Kevin and I bought our tickets on December 30th to take a trip to Dubai to a) see Kevin’s good friend Ken for his birthday, and b) ..well, to go to Dubai.
It’s all felt very surreal up until this point, because I’ve only been outside of the country once and it was to the Dominican Republic – which, while it was amazing, we stayed at a resort and didn’t really get to explore.
I started feeling anxious around 4pm, realizing that truly, I am leaving the country, and I will be on a flight for 22 hours. I will be the farthest east that I’ve ever been in my life. Traveling.
The journey’s officially begun, with me getting my dreads pat down by a security guard at the airport.
Wish us luck!
01. from turbulence to Istanbul
Our flight was on time and it was completely luxurious (for economy class). The space between seats seemed a little bit wider, there were monitors in front of us, and dozens of selections of movies, games, and music to choose from – all complementary. They had remotes to use for the monitors, and one side was a remote, the other was a phone. What?!
I’m not very good at sleeping on planes but I did try and was kind of in and out of it for a while. We got served a meal about two hours in. It was a small burger with grilled veggies and mashed potatoes, a side of white eggplant with a slice of chicken, fruit, and cheesecake. Yum! The eggplant was gross, though, but healthy nonetheless.
Kevin went to the bathroom and I stole his window seat and ended up bigoting it for the rest of the flight, much to his dismay. About halfway through the trip, while I was trying to sleep, we got some heavy turbulence and it felt like the plane was going to go down. I knew it was pretty unlikely and that turbulence is common, but of course it’s a rational fear when over the Atlantic Ocean that, hey, this plane may go down.
I watched Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (which seemed a lot cooler when I was a teenager) and then started Let’s Be Cops, but ended up not paying too much attention to it because we were starting to descend.
Istanbul looked beautiful from the view. Lots of apartment-looking buildings clustered about.
We landed very smoothly and with only a limited amount of time, and not wanting to buy a Visa to only get to explore for two or three hours seemed like an unnecessary risk; with not knowing the language, being one country next to Syria, and with a short layover, it seemed like a bad idea. So instead, we frantically searched for Wi-Fi and the indoor smoking lounge. No free wi-fi, unfortunately, and I think we were kind of panicked for a second, being in unfamiliar territory. But thanks to a map, we found the smoking terrace (which was filled, I mean FILLED with people. It is literally a revolving door of people coming in and out. These Eastern countries like their smokes) and then headed back to a waiting area.
I took a nap for a couple hours. When I woke up (actually Kevin woke me up ‘cause he was bored), we went walking around the airport, seeing a long group of men and women in white… robes? I guess they were? They resembled a Tibetan monk’s wardrobe, but they were white and made of a different, thicker material.
We checked out their stores – some including Hermes, Hugo Boss, Versace, Burberry. Who woulda thought? Some candy stores which had some really great Polish chocolates and Oreos sold for 14 Euros. No thanks.
Kevin’s took a nap and we decided to grab a quick bite before our flight – with our flight being at 11.45pm and arriving at Dubai five hours later, which I guess will be 7am there.
We went to the food court and there weren’t really that many selections. Burger King, Popeyes, Sbarro’s, an ice cream place, and then TurCuisine (which we had to have). It was confusing, though, because it was almost buffet style where you ask the chef for this, this, and that, but then there was also a menu of like 20 different things and I think being in a country, we just got easily confused. But it worked out fine. We got Kusbasili pide with meat cubes.
When it was finally time to head over to our gate area, we saw a huge cluster of female military members. Not sure what country they were from or where they were headed, but it was cool.
And then we took a bus to the plane and walked up stairs to it like celebrities! The flight was just fine at only 4.5 hours, it went by and much quicker than our 10 hour flight earlier.
02. our introduction to dubai
We got to Dubai right on schedule and headed to the baggage claim, where on the way Kevin tried to connect to Wi-Fi, but to no avail. This guy is connected at the hip to the internet, it’s crazy! But so am I, and it’s weird to see that reflected in other people, and realize how pretty much everyone is obsessed with it in some way or another.
Ken and Ribal picked us up after ten minutes or so. It was enough time to smoke a cigarette and relax outside and soak up the surreal-ness of it all. I wasn’t sure what the custom would be when we met them, and I was prepared to not even give them a handshake, but they gave us both hugs and Ribal was immediately very friendly, which I was happy about because I didn’t know him prior to this trip and he was person whose home we were staying in.
