So, I was a very lucky girl and got the opportunity to check out Dubai last week on a media familiarization trip.
Firstly, don’t you just love the term ‘media familiarization trip’ (aka ‘educational’)? It sounds so dull and, let’s just face it, a lot more like work than it actually is. Whoever came up with the term is an absolute spin doctor genius!
Anyway, so I didn’t expect to like Dubai half as much as I did…
I expected it to be fake, blingy and overly-luxurious, and don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of that, but there is also a good dose of hospitality wherever you go and even irresistible earthy charm if you know where to look.
So, while the skyscrapers, highways and massive malls didn’t necessarily get my heart beating double time, a fabulous Bedouin-tinged dune dinner and 4×4 experience in the desert, the colourful and aromatic spices souk (market) and abundance of floaty-fabric garments and beaded Ali Baba shoes really did capture my imagination.
A few favourite moments:
- Rushing through the desert with Arabian pop pumping on the radio and our guide, Yamen, laughing like a lunatic while we screamed like banshees. That’s what you get with four girls in the car.
- Yamen explaining the intricacies of love affairs in more conservative Middle Eastern countries, like his home, Syria. In short: there’s a lot of brothers beating up men who did their sisters wrong, sisters searching for good wives for their brothers, girls turning these proposals down because they are in love with someone else. Someone they quite possibly only know through Facebook or BBM. Flip!
- The Corne and Twakkie-type accent of the guy who led the Falconry Show preceding the dune dinner. It just made me smile. His name was Henry and he must’ve been from Bronkhorstspruit! Dubai is a cosmopolitan city deluxe!
- Shopping in the Souks and being greeted with “O, baie mooi” upon telling the merchants where we were from. One even sang a few lines of Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika. Oh, and they LOVE our cricket team – especially the Pakistanis and Indians. I tried to share their enthusiasm, but didn’t really know how.
- Feeding stingrays at Atlantis. Dudes! This was weird and awesome all at once. They’re kind of like little puppies who get excited at foodie time. They come flapping through the water and suck onto your sides, thighs and bums with their sweet, smiley mouths on their bellies.
- Riding a camel.
- Having a big beer at a Belgium beer pub… in Dubai!
- Drinking wine on the plane back with lovely new friends.
- Indulging in the winter sale at Forever21… 4 jerseys for R160. That’s all!