25.11.2011 32 °C
There is a certain kind of excitement that accompanies a journey into a new country. For me this new place was the United Arab Emirates. I have a stop over here on my way to a new job and was quite looking forward to seeing what Dubai had to offer. I had heard a lot about it of course, and was quite looking forward to seeing it for myself, I was genuinely excited. My enthusiasm could not even be dented by a 2 hour struggle to clear customs.
Arabs it seems, whilst understanding the concept of queuing, do not quite grasp its complexities entirely. I noticed this only as I neared the front of our queue. As we were standing patiently awaiting out turn, a rather well dressed Arabic gentleman strode purposefully to the front of the line and planted himself there. The lady in front of me made some rather weak noises and then did nothing, so I tapped him on the shoulder and indicated that perhaps he should stand in line like everyone else. He looked at me, smiled, patted me on the shoulder and apologised before picking up his bag and moving into line behind me. There he had another brief but lively conversation in Arabic with the gentleman behind me, picked up his bag and moved into line behind him. This continued until he found himself in a position where nobody was asking him to move any further back and waited in line there, having now found his place in the queue. Once I saw this in action I started paying more attention to the lines around me. This was happening on a regular basis it seems, and partly explained just why it had taken the best part of 2 hours to progress the 50m to the immigration desk. As it was 0300 (that’s 3am for those of you not used to 24hr time) I had not been paying too much attention, and as such had probably let several hundred people join the queue in front of me.
So after finally clearing customs and having my bags searched (I always get searched by the way. Anyone looking for a reliable drug mule should probably make inquiries elsewhere, as I am pretty well guaranteed to wind up on banged up abroad quite quickly) I exited the building, found the most expensive taxi in Dubai and made my way to the hotel. There I slept for quite a while, roused myself in the mid afternoon and decided to go for a walk around. My hotel is in an area that seems to be poised for development, and from the hotel lobby I could see a structure that resembled a rather impressive glass pyramid. So, interest peaked, I set off to see what it was about.
I find that walking around is the best way to get a feel for a new place, and this was no exception. Though there was one slight problem. My hotel, it seems, is surrounded by motorways. Lovely, smooth, 6 lanes in each direction, motorways. The kind of thing you could comfortably drive a formula 1 car on without damaging it too much. Great roads, but not exactly suitable for pedestrian access. There were no over-bridges or crossings of any kind, and the local speed limit appears to be whatever your car is capable of, as the vehicles on these roads were moving along at something close to Mach 3. All this combined to make a crossing a rather suicidal undertaking. Added to this was a 7 foot fence on the median strip in the middle of the road designed to discourage anyone from foolishly attempting to cross it on foot. (I know it was 7 feet tall as I ran into it on my mad dash across the road, quite surprised to find there was a fence in the way that was a foot taller than me and quite spiky). There was, it seems, no way for a pedestrian to cross that road that didn’t involve a prior ability in high jumping or pole vaulting. So I wandered up and down its length for a while and then headed home, had a rather nice meal and a swim and retired for the evening.
And the building?? Well it turns out that it is a hotel, called Raffles, linked to a shopping centre. I will see if I can get in there tomorrow. If a chicken can get across a road then surely I can. Stay tuned.