We hopped in the car and as soon as we pulled out of the airport parking lot, I realized just how much more intense driving is in Dubai. It seems like people drive really fast all the time, and then cars just stop in front of you, and you basically have to be paying attention or die. But everyone is a really good driver. (I don’t think I saw a single accident during my first day.) The streets are ridiculous though, because it’s not on a grid pattern here so you go on U-turns all the time to have to get to where you want to go.
Ken and Ribal had a whole day planned out for us, or a loose plan anyway, so we ended up stopping by their apartment to drop off our stuff (which was a TREAT, because my shoulders were so sore from carrying around my duffel bag filled to the gills). The view from our room is incredible. We see the Burj Khalifa in it’s entirety and it’s only like a 5 minutes drive away.
We left the apartment and Ribal drove us out to this place called The Farm, which is basically this huge area that once was desert that is now a fake place covered completely in beautiful flowers, trees, and shrubbery. You can drive around and I think walk around, as well, but there’s a restaurant there so we went for breakfast. My mom would absolutely love this place. Indoors was very modern, clean, white, bright; outdoors was a different story. It was a patio overlooking a pond you would expect to koi to live in (to my surprise there weren’t any fish). Gorgeous lush greenery to enjoy while eating. There were quite a lot of flies hanging around, and Ribal asked the server if they could do something about it, and the server came back with a bowl full of smoking coffee grounds. Curious. It did keep them away, but it was pretty strong.
Breakfast was delicious. We drove around for a little while, seeing the new amusement parks they were going to build, checking out where Ribal works, getting a glimpse at The Wafi, which I guess is this big mall with some hotels in it. Lots of cool architecture at this place – reminiscent of the Egyptian pyramids with statues of pharaohs and hieroglyphs. We stopped at a strip mall because Ribal had to see about a Visa for work (he might be going on a work trip while we’re here), and Kevin, Ken and I wondered around one of the malls, browsing around. Kevin ended up buying a pack of cigarettes, and with the conversion from USD to AED, he was confused about how much was being spent, but he ended up getting a single back for THREE. DOLLARS. That’s crazy to me!! We’re going to have to get a carton on our way back. Hey, or two! (yeah, right, everyone knows how frugal I am.)
Next was Heritage Village. I had heard about it on the internet and wanted to check it out, because it was one of the places to go if you wanted to learn about the culture from that area. There was a camel (TINA!), a swarm of flies, a cat, and lots of pigeons in the area ‘cause it was right by the water.
There were many wooden huts and boats, as well as clay buildings displayed at Heritage House, showing us the way people lived here once upon a time. The boats were used for pearl diving, which used to be very big all throughout Arabic Gulf surrounding these countries. It was cool to check out Heritage Village, though, because when seeing such a beautifully eccentric city like Dubai, it’s easy to dismiss what it used to look like, or to forget about it’s roots. It’s like this alien city that is so charming and so up and coming, and to see where it came from makes it even more breathtaking. I’m so glad we got the chance to stay with Ribal, too, because he knows so much about the area and has lived here for 10 years (originally from Lebanon), and we would have never known even a fraction of the things we learned without him.
We then took a break to smoke sheesha on the lake. We all got mint flavored tobacco and this stayed our ritual the rest of the day, because we smoked sheesha two more times. It was nice and relaxing to be by the water. A stray cat came and rubbed up against my leg and was just chillin’. We saw a lot of cargo boats and water taxis go by. At one point the speakers from the mosques came on and from all different areas, we were hearing prayers being recited. That was really a cool experience. I was starting to feel the impact of having little to no sleep for what felt like three days (was it at this point?), but I was determined to make the most of my first day and fight through it so I wouldn’t have jet lag the rest of the trip. It was a roller coaster the whole day.
