We had just one CIEE related activity this day – a farewell brunch at 2:00 pm. With the entire morning to kill, K. and I decided to go for a walk. We first headed southwest to Safa Park, which is one of the bigger parks in Dubai. It’s quite beautiful, but it’s not free. It costs about a dollar to get in. However, around the park is a nice running trail, which was very busy while we were there. We circled the park, then headed up the coast, eventually finding Jumeirah Road on our way to Jumeirah Mosque. On the way we found a nice spot for a panorama centered around the Burj Khalifah:
We knew it was going to be a long walk, but I think we really underestimated how long. It took us a couple of hours to get to Jumeira Mosque, which we had heard was the only mosque in Dubai that allows non-Muslims to enter. That’s true, but only on certain days, and Friday is not one of those days. So, we got to see the mosque from the outside, but we didn’t get to go in. Even so, having been to the Sheikh Zayyad Mosque in Abu Dhabi, I’m sure Jumeira Mosque would have been a let down. Nevertheless, I did snap two photos I think are interesting and quite telling of Dubai. The first is a photo of the Jumeira Mosque, but with TGI Fridays in the foreground.
After our hike to Jumeira Mosque (almost 5 miles in the increasingly hot UAE sun), we stopped by Starbucks to take a break and get a refreshing beverage. While there I snapped a photo of my Starbucks cup with the Jumeira Mosque in the background:
I think these photos are a very good illustration of Dubai and the UAE. It is a country that has pretty much all of the amenities and stores of the West, but is trying to reconcile those amenities with its cultural heritage. You can go the mosque and then stop by Starbucks or TGI Fridays afterward. Globalization has been realized in Dubai! Tired from our hike to the mosque, we thought we’d catch a bus back to our hotel, but it turns out you can’t pay when you get on the bus, you have to have a prepaid bus card, and we couldn’t find where to get one. We did, however, see the air conditioned bus stops:
Rather than trek all the way back to the hotel, we decided we’d try to work our way over to the Metro, forgetting that it is closed Friday mornings and only opens at 1:30, which might not get us back to the hotel in time for our 2:00 pm brunch. We headed back southeast, cutting across streets and through neighborhoods toward the Metro line and eventually ended up walking through a section of town that was filled with labor camps. Basically it was old homes that had been repurposed for dorms for dozens of men. And since Friday is the one day off many of them have, they were out and about. We didn’t stop to take pictures as it kind of felt like we were not supposed to be there, but we didn’t feel threatened at all. Once we reached the edge of the camps we turned around and snapped some photos, but I wanted to be discrete, so I didn’t pull out my good camera. I just used my phone. I did get a picture of some of the laborers playing cricket in a parking lot:
From there we worked our way back to Sheikh Zayyad Road and a Metro station only to realize the Metro was closed (it was about 12:30 at this point). So, we decided we’d get a taxi. We found one quickly and it took us back to our hotel for a very reasonable rate. But… K. left his wallet in the cab! Nine days in the UAE without incident, and on our last day, K left his wallet in the cab! Luckily, he kept his passport separate from his wallet and he had kept a backup debit card in his room so he would be able to get money, but it was a downer and major inconvenience. The hotel staff worked with him to try to get it back, but to no avail. I still feel bad about it, but he was cool about it and, thanks to his planning, was fine. Our brunch was at a beautiful restaurant in Old Dubai called Bastakiya Nights. We had a prix fixe menu and it was absolutely delicious, probably the best meal we had there. That was also the last time we were all together (though two members of our group missed the brunch, including K. who was still trying to find his wallet). We said our goodbyes then some of us headed back to the hotel. I had arranged with L. and K. to go to the Dubai Mall that evening and from there go up the Burj Khalifa to the look out platform. K. isn’t a fan of heights; not afraid, just not a fan. We left our hotel around 6:00 and headed to the Dubai Mall. The area around the mall is lit up quite beautifully at night:
It took us forever to find our way into the Mall, but then we walked around for a bit. At the base of the Burj Khalifah they have a massive pond, like the Bellagio in Las Vegas. And like the Bellagio, every half hour there is a fountain show set to music. We watched one, then grabbed some dinner before heading To the Top. It cost about $30 to go up to the lookout platform, but it was a decent view. Here’s a night shot of the Burj Khalifah:
The viewing platform has an open roof, but very high glass walls. I snapped enough shots to piece together an okay panorama:
K. snapped a photo of me on the platform as well:
It is pretty amazing to think that you are hundreds of feet above what would be considered very tall skyscrapers if not for the existence of the Burj Khalifah. Oh, and the elevators are remarkably fast and smooth. My ears popped going up and down, but it’s a smooth ride. From the Burj Khalifah we headed back to our hotel, packed up, and took a cab to the airport. We all had flights that left early the next morning – 1:30 am!