I had some odd and interesting moments my last two days in Dubai.
1. First, just as an update to a previous post, I found a better beach (see video below).
Apparently the beach I ended up at before is nicknamed “Russian Beach” because it used to be popular with Europeans and Russians, in particular. In any case, I went to Jumeirah Beach which is next to the Burj Al Arab hotel (below) that looks like a sail
and the Jumeirah Beach Hotel (below) that looks like a wave.
2. As I made my final long hot walk from the Kazakhstan embassy to the metro station, a car pulled up and the driver motioned to me. I thought he was a taxi driver who spied an opportunity. The longer you spend under the desert sun, the more willing you are to pay whatever it takes to get to your final destination as quickly and coolly as possible. I tried to motion that I wasn’t interested, but he seemed insistent.
Then I thought maybe he needed directions. I had been stopped earlier by an Italian businessman looking for the way to the airport. Everything about him smacked of money, so it wasn’t a surprise to find out he worked for Armani. Yes, the Armani. I couldn’t help him, but nevertheless he said I have a friend in Milan the next time I happen to be in Italy.
This driver, though, didn’t need directions. He looked to be in his late twenties and dressed from head to toe in traditional Arab garb. “Sit down,” he insisted. Perhaps against my better judgment, I sat down.
“Where are you going?” he asked.
“The metro station,” I told him, which was less than five minutes away by car.
“Ok. Let’s go,” he said eagerly.
There was no meter in the car, so I knew he wasn’t an official taxi driver. His English wasn’t very clear, but he was eager to talk.
“I work in this area…in mosque. See…my mosque over there,” he pointed and smiled. Apparently he liked his job. “I live here twenty years.”
Naturally, the next question I asked was “Where are you from?”
“I from Syria,” he replied.
My heart sank.
Oh, God. I thought. I hope US airstrikes didn’t blow up his family’s village, or ever worse, his family. I knew the friendly atmosphere in the car might dissipate at my answer to the inevitable next question: “Where are you from?”
For a moment I honestly considered saying “Kazakhstan,” but the truth won the day and I responded, “The USA.”
“It’s very good. Welcome,” he smiled.
I breathed an internal sigh of relief but I was nonetheless thankful my ride lasted only a minute longer. I offered to pay him, but he refused.
“No, no,” he said. “It’s helping.”
3. For my last evening in Dubai, I decided to go out on the Palm Jumeirah (see below), a manmade archipelago shaped like a palm.
The receptionist recommended the beach at the Atlantis Hotel, which is on the top of the large arc around the palm. However, the taxi driver I found was less than excited about taking me there.
“I think it’s a bad traffic now,” he said nervously. After a few seconds’ pause, he agreed. “Okay. I take you there.”
I had forgotten it was rush hour, but the traffic didn’t seem terrible. I was in no hurry anyway. Besides, I thought, he’s on the meter. The longer it takes, the more he gets. I don’t see why he’s so concerned.
As we crossed the bridge onto the Palm Jumeirah, it became clear why he was so concerned. Sure, the way in wasn’t bad, but the lanes heading back out were a parking lot. The outgoing cars inched along.
“To get out–maybe two, three hours,” he said.
And if he couldn’t get a passenger to drive off the Palm, he’d be sitting a couple of unpaid hours in traffic with me to thank. I was grateful he took the risk for me but I still felt bad as he left me at the Atlantis and pulled away. I prayed for God to give him a client for the drive back to the mainland.
I guess I’ll never know if God answered that prayer.
The Atlantis Hotel, it turned out, was pure opulence and, unfortunately for me, exclusive. A guard helpfully but firmly told me that I need to go to the beach next door.
I was mentally preparing myself for the idea of walking back to the mainland because I had neither the desire nor the finances to sit in a taxi in bumper to bumper traffic for two to three hours. You can imagine how happy I was to find out that there is a monorail (see daytime photo below) that runs from the mainland to none other than the Atlantis Hotel. I couldn’t have ended up on a more convenient (or empty) beach.
I’m thankful for my trip, but I’m more thankful to be back home safe and sound now.