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Michael’s Travel Diary

Friday, 10 Mar 2006

Location: Downtown Cairo - Hostel, Egypt

MapOkay, two updates in a day, separated by a plane flight and 5 hours sleep - I needed that! In case you can't tell, I am putting a bit of detail in these entries, as it is basically going to serve as my diary as well as communications to everyone else. I want to be able to remember what I did in 20 years time... so here's the place I'm doing it....

Dubai airport - hmmm, best in the world, dunno If I'd go that far. Especially when I arrived at 310am, and waited till just before 7am to meet up with Jack. Anyway, he fronted finally, and we ran the gauntlet of sham artists, fake taxi drivers and every other scam man that was out the front of the airport.

Headed to the K-Porte Inn, which we had picked out from a list of seemingly expensive hotles in Dubai. When we get there, they apparently had no rooms left, despite the internet saying just 12 hours earlier that there were 10 twin rooms left.

The consierge called the Lotus Hotel (on the opposite corner) and checked if they had any rooms available. As it was they did, and the price was almost identical to what we were going to pay at K-Porte Inn, despite it being a 4-star instead of 3-star hotel. Plus they threw in a free breakfast for both of us.

Good room, and very friendly, they let us check in at 8am so that we could have a shower and get changed.

By 9am we were headed to where we thought the Gold Souk was (on foot) with no real map in our hands, just a bunch of lines with Arabic scribble for street names. The place we were staying in was in Diera, just East of the Dubai Creek, and we headed to the creek and walked North along the creek looking for the Sea.

Soon we saw the makeshift harbour that is lined up along the creek, with boxes piled on boxes to be loaded onto a boat. Don't ask me where they were going, but the boxes contained everything from TV's to toasters, to rolls of fabric and spices. Crazy. This went for miles along the river, and everything was being lifted on and off manually. Looked like hard work.

We finally made it ot the beach and hadn't managed to find the Gold Souk, even after asking for directions from a local... there's that language barrier thingy!

Finally, by about 1130am, I was thinking that perhaps Jack and I weren't going to make a good Amazing Race team, and we decided to head to Jermiah instead. We jumped on a bus, and not only did we get there, but we also avoided offending anyone, and didn't sit in the women's section of the bus. Maybe this Amazing Race team could survive? An American couple in their 60's jumped on the bus and both sat up front to the disturbed look of many people. No one said anything, but they appeared unhappy.

We got off at the Burj. Man that thing just stands out. It is an incredible looking building and as much as I'd like to say I'd been inside, $100 for breakfast seemed a little steep just to say I'd been in the foyer and ground floor restraunt. Right next door to the entrace of the Burj is Wild Wadi's Water World, and then next to that is the Jermiah Beach Hotel, another incredible looking building, but probably unreasonable unknown due to the fact it is next to the Burj.

We caught a cab from there to the Mall of the Emirates which is also massive, and just 3 minutes up the road. Super massive (but you get that being the biggest mall in the world outside the USA). We headed to Ski Dubai so I could get my Snow Skiing on, in the desert! On the way there, we walked past a huge crowd of people in front of the Virgin Megastore bitching and moaning. Turns out Robbie Williams had left just 2 minutes before we got there, and some people had been queing for 3.5 hours to get a picture and he left. Still sold out his Dubai show on the same day in just 3 hours, a Dubai record.

So, then it was on for skiing! I decided to ski instead of board as they made it pretty clear that you had to be capable to be allowed to go in there, and anyone not capable would be kicked out. Being that I have boarded once, I decied to stick to the ski's. 115 Dirhams (about $45) gets you 2 hours skiing, ski, boots, poles, jacket, pants and sock hire. For an extra 30 Dhr's you can buy gloves. I decided not too. Bad move!

Once you're changed and have your gear, you walk in at the bottom of the hill and straight away the shear cold temperature hits you. Where as at Buller you ski in 2,3,4 or even 5 degrees, this was below -5 degrees. Makes a big difference.

You get a magnetic card, that goes in the left shoulder pocket on your jacket, and to enter the lift queue you have to scan your card and ski thru a turnstyle. The first time you go thru, it flashes on the screen 120 minutes left. Each subsequent time thru it tells you how long remains.

There are three lifts in the ski park: a cahir lift that goes to the top, with a midstation, a pomma bar that goes to the top and a conveyor that is about 60m long to service the training run.

There are four difficulties that have been set. Green (training run), Blue (beginner, from chairlift mid-station down, about 200m), Red (Intermediate, from top of chairlift to mid-station, about 200m) and Black, (Expert - first indoor black run in the world - from just below mid-station on opposite side to Blue run, about 150m) .

On the first run I hit the Red and the Blue, and realised I remembered how to ski! It had probably been more than 2 years since I had skiied. By the thrid run I went on the Black run, which shouldn't be labelled black, at least not in the sense that they are labelled in Australia. It is tight, and the only run that requires you to turn, and also steep, but not black. No moguls. The hardest part was judging the run due to the inconsistent light in that area of the ski park.

