Back in economy class on Emirates airline, a pilot-in-training is sitting next to me. A young girl. What are the chances. It’s symbolic that my journey kicked off so memorably with my two pilot friends in Emirates Business Class on the flight over, and then weeks later, my trip has come full circle by sitting next to Daisy, a recent graduate of aviation school at Sault College in Sault Ste. Marie. You would think meeting a female pilot is rare, and it is – she was one of only four ladies in her class. Daisy, who had been visiting family in Hong Kong, wants to fly small planes. I told her about my flight to Dubai and my four new Emirates Business Class friends – pilots Gary and Mani, and Nofel. She loved the piloting spew stories – maybe someday she will make some of her own (stories, not puke). Our biz class group, now aptly called the 41,000ft Club, has been keeping in touch over email, trading worldly stories. A reunion has been suggested – in air or on land?
The flight was still of high standards – Emirates is truly where it’s at. Yummy food, socks and eye shade, wine with dinner … what a great flight. On my other side was a guy who kept getting up to drink, so half the time I had no seatmate. Daisy slept with her eyes half open though, which kept freaking me out. The flight attendant came by while she was sleeping once and asked her if she wanted a drink, and we both thought she was lying there awake. Funny – but oh so creepy.
How long had it been since I saw Reality Bites? I love those movies that never go out of style. Winona and Ethan in their heydays (Janeane Garofalo, where did you go, you were so good). It was appropriate to me as I settled in for a long flight back to reality, after a now-surreal trip that had me seeing things my eyes did not believe. Did reality bite? No it didn’t – even coming home to a snowstorm. But dipping out of the reality I know into other fantastical worlds every now and again is my kind of living.
A last look at some of the awesome architecture in Dubai, this time at dawn. The only time I am up at this time is, oh, every morning with prayers. Not that I ever really opened my eyes. And then again it's pretty dark out at 4 a.m. But yes, the early morning has a certain ring to it here, with the sun streaming down, making the buildings glisten. Suddenly being on my way to the airport at such an early hour isn't so terrible. I push thoughts of snow out of my mind.
As my Dubai trip neared its end, the thought of saying goodbye weighed so very heavily on me. And an emotional goodbye it was, to Bevan, my lifelong friend. He truly was the most generous, gracious, thoughtful and sweetest host. It is amazing how close two people can remain through an entire decade, separated by tens of thousands of miles. At the airport, oh the tears. And it had nothing to do with not being upgraded to Business Class again, I swear.
Bev, thank you for sharing your world with me, for driving me around the UAE, for the laughs, the sarcasm, for buying me all of that gum and for sorting me out when I needed a hand choosing the right outfit for a mosque.
So strange to see Tim Hortons in Dubai, not once, but multiple times. Bevan said Tim Hortons is as common as Baskin Robbins there. Baskin Robbins is in the Middle East too??
Remember when spotting a Tim's in the U.S. was a shock?
Check out this story on Tim Hortons in Dubai being mobbed by Canadian expats.
Although there are plenty of Tim Hortons in Dubai, Bevan had never been to one. So I thought what better way to spend our last evening then ordering a double double and a box of Timbits, Canadian style.
It was weird walking in there, with a mosque on the corner, a larger-than-life mural of Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum – prime minister of the UAE and Dubai monarch (whose image is everywhere) – a table of local men in traditional robes, and the oh-so-familiar Tim Hortons' logo but with Arabic translation. Yet it was the same environment I walk into almost every day at home. Minus the snow.
I was so pumped for Bevan to try the traditional Timmys order. I was hesitant to say “double double” to the guy behind the counter but I thought 'What the eh', at the very least Bevan will hear what Canadians at Tim Hortons sound like. Yet the Timmys guy knew immediately what I meant. We got a tenner of “Tim’s balls”, as my mother (hi Mom!) calls them, and we sat down outside.
The double double was a hit – so says the guy who hadn't heard of putting cream in a coffee.
He said he could take or leave the Timbits, although he didn’t leave a single one behind.
This was a special moment for me – Bevan had showed me almost every inch of the UAE, and now I could show him a significant part of mine. Timmy’s was so Canadian, so Toronto, and a staple in my life. I sat back and took it all in as we recalled our wonderful reunion and enjoyed our Tim Hortons hangout. It was surreal, watching my dear friend from across the world whom I hadn’t seen in more than 10 years nibbling on a slice of Canadiana. And he loved the “double double.”
Oh, by the way, they totally had better lids. (No fair.)
TIP: Do not go to Tim Hortons in Dubai if you are a coffee lid crusader. It will only make you mad.
The Dubai Palm Islands must be seen to truly be understood. They also must be seen by a bird’s eye. See it above? Mind-blowing! The story and concept behind The Palm is another one of those wondrous tales of how sections of Dubai came to be. How are so many engineering feats possible in one city? We explored The Palm on my last day – I love how one of the most creative areas of the city was left to the end. Does the spectacle ever stop?
The Palm is a series of man-made islands in the shape of a palm tree. When officials decided to build more of the city, they built it out into the sea. Why not, right? Anything seems possible in Dubai. The Palm is visible from space by the naked eye. Everyone’s favourite Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield posted a photo of The Palm. Check it out here.
Construction of the Palm added kilometres of shoreline to the city. It has it all – more than 100 luxury hotels, flashy sports cars, fine dining, upscale shops. It’s enough to make your head spin. The grand hotel lobbies – check out The Palm Atlantis – become tourist destinations in themselves, packed with people window shopping, going to the aquarium, poking through expensive lunch menus, checking out the waterparks populated by dolphins, sea lions and happy children.
Not truly an island as it is connected to the mainland by a bridge, The Palm’s layout is really amazing – the hotels are lined around the circumference of the “palm tree”, the mansion villas are on the fronds, the apartments are on the trunk. All are along the beach. To build this city within a city, the Palm was constructed by sand dredged from the Persian Gulf and sprayed into the proper position. Rocks were used as a sort of dam. To really describe how it was made gets a little technical, but some fun facts can be seen here. Real palm trees are everywhere, grown in a nursery. It’s palm tree city, literally.
Speaking of feats of design, there is also The World, an artificial archipelago of 300 islands which was left incomplete after the financial crisis in 2008 caused construction to be halted. Apparently building will start up again soon.
TIP: Treat the hotels like you would any sort of sight-seeing, as they are virtually all individually a sight to be seen.
I decide to get henna'ed. I guess it's pretty. I twirl my flower finger in the air to try to escalate the drying time. I still end up getting the chocolatey goo all over my sweatshirt. Men walk by me with henna scorpions on their biceps. Maybe I should have gone that route.
On day two I was thinking I should have gone no route. The henna ended up staining my hand orange and my finger looked like I had dipped it in coffee and swirled it around.
On day 4 it was still there.
I am so branded as a tourist.
TIP: Your henna will stay for several days. Go to
a nice place that does it right and uses the good stuff.
Published journalist, world traveller, big thinker, fun haver