Finally we visited Dubai this year, during Eid Holidays. I say it finally because we had been planning for past two years, but couldn’t execute for various reasons. And this year, yes, now we had been to Dubai and I am writing this when the memories are quite fresh in my mind. My husband Mr. Murali Krishnan and his colleague Mr. Sathish, planned for it and ten families, all the heads of the families being colleagues of my husband, decided to join together and make it a memorable trip. My husband and his colleague made arrangements for the trip right from booking the flight tickets, arranging visas (except for those who were eligible to get the ‘on arrival visa’), booking the hotel, arranging for sightseeing etc. The plan was neatly scheduled before the travel with Cox & Kings.
Yes, the day of our travel dawned. On 9th Sep 2010, Thursday, we started towards Kuwait International Airport in two Coasters so that all the ten families, i.e. 25 people could fit in along with their luggage. Our flight was going via Bahrain. We reached Dubai International Airport at the scheduled time of 17.40 hrs (Dubai time). Then got the ‘on arrival visas’ for the eligible ones and their families; it took nearly an hour to complete the process. We came out for claiming the baggage and finally found that a baggage of one of our companions was missing. Again it took nearly an hour to search for it and then we gave a complaint in the Airport office.
|Dar Al Sanos Le Meridien Hotel Apartments - Reception|
|Dar Al Sanos Le Meridien Hotel Apartments - Studio Room|
|Saravana Bhavan - Bur Dubai|
The time was already 20.15 hrs, so we decided to go to a hotel to finish our dinner so that we can take rest earlier and refresh before starting the sightseeing trip the next day. We were informed that there is a Saravana Bhavan at Al Karama (most of us are vegetarians!!). We formed groups and took taxis to the hotel of their choice. Our taxi driver told us there is another Saravana Bhavan in Bur Dubai, the place where our hotel apartments is situated. We, Mr. Sathish and his wife went there and finished our dinner. We were starving because we couldn’t get vegetarian food in the flights. So, we eagerly finished our dinner and went back to our room.
Dubai Mall – Aquarium & Underwater Zoo:
The next morning, i.e. 10th Sep 2010, we did not have any tour in the package. So, we decided to spend by ourselves and went to Dubai Mall. The largest aquarium and underwater zoo is present there. The way to the Dubai Mall, was full of tall buildings in different sizes, different shapes. We saw the Burj Al Khalifa, the tallest building in the world on our way. It is, in fact, next to the Dubai Mall where we were heading towards. The Dubai Mall is the largest shopping complex in Dubai. We could see beautiful interior decoration and glittering shops inside. We obtained the tickets for the Aquarium and Underwater zoo and entered in. Wow, it was just amazing!!!
|Aquarium & Underwater Zoo - Dubai Mall|
|Aquarium & Underwater Zoo - Dubai Mall|
The entrance was like an arch and on the top we could see varieties of fish and sea animals moving around. We took pictures and moved further. Then, we took the escalator to go to the second level, where the main aquarium is present. How many varieties, how many different colours, how many different sizes… It was wonderful to watch them moving around fast. Other than fishes, we saw sharks, tortoises, snakes, penguins, snake shaped fishes, and lots more. Since am not a zoological student, am not aware of the names of many of them. But it was a treat for the eyes to watch. Neither did I have to be a zoological student to enjoy the beauty! We went around the aquarium and at the exit we found many stores with beautiful toys, mementos and t-shirts all depicting the sea life.
|Ice Skating - Dubai Mall|
There is an ice skating rink in the Dubai Mall and that was our next target. We saw some people trying to skate and a few courageous guys from our group came forward to give a try in the skating rink. Not to mention, that most of them were men, one boy and only two girls, rather I should say three children. Ladies did not come forward to make an attempt in our group. But we could see lots of girls trying out the skating. Of course, none of our guys had learnt it; they just went in for fun. They were provided with special skating shoes and yes, they went in and started the skating. It was fun to watch, but we could understand how difficult it was to do skating without learning or practice. A few of them fell down and tried to get up on their own and fell down again. But still, they wouldn’t give up and they managed to go two or three rounds based on their speed. We were watching through the glass and were encouraging them.
By that time, all of us were tired and hungry. It was already 13.30 hrs and our tummies kept reminding of our hunger. We all moved out and took a taxi to Saravana Bhavan at Al Kharama. When we reached, the hotel was almost empty. But within 15 minutes after we reached, we could see people thronging towards Saravana Bhavan and it was totally full. We had a good meal and headed back to our rooms. We reached our room at nearly 14.45 hrs and we had the scheduled trip for Desert Safari at 16.00 hrs. Without much time to rest or relax, we got ready for the next trip – Desert Safari.
|The Australian couple who accompanied us during Desert Safari|
In the meanwhile, we had four more additional people joining us for the Desert safari; they were the friends of our companions and after duly informing the travel agent, we set on for desert safari. We had 5 safari vehicles waiting for us, maximum of 6 in each vehicle. We three and another colleague Mr. Kanagaraj and his wife, we all boarded a vehicle and we saw an old Australian couple already inside. For the desert safari, we had to travel nearly 45 minutes and reach the outskirts of the city. We had a good chat with the old couple on the way. We reached the desert and were given a break of 10 minutes for capturing photos. Our safari driver informed us, that they wait for all the vehicles to reach the starting point (where we were given the photo break), and all the vehicles start together for the safari. At the desert, the mobiles do not get the signal, nor is there anyone visible around. So, in case of any trouble with the vehicle, the other vehicles would help them out and that’s why they were travelling together.
