Welcome to the blog for our round the world trip.

14 January 2008

A December Detour

Spending a few days in Dubai, as a stopover on our way back from India to the UK, was a huge contrast to the majority of our trip so far. Huge buildings which give you neck ache as you crane to see the tops; acres of glass panelling sporting sunny reflections; shopping malls the size of small nations offering Gucci, enormous diamonds; souks full of gold and the biggest televisions in the world (one mall even has an indoor ski resort); and levels of wealth which would be entirely unimaginable to people in some of the more remote parts of the world we have visited. We were more than a little culture shocked by it all.

We weren’t sure whether Dubai would be our kind of place, not least because there is no real history there. It is all very new, having really developed only last century in the middle of an inhospitable desert. But despite the culture shock, we really enjoyed seeing the madness of it all. We ate our first proper Western food for a long time; drank in Starbucks; met up with a couple of Helen’s former work colleagues; admired some pretty spectacular architecture (our hotel room looked out onto the Burj Al Arab Hotel - the “sail” building with the famous circular helipad- which was pretty amazing); and marvelled at how ethnically diverse the city is. Nowhere else have we seen so many nationalities and heard so many languages in all the restaurants and hotels, no doubt something to do with the marketing of Dubai as a central meeting place for people coming from Europe, the Far East and Africa. So, all in all, it proved to be an interesting few days.

The shame of it was that the roads in Dubai were fantastic, including a fourteen lane highway that runs for twenty kilometres through the city. And yet we had no Van of Dreams with us. After the rubbish roads we have driven on, it was rather galling to find ourselves somewhere where we could have cruised around so easily in the van, yet to suddenly have to rely on taxis. Having said that, the traffic is terrible in Dubai, so maybe it was just as well that we weren’t driving.

It’s amazing how much we have grown used to our on-the-road nomadic lifestyle, though: we were having withdrawal symptoms after only a few days! The up side was that we made it back to Blighty for the festive season, in time to catch up with friends and family, and to join in the great British Christmas and New Year Binge. We ended our brief trip home by joining Matt and Babs on their wedding day: congratulating them by sipping champagne in a Cambridge college was a good way to round off our trip.


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