January 1, 2019. Happy New Year! We got a lift to the Lake Worth Tri-Rail commuter train station, took the train and shuttle connector bus to the Fort Lauderdale airport. Found the Emirates Air Check-in counter (in Terminal 3, not 4), stood in a long snaking line, got checked in, went through a desultory security check (government shutdown!)
The usual drill… waited at the gate, boarded by zones, filed down the jetway and then packed like sardines onto a slightly threadbare Emirates Air Boeing 777 jumbo jet. Watched BlackKKKlansman, Three Identical Strangers, and Ready, Player One (H), and Annihilation, Avengers: Infinity Wars, Venom, and Crazy Rich Asians (S), ate 2 forgettable vegetarian airline meals, and FOURTEEN hours later, stumbled out into the warm desert night in Dubai where it was Wednesday night at 8 p.m. Lost a day flying east! Such is modern economy air travel! Hopped in a taxi and ten minutes later, arrived at our Dunes Apartment Hotel in Oud Metha.
Checked in, dropped our bags, went back outside and walked 1/2 block to the local mini-mart for bottled water, fruit, oatmeal, and a UAE SIM card.
Thursday, January 3rd. Slept fitfully until 9 a.m. and woke up feeling like we were moving through quicksand. Jet lag! But it passed, and we had breakfast and soon enough, Matt and Danielle pulled up to the curb outside the hotel where we had a quick reunion hug and then jumped into the car for a day of touristic activities: Dubai Mall and Burj Khalifa! Window shopped through the Mall with a requisite stop at the excellent Kinokuniya bookstore. We remarked on the many elaborate Christmas decorations on display throughout the Mall. Matt said they saw a Muslim family with women in full abaya standing in line so their kids could sit on Santa’s lap! Truly a melting pot and seemingly an oasis of tolerance in the Middle East!Watched the water fountain show from the patio of Baker & Spice cafe where we ate lunch.
Back to the hotel for a rest, then out through thickening traffic to the old gold souk, which Scott remembered from his business trips to Dubai 25 years ago, and where he bought me the gold Om charm I have worn on a gold chain around my neck ever since. Battled worsening traffic from the souk back to the hotel, then walked a couple of blocks to a cavernous Lebanese restaurant for an excellent dinner of Meze platter, falafel, tabouli, hummus, freshly baked pita, and halloumi (fried cheese).
Danielle wisely stayed at the hotel while we went back out through gridlock traffic to Dubai Mall for the 8 p.m. light show (amazing!), and our 8:30 admission to the (almost) top of Burj Khalifa.
Had time to see the Diplodocus longus dinosaur skeleton in the Mall Souk, the giant aquarium and indoor waterfall with statues of divers frozen in place, and the indoor ice skating rink, which looked like big fun!
Friday, January 4th. Dubai Miracle Gardens: Disney topiary kitsch. Words fail us…
Emirates Mall with every luxury brand represented. Lunch at Greek food court restaurant. More meze and chick pea veg soup. Watched tourists enjoying indoor winter amusements at the ski and toboggan runs. Stopped to ooh and ahh at the 2 Tesla models on display in the showroom. Coffee break. Crate & Barrel for Matt & Danielle’s Xmas presents (stainless steel skillet and cupcake pan), then the DU Store where we bought 200 MB data plan for our new SIM card ($6).
Back to hotel to rest. Then out to Indian veg dinner: masala dosas and thali platters.
Saturday, January 5th. After another restless night, woke at 9 a.m., packed up in a hurry and checked out of the Dunes just after 10 a.m. Matt & Danielle took us to “JBR” Beach – Jumeirah Beach Residences – a beautiful, walkable neighborhood that reminds us of a clean, new version of Fort Lauderdale Beach. Walked along the Beach, had brunch at Organilicious (guacamole + poached egg on toast, oat porridge). Walked to Bouchon Bakery (owned by Thomas Keller of French Laundry fame) to buy some breads and treats, then got back in the car and drove 90 minutes to Abu Dhabi, Al Reem Island, Gate Towers.
Our Airbnb, as you can see from the listing is considered a “studio,” but it actually is a separate one-bedroom with 1.5 baths. We are on the 30th floor in Tower 1 of three towers in the Gate Tower complex. Matt & Danielle’s apartment is in Tower 3. A five minute walk. The complex itself is like a resort with several swimming pools, tennis courts, fitness centers, and a pedestrian bridge that leads over the adjacent highway into a mall with 2 supermarkets, a small hospital and many retail opportunities. Not exactly a hardship posting. M&D like it here a lot. We do too!