Sunday, September 17, 2017
Today we managed to get a full night of decent sleep. The girls went to the gym in the morning while I blogged and then we all headed down to the enormous breakfast buffet. I am forcing myself to stick to only one plate today. The food situation here has gotten out of hand quickly. Today we met who we assume to be the manager of the breakfast buffet – an adorable British boy who looks like he is about 24 years old at best. Who needs gelato at breakfast when you already have eye candy? Oh god, I just realized I’m the creepy older lady hitting on the much younger help. Can’t stop, won’t stop.
After breakfast we hopped in a cab down to the Diera area of Dubai, which is the historical commercial center. Now overshadowed by all the new development, it basically represents what Dubai used to be like back before they lead the race for the world’s tallest buildings and biggest malls. The plan for the morning is to hit up the gold souk and the spice souk and then take an abra boat ride across the creek. As usual, our taxi driver drove like a fucking maniac and we feared for our lives the entire way. It’s par for the course in Dubai. You get a nut bag driver fifty percent of the time, every time. The drive took about half an hour, because everything in Dubai is farther than you think and takes twice as long as it should. Driving here would be complete nightmare. Our surly driver dropped us off outside of the gold souk and we were immediately bombarded by men asking us to come look at their fake handbags. If you have a vagina in the gold souk, it is assumed that you care about nothing but designer handbags, colorful pagminas and engagement rings.
The three of us were picturing more a traditional souk – similar to the one in Marrakech with vendors in little stalls selling various trinkets and wares, good-natured and ready to make a deal. My inner Fatima CousCous was ready to haggle. The gold souk in Dubai resembles more of an alley made up of small jewelry stores with aggressive prices – Basically in Santee Alley, with a serious attitude problem. Jorgie found a ring she liked in one of the windows so we went in to see what kind of deal we could make. The guy gave us an opening price of about USD $600, at which point we realized we were in way over our heads. I could haggle the shit out of this guy and still not get to place anyone would be comfortable with. 24 kt gold and precious gems demand a high price that we just aren’t interested in paying.
The intense heat and thick humidity only further exacerbated our cheapness and annoyance. It was at this point that I realized why the souk is open until 10 pm – no one in their right minds comes to this money pit in daylight. I guess we missed the memo. I was thinking more about beating the crowds than the heat. With jewelry shopping out of the question it become apparent that we would be making a swift exit. But first, Steph and I were determined to have our Sex and the City moment in the souk. It’s a girl thing, just roll with it. The next young man that came over to us asking us if we like Gucci and Prada handbags was the lucky winner. We told him we would take a look and followed in down an alley, up a decrepit stairwell, to an unassuming brown door where he registered a secret knock of some sort. At this point Jorgie was convinced that it was finally happening – we were selling her into white girl slavery. There is a point in every trip where she fears for her life and thinks we are being taken, but she follows Steph and I down the rabbit hole like a good friend anyway. We had zero interest in buying fake designer bags, we were purely in it for the experience. What the fuck would I do with a fake Prada bag anyway, wear it around in Sharkeez in some matching lulu lemons while I take Jell-O shots and play flip cup on Thursday nights? It’s a good thing I wasn’t a serious shopper, because these were the worst fucking fake bags I have ever seen. I could do a better job with some pleather and a bedazzler. The guy then offered to show us fake watches or sunglasses, but based on the bag selection I surmised that I was better off waiting on my next Target run. Besides, our Sex and the City moment had passed. We left the creepy room and headed back to the souk where Jorgie was finally able to unclench and breathe a sigh of relief.
Next stop was the spice souk. It was even shittier than the gold souk. None of the Arabic authenticity we had imagined. Our faces were sweating down our necks and we were desperate to make a quick purchase and get back to some air conditioning. A nice man with a spice shop invited us in to give us a run down on his product and we obliged. He offered to mix some specialty curry. We asked the price and he quoted us in grams, assuring us it was super cheap. So he mixed us up three huge batches of house curry that we will never be able to get through, along with some other spices. The main problem here was our complete lack of knowledge about the metric system. What American knows how much a fucking gram is? Apparently they are extremely small. So we ended up with a small fortune of spices that we then had to argue the price down on. It was clear we had let our heat exhaustion and souk induced anxiety get the better of us. We settled on a price that I’m still sure was about 50% too high and quickly got the fuck out of the Dubai souks. It was the kind of thing you have to do and see once. However if I ever find myself in Dubai again, I’ll stick to the resorts and leave the souk shopping to the metric savvy Europeans. By the way, all my friends are getting homemade curry powder as presents Steph is already planning a curry themed Christmas party. And Jorgie’s boyfriend better be ready to taste test her all new curry Pinterest recipes. We apologize in advance.
