Lazy, Hazy Days of Summer in Dubai
June 10, 2008 - Dubai
The departure from Orlando and the trip to Dubai via Delta could not have gone smoother! We met my old friend Haven Sweet for a drink at the Atlanta airport, he already jet lagged from a flight that took him from Rome to Frankfort to Atlanta. He was bound for Orlando and we were happy to have an hour or more with him in the Delta lounge to hear about his trip to Italy.
Then we boarded yet another magnificent Delta 777 and departed in 90 plus degree Atlanta evening, this trip with only a 47 second takeoff roll… While we enjoyed an excellent late dinner served by some very pleasant and experienced Delta flight attendants, it was up and over the same route we had taken in early May with Juliet Papa, staying on the North side of the Atlantic route tracks. The other three guys popped an Ambien after dinner and were out like lights. I took a more natural approach and nevertheless got about 6 hours of good sound sleep before waking and taking in a movie and some reading. The other three were motionless and appeared to be quite happily unconscious. We had crossed over Northern Iceland and then over the Scandinavian countries while we slept, then lots of Russia, across the Black Sea, then down virtually the whole length of Iraq- over Baghdad, Mosul and then descended into Dubai for a total flight time shortened by a nice tail wind which appeared late in the flight to 13 hours and 43 minutes elapsed time. We had departed Atlanta in the last of the twilight there and had flown Eastbound , meeting the sun “early”, then passing and rushing away from it until it was setting again in the West during one non-stop flight! Amazing! Once again, we found the haze and dust we had encountered on our arrival, only worse! Visibility was about ½ mile as we touched down at dusk. A bit of a wait for passport control then we got our bags and headed for the “nothing to declare” lane. The guys in the “national dresses” picked Mercer out of the pack “randomly” and sent his bags through a detector, I think it is his shifty eyes that give him away. We had some snacks and a drink or two in the bar after checking in at the JW Marriott and it was to bed. The Marriott is a beautiful property, lovely wood and everything large and well done everywhere you look. The staff couldn’t be more accommodating, kudos to Mr. Marriott!
Tuesday morning the haze and dust were just the same, awful. We had planned on a helicopter tour that morning but the pilot called me and said it would be a disappointing trip and he wouldn’t recommend it. Hats off to the pilot “Andrew” and to Heli Dubai for the honest appraisal of the situation and giving up the revenue to keep us from being unhappy. We went instead to the Museum of Dubai with the same driver that had saved Jim and Mercer the first time we were here. Cam Ran is an excellent driver, our luck continues in that respect. He is a Pakistani, drives a nice Lexus but works 16 hours a day and has four roommates in his apartment to try to make ends meet. He would love to go home. The Museum was very small and quick in comparison to the other countries we have visited in the past, but Dubai has not had a lot of history, being a land of the Bedouin until the last 100 years or so- people that didn’t put down much in the way of roots.
The haze kept us from getting a good idea of the incredible development in Dubai- nor did it allow us to get any decent photos of what’s happening. We did get a few shots of the Burj Dubai, soon to be the tallest building in the world. The sun and the haze conspired to make the pictures unimpressive. Then it was off to a spectacular tour and lunch hosted by our friend Tracy Forrest, founder and owner of Winter Park Construction right in our home town! Tracy is on his own trip around the world in his Citation Mustang, traveling with a group of 5 airplanes and about 20 people on a far longer and more comprehensive trip than we are attempting. We started before his group and we have been emailing our aviation and handling information to him as we were in the lead with our early start. He and his party had been here several days, but they were all ensconced in the incredible Burj Al Arab, the sail shaped hotel that has been described as “the only 7-star hotel in the World.” Since most ratings stop at 5-star, you get the idea about how over the top the place is!
We got a tour of the lobby and shops and then were whisked to the 27th floor to meet Tracy and his group for lunch. I don’t know what it cost to eat there, but you know the saying “there is no free lunch.” I can’t imagine where it might be more true than at “The Burj.” Thanks Tracy for a wonderful experience.
