Our eyes were wide like saucers as we drove down the wide freeway at dawn, gaping at the lit up skyscrapers on all sides. We were like country bumpkins coming into town for the first time. It isn’t that we hadn’t been in towns in Southern Africa, it’s just they were nothing like the scale of Dubai and we had spent nearly all our time in Africa out in the bush. So arriving in the early hours, especially with just a couple of hours sleep on the plane, we were in shock.
It wasn’t the bright lights, big city experience we had come to Dubai for but to see old friends, Peter and Maxine. With the truck being 12 days on the boat to Australia and the Emirates flights to Perth via Dubai being so reasonable, it was a perfect excuse to stay for a few days. Steve and Peter go way back, having met at Primary school and lived together long ago in London. Peter and Steve met up at the football when we were back in the UK in May but we hadn’t seen Maxine or Ellie, their daughter, for several years. The girls and Ellie had a whale of a time together: playing; trampolining; swimming; and even Halloween trick or treating on our last night there. It was fantastic for us to catch up with the family and staying with them gave us an insight into life in Dubai as an expat.
The weather had just turned from the unbelievably hot summer weather to pleasantly hot, perfect for the beach. We spent a lovely day there with one of my closest friends from Prague, Nan, and Rade, her son, who was one of Alisha’s best friends there. We last saw them in Canada, where they were visiting family and now we just timed it right to catch them visiting her sister in Dubai. It was wonderful swimming in the warm turquoise waters next to the famous Burj Al Arab hotel, the kids played like they had never been apart and while we caught up on all the news from Prague.
Later in the week we had dinner at the house of an old colleague of Steve’s. Ron, Ramona and family had recently relocated from Kiev but were well into the swing of things in Dubai feeding us local delicious fish that had been grilled on the seafront. While we chatted, Alisha hung out with their delightful teenage daughters, all the fun activities got a bit much for Lucy who ended up crashing out on the sofa.
Maxine and Peter made sure we saw the amazing sights of Dubai including the huge dancing fountains; we went a beach club on the man-made Palm Islands; Steve and Peter went up Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world; and we popped into one of the massive malls that are all about entertainment as well as shopping. All the girls loved Kidszania, a theme park city where the children got a chance to do lots of adult jobs and earn special money, which they could then spend. While the big girls zoomed around by themselves, I went with Lucy. She had to go in by herself to the different workplaces where there was someone who explained what the job entailed, then she put on a uniform and carried out the job. She worked in a milk factory; Coca Cola factory; was a custom agent; window cleaner; chef,in a chemistry lab; and even carried out an operation in the hospital. It’s such a fabulous idea.
Alisha taking her job at McDonalds very seriously.
I hope our customs inspector next week in Oz is as kind as this one.
Too quickly our time in Dubai was over, we could have happily stayed for a lot longer. After our initial urban life shock, we loved it. It was also wonderful but thought-provoking to catch up with so many good friends. Their lives as expats in Dubai isn’t that dissimilar from our old lives in Europe – so are we still happy with our life on the road?……Absolutely, Bring on the next part of the adventure!