Whilst it was great to ski after so long, and to go inside and see the incredible engineering feat, it gets a bit tedious after not too long. Once the board park and 90m 1/4 pipe get completed, it could be pretty entertaing on a snow board, with quite a bit of stuff to do. Otherwise it is pretty straight forward. A run can be completed in less than 20 seconds going flat chat, and then the cahirlift takes more than 4 minutes to get back to the top. It basically means that each run takes 5 minutes, and the most you will get for your 2 hours is 24 runs, but by that stage it is enough. Especially when you hands are blue, and the chair stops so you have to take the pomma bar and hold onto the cold steel bar handed.... But so worth the "been there, done that" ponts.

So, from there I met back up with Jack and we headed to Wild Wadi's. In a space of 30 minutes, I had gone from skiing to riding water slides. The place is huge. HUGE. It has a massive wave (or swell) pool, two manufactured wave ride areas where you can body board on atrifical waves, and 11 water slides, as well as a heap of kiddie slides and pools. But the way the rides work is the best.

You jump on a donut and sit in a cue in an artifical river. Then, they put you on the water slide, and the jets of water actually push you UP the slide. Crazy! So you go up three different slide, and then you start heading down the slides you want to go down, or you can get out of you tube and go to another slide, the big free fall one. It was a cool water park, beats the pants off Wet and Wild on the Gold Coast.

But one of the best parts of the whole thing i the view. It is sandwhiched between the Jermiah Beach Hotel and the Burj. Great views (photos will be up soon). And when the sun goes down (and it gets too cold to be in the water) the lit up Burj makes this place a great place to take photos, and people actually paid to come in, just for the view of the hotels, and not use any of the slides!

Caught a bus back to the the city at 730pm, and it was pitch black, but still never felt too concerned. We were at the bus station by 830 and got off and started looking for our way back to the hotel. As it was, we were on the wrong side of the river, and jumped on a water taxi to cross. At this stage I was spent from the day of skiing and swimming, and wanted to get back to the hotel. We set off on foot, and next thing we are trapped in a maze of "general trding companies" selling anything that was headed onto the boats. Clothes, electronics, shoes, snake skin anything you can imagine, including golf bags?, jewellery, automotive stuff. It's fair to say we were lost. Sat down and had a pair of Souva's (chicken and beef) and the most refreshing drink ever. Half a litre of fresh squeezed watermelon juice for less than $2. Man that was good. By 1130, it is safe to say that I was sick of looking for our hotel (yes, 3 hours later) and caught a cab. It is safe to say that we were not even close. We had actually gone about 4 blocks too far, and were a couple blocks off course to the side. WAAAAYYYYY off.

As much as I was looking forward to my one night in Dubai, my body said that I was spent, and I was in bed by 1am, after having a couple drinks in the hotel bar.

Next day was spent slowly, until 315 when we jumped in a 4WD to go dune dashing. Now, it was a great trip, but I will say this now, don't book it with Hormuz Tours, the drivers didn't say a word the whole way. Plus they put the 6ft Aussie in the back seat, with my knees around my ears, while the 5 ft Indians and 4 ft Japanese get the front and middle seats, where their feet dont even touch the floor. And the way those 4WD's get thrown around in the sand, the last thing you want to do is be kneeing yourself in the chin for a couple hours.

But after the driving in the desert, and man there are some pretty pictures, we reach a camp where we can take camel rides, smoke sheesa pipes, get dressed up in the local rags, and get henna tattoos, all followed by a traditional dinner and belly dancing show. It was a great night, (I didn't get the tat, or ride the camel, plenty of that in Egypt) and we headed back to the hotel to pick up our bags and get driven to the airport. At the airport at 10pm, with a flight due to leave at 4am (didn't leave till 5am) I had time to kill and eventually fell asleep on my bags waiting for the check in conter to open. Anyway, now I'm in Cairo, killing time before the Gecko's tour.

Final thoughts on Dubai: They have the same radio DJ's and music as Singapore; Loud music is deemed offensive, but at night the streets resemble Chappel Street with every car blazing music; Absolute world of contradiction - this may show up my ignorance to the Arabic culture, and muslims in general, the double standard set towards Muslim women and western women by Muslim Men is incredible. They Muslim woman is required to be covered from head to toe in gowns, showing only her eyes, yet the Muslim man will follow a Western girl down the road cost she is wearing a mini skirt. The water park was like a strip club for the Muslim man, it's made easy when you have Brazillian tourists wearing g-strings to a water park. Wether this is an indication of the beginning of Western Influence on this Middle Eastern culture, an effect of the increased tourism boom, straight forward double standards set by muslims, or just a showing of my religious ignornace (hey, I'm agnostic), or just my cultural ignorance (one of the reason I'm travelling) I don't know. It may be a mixture of all of the above. Anyway, alot for you to read, and time for me to start thinking of what to doin Cairo before my tour starts (Sunday).

Hope everyone is well, photos from Dubai soon.

Michael