Many of you have “complained” that this is more a food around the world site than a fly around, so to keep you from being disappointed: The meal started with an outstanding lobster ravioli that was simply perfect. We then had the choice of Duck or Salmon, my salmon was again perfect. It was finished with a pistachio ice cream and chocolate bomb dessert….. Perfect again as was a lovely French white wine that went along with everything… you guessed it…. PERFECTLY!
We then got a tour of Tracy’s “standard room.” Two stories, probably 2400 square feet of pure luxury. Inlaid wood in the doors to the bathrooms, tile and detailing everywhere. TV’s that elevated out of table tops, in other words just a ho-hum kind of room for a 7-star resort to offer.
We next went by for a look at the indoor ski slopes that most of you have seen in pictures before. I attach a couple of pictures of the “kluge track”, the ice sculptures that were everywhere inside and a skier or two.
I think that the 8 hour time change had by then descended on top of the lunch at the Burj to cause the “Nap Monster” to grab all of us, we were back at the Marriott at 3:30 agreeing to meet for a light dinner at 6:30 after a rest. We are still kind of messed up in the head of course. I’m typing this as it is 6PM in Orlando and 2AM Wednesday here in Dubai. I slept about 4 hours “tonight” and woke up. Will try some more effort later, but there was no use tossing when I could be typing!
Tomorrow (today here) we go to Agra in India, departing at noon due to the landing slot requirements in India. This is just as well as we need to do a computer update of all of the navigation databases in Juliet Papa and check her over thoroughly after her “rest” with our friends at Jet Aviation. Agra, India will be our home until this coming Saturday. We had to cut a day off of Dubai and add it to India when we discovered just before the break that the Taj Mahal, which is in Agra, is CLOSED on Fridays. So we will have an extra day there to see the sites or catch up on the blog. Thanks for checking up on us. We are behaving in an exemplary fashion so far! - Bob
June 10, 2008 It must be Dubai. Whatever you have heard, imagined or dreamed, multiply by 10. This is an amazing place. One third of the world’s construction cranes are said to be here. I believe it. This is a 100 square mile construction project. The architecture is way over the top. Unfortunately, you can’t see it. This is the zero visibility season. If you get the sun behind you, vision will increase to a whopping 3/4 mile. This morning with the sun location in front of us you could lose yourself getting from the hotel lobby to the car. Looking up at 160 story skyscrapers was out or the question. Fortunately, as the day went on and our direction of travel changed the visibility got a little better. But, the view inside the Hotel Burj Al Arab (7 Stars and I believe it) is incredible.
The great Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi (from where our word gaudy comes from) would be humbled. Amazingly, it is so over the top in every way, it actually works very well. So impressive, the $3,000 per night for the 3,000 square foot two story, starter suite seems almost reasonable. Lunch at the top of Burg Al Arab hosted by Bob’s friend Tracy Forrest was wonderful. Tracy, Rae and several other adventurous friends are also flying their small airplanes around the world. It was great to share experiences with these really nice people. Tracy, we are all very appreciative of your hosting our lunch and giving us a very personal tour of your iconic hotel. What a treat! We look forward to reciprocating somehow, it will be very hard. Good flying to all our new friends!
Did I tell you I am freezing. My hotel room at the J.W. Marriott is not 3,000 square feet but it is damn cold, even with the AC off. I think the rooms on each side must be meat freezers. I sleep with all my cloths on all the blankets and then put my suit case on top of me for good measure. This is quite the contrast to the 212 degree Kelvin outside air temperature. You see very few people outside on the streets. It is understandable. It is just slightly cooler than the surface of the Sun. Dubai is all about great big buildings and what goes on inside. Vast, upscale shopping malls and yes indoor snow skiing is the rage. I told you it was cold here.
Off now to Agra India and the Taj. - Mercer