We were asked to wear our seat belts and informed that plastic bags are ready with the driver if at all anyone feels like vomiting. The desert safari started slowly in the beginning, and then each vehicle was speeding up. As if in the roller coaster, the vehicles moved up in the sand dunes and came down speedily and we in the vehicle were screaming, sometimes out of joy and sometimes out of fear. My four year old son was initially enjoying it by making sounds like Woooo…. Hooo…. Wow… Later on he felt a little fear as well. As if being dragged in the waves of the sea, we were moving up and down and slanting. On our way, we were able to see one of the vehicles got stuck up in the sand and two other vehicles were helping them out. The safari driver drove very carefully and at the same time we had a wonderful time going up and down.
We were wondering about his skillful driving and out of curiosity asked him about the procedure to get the license for the desert safari. He informed us that it is pretty difficult to get the license for desert safari driving. The person applying should have had experience in driving on the normal roads of UAE at least for 3 years and shouldn’t have any black mark as per the police reports. Once the papers are cleared, they are supposed to take up training for 20 days in the desert. Every day the desert driving classes will be in 3 or 4 sessions and the training is very costly the rate being charged for every session. Finally after 20 days, a test will be conducted for their driving skills and once they clear it, they will be given the license for safari driving. He also stated that the Government is very strict in issuing this license in particular, because most of the times, it is the tourists who come for desert safari and it is the matter of prestige and goodwill for the nation.
With interesting talks, comments, screams and fear we were moving ahead and our driver stopped the vehicle in the middle of the desert. He asked us to come to the top of a sand dune and it was a very beautiful scene to look around from there. It was evening time, the hot sun trying to settle down and the breeze was a kind of warm. The safari driver brought a skating board from his vehicle and asked if any of us would like to do desert skating. First our colleague Mr. Kanagaraj came up to try it. Then my husband tried out too. Seeing all that, my son Vishal wanted to go on skating also. I was a bit worried, if I can really send him. The safari driver assured me that he will not get hurt and made him sit on the board and helped him to skate. My son enjoyed the skating, laughing and clapping his hands. By that time, two more vehicles came over there, and few more of our companions joined us. Our companions’ kids Suryanarayanan aged around 11 years, Shivaranjini aged around 7 years also enjoyed by skating in the desert.
|Sunset at Desert|
We had a wonderful view of the sunset and then it was time to leave from that place. Before leaving, I made an attempt in skating also; yes, it was really enjoyable. No wonder, everyone loved to do that. We started from there and the safari driver took us to the desert camp, where the famous belly dance and a delicious dinner were arranged. On reaching the camp, we went on a camel ride; the camel had been trained to make a small round, and we were able to see the marks of its repeated steps in the same trail. This reminded me of the horse ride we used to go in the Marina Beach at Chennai. We took pictures over there and then entered the camp. We were offered sandwich on one side and drinks on the other. Most of the ladies, walked towards sandwich, we were tired and hungry; guys were moving towards the other side, no wonder, we did expect it. We were also informed that we can get our hands decorated with henna. But by the time we reached, the belly dance was about to begin, and we sat down to watch it.
A lady dressed up (should I say half dressed?!), in white robe, came like a damsel on to the stage and she started dancing slowly. But within a few minutes, she danced so quickly with fast steps, in rhythm to the music. Some Hindi songs, some Arabic songs were played and she beautifully danced for the same. She was so flexible that every movement of hers made people clap and enjoy… Was the enjoyment really for her dance alone, well, I think only the guys could answer for that. She went near every guy and danced and posed for the photos and videos; with her belly and hips constantly moving and shaking. We were able to hear even the comments from the guys that they should have preferred to come alone, to enjoy the dance!!!
After dancing for more than half an hour, the lady bid adieu and left the stage. Then the announcement came for having the dinner. We stood on two queues, one for guys and one for gals, and picked up our favourite ones from the buffet. The Arabic khuboos, the Iranian khuboos (khuboos – Arabic bread), vegetable sabjis, fried rice, non-vegetarian food, fruit salads were all present. We had our dinner there and found the guys missing around. We understood where they would have been; they were all near the drinks stall and trying to hide away from their respective wives. After a while, they came back with their plates with food. We as a group, had some chat, and then started back to our hotel, again into the same vehicles in which we came. It was around 22.30 hrs, when we reached the hotel; very tired and exhausted, as if we danced ourselves. The next day we had a city tour scheduled in the morning at 09.30 hrs and so we retired to bed as soon as we reached the hotel.
Friends, Hope you enjoyed reading the first part of this travelogue as I enjoyed visiting and writing. I shall get back with the post on second part of the travelogue soon. Till then, take care & bye.