The next part of the plan was to take an abra boat along the creek. Abra boats were the main mode of transportation for Dubai workers back in the day. We walked over to the boat station and one of the attendants gave us an overview of the route options. He informed us that the typical ride up and back down the creek takes about 45 minutes. We all would have thrown someone overboard if we had to be subjected to the stagnant Dubai heat and humidity for forty-five more minutes. I then asked the guy if we could just take the five minute commuter express journey that goes straight across the creek. He was clearly disappointed. This prick then attempted to over-charge us 20 dirhams a person. Luckily Steph’s friend had already informed us this should only cost 1 dirham so we called bullshit and boarded the boat. Five minutes later we docked at the other side of the creek, fully confident that we got an efficient yet completely adequate abra boat experience. We hopped in a cab, made whimpering sounds as the air conditioning hit our skin, and headed back to the hotel. Thus concludes the “authentic Dubai” experience. We came, we saw, we curried
We cooled down in our hotel for a bit and then hit the pool bar for a quick lunch before heading out for our dune buggy desert tour. Every tourist in Dubai does basically the same obligatory desert tour. There are tons of different companies, but the program is generally identical. I had the typical tour booked until Steph’s Aunt Sharon saved us from from tourism basicness and told us we had to do a dune buggy tour. Sharon is also a blog fan, so shout out to her! We heeded her advice and booked a dune buggy tour instead. We were picked up and driven about an hour out of Dubai into the desert where we were thrilled to discover that we were the only people who booked this particular tour tonight. Private tour for three with no losers to slow us down. Perfect. Just to be clear, I didn’t drive. Driving and vacationing are mutually exclusive in my book because I hate driving and I’m horrible at it. I sat shot gun in Jorgie’s buggy and took selfies. The first half hour was a little slow for our tastes. I think the guy was giving us the Meek Female Special. When we stopped for a break I informed him it was time to speed it up. This isn’t our first four-wheeling experience on sand dunes. We know what we paid for and we came to kick a little ass. Again, by “we” I am referring to Steph and Jorgie. They gave us driving break at the foot of rocky hill in the middle of the desert. I think they thought we would enjoy the shade. Fuck shade, I want some cute pictures. So I made everyone drive up to a sand dune instead and then directed a photo shoot. The guides took pictures of us with their own phones “for the website”. One can only hope that is where those pics end up. But if some dude in a burka wants to get his rocks off to a pic of three sweaty American chicks covered in sand, no skin off my back. Our tour guide took note of our corrections and we jammed it on the way back. I was secretly hoping Jorgie would flip us, but she is far too responsible. And now we know why I’m not allowed to drive.
We then made our way to the desert camp for the cookie-cutter “desert BBQ” portion of the evening with all the other tourist basics. There were various activities on offer, like camel riding, sand boarding, and wearing traditional Arabic outfits. I wanted to play dress up, but I think the employees couldn’t handle the innate racism of the DIY burka booth because no one was ever working it. Fair. Everyone sat on rugs and pillows around a stage and feasted on a big buffet while we watched a very bizarre display of traditional Arabic dance. I’m gonna have to take their word for it on this one. The first dancer came out in a colorful multi-layered outfit with a giant skirt and danced around with a bunch of hats. But things really spiced up when they turned out the camp lights and revealed his entire outfit was covered in rave lights. Is there an Arabic burner tent at burning man that they poached this guy from? Just wait, it gets better. He removes his skirt and, as he is twirling, wraps it into a fake baby and pretends to hold a baby while the soundtrack plays crying baby noises in the background. What. The. Actual. Fuck? The second act was a belly dancer who made way too much eye contact as she moved around the stage. She slightly redeemed herself by aggressively shimmying her tits in front the old European men for a sold three minutes as they drooled. The grand finale was when at the very end when they announced “ladies and gentlemen, it is now time for stargazing!” We lay back on our pills as they turned out all the lights in camp and we looked up to see about three stars and jumbo jet flying overhead. Magical.
We drove back through the sand dunes in our SUV to reach the highway. The dumb shit in the car in front of hike the brakes like a pussy at right at the top of a hill, causing us to slam the breaks and get stuck in the sand. Our driver, a very nice Indian man who’s name I couldn’t understand but we just called MacGyver let the air out of the tires and got us out. We then had to take a “shortcut” through the desert to get to a gas station to fill them back up, which basically meant a drive through desert back roads with about 100 other identical looking SUVs. We ended up parked outside a “Saeed Khalfan Grocery” store on some dark back road across the street from a UAE army base in the middle of the desert in the dark. Super. Needless to say Jorgie was not thrilled with my second attempt to get her kidnapped today. Luckily we were joined by about five other SUVs full of tourists who had run into the same car-in-sand issue, so I wasn’t terribly concerned. We got home around 10 pm and passed the fuck out.
All in all, today was a fun attempt at getting a little authenticity into our trip. But let me give you a travel tip. If you want an authentic souk and desert experience, to go Morocco – shop the Marrakech souk and sleep in a Bedouin camp in the Sahara Desert, because it totally kicks Dubai’s ass at that shit. If you want to chill at a swanky resort and shop beautiful air-conditioned malls, Dubai is the place for you. And yes, that was blatant travel bragging. You guys should really be used to it by now.