Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A Weekend in Dubai

"Baller weekend," we called it. Actually, more specifically, it was "HASHTAG BALLER WEEKEND." Because "hashtag" is funny when said aloud. Try it. I KNOW, RIGHT?

On my last visit to the UAE, a bunch of us got tickets to Sandance (more on that later), and managed to get a great deal on a hotel and so decided to spend the weekend. The Gentleman and I drove up on Thursday evening (the weekends are Friday-Saturday), which was my first experience driving in the UAE and also my first experience with Thursday-evening Dubai traffic. It is NOT to be messed with. 

I had it in my head that there was this specific corner of the Gold Souk in Dubai that sold legit pashminas for about half the price you'd pay in the US. And I wanted several to give as gifts to some of the fabulous women in my life. 

So there I was, driving The Gentleman's Jeep in rush hour Dubai traffic. It took us about twice as long to go half as far as we anticipated, and, long story short, we were already running late to check into the hotel and meet our friends for dinner when we finally arrived at the Gold Souk. Which is on the completely wrong side of the city from our hotel. 


Nope. Not close at all. In traffic? That's an hour drive, right there.

Side note - Google maps does a nice job of capturing the little blurbs of sand that were supposed to be "The World" islands but are now mostly...little blurbs of sand.

Anyway, so we finally get to the Gold Souk, and we're running late, and I'm like "But I just need to run in and get ONE THING." Which is completely underscoring the fact that the Gold Souk is not exactly a place you can "run into" to "get one thing." In fact, we circled for another 30 minutes trying to find a parking spot. But, apparently, one of the things you do in Dubai on a Thursday night is go to the Gold Souk. APPARENTLY.

The Gentleman finally convinced me that we were morbidly late, and so just as I was about to give up on the parking lot, I threw a massive Hail Mary and turned the Jeep into one of the tiny side streets that heads into the heart of the Souk area.





Lo and behold, I found a parking space. I had to park halfway up on the curb, and I may have run over a chicken in the process, but I FOUND A PARKING SPACE.

We ran through the Souk, with The Gentleman dropping pins on his iPhone Google map so that we wouldn't get lost in the winding maze of what apparently was also the Spice Souk, the School Supply Souk, and the Candy And Assorted Small Electronics Souk, and then I saw them: pashminas. Glorious, beautiful, 100% pashminas for half the price. I bargained for half a second, handed over a wad of dirhams (which look like Monopoly money anyway, and so shouldn't be counted as real money), and I had my armful of pashminas. We followed the Souk trail (well, I followed my instincts; The Gentleman followed his iPhone which was uncannily aligned with my inner navigation system) back to the ill-parked Jeep, headed back out into traffic, and checked into the hotel about an hour later.

Not too bad, considering.

Since we were all arriving from various places, we agreed to meet at the Benihana in the hotel for dinner/drinks/general regrouping to discuss the weekend plans. It was also here that I had the first truly decent sushi in the UAE:

Martini and festively-attired palm trees.

I want this box.

Following dinner, and now altogether, we proceeded to drive all over Dubai going to various bars that I couldn't even begin to describe or tell you about because they were:
a) obscure
b) unmarked
c) questionable in nature
d) all of the above

Answer: d. Suffice it to say, we found Coronas, DJ's, belly dancers, and what I am convinced was some sort of underground gay bar. 

But here's your first tip: take taxis everywhere. They are so ridiculously cheap, clean, well-maintained, and staffed with polite drivers who wear ties. 

See this? This is the cost of one of our many jaunts around the city. But that price is in dirhams. In USD, this cab ride is exactly two dollars and four cents. This is for a fifteen minute cab ride. I KNOW, RIGHT.
After all of our running around town, it was collectively decided that what we desperately needed was food. Now, this is Dubai, and while there are PLENTY of fast-food options, we were with seasoned Dubai partiers and they took us to the "24 hour quality mankousheh place," also billed as "the hip Lebanese baked wrap concept" according to their website. Behold Zaatar w Zeit:

Would you like some pizza with your baked Lebanese wrap concept? Yes, yes we would.

Someone got a salad. For health.
After our (very) late night snack, we headed back to the hotel for a good night's sleep. (I think we all tucked in around 5am and were up by 10am. Totally healthy.)

A lot of Dubai is (still) under construction as new resorts and hotels are cropping up wherever there's a spare acre or two. Upon looking out the window at our view the next morning, we discovered a gorgeous panorama of the Persian Gulf to the left....

...and another resort, still in its nascent stages, to the right.

and, apparently, many more resorts along down the beach.

What remains of #(hashtag)ballerweekend is Epic Brunch and Sandance, but I do want to share a few photos I snapped during the Most Expensive Bathroom Break Ever, wherein we followed one of our friends, who snagged a room at The Atlantis, inside this amazing resort for a quick bathroom break and ended up grabbing a round of drinks that probably set us back about $20 per person. (For one drink apiece.)

Inside, you'll find ornate marbling, giant clam shell water falls, and a multi-story aquarium. And that's just in the lobby and main downstairs.

These drinks were called "Secret Gardens" and were some sort of mojito concoction. With a garden therein. 
Stay tuned for: Epic Brunch, Sandance, and Ski Dubai.

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