June 5, 2012
It was the longest day after the longest week. Redundancies and a major offshore restructure hit the Herald in Jo’s last week of work. Shock, anger, upset in equal measure. A strike and long, long working days.
But dammit, nothing is going to spoil this holiday, so long in the planning, even longer in the dreaming.
There is more to life than work, but it would be nice to have a job to return to. Let’s worry about that later. For now, let’s just worry we can pack all our riding gear in this bloody big suitcase and get to the airport on time.
2pm departure from Williamtown, 6pm departure from Melbourne, midnight in Singapore, 4am Dubai. We’ve chased the sun and almost caught it.
Dubai is incredible, and impressive. A cross between Kuala Lumpur and Vegas baby, if you’ve been there. The old city is relatively new, built in the early 1800s along the port. The spice and gold markets are still operating and fumy diesel putt-putts ferry residents and tourists across the river for about 30 cents a pop.
We take a half-day tour to get our bearings. There are so many Aussie tourists here … A coach load full at least on our tour. Tourism is an important, and growing, industry next to oil and finance and building. Building everywhere.
The tour guide speaks English and German as well as Arabic. Puts us to shame. We drive past the palaces of the ruling sheik and his family. He chooses his successor based on who he thinks will do the best job by the country. So far the system seems to work well. Citywide irrigation, a desal plant and recycling to provide water in this driest of countries, a network of arterial roads plus kilometres of an automated metro train system that delivers a train every 8 minutes to a modern station.
Even though petrol costs just 40 or so cents a litre (and that’s more expensive than in neighbouring Abu Dhabi we’re told) the sheik is big on public transport. The existing metro network, running the length of the city, took only 3 years to build. More tracks and stations are being planned and no doubt will go up just as quick.
Bus stops are air-conditioned. Emiratis are given a wedding bonus, a house and free education for life and don’t pay tax. Democracy looks overrated from this viewpoint. Give me a benevolent sheikdom any day of the week.
We stay in the older part of the city, in a rather grand hotel. Everyone very friendly. The pool is sublime after the heat of the streets.
Day two in Dubai we head to the newer part of town. This is a sparkling precinct springing from the desert, with the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, at its heart. We’ve booked a trip to the top, or at least the public viewing deck on the 124th floor. Stepping out of the lift leaves me wide-eyed speechless. It’s like an artist’s impression of the world of the future. I expect to see the Jetsons zipping by in a flying car.
The haze only reinforces the achievement. Lakes, gardens, shopping malls, office towers and all around is dust, sand, nothingness.
Did I say shopping malls? Louis Vuitton, Dolce and Gabbana, Armani. My favourite dress is about $12,000. Who shops here? Are local women wearing this underneath their burqas? I hope so.
Between window shopping we check out the indoor aquarium, waterfall, ice rink and ski slope. Yep. Impossible is not in the Dubai dictionary.