Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Never Again Tour Company

You know those busses full of pasty faced people staring dully out of the windows? Ever wonder how they got there? Now we know. Today we were herded on and off a bus all day. A photo stop outside the gates of the Burj Al Arab. We had lunch there two days ago, zipped right thru the gate. Standing in the street taking photos of things you’re not going to see? Please!
To the mosque - we were supposed to have a tour, we all brought our headscarves, there is a big kiosk outside with descriptions and admonitions about the tour...that we’re not taking. It says tours offered today, but here we are in the parking lot taking photos (again). I’m seeing a pattern here. I would never be happy as a paparazzi.
To Burj Kalifa, the tallest building in the world. 828 meters. You do the math. With tickets to go to the top!
It was supposed to be the Burj Dubai, the Dubai tower, but in 2008 they ran out of money. The Sheik next door lent them the money to finish, hence the name, Burj Khalifa. Paybacks are a bitch.

It is astonishingly graceful and elegant. From the top you can see how much of the city is empty lots or half-built towers, something you can’t appreciate from the ground. 
We are herded back onto the bus and on to the Al Boom Arabian Village. There is an abandoned water park in front, the desert weeds having reclaimed everything that isn’t paved. Most of the Al Boom has gone bust, but there is a sad little bit in back where we are herded into a windowless room for a buffet lunch. 
A picture is worth a thousand words. 
Our semi-private bright green astroturf grotto. In the dark, can’t see the food. That’s a good thing. No ideas what we are eating, guides equally clueless but less concerned. Yes those are plastic grapes, and they smack you in the head when you enter and leave. One of the guides says what a lovely lunch, wasn’t that fantastic, and I don’t know whether to take her temperature or smack her. 
On to more delights: a cruise of Dubai Creek. 

The diesel fumes in the cabin are overwhelming. There is a top deck - fresh air! Fewer fumes! But as there are already fifty people up there we are told we must bake and be fumigated in the airless indoor diesel lounge. Wally does a bunk and sprints up the stairs, comes back for me just as I am about to lose my mystery lunch. 
We stumble thru dark dusty dioramas at the Dubai Museum and after stumbling around in the dark Jane and I find the archaeology section, brightly lit, with three thousand year old bronze daggers and carved stone pots with lids intact. Much better than the dusty moth-eaten birds.  
We are just settling into our room aboard the ship when we are startled by a man loudly welcoming us aboard. After a search under the bed (no one there) we discover the volume switch. I expected an announcement for the required safety drill, but not a wake-up announcement every morning (early) piped directly into my room, and cheery reminders (every time I settle in for some peace and quiet) that we’re about to miss the next ersatz delight. Makes me feel like I’m nine years old and late for school. 
The boat rocks us to sleep. 

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