Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Sea Day, November 27

Today was a pretty quiet day for us and for the first time on this entire cruise we weren’t at breakfast by 6. We slept in a little and made it there by 7. I also didn’t take a sunrise picture as we weren’t up early enough for that, either. (No pictures at all today, actually.)

These last couple days of Hop on Hop off buses in Abu Dhabi and Dubai were overwhelming. While E sat on the bottom section, I sat in the upper section where I could hear, see, and smell everything. There were so many new experiences that have led to sensory overload.

My brain was trying to process so many things:

  • The buildings. The extreme (when I say extreme, I mean EXTREME) height of the buildings. One after another after another, all shiny and new. I have never seen so many tall, tall, tall buildings in my life. Then there was the variety of architecture. Hundreds of buildings (most likely thousands of buildings) with a unique look to them. There was also so much new construction, with many of the cranes looking like they weren’t being used. I can’t help but wonder if the ups and downs of crude oil prices are creating construction booms and busts. We also had the opulence of the mosques and palaces. I’ve never seen a presidential palace before this trip. I’ve never seen a mosque either, let alone multiple spectacularly beautiful ones. And I only saw them from the outside! I can’t even imagine the experience of entering one and processing everything I would see and do once inside.
  • The superlatives. When we did our 50 state trip we found each state needed something to set it apart. Maybe the state ranked #3 in soybean production or had the longest single lane road. But in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai, superlatives were the norm of the day. I lost track of how many times I heard something was the world’s only or the world’s tallest, longest, widest, most, highest, or most expensive. In both places it was clear those building the structures took great pride in bragging rights. That the goal was to be number one in whatever it was, whether it was an office building, residential area, mall, waterpark, hotel, racetrack, etc. I did notice an interesting difference in Dubai – many times when it was built was added to the tallest-longest-widest-most-highest-most expensive description. Even though Dubai is only 30 or so years old, there are other cities out there already taking over their previously-held number one spots.
  • The people. Some areas of the cities found most people wearing traditional dress while other areas had more western dress. Then there were other areas where both mixed in. A lady in a tank top next to one in a full burka. Men in their white dress, but wearing a baseball cap. So much to wonder about here. It also raised questions about western culture as well. It’s so very different than in the US where some look at those dressed traditionally in a not-so-nice way. 
  • The language. Most signs were in both Arabic and English. While everyone we spoke to used English with us, we did overhear conversations not in English. Then I ran into the big problem with the blog with it not translating out of Arabic. When it was turning to Italian when we were in Italy I could figure it out but in Abu Dhabi I couldn’t. Part of the reason was that it looked like symbols and was typing right to left. I’m guessing it reads right to left? Another new learning for me.
  • The shops and markets and malls. A souk is a marketplace? Yep, another new learning. As we were sitting in the Mall of the Emirates yesterday we were remarking that a mall is a mall is a mall. We saw a lot of the same stores we see at home. I was a bit shocked to see they even had a Victoria’s Secret – and they weren’t even hiding the bras in the back of the store. They were near the front for all to see, including those ladies walking by fully covered with nothing but their eyes showing. It really is something to ponder. 
  • The sounds. Mostly typical big city sounds - construction workers at work, car horns, wind whistling, HOHO narration, with the addition of something beautiful - call to prayers. 
  • The smells. I could smell all kinds of foods cooking in all kinds of restaurants and cafes. We’re not just talking a Burger King grilled smell here, either. So much variety. Unfortunately there was also the occasional garbage truck driving by.
  • The amount of things to do and see. Dubai especially needs more than one day, no doubt. I heard from several people who found they ran out of time to see more. The trip to the top of the Burj Khalifa (the tallest building in the world) took longer than expected because of lines. The aquarium at the Dubai Mall was nice, but took longer than expected because of the time (and hassle) of getting there. The Desert Safari was great but left no time to see anything in Dubai.  And so on and so on. A Hop on Hop off multi-day pass would have been the best way to go. The multiple routes would pretty much get you anywhere you might have heard of. With only one day, I’m glad I prioritized the green and blue routes. It really would have been great to spend one full (or at least half a day) at some of the stops.

Both Abu Dhabi and Dubai were unlike any other places we’ve been in the world. It even raised questions I didn’t even know I had! So yeah, it takes some time