the sake of bartering), but I wasn’t going to buy them anyway. Buying electronics on the market in foreign countries is always a crapshoot, because if something goes wrong with the product I won’t be able to return it for a refund or an exchange. I couldn’t justify spending $500+ USD on something that I wasn’t completely sure it worked, was functional, and LEGAL. But alas, it was awesome getting to experience the local markets. Although I didn’t come home with any gold (yet), as mentioned before I’m still pleased with the things I did scoop up.

After the souqs, we found “The Irish Village,” which is a collection of Irish-themed restaurants and pubs. It was the highlight of the day, for sure, simply because they had great food, and most importantly, BOOZE!

They also had an Irish Village souvenir shop, where I picked up a trio of shot glasses, some post cards and a lanyard for 47 Dirham ($13.43 USD). Pretty good purchase if you asked me.

All in all it was a very fun, exciting, and awesome day off. Although bartering with the locals in the market was fun, the best part was definitely the Irish Village, simply because there was relatively cheap beer and VERY cheap souvenirs. I have a list of a few things I still want to get in the way of souvenirs before I leave here, but I have plenty of time to so do.

Tomorrow we have to go back to work, but even though I had a blast today exploring the city, I’m ready to get the restaurant up and running and start having the staff cook on their own. They’re progressing really well so far and they haven’t even gotten to touch food yet. This staff is going to be awesome.

Until next time …


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