After the Heritage Village, Ribal drove us around to see the poor side of Dubai – called “Old Dubai”, and essentially the two areas are separated by a creek. The crazy thing is, Old Dubai isn’t even super poor looking, I think it’s just that in the 70’s they didn’t really have as big of dreams as they had 15 years ago so nothing was really spectacular like it is now, and it all got thrown away and left in the dust. I thought it had it’s own charm, with people drying their clothes out their windows, zillions and tiny shops for shoes, electronics, dresses, anything you can imagine (except a dress form, Ken couldn’t find there when he was looking a week before). It just had character – which is neat, for a place that’s only been around for 40 years or so.
I heard about this place called Flavours, in Karama, which was pretty close to where we were and even though I insisted that it was not a big deal, I had mentioned it to Ribal earlier, and he was DETERMINED to find it. And we did. It was this VERY small little vegetarian ice cream shop in the middle of nowhere, but we found it and got some ice cream. I had a cone with almond and it was so good! Not “the best ice cream in the world” like the internet claimed, but very good, especially for vegetarian.
We decided to meet Ribal’s sister and friend (Honey & Saasaa) at this place Keif for some more sheesha (Sheesh, that’s a lot of sheesha in one day!). Ribal, Ken, Saasaa and Honey played this game of cards while Kevin and I were happy to finally have Wi-Fi for the first time in like two and a half days. Kevin had a hard time trying to order an iced coffee. First they didn’t bring anything out at all, because they didn’t know what it was he was asking for. Then when Honey told them what it was he wanted, they came out with this slushy-looking drink. He accepted his fate. It was a cute time, and the girls got a good laugh trying to get Kevin and I to pronounce things in Arabic. We’re really terrible at it.
We parted ways after chilling for a while, and stopped home to shower, change, and relax for a moment before going out to this bar called 360 that looks over the Burj al Arab. We parked outside a hotel and played around with some huge chess pieces before a cart picked us up and took us to the bar.
This bar had the most spectacular view. Shaped in a circle, you could walk all the way around it to get different perspectives. You could see Atlantis hotel/water park in the distance, the Burj al Arab, the Burj Khalifa and the Dubai skyline, the Marina. We smoked sheesha, had nachos, and really got to know one another better. It was a delight. At one point the music at the bar (360, it was called), was turned down in respect so that prayer could be heard from the mosque speakers.
We were going to meet Honey & Saasaa again, but we didn’t get a chance to. Instead, we drove from the 360 bar to the Sheraton – Ribal said they had a bar on the 43rd floor and it was really cool. Boy, was it. The PERFECT ending to our first night in Dubai. You could see the Marina off in the very, very far distance. The Burj al Arab. The Burj Kahlifa, sparkling in the night time (no, literally). All the surrounding buildings, the cars going by in the busy streets. It was incredible.
The server brought us scarves because it was kind of chilly, and we hung out for a while, just soaking up each other’s and the city’s awesomeness, and then finally… finally. After a very, very long few days, went home to sleep.
And that was only the first day in Dubai.
03. dubai mall, the palm, jumeirah beach
Sleep was much needed, for all of us. While Kevin and I had been awake for what seemed like a million years, Ken and Ribal had to wake up early to get us the day before and we had a pretty booked day with no dull moments. I wasn’t really sure how today would pan out, because we did so much yesterday and I didn’t know if anything could top it, but today has been full of equally as exciting prospects. This is a city with many faces.
Ken made breakfast for everyone which was really sweet and unexpected seeing as he and Ribal had treated us so much the day before. I woke up after a bit and typed out my blog for yesterday and added pictures while Kevin and Ken went out to get starbucks. It took me longer than I anticipated to write it out, but once we did, I had a quick smoke and we took off for the day. Ribal had some business to take care of at Dubai Mall, which worked out because Kevin and I really wanted to check it out. I guess it’s the biggest mall in the world, but honestly it doesn’t feel like it. It seemed pretty small, but we were only walking around for thirty minutes or so while Ribal took care of his work stuff. We went into Moschino (which Kevin had never been to before and was VERY excited about. And the clothes are actually cheaper at Moschino than in the UAE than in the states, so he’s thinking of going back and getting a shirt later in the week). We went into the Alexander McQueen store, which was a real bummer and super disappointing because literally all it is are clothes with skulls on them – like Kevin says, since he died, they’re not putting out good material at all, whereas he was an extremely innovate fashion God of sorts. There was of course all the big stores: Burberry, Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Fendi, Versace, the list goes on. Louis Vuitton had some really cool shoes but everything’s super expensive out here and more expensive than in the states, with the exception of Moschino, which I mentioned earlier.
