Friday, July 29, 2011

My Big Bus Tour

“Traveling reminds you of who you forgot to be.”

It’s easy to let our daily lives consume us, and easy to lose ourselves in the process. I mean our true essence. The ‘you’ that laughs at the silliest things and the ‘you’ that dances along with Jennifer Beals to the song, Maniac, while watching Flashdance. That was me last Thursday, 6pm Dubai time. I also shimmied my maracas to every song in the movie, Burlesque. I find the heat intriguing and the fact that I cannot understand a good goddam thing the Pilates studio’s driver says to me, amusing. This is who I am.

It was July 20th and I had wanted to play tourist and see Dubai. Oh, I saw Dubai all righty. I decided to take the Big Bus Tour, an air conditioned double decker bus that travels around the city. You can hop on and off whenever a sight interests you.

I was genuinely excited. I love tours and buses. I love taking the bus in NYC. It’s the best way to see any city. And if you get over the fact that you look like a big ol’ dork, it’s really fun. At 100 degrees (without the oppressive humidity) I decided to brave the heat and sit outside on the top deck, which was covered but still rather warm. I was going to take advantage of the view, weather be damned.

I had my hat, sunscreen and water at the ready. Bring it on Dubai. I plugged in the headset for the running commentary as we motored along. “Islam is the official language of Dubai... Islam means voluntary submission to God.” We drove through downtown and stopped at two malls. Yes, malls here are landmarks and considered sights to see. I took a pass. I’ve been to three malls since I arrived and I’m pretty sure that there’s not a whole lot of culture going on inside.
The Burj Khalifa  is pretty extraordinary. It cost $1.5 billion, stands at 2,717 ft, is the tallest building in the world and has the fastest elevator at 40 mph. It also has the world's highest occupied floor at 160. When I have a free morning, I'm going to take a ride up to experience the view.

I was enjoying being outside. Just me and the hot wind ripping at my delicate face. And then, before I finished my small bottle of water, my legs and heiny felt as if I was sitting in a puddle. I wore shorts (bad idea due to the naked skin on plastic seat sticking factor) I was at once, sticking and sliding, though I didn’t care, because I was sightseeing in the Middle East and I was ME!

I switched buses so I could take an hour Dhow cruise along the Dubai Creek. A client of mine said this wasn’t to be missed. Unfortunately I had to wait an hour until the next cruise was set to depart. I wasn’t sure of the bus route and if it would wind itself around in time, so I jumped off at the Creek stop. Better safe than sorry was my attitude. I was sorry about that attitude because just walking from the bus to the boat, brought even greater sweating. And since the boat wasn’t to leave for another hour, they kept the air conditioning off.

The boat was empty, save for an Asian mother daughter duo. I took a seat and tried to meditate, so that I might ignore the fact that I was sweating from my elbows and between my toes. The daughter sat down right next to me. And I mean RIGHT NEXT TO ME. The friggin’ boat is empty and you choose a seat next to me? Explain.

I turned to her and said, “You have to sit right here?” Yes, it was sarcastic with a side order of bitch! But my knees were dripping and I needed room to wring out. She said something to the effect of, “My mother and I were sitting here.” What? Her mother was sitting across from me and looked mighty comfortable; in her own row, I might add. As I picked up my bag and slid (literally) down a few seats, I muttered under my breath, “That’s okay, I’ll give us both some personal space.”

A few minutes later, the daughter asked one of the men selling beverages if he had change for 500Dhs (about $138US) because she wanted a drink, which cost 5Dhs ($1.38US) He did not. She then asked me but I didn’t have change either. I immediately asked myself what I was doing. It was hot and she was thirsty and it’s $1.38. I took out 5Dhs and handed it to her. She tried to refuse but I insisted. I said, “It’s okay, just pay it forward.” I’m not sure she understood.

She bought her 7-Up (that’s only going to make you more thirsty) and I looked at her mother and then at the Pakistani beverage man and said, “See, spreading the love.” They in turn responded with what looked like, “See, crazy lady, with dripping elbows.”

The boat slowly filled up and we had a nice crowd as we took off down the creek. Can this boat go any slower? I thought I was going to fall asleep. It was relaxing to say the least. I wish there was more to describe for the reader here but basically I saw creek life, and the city from a different perspective.

After the cruise was over, I waited outside with the other passengers, under an awning, for the Big Bus. And we waited. And we waited. As the temperature climbed, I started to feel claustrophobic. I tried to relax. I breathed deeply, and thought of glaciers.

In the 40 minutes that we waited, taxis came and went, and with each passing one, I asked myself why I didn’t hop in and call it a day. It was just like when I didn’t get a cab when I was in Prague, and dragged my suitcases to my hotel over cobblestone streets in 95 degrees.

I’m sorry that my shoulders aren’t covered and my shorts are above my knees (sometimes it’s too hot to be 100% respectful) but what, Mr. and Mrs. Arab family, do you not understand about waiting your turn in line to board the bus? Two families of four, confidently and boldly, cut to the front of the line, as if the 15 of us infidels didn't exist.

The balls. The gall. The rudeness. I wanted to say something but I promised to keep my nose clean. This is why there’s unrest in the world. Impatient and selfish people, who only see what they want to see, while carrying a sense of entitlement like a trophy.

I hopped off at the Dubai Museum, located in the Al Fahidi Fort. The fort was built in 1787 and is the oldest existing building in Dubai. Think the Arabic version of Madam Tussaud’s Wax Museum. (only without celebrities) Instead, the aim is to present the traditional way of life in Dubai

Back on the bus again, we passed gold, spice and textile souks. Cardamon anyone?! I was a little pressed for time, because I had to get to work, so I didn't hop off. The last bus stop was at yet another mall, so I peeled myself off of my seat, climbed down from the bus and hailed a cab. Look at me wising up. 

Stay tuned for tales from my desert safari.

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