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In Dubai…

We landed in Dubai a little before 8:00pm local time on Sunday—an overnight flight back into night. We basically lost a morning en route. The flight itself was long (just over 13 hours), but it was actually fairly tolerable, even in coach. And, for me, I’m always filled more by a sense of wonder at it all (“hey, we’re over Baghdad!”) than by discontent with the mild frustrations.

Dubai’s airport is gleaming… as nice as any I’ve seen anywhere. It’s clearly a transport hub to the world with connections and flights to all manner of ‘exotic’ locations. For example, the American guy next to us on the airplane was on his way to Afghanistan for work. Clearly, many of the other passengers were flying on to parts of eastern Africa, the Middle East, or southern/central Asia. Indeed, the arrivals hall looked a bit like the United Nations on “casual Friday.” We spent an hour or so on line at passport control. No issues with entrance for us—just stamp, stamp, and done.

After breezing through customs, I used the ATM to collect local currency. We stopped by Marriott’s welcome desk, collected free bottles of cold water, and were told it would be fastest/cheapest to get to the Dubai Marina via taxi. So, we shuffled to the taxi area and were directed to the official tan/pink ‘lady’s taxi’ service, since Libby was with me. That’s right. They offer dedicated taxis for women, driven by women (also in tan/pink outfits), and fully equipped with car seats (good had Emerson been with us). Frankly, this was probably the most clean, best smelling, and safest feeling taxi I’ve experienced. Amazing.

Given that it was night, we couldn’t see too much of the city during the ride in from the airport, just lots of well-lit skyscrapers, shopping malls, and other retail establishments. Aside from the combination of Arabic / English language signage, the scene was very familiar with highly recognizable British, Canadian, and American brands on every street.

We arrived at our hotel, the Marriott Dubai Harbour Hotel and Suites, within 30 minutes. The taxi ride was cheap: about $20. We were quickly checked-in and ushered up to our 2-bedroom suite on the 29th floor. Oh wow! It’s monstrously big: living room, dining room, fully equipped kitchen(!), two bedrooms, three bathrooms (two en suite, one for our guests), laundry room, etc.—all tastefully appointed.

Our hotel suite's living room

Our hotel suite's living room

It being almost 11pm by this point, we quickly headed out to walk along the marina and find a place to eat. We ended up grabbing dinner at a Johnny Rockets (yes, that Johnny Rockets, which we’ve never tried at home) since it was close at hand and still open. But, that’s sort of emblematic of our impressions of Dubai in the first 12 hours of our visit. It’s a cultural mash-up: a blend of the East and West, the common and sophisticated, and the modern and traditional.

Libby and the Dubai Marina Skyline

Libby and the Dubai Marina Skyline

I’ll leave you with this scene. On the way back to our hotel, we passed by this upscale café where two obviously affluent guys—both dressed in kandoura (the white gown local men wear)—were sitting outside smoking shishas (water pipes filled with flavored tobacco) and playing ‘cards’ on their networked iPads. All of this was set against a backdrop of palm tree lined paths and gleaming towers. That’s Dubai in a nutshell.

What an amazing place…

We fell asleep around 1am.

Today’s box score: +1 continent (Asia), +1 country (Dubai, UAE)

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