There’s an aquarium in the mall which is pretty neat in itself and you can walk through a tunnel underneath it for $30, but Ribal said it wasn’t worth the money when you can see everything from the outside anyway, so we skipped that. Some parts of the mall had really neat architecture and instillation pieces – like a ceiling of LED stars and origami butterflies hanging from the ceiling. There was a different section of the mall that had souks, which I guess is a market of sorts, with stores for different things, i.e. gold, clothing, etc.
Aside from the aquarium and the souks was the remains of a dinosaur that was found in Wyoming, USA. I couldn’t help but wonder how much money they spent acquiring that, but then again, Dubai is a land that has spent an exorbitant amount of money to begin with. It’s all relative.
After the mall, Ribal took us to Madinat Jumeirah, which is essentially a tourist trap with many different souks. I was almost a tourist trapped, because they had a vendor with elephant figurines, and everyone knows how much I love elephants (if you didn’t know, I really love elephants.)
Once again, the architecture here was amazing. It was Venetian style with gondolas, bridges, water everywhere. Oh, and palm trees (though that’s not really Italian, now is it?)
There were two really cute vendors with fake flowers made out of candies and another with bottles of colored sand making pictures. The patience and talent required to make those images if baffling to me but you have to respect the artist! If I had money to throw around, I probably would have bought both. (Also, just because I bought a ticket to Dubai doesn’t mean I’m RICH.A.F, just means I save!)
We left Madinat Jumeirah and Ribal decided to show us The Palm, which is one of the islands that was built in the shape of a palm tree where on the “branches” of the island, there are neighborhoods of homes. If you drive around the outer edge, you can see a great view of both downtown Dubai one side, and the Marina and JBR on the other.
We left The Palm and headed over to the Marina to eat and smoke sheesha. The view of the water was incredible and the food was very, very filling. The sun set and after food we went back to Ribal & Ken’s place to chill out before going out.
Before we started our vacation, I had been searching on Reddit to see people’s thoughts on Dubai and where to go and stuff like that and one person had said Barasti, in Dubai Marina. It was supposedly voted the best bar in the world, and I don’t know how true that is because I didn’t check to see if that claim was true. It was a really relaxed joint – it was an outdoor bar and had lounge-style couches all over the place and apparently on the weekend it’s incredibly packed and you can’t take a step without bumping into someone.
Ken and Kevin ordered margaritas and they only filled the glass up halfway, much to their dismay. When confronting the bartender, he said “One half shot, one half mixer” or something like that. (What do I know about alcohol anyway, let’s get real.) Ken and Ribal wanted to smoke some sheesha and it was the worst that they’ve had since we’ve been here – which is weird because they said they’ve been at Barista before and usually the service is great. They tried to get it figured out but the sheesha workers were really rude and disinterested. Ribal even gave the dude a tip so he would help but he still didn’t really seem to give a damn.
We hung around and just talked, Ribal told us some ghost stories that were really interesting and Ken and I got talking about our “wiccan” period in life – which, like, let’s face it, what angsty teenager hasn’t been there? But some things actually have manifested for both of us. Weeeiiirdd.
On the way back to the apartment, we were listening to Arabic music and Ribal told us what the singers were singing about. It was really kind of endearing, to have this new friend break down his culture and language and explain it to us so that we can feel part of the experience.
He also taught us about this phrase that is very commonly said in Arabic. Habibi. It means “my love.”
We got back to the apartment and Ribal read Kevin and my cards; kind of like tarot but a different process of getting there.
It was a quaint way to end the night.
P.S. This picture is for my roommate Mike, b/c I’m looking like a lesbian in it and I always make fun of a picture he took because HE looks like a lesbian in it.
04. tina the camel twins
So it’s our 4th day in the journey, 3rd day in Dubai.
I almost want to say it’s been the most relaxed day yet, because we didn’t see a million things like the last two days, but actually there was a lot of walking around.
Ribal had to go to Indonesia for a business trip, so it was just Ken, Kevin, and myself and will be until Friday evening when Ribal gets back. So we said our goodbyes and then we headed to the metro to head to the Marina so we could get some sun and go swimming for a little while.
