It is just after midnight and I am at the departure gate waiting for boarding. The flight has already been delayed officially by then minutes but as the time approaches there is still no announcement regarding boarding. There are quite a few people waiting to get on. We are divided up into five groups to facilitate loading. The announcement to line up in our respective groups is made a lot later than expected and the first group the business class enters but is held at the door before the gangway to the plane. At this point everyone else is lined up and the waiting to get in continues. The waiting goes on and on and some have to sit down while others voice their displeasure at the attendant waiting there on his own. We eventually get on and the plane begins to leave about an hour after the stated time. Being here at the airport I can see why the plane was late for my South Africa trip. I needed to sleep since it isn’t a long flight to Dubai and my check in at the Hotel isn’t until three. I fell asleep and was woken up by the food that was being served. It was hard to sleep after that. Soon we approached Dubai and the city couldn’t be seen from the air. Having passed all the airport controls I decided to take my time getting to the hotel. It was seven a.m. in the morning and a coffee and a snack was in order. I decided on taking the metro to the airport.
I got into the front train so that I could see the route and do a bit of sightseeing. I looked at the seats and thought of how luxurious it all was. These were like airplane seats with a nice headrest. I did spot some poor design though. The sighn announcing the next stop was behind a small display so no one could see the writing. The train slowly filled in as it got closer into the city. When I finally got to my stop I realized why this car was so nice, it was the first class section. The other cars were filled with people as I walked by towards the exit. The next part involved bussing it to a stop by the Iranian hospital where my hotel was. I’m not staying along the strip or any of the high end hotels. The hotel is still nice though. It happens to be the first hotel I’m staying at on this trip. I wanted to leave my bag and check in later so that I could have mobility during my exploration of the city. At the desk I learned that for a premium I could check in early. It was still a long time until the official check in so I went for it. In retrospect this was a great idea. I got a chance to clean up and unpack and take what I wanted with me. After having lunch I set off. The dust storm has been an ever present character throughout. I decided to get a mask and found a pharmacy where I could buy one.
I quickly realized that this would be a great opportunity to take some cool photos. Dust storms like this don’t occur that often. It is a bit disorienting to be in such a storm. I couldn’t orient myself to any landmark and only had the Google map with the directions to the hotel to guide me. It’s a good feature that it kept the map and the GPS placed me in precisely in my position.
I was heading toward the main strip with all the skyscrapers and then towards the Burj Khalifa.
The distance to the main road isn’t that great but it’s not that close either. I was always on the lookout for interesting things to take pictures of along the way.
Eventually though I made it to the strip and realized the scale of some of the buildings. Their scale presents a problem when trying to frame their entirety. Luckily there is an opportunity to get to a good spot to frame the shot properly. I’m glad I bought a wide angle lens before leaving.
The intensity of the dust storm was beginning to wane and I continued on. I’ve been walking now for a couple of hours taking pictures of whatever I could. The storm affects visibility considerably and the interesting buildings across the road were barely visible. I soon came upon a Tim Hortons! This is an institution in Canada and was surprised to see it here so I decided to stop on for a double double before continuing on. I sat inside enjoying a coffee and the ambiance.
The storm’s intensity decreased considerably in the time that I sat there inside Timmy Ho’s. I was saddened but happy at the same time as it meant that visibility would be good enough to go up for some sightseeing.
I kept walking and taking photos passing many interesting buildings and lots of construction sites. There was also the problem of finding the route to get me close to the Burj. There is a lot of construction going on around there. The variety of buildings around there being built is astounding. I finally made it to vantage point where I could take a photo of its entirety.
I sat there for a while experimenting with different filters and just admiring the view. I decided after a while to take the plunge today and go to the top. I made my way to the mall where the tickets are purchased. I wasn’t the only one wanting to go up. The schedule showed different times today and tomorrow were sold out as many people in line had pre purchased their tickets online. I’m a terrible traveller. I haven’t pre purchased or planned a lot of the details with respect to the content of what I wanted to do. Going to the top of this building was something that I wanted to do and as I stood there in line I was curious to see what would happen. As I got to the counter I asked about availability and the counter girl asked if I wanted to go up soon and I said yes. For a premium price I could go in thirty minutes. I agreed and purchased a VIP ticket. What this is is a chance to go up to floor 148. At this level you are above the height of the CN Tower in Toronto. I have been to that building. When you present your ticket you enter into a VIP lounge where you are served a tea and dates while relaxing on soft plush couches with the rest of the group. You get a tour guide who explains the process of getting to the top as well as some of the history and statistics of the Burj Khalifa. We were escorted to the elevators getting priority to get on to the first and then second elevator to the lounge. Not everyone gets to go up to this level. If I had purchased a regular ticket I would only have been able to go to floor 124.
The view from up here is spectacular. I was hoping to capture the sunset but the sandstorm clouded the horizon in the distance nevertheless, there was plenty to see from up here. The buildings that looked so big on the ground were miniature from up here.
As the sun went down the colors of the lights illuminated the the city in wonderful ways. I spent much time on the lower deck fighting the crowds for a good vantage point. The time on the top deck was limited as the space isn’t that large.
After coming down on the fastest elevator in the world I went into Dubai Mall. The elevator travels at a speed of 10 meters per second making the journey down in about sixty seconds. The Mall itself covers an area of about fifty football fields and hosts all the major high street brands that anyone could think of. The place was packed and I found out that it is open until midnight daily. This is a shoppers paradise.
The day’s activities were beginning to take its toll on me so it became time to navigate myself back to the hotel. It gave me a chance to capture the difference that the night has on the buildings that I passed earlier. It also tested my ability to navigate back to the hotel unaided by my map. I had inadvertently closed it earlier. The moon is almost full and the road was kind of busy with various tourists milling about eating at the variety of fast food joints populating the ground floors of all the buildings along the road.
Now that the dust was gone it was easier to orient myself to where I was. Too bad that I didn’t have this earlier in the day as it didn’t help me now. Still I had a general sense of where I needed to go.
The neighborhood where I’m staying is filled with all the nationalities that work at all the places and positions not fit for the locals. The neighborhood is lit up at night and was filled with people going about their business. The looks I got made me feel like it’s not often they see tourists walking through. Morpheus soon put his spell over me now this morning I’m ready for a new day.