Waking up to find the tyre on the Honda was flat again, dressed and showered, it was a harsh reminder of the debilitating heat and humidity. There’s nothing to changing a tyre for me, the hire car had everything I needed and thankfully the wheel nuts weren’t too tight. By the time I had jacked the car up a poool of sweat was forming in the deluge of perspiration. Harsh reminders of how everything physical takes on a new level of difficulty in this climate and after many years of living in Brisbane and enduring similar trials, a sinking feeling that all the magnificence and grandeur of a society can’t overcome mother nature’s impact on the person.
Regardless, I changed the wheel, headed back up to my room, washed up, found a new shirt and headed back to the car and returned to the tyre shop where I’d been the night before. The sidewall was pinched and seeing it was I that was responsible, I paid for a new one and it was done in good time, short of having to sign my name so many documents for the simple task of buying a tyre. What I did notice in the tyre shop was that they only sold top names, Michelin, Goodyear, Bridgestone, Pirelli… no NanKangs in this shop!
Stopped by the friendly McDonalds and enjoyed myself a coffee, this time two Iranian ladies, occupying the same spot, seems like a ladies table. Cross over to the petrol station shop to grab a recharge card for my phone, popped back to tyre shop and car was ready to go.
Then decided to head over to my friends at BACK2BACK and get a HDMI cable, the World Championship IC 200mm RC touring cars are running in Gfubbio Italy and we have a few friends from Australia there to wave the flag. Drove back to the hotel districted of Al Raffa then over to the Al Ain mall. Parking was horrendous, so after circling a few times I spotted the entrance to the underground park for the mall, at 10 Dirham per hour, that was far more sensible than circling around among the double parked chaos on the streets outside.
While crossing the road to the computer mall, there was a broken down car holding up traffic with one person trying to push it back and the other in the driver seat. Cars were beeping their horns and being a helpful soul decided to lend a hand and set my free arm on the window sill and helped push the car back and out. At which point I notice the person who was pushing it in the first place decided to become a project manager and let me do all the work. I was short about it and let him know that I wasn’t about to be his labourer, I was simply helpful and he got back to sorting out his own problem.
The main street has an overhead walkway to cross the road and a rattly old open balcony lift, for those too hot or lazy to climb the steps. It is one of my first experiences in Dubai and like all first impressions, it has a romance with me, clunky and rattly as and filled with souvenir memories. Crossing over to the Al Ain mall, I headed up the steps to greet my friends at back to back. A warm smiling welcome and handshake while on the phone, the tech boys stood to greet me and the shop was very busy at the time, so I quickly grabbed a one metre HDMI cable and tried to pay for it at the counter. As expected they gave me rock bottom pricing even against my will, and I bid them farewell to catch up at a less busy time.
Heading back across to the main mall, it was time for lunch and the thought of shawarma, indian curry all seemed a little heavy and it was a very hot day and I was already perspiring. What caught my eye was KFC on a bed of saffron (probably turmeric) coloured rice. Now here’s something the Australian KFC could do, a quazi takeaway fried Biriyani of types. It was popular too, everyone was eating it. It’s like a KFC bucket cut down, filled with rice and fried chicken placed on top. I’ll get some pics next time I am out that way. Monday there was a 9 piece bucket deal for 29 Dirhams I couldnt refuse, upgraded it with 4 buns, coleslaw and cokes and I was set for the day indoors enjoying the Worlds in my hotel room, I’d sweated enough for one day!
Dining in Dubai
DANIAL TWIN TOW ERS AL RAS
I have been finding my feet and aclimatising to this diverse and inviting country and today, everything seemed to fall into place and I am feeling the culture and city embracing me and captivating my mind with the delights it has to offer.
Having met Darius in the the Melia gift shop, an Iranian gentleman who has lived her for 30 years, when I asked him where I could find some Iranian cuisine he immediately pointed me in the direction of Danial restaurant, situated in the Twin Towers, across the creek from the hotel in the Al Ras precinct.
Being mid afternoon, there was no parking in the mall itself and a kind security gaurd directed me to the multifloor car park 50 metres away. Remembering it was on level G of the mall, it soon dawned that it wasnt the ground floor but few levels up and from the distnce I could see a busy restaurant high above.
I soon found myself entering the huge restaurant and courteously ushered and given a seat. The hostess then politely said, you are good to go and I headed to the smorgasbord of delights waiting for me.
Lets just say that I love Iranian rice, they are the world masters of cooking the long grains they covet so dearly and I wasnt disspointed. How could one resist the kefta kebab, both in lamb and chicken and then staring at me, vine leave dolmas in oil, shining at me, try me and I couldnt resist. Pickles, garden greens, yoghurts of all types and I have barely scratched the surface of all the delights on offer, a few return visits are a must to enjoy the diversity of the cuisine here.
Cultures of all quadrants of the east are here, arabic, asian, persian, it is a bouquet of faces and a symphony of voices filled this giant room with a worldly song of feasting happiness. With the sounds of Iranian poetic song over the sound system binding the diverse banter of happy people feasting to the most delicious Persian treasures Iran has to offer, this has to be a place of visit for anyone who loves food, life and culture.