It’s ridiculous how glamorous and huge a stop at the metro is. It’s almost like an airport, you take an escalator upstairs and then there’s pedways and long halls.
I still didn’t convert my USD to Dirhams, so Ken was nice enough to spot both Kevin and I. Thanks, Ken! (Kevin got all of us the 2nd time we took the metro, and I finally converted to AED before the 3rd time. Yay, foreign money!)
We got to the marina after maybe 20 minutes and walked down to the beach, where there was some cool art going on, like the day before. There’s this thing called #DubaiCanvas and people are getting recorded painting these giant canvases all over the marina. I think I posted a picture yesterday. There was another cool piece of art I thought was pretty cool, too.
We got down to the beach and laid out and before even five minutes had past, what do you know? Two camels are walking right by us. Tina!
I was really excited to go swimming because I’ve been dreading my hair for 3 years now and when reading about dreadlocks, I heard that swimming in saltwater is VERY good for the process of dreading, so I enjoyed being able to do that quite a bit.
I also made friends with a cute little bird!
He came right up to me!
We only stayed at the beach for about an hour because we haven’t been exposed to warm weather in quite a while (with the exception of Ken, but he pasty as hell) but despite our efforts of getting out before getting burnt, we all still did a little bit. That’s okay, it was beautiful to lay out and I think we will again before the trip is over.
We stopped at this bar called SushiArt which seemed appropriate, considering the marina has this little art project going on (DubaiCanvas, as mentioned) and I was really happy with the cheap prices for a really great menu. They had 16 pieces of sushi (3 different rolls, but pre-selected), and two sides for only $15 (USD). Back home I feel like it’s $15 for the sushi, but then extra for the sides always. The only thing that stinks is that you have to pay for water here because it’s not easily accessible like out by us, but the crazy thing is it’s so much cheaper here! It’s 1 AED which is like $0.30 a bottle. Another thing I forgot to mention from yesterday is that gas prices here are fixed. Ribal was getting gas and we asked how much it is and he said he didn’t even know, because it’s never-changing. People always service you at the gas station, too. I guess when he was in the states he was waiting at a gas station for like 10 minutes because he didn’t know it was self-serve.
Anyway, SushiArt was absolutely delicious, so with temporarily full bellies, we headed over to the Marina Mall which was not impressive at all. There were a couple of cool sights on the way, though.
After the Marina Mall, we decided to check out the Mall of the Emirates, so we took the metro there.
Mall of the Emirates was much, much nicer. As it should be, seeing as it’s paying homage to the emirates of the U.A.E in a sense. If you didn’t know, Dubai is in the U.A.E. which stands for the United Arab Emirates. There are 7 emirates, which are kind of like states, and there’s a king / sheikh of each emirate. Dubai’s — I’m pretty sure Ribal said — they nicknamed Sheikh Mo, “because he’s cool,” and in Abu Dhabi, it’s Khalifa. I guess Khalifa helped Dubai out of some debt and so as a thank you, Dubai’s ruler named the tower Burj Khalifa after Abu Dhabi’s ruler.
Kevin, Ken, and I walked around the mall for quite a while. I love seeing American things here, because I’m surprised that they even have some of these thing overseas. Like Cold Stone? Really?
Kevin & Ken went to school for fashion, so they like to go to the high-end stores and being with Kevin, I’ve really come to appreciate it as well. Kevin works for Burberry back in the states, so of course we had to check out that store as well as Dior (which Ken is fond of), Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Christian Louboutin (which
-I- am very fond of… love me some good shoes), etc.
Little did we know, Dubai Ski was at this mall! (or maybe Ken knew?) Kevin and I are sick of the cold, so no way were we about to go, but we were able to see it through the mall windows, since it’s part of the mall. Really kind of a neat concept, to go skiing in the middle of the desert.
After the Mall of the Emirates, we decided to head back to relax and shower for a minute before going out to dinner.
Kevin and Ken went out to smoke sheesha and I wanted to take a break to just be by myself and chill out for a bit since I haven’t been alone in days, so here I am writing this out and once they’re finished, we’re all going to go to Wings & Rings for some dinner and who knows what else!
05. dubai mall (again)
Our main plan for the day was to go up the Burj Khalifa. I had bought tickets a couple days prior for 12.30, so that’s what the plan was.
