Welcome back to my travelogue!
Today's been a rather slow day.
I was going to be very wrong, very soon. More on this later.
It started off with me accompanying my family to the Gold Souk, where they shopped for gold, and I started reading a new book. I managed to finish 10% of the book (Founders, the Paypal Story).
Understandably, no pictures were taken of me being bored out of my mind and reading all alone.
Walking through the sunlit streets of the Gold Souk in Old Dubai was like living in two worlds at once. To the left lay the bustling streets of the Souk itself - tight, winding, and bustling with activity, whereas to the right lay the new, fancy stores, calm and quiet - yet these two places sold exactly the same thing.
not the Gold Souk, but a similar market
look at how narrow these streets can get!
We encountered a lot of stores, some having been here for generations.
Once this got done, we roamed around the Gold Souk a little more, and stopped by some really nice small shops. We saw this really nice display of lights and lamps, and felt as though we were explorers.
the pictures fail to do justice to how beautiful these lamps were
I think i'm beginning to understand this photography thing
These lamps were easily the most memorable point of the entire visit to the Gold Souk (and I'm saying this after having seen multiple shirts made of gold) - defocus your eyes a bit, and it's an absolute riot of color and vibrance that you'd be hard-pressed to find anywhere else.
some of the other wares
I'm writing this as I get ready to go on the Desert Safari (with Dune Bashing). It's a shared pickup, and the camp is around 60 km away.
We get on to our ride, which is a large Nissan SUV. We have no idea what's in store for us, as we continue to move on with the journey. We get told that we'll be driven to the desert camp in the same vehicle, and we'll also be dune-bashing in the same vehicle.
Dune-Bashing (sit down, Frank Herbert critics) is an off-road experience involving riding a large SUV over real sand dunes in a way that allows you to fully experience every shape, curve and peak of said dune.
As soon as we got into the SUV (driven by a Dubai local, who had a passion for cars and an interest in speed) that was taking us to the desert camp, we picked up our co-passengers and set off.
A view of the Skyline from the highway
Much to my co-passengers' annoyance, said driver and I were talking about cars for the entire ride. I have no regrets.
On the way, we stopped to ride dune buggies, where i almost made a buggy jump!
The dune buggy camp, where we took small ATVs up and down the dunes!
Once we finished that, we got back into the SUV. We reached the bashing point, where our driver got out to release some air from the tyres.
I'd be wrong if I said I knew what to expect, but I sure felt equal parts of fear and excitment (which is a good thing!).
What happened next was easily one of the most unforgettable experiences of my life.
What happened next was nothing short of absolutely crazy - our driver drove the SUV all over the dunes, over steep drops and high rises. It was almost like we were in a small ATV and we weren't going over real dunes, but over small bumps. At one point the entire SUV was tilted at a 45° plus angle, and we were all still A-okay.
The text does it little justice, but being jostled around on sand dunes you'd previously seen only on TV is an amazing experience.
no math teacher would want to calculate these angles
It's an extremely disorienting experience to be moving at such high speeds and tilting that sharply, only to see everything around you is okay, save for the ground, which definitely isn't where it was before.
It was Exhilarating. I still remember the adrenaline!
The engine of the SUV more than lived up to its potential, and while the presence of A roll cage in the vehicle didn't do too much to calm us down, it, thankfully, was unused.
We reached the camp immediately after. We then had Arabic coffee and dates, and some starters. The food wasn't anything to write home about, but the entertainment was a class apart.
The sky at the Desert Camp
One was someone doing a traditional Emirati Tanoura dance, and another one was a fire performer - both of whom put on wonderful performances.
The Tanoura Performer
The Fire-Breather - Most of what they did was simply too magnificent to be seen on camera
The sand at the desert camp
We then proceeded back to the hotel, where we stopped at Karama on the way, also known as Little India.
We had dinner here.
Al-Karama, also known as Little India. There were a TON of vegetarian options here.
A cool building in Al-Karama
We set off to the Burj Khalifa.
It isn't every day that you get to see (and get to the top of) the tallest building in the world! We were all extremely excited about this portion of the trip.
The Burj Khalifa, as seen from the outside
It's incomprehensibly tall. You'll need a minute to process that it's real.
the waterfront near the entrance to the Burj Khalifa
We got out tickets, and walked through what was a mini museum about the Burj Khalifa to reach the elevator bank.
We entered through the bottom at the Dubai Mall, and took the elevator up. It covered all 124 floors in 60 seconds, all the while playing a cool projection about the development of the building.
An inscription at the ground floor
I felt chills when I read this.
Elevators here project the number of the floor they're on, on the door.
The elevators cars are entirely dark once you get in - there's this really cool visual that gets projected to make it look like you're leaving the Earth's atmosphere, and you finally dock into a spaceship when you reach the top.