Even my Turkish coffee tastes good, with the view of hazy Dubai as my backdrop. This is what I’ve been looking for, wanting and yearning for all my life. To enjoy a meal with others doing the same. If there was one wish, I would hve loved to share today with my cousin Lucy, 99.0fm here has upbeat arabic music, the drive here was uplifting, I feel immersed in the ‘Real McCoy’ of traditions we grew to emulate as our own in Australia.
I am really thinking of you today, driving the streets of the old Dubai, witnessing in real life the stories we heard from our parents, it reminds me of you and the culture we didn’t have but wanted. Of all the people in my world, I wish you were here with me, we would be shining with joy together… miss you a lot….”
Big thanks to Darius at the gift shop at Melia
The food keeps getting better
I saw a hole in the wall, a glass hot house with two turning sikhs of Shawarma, one chicken, the other beef. I stopped to ask how ,uch, he said 6 Dirham… I wasn sure, so I went in to the restaurant to pay and yes, it was 6 Dirham… (2aud). So I ate it, also received a customary slide of the premium roasted for taste testing. Chatted with him and he was a charismatic young Egyptian… The first didn’t even touch the sides so I went back in and ordered another two. At which point I realosed they were Iranians, so had to adk about the rice dishes and take away…
You guessed it, no is no answer, a delicious Zereshk with Half chicken for 30 Dirhams, I was in my element. Not only that, while I ate another Shawarma, they offered me a complimentary cup of tea! The middle eastern cultures pride their cuisine and are most extraordinary social, not unlike me. So a good chat, a feast and back to the hotel with my feast!
Back at the hotel I opened up my prize and it was a large portion, with soup, salad, yoghurt and the main. So Ive been dividing up and having lunch too!
No one cooks rice as well as Iranians…
Delicious rice too!
Spent time on the roof today, feeling the climate…
Saturday fter the WC
Sitting with a shisha watching finalglideaus do his thing… I think the birds perch and watch him too!
They’ve started with the Indian bollywood music on the roof, Im off to meet more middle easterns… At least the shisha man was a nice young charismatic Egyptian!
Middle Eastern Feasts
I returned to the Caspian restaurant several times and found it to be a delightful place to enjoy a light and tasty meal. I tried Eggplant, Okra, Kebabs and all we served with a lentil soup, salad, yoghurt and bread. Highly recommeded if in the Bur Dubai area and the service is outstanding.
I also visited Studio MASR, an Egyptian franchise with Molokhya served with chicken and Rice. It’s a tasty cuisine with middle eastern service and a lovely decor, They have a few stores and one at Ferrari World Abu Dhabi
Streets and Driving
It’s a crazy place to drive a car in the outer suburbs, the streets are crammed for parking, there are one way systems and very few left turns. Plenty of U turns to do and shifting lanes to the other side. Pedestrians care less for the cars and the drivers care even less for other drivers. It is an aggressive mode of driving and little courtesy is shown to busses and larger vehicles. Stressful is an understatement and I consider myself an adept driver, but Dubai had me road raged on several counts and it was due to the aggressive way they barge into gaps that dont really exists, prying them open and causing more traffic.
There are few street names, each suburb has backstreets numbered as 1a and 1b in a strange order, perhaps left and right but having to focus on driving on the right, my mapping was totally disoriented as to where I was at any point of time. All landmarks are man made and getting lost is easier than finding your way around. The Melia hotel was in the worst possible location for a tourist to find, I lost over 8 hours cruising the streets trying to find it during my visit. Freeways aren’t much better, they have giant loops to change direction with lanes that veer in every direction, changing 4 lanes with oncoming traffic exceeding 120kph is a common ask and if you aren’t in the correct lane, expect another hour to get to where you want to be.
Parking is a chore, all are metered and the meters take Dirham coins that will need a few attempts to accept the change. Most would not accept more than 2 coins to allow me to extend my parking. On the streets, don’t be surprised if cars move into oncoming traffic, double park and turn on hazzards blocking your lane.
The ups and downs
Without question, Dubai and the Emirates have the most amazing, jaw dropping and civil structures I’ve ever seen in a small area. It really is jaw dropping, inspiring and culturally rich. You can sense the pride that is invested in each and every monolith, there’s obviously an agenda for close enough isnt good enough and as a tourist location it has to be high on the MUST SEE places in the world.
The hotels need not even be questioned in regard to magnificence, they are so richly adorned one could enjoy a holiday touring them, the grounds and lighting alone.
The commercial buildings and districts don’t fall short either, a wonderland of extravagance, adorned with lights, colour, textures and breath taking in every way.
The tallest building in the world, built on sand, lit with speckling lights at nights and the pride of the city. Note: Don’t try and get a photo without permission, I was told to leave as it was only permitted to shoot with a phone. I got the shot!