We went for breakfast at Tim Horton’s – which was kind of like a Dunkin Donuts. I don’t know if they have one out by U.S. or not, if so, I’ve never seen them, but it seemed pretty American.. and I feel like “Tim Horton” is a super American name, but maybe I’m wrong.
After Tim Horton’s we stopped home and got ourselves together, then headed to the Dubai Mall to exchange some USD to AED and head to the Burj,
We wandered around for a little bit and — keep in mind, this is the biggest mall in the world, so even when you feel like you’ve seen everything, you haven’t — we saw some more cool sights.
I kind of liked these Adidas shoes but they’re cheaper in the states and I don’t really need any shoes, just some new boots. Ken got some cute shoes for himself though, and Kevin’s been thinking about getting a Moschino shirt because they don’t have one in Chicago and it’s cheaper here than in the states.
(The ones I liked ^ )
After Ken bought his shoes, we headed back to the entrance of the Burj so that we could make it in time.
We saw some cool sweets on the way!
It was easy enough to pick up our tickets, but the guy at the ticket booth didn’t seem to GAF about anything. Really kind of rude, and that’s how some people are always gonna be.
We didn’t have to wait very long in line to get to the elevators. We had to pass through security, though, and a lady asked me if I had a hookah in my bag and I did, so said yeah, and it was nice that all she said was “okay, just don’t smoke it up there,” – It would’ve been a real bummer if I had to throw it out.
They let 12 people on the elevator at a time and after a short period of waiting, it was our turn. Once the elevator starts moving, the fluorescent lights go off and really cool LED lights start going off like in The Matrix or something.
When we got to the top and the elevator doors opened, I got really excited. How cool! This was the highest up I’ve ever been while connected to the ground!
There was even a patio up here, where you can feel the breeze, and slots in the barriers where you could stick your phone out so you could take crisper pictures (but no thank you, I am NOT about to drop my phone!)
The view was just incredible.
You can see “The World” in the sea! They made islands of all the different countries but it’s still under construction. They want people to buy the islands to live there, though.
On the way back down to the mall I saw a lady in a glass box with dirhams flying all over the place… she was trying to catch them.
Also, the girl in the middle DGAF.
We went to an authentic arabic restaurant for lunch, and we all really loved out food. Kevin got lamb and grape leaves stuffed with rice, Ken got lamb kebab I believe and I got these little pockets stuffed with beef, rice, and a creamy sauce to pour over it.
Afterwards we went back to Ken’s to rest for a little while. We had to be back at the mall at 6.30 to catch the fountain show.
It was really, really beautiful. They played that song “Prayer” with Celine Dion & Andrea Bocelli and it made me think of my mom and reinforced that I am on the right path in life. What are the odds that a song like that would be played while the Dubai fountain was synchronized to it? Unreal, but cool!
Kevin absolutely loved it. Ken told us not to film it or take pictures, hence the lack thereof in this post. Look up Dubai Mall fountains if you want to check it out. It was great. I had chills and got kind of emotional during it (when don’t I?)
After the mall, we took a cab to the complete opposite side of town to go to this yacht club for dinner and sheesha. Once again, the view was stunning.
It was really a relaxing night. It was beautiful out, dinner was great (the place was called QD’s, and it was poppin’!) and we had really nice conversation about culture, our prior ignorance, and the future of traveling and experiencing life.
As soon as we got home, we all passed out!
06. ken’s birthday!
Happy birthday, Ken!
Today has been a much more relaxed day than previous ones.
We woke up and went out for breakfast at this place called Breakfast To Breakfast. Once again, authentic arabic food. I got this really delicious breakfast-pie that was made of eggs, beef, and I believe it was on naan, but I could be wrong.
While waiting for the food, Kevin an I went and exchanged the last of our USD to AED. Somewhere between getting to Breakfast to Breakfast and getting our food, we saw this terrible cab.
Why, Drake? You used to be a handicapped kid on a Canadian teenage drama, now you’re a thug? Smh.