As we reached the top, we were able to experience breathtaking views of the entire city. The people were tiny, and the cars even more so. We saw all the skyscrapers in Dubai, and all the tall buildings along Sheikh Zayed road looked like toys you could pick up and play with.
I could go on and on and on about the view, but I'd rather just show you.
The landscape faded off into the morning light, and we could see a staggering amount of detail.
Breathtaking. Nothing seemed real anymore. Things you take for granted - roads, cars, buildings - all looked like mere toys! It isn't just because of the altitude that it gets a little harder to breathe. At this height, the more you look, the quicker reality begins to fall away.
Skyscrapers along Sheikh Zayed Road
We took plenty of pictures from there and from the observation deck on the 125th floor.
I actually had to stop myself from looking out at the city that lay in front of my eyes, A true behemoth disguised by a deceptively small appearance. With longing in my heart and a million unanswered questions, I left the main observation deck.
the upper observation deck
the view from the upper observation deck
The way out had a whole bunch of informative exhibits about how the building itself came to life, including some exhibits honoring the people who worked on the building, ranging from the directors to the people who did the hard work of carrying the materials around by hand.
Initial sketches of the building
From then on , we roamed the Mall a little, and had some lunch.
Manakish with Cheese, and with Za'atar
We then set off to the largest carrefour in Dubai, where we shopped a LOT, AND bought things for our friends, and bought a lot of odd things we wouldn't find at home.
Oreo Thins, anyone?
Carrefour has some excellent vegetarian options for snacks and a light lunch.
After we reached, and after a brief rest, we went directly to Global Village.
the view from the pool at my hotel
The Global Village is an international cultural exhibition of sorts that takes place in Dubai multiple times a year. People and Companies from multiple countries come to set up their stalls and sell their wares, including, but not limited to, food, clothes, art, and handicrafts.
at the entrance to the Global Village
some truly, truly beautiful art at an Iranian Store
India Africa Japan Egypt
Each stall had people from that country, so it was an interesting experience to speak to so many people from so many different cultures!
Unsurprisingly, the Japan exhibits had a whole bunch of Anime-themed stores.
We met Russian, Ethiopean, Azeri, Iranian, Yemeni, and many more nationalities of people. It was interesting to see them all in one place, and it was amazing to see how well the entire operation was put together.
They also had a massive stage where a Violinist was performing. It was an amazing experience to see and interact with so many different groups of people. We even bought tiny souvenirs! However, it was also an extremely large area, hosting stalls from more than 30 Countries, each being its own story to explore.
By the end of our experience here, we were knocked out, ready to jump on our beds and sleep. We did just that.
We approached the last day of the trip with an extremely relaxed attitude. Taking our time, we ordered breakfast, and set out for the day. We'd already packed the day before, so we had no rush at all.
We started off with a visit to the Jumeirah Beach, but were unable to, so we decided to visit the La Mer beach instead.
The La Mer beach
An infographic on the walls
Free Cold Water Refills to discourage plastic use - a real life-saved in the heat
On our way back, we saw the Jumeirah Mosque.
The Mosque and its Minarets
We decided to visit the Mall of the Emirates one last time before we left.
We then decided to check out a small discount sale that was going on. This was taking place in a large convention center, the place where GITEX is usually held. We reach there, and we get settled. It's mostly discount clothes, electronics, shoes, sunglasses, and so on.
The convention center
Bored of sunglasses and shoes, it was at this point that decided to step out and explore the convention center some more. I proceeded to decide it would be an excellent idea to stray from the crowd and set off on my own, leading to me losing my way for a while.
Mild panic and a sense of reassurance filled me as I realized that I wasn't where I wanted to be, but now had some idea where to go. I ended up emerging on the main road on the other side of the block, and had to get back to the original entrance, making it a nice walk. I Must've walked more than a couple of Kilometres to get back to where I started, but I saw a whole new bunch of really cool buildings, so it was worth it!
"I think I'm lost, maybe I should take a picture" cool building in question
I found my way back. Yay!
At this point we decided to set off for the airport. Bags ready, we decided to leave a little earlier, and did so.
The Dubai Frame, glowing in the sunset light
Upon reaching the airport, we checked ourselves in(!!!) and printed our boarding passes. This process was entirely automated.
after we checked ourselves in at DXB
We waited for a brief while to board, and while boarding, took note of the absolutely wild experience we'd just had. It's one for the books!
International travel is a learning experience, both about yourself and about the world around you. There's so much i've learnt about myself from this trip that it warrants an entirely separate blog post, and maybe we'll do that someday.
Finally, we strapped ourselves in, and took off on another four-hour flight to Bengaluru. This time, the side I went to to get into the car was the right (left) side.
as we takeoff
To the Reader
Thank you for making it this far, and for coming on this journey with me! :D I hope the stories, pictures and funny incidents were worth your time. Please reach out to me if you want to talk about this, even just for the heck of it!