Yes it’s true what they say about Dubai, I’ve never seen so many supercars in one small space like I have in Dubai. Lambo’s Bentley’s McLarens, AMG Mercs, Porsche, they are all there. The most common everyday cars were Toyotas, Top of the range Landcruisers, then the next would be the MERC 6.3 4WD offroader, not sure what they are called but they roar the streets everywhere.
Culture and Spirit of the middle east.
The people of the middle east have always been renowned for hospitality and warmth. I found it so refreshing and welcoming to be greeted with smiles and a offering of tea by the middle eastern folk in Dubai. It’s what I was seeking and longing the most and I wasn’t disappointed at all. Street side shawarma, falafel, fresh bread and served with smiles and charm. It’s captivating and reflected the stories my parents would tell us of their lives in Egypt. I met Iranians, Egyptians, Iraqis, Aziz from Bahrain and Syrians. We connected, there was many who said I looked Egyptian, but in truth Im armenian, yet we are all cousins in a global kind of way. There was a care in each of them, its built into their genes, they like people, inquisitive, wanting to know who and where you come from to discuss how life is different. There was one that I shared my time with most, asking questions, sharing our different lives, hobbies, family stories and travels. He was Dariyoosh,an Iranian Suni gift shop owner in the hotel, excellent English, remoinded me of my ddear friend Henrik and we shared many a cup of tea, Iranian sugar cubes, nuts, dates, nibbles and lots of laughs.
The insight Dariyoosh shared into life in Dubai was invaluable, he was my guide, he shared his 30 years in Dubai and how it is forever changing with the times. The good times, the hard times, the highs and lows of living in this bustling and developing region of the planet. His insight into the social dynamics, the politics and the way Dubai turned it’s wheels was the information I needed to decide whether I could become a part of the working expats.
He was my cuisine king, sharing his knowledge of local cuisines, where to go, what to eat, what’s special, what’s not and I ate really well, too well. We shared dates, nuts, fresh breads and in between spent a lot of time discussing his favourite hobby, fishing! Without him I would not have had the insight into the diverse and highly contrasted life in Dubai. It saddened me because he works 7 days a week from 10am to 11pm in the gift shop while his assistant is overseas, to get a night out with him at the Danial Buffet took a lot of convincing and I am so thankful for his support.
Coping with the Society
Whenever I was in among middle eastern folk, I was comfortable, welcomed with a respectful manner and enjoying the melodic passion of the Arabic language. My aim wasnt to be dazzled by the western culture that adorns the city, it was to get a feel for the vibe, social expectations, laws and the overstated rigidity of the islamic religion, Ill go into that later. Dubai is under construction, while its not finished, what is to be marveled over is how much has been accomplished in a very short period of time.
This rapid development required a vast workforce and the climate is so extreme, I’d find it difficult to imagine anyone from home to tolerate, let alone physically survive the harsh temperatures and high levels of humidity, it really is extreme. This meant that cultures only suited to the climate would cope and the ratio of Indians, Pakistanis and other eastern cultures was overwhelming. With the numbers into the millions, the culture I thought I’d find was drowned in foreign cultures and it was overwhelming and I struggled. As I ventured to and from the city it was a culture shock, my emotions on a daily basis would swing from amazing highs, to heart wrenching lows. Without going into too many details, it became apparent the majority of people are living as subservient . This was too contrasting from the social mode in Australia and as an empathetic being, it disrupted my sense of belonging and I did wish to belong and contribute.
The hardest aspect was coping with a modern infrastructure populated by 3rd world culture, a lack of assimilation, class and racial differences that I’ve spent my life dealing with in Australia and striving to maintain equality in among a manageable levels of bigotry. Dubai for me, had a blatant class driven sub-culture and it upset me, frustrated me and ultimately was the cause to my struggle to believe I would find my place.
Many told me to ignore it, perhaps if I had my family with me, we could find our place as a family, but alone it was really difficult to see how I would maintain any form of social life in what would be very small breaks between work. Add to that the climate, trapping you inside the walls of air condiftioned buildings and that which I lived to be normal was being shut down, the reality that life would be so extremely different got the better of me.
If I’d felt that I could have found local middle eastern friends to share time with, I would have taken a more positive outlook, problem was, they’d be working and everyone else was living a nightlife. Most my time in Dubai venturing out for social seeking was spent between the hours of 10pm and 4am.., If working this spectrum of social life would have been out of reach as well. What was left?
Outnumbered and out of place, the dominant sub-culture began to aggravate, touting to the point of harassment, a lack of regard for people’s space and disregard of civil liberty. This isn’t a policy or accepted by law, its the subculture doing their own thing and it in no way reflects the intention of the Emirates, it is the product of the growth. This will change over the coming decades, that I am certain, for now with cheap food, fuel, power that enables so many to continue with their own version of society I’m sure over time Dubai will evolve into the magnificent middle eastern oasis it is destined to be. For those who don’t mind letting everyone do everything for you and bow to your every need, you won’t mind it at all, it’s a laugh. For me it wasn’t, it was so far from the dreams of a middle eastern mode, it upset me.