After stopping home, we took a cab to Wadi Waterpark for Ken’s birthday. It was so much fun and made us all feel like we were young again. We hung out on the lazy river, went down a really steep slide that made us feel like we were drowning, went down another slide – all three of us – and thought we were gonna go off the edge, and much more. I didn’t take pictures of the inside, but it was a really cool place with a GREAT view. The Burj al Arab was literally right there and the Dubai skyline from the tops of the slides was incredible. These skylines never fail, and from every place we’ve been, we’ve been able to see a new one.
We ended up taking a nap back at home – me the longest, of course.
Then we got ready and headed over to this place da gama for dinner. It was in this place called The Irish Village. There were these cute ducks hanging out outside.
We all had really good food – I got a lemon pepper chicken with spicy potatoes, sliced tomatoes, and green beans.
We also looked super cute.
After hanging out for a while, we headed over to the Wafi, or at least around there, to go to this night club called SpinDubai (RIP Spin Chicago).
While there, there was this light show projected onto the walls outside of the club, I guess telling some kind of story about Ancient Egypt – with cool images of the Nile and the pharaohs.
We hung out for a while but the club was pretty dead and we were all exhausted from the sun at the waterpark, so we headed home to chill out and go to bed.
It was a nice relaxing day of fun in the sun, hopefully Ken had a happy birthday.
07. momma turnt
Our plan for the day was to go to the beach and then go to the mall so Kevin could get his Moschino shirt.
We woke up and hung out for a bit, and Ken made us breakfast again while Kevin and I walked down to Starbucks so he could get some coffee for himself and Ken.
We chilled for a little while and then caught a cab to JBR beach to tan for a little bit, but unfortunately, it was the windiest day since we’ve been in Dubai and after a while it got too cold to be laying out anymore. Before that, I went for a walk by the water trying to find a bathroom and found some really cool sea shells. Kevin and I went swimming for a minute and there were a lot of big waves, which was a nice juxtaposition from the last time we went swimming because there were no waves at all.
On our walk back to find a cab, we saw this really cool instillation piece that was a stack of really large pieces of chalk. Kevin said he saw it before, but I hadn’t.
We went back home and had lunch at this Lebanese restaurant called Al Safadi. Kevin and Ken had gone for sheesha and tea a couple of nights before, and they had said it was really good; well, this lunch didn’t disappoint. It was probably the fullest I had been in Dubai up until this point (though at night I got even fuller). We walked to the mall and bought souvenirs. I got a little keychain with the Burj Khalifa and Kevin got a 3D print (?) of the city to put on his entertainment center as well as some magnets for himself and his coworkers as souvenirs.
I saw this milkshake place at the mall a few days before and really wanted to go, so Ken treated me to a milkshake called “Miley Cyrus,” he got “Lindsay Lohan” and Kevin got “Justin Believer” or something like that. They were really good but it was a little bit overindulgent for the three of us. Our stomachs were goin’ through it.
We stopped at Moschino and Kevin tried on a few different shirts but ended up getting the one he initially wanted. It’s white and says “Moschino Ready to Wear” with “Wear” crossed out and “Bear” written over it. Jeremy Scott has been using teddy bears in his collection lately, hence the bear reference.
I mentioned before that I felt like the mall wasn’t really that big, but when we stumbled upon a whole gigantic ice rink that we hadn’t seen before, I came to learn about the scale of the place. While Ken got Starbucks, we tried to count how many people were on a floor at any given time and the first floor main section had about 200 people. The main entrance door is revolving, with 1 person leaving for every 5 coming in.
On our way back home, we stopped and bought a few cartons of cigarettes, only 46 USD for the two.
We hung out at the apartment for a little bit and then took a cab out to QD’s again – we wanted to end our night there. Our cab driver dropped us off at the wrong place and he was kind of rude and not helpful, so we decided to get out and walk the distance… not that it was that far anyway. On the way, we saw our first real creature, a lizard! And then another lizard!
We hung out and smoked sheesha. Kevin and Ken got appetizers because they were full, and really they were smart. I wanted to get an entree because I thought I would be hungry later, but I didn’t realize how late it was already. When I got my meal, it was hard to shovel it all in. I had been incredibly overindulgent that day.
Around 10.30, we ended up taking a cab back home, and in a food coma I said “ooh, momma turnt,” which everyone loved. When we got back, we packed up the rest of our stuff, and went to bed.
