The long day of a travel agent in Dubai
6.00am Wheels touch down on the runway. View out of the window; beige buildings, beige surrounds, rising sun in a heat haze. Long business class flight from New Zealand but service provided worth every penny. Lounge at Auckland Airport, four hours to Melbourne to learn how to operate the technology screens and seats, 15 hours to Dubai to practice. Three movies later we arrive at this exciting desert destination.
7.30am Arrive ‘Traders Shangri La Hotel’, check-in, shower and cooked buffet breakfast.
9.00am On the coach for a city tour. Traffic in gridlock. We soon learn this is the norm. Hotel inspections take place at the ‘Metropolitan Deira’ and ‘Taj Palace’. Onto the Museum (it’s fantastic!), the spice market and the gold souk. Men in white robes with cell phones to their ears, women in black following. The heat is oppressive. We are starting to move slower and wish we’d brought more water.
1.00pm Coach to the beach area of Jumeirah Dubai by four-lane freeway filled with modern, sleek vehicles. We visit ‘Oasis Hotel on the beach’. The surrounding construction is enormous; new resort cities are being built, workmen are at it 24 hours a day to get it done.
2.00pm Very hungry. Persuade our tour guide that lunch would be a good idea before the next hotel inspection. It’s off to Emirates Mall and straight to the food halls. Lebanese chicken wrap with freshly squeezed orange juice.
3.00pm Snow skiing? Bizarre! It’s 40 degrees outside and we’re in the snow on a chairlift to the top of the “mountain”. Big thick jackets, helmets, skis, boots. Very weird feeling especially when water is in such short supply.
4.00pm Two more hotel inspections – they kept the best until last to keep us all on the tour! First, the luxurious and spread out ‘Madinat Jumeirah’; you get around by golf buggy or boat on the man-made lagoon. And then it’s the infamous, 7 star ‘Burj Al Arab’, crafted like a sail by NZ Company, Fletchers. Spectacular. Biggest clientele is Russian, followed by Chinese and Germans. We see the whole hotel – from the restaurant on the 21st floor to the helipad where Andre Agassi was filmed for an advertisement pretending it was a tennis court. Unless you’re a guest staying at the hotel, or having a meal, entrance to the lobby is US$20.00 per person. Limousines and Arabs in flowing robes are everywhere.
Back onto the bus to head to our hotel in the city. We are told it will take over an hour due to the gridlocked traffic. I have a little nap.
7.00pm Up to the room, quick change and back to the bar for cocktails. We’ve been awake for two days, with only a catnap here and there. Very fuzzy round the edges.
But still… my first experience of Dubai and only one word - WOW!