From one extreme to another

Having spent 10 days in the relaxed (but rather tired and faded) Asmara where an internet connection is a little hard to come by (let alone a good one), international mobile phones don’t work, there are no ATMS (everyone carries around wads of cash with the largest note being 100 Nakfa (about £5)), we suddenly found ourselves fast forwarded 3 decades when we landed in Dubai.

Unfortunately, our Fly Dubai flight from Asmara was not the smoothest: we suffered terrible turbulence and the plane suddenly dropped quite significantly, tilted and then seemed to nosedrive for a few minutes until the pilot managed to gain stability again. Unfortunately one stewardess was temporarily knocked out during this episode but otherwise everyone seemed to be safe and sound (as was the stewardess shortly afterwards). You sometimes get a spontaneous round of applause when planes land – this one felt pretty heartfelt when we landed safely on the tarmac; first aboard paramedics for the air-stewardess.

It was my first trip to Dubai, Peter’s second. It reminded me a bit of Hong Kong – the contrast of the ultra modern city buildings set side by side by some of the more traditional aspects of the original trading city.   It was fun crossing the creek using the small water taxis (abras) charging 1 dirham (about 20/25 pence) albeit you had to have your wits about you at the other side and time your jump off onto the shore carefully. Perhaps the journey was not quite as picturesque as the Star Ferry harbour crossing in Hong Kong but it had a similar charm.

On balance, 1½ days in Dubai was too short and I’m not just saying that because our hotel was great (we were upgraded to a suite with 2 rooms and 2 really nice bathrooms).   Perhaps it goes without saying but we were not staying at the Burj Al Arab (the 7 star sail hotel).   Of course we went to see it (from the outside is all you are allowed) but managed to spectacularly mis-time our arrival so that the sun was completely in the wrong place and therefore we couldn’t take decent photos.  Still, it gives us an excuse to return and it was nice chilling out on one of the few public beaches for a while before embarking on one of Peter’s favourite pass-times – shopping! Well, when you are in Dubai, it would be pretty rude not to check out a mall wouldn’t it!

You can buy anything in Dubai: of course you can given the number of malls everywhere.   In fact when you are in the malls, it’s hard to remember that you are in fact in Dubai – you could easily be on any UK high street given the familiar brands including Body Shop, Gap, Apple Store, Banana Republic, Claire’s Accessories and Waitrose.

As part of our final preparations for India, we had read in the guide book that the power supply can fluctuate and so it was recommended that we bought a voltage adaptor to try and control the supply and prevent the Mac from blowing up in case of such an event. To be honest, neither of us really knew exactly what we were shopping for and, after asking around a bit, we were eventually directed to a shop that sold what we wanted. Imagine our surprise when we were pointed in the direction of something that was the size of a modest bedside cabinet. That didn’t strike us at the most practical of things to buy and we were happy later to find something that was the size of a small plug adaptor which seemed far more realistic. The only problem then was that we were in the “wholesalers” district and just being allowed to buy one piece as opposed to a 100 had to be carefully negotiated!

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