08. day of departure
We woke up at 5.30 because we had to be at the airport by 6.30 in order to get on our flight right away.
Ken woke up when we did and told us Ribal hadn’t gotten home until 3am and wasn’t waking up, so we should just take a cab, but he wanted to give us a souvenir that Ribal had gotten us when he was in Tunisia, which was really thoughtful of him.
We said our goodbyes and caught a cab right away. The one thing that’s really nice about cabs is that in order to go a really, really long distance (like O’hare to the Loop in Chicago), it’s 40 AED, and split 3 ways, it’s like $3 USD each. That is a CHEAP cab ride.
We had a cigarette before we went inside and mentally said goodbye to Dubai.
Checking bags and going through security was ridiculously easy. So much more lax than in the states.
We got some McDonald’s, hung out for a second, I put some stuff in my blog, and then we were ready to depart.
This picture isn’t the best, but when I was looking out the window, you could see the Dubai skyline in the distance. Can’t really see it here.
The flight to Istanbul was fine. 4 and a half hours, not bad at all. Kevin and I both watched movies. I watched Blended, with Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore (which in my mind was almost a sequel to 50 First Dates, but not quite. Really cute to see them together again!) and then The Vow, which was not really as good as I thought it looked.. for a romantic drama anyway.
When we got to Istanbul, we had a cigarette on the smoking terrace, sick of this airport, having spent 8 hours there a week before. We decided to get some ice cream at the food court because we thought it looked good the first time.
A shitty picture, but this dude was hilarious so I had to snap a picture of him. He was messing around with us and giving us our ice cream cone and putting the ice cream on it but then pulling the ice cream away, then pulling the cone away, and it was just this whole little routine.
The ice cream was DELICIOUS, and Kevin and I looked like bad bitches walking to our terminal and going through the security there. We thought it was hilarious that of course the two Americans are the ones licking away at ice cream while going through security. That’s why other countries think we’re so dumb, because this is the example we give them.
Luckily our layover this time was only about an hour, what with our flight arriving later than expected at Istanbul, and adding in the time to smoke and get ice cream we only had to wait around for thirty minutes or so.
This picture is for my nephew. He likes planes. This was ours!
We were ready to go home. We had a long, twelve hour flight ahead of us, and boy was it long.
This time, however, we were both able to sleep on and off. I feel like I slept more often than not, in fact I probably slept at least half the trip. The OTHER half was biting my tongue while children all around us were screaming hysterically and crying. I seriously could not handle it, I wanted to scream right back at them “Can you please SHUT THE FUCK UP?!” But obviously I didn’t.
Seeing the Chicago skyline was the most bittersweet moment.
The Sears Tower looked like a munchkin compared to the Burj Khalifa, but this is my home.
Immigration is TERRIBLE in the states. It was such a pain in the ass and all we wanted to do was leave the airport. We went through passport control and the guy interrogated us about bringing cigarettes back, then we got our baggage and went through another security dude who was a douchebag and randomly selected us to go through another security thing (probably my dreads), and after that we were free to go. We had a cig and then decided to just cab it back. We were tired and just wanted to be back home.
We got to Kevin’s apartment, got a pizza, and watched RuPaul’s Drag Race. Like real Americans.
I think it was an incredibly important experience for me to get out of the country and experience what it’s like elsewhere in the world. We Americans really take our freedom for granted, and that becomes apparent when you go to the Middle East, where showing your knees is inappropriate. It wasn’t as dangerous as people make it out to be, though. All those women in burqas and men in thobes left us alone. I only got one dirty look (as far as I’m aware) the entire time I was there, and that was at the Mall of the Emirates, by a security guard, and I’m pretty sure it’s because I was squatting down on the floor because my feet hurt.
The sights out here are surreal, but captivating. The lights at night aren’t like they are out here. They change color, or the windows change color, or the architecture is incredible, whereas out here everything’s boxy and the lights are one color. The buildings are something to awe at. The food is something to experience. The culture is something to learn about.
Dubai is a city of overindulgence and luxury. It’s Las Vegas x100, without the gambling.
I’m so grateful I’ve had the experience to travel here, and while I did feel I wasn’t able to be myself 110%, it helped me become more aware of other cultures and to broaden my traveling experiences.
I can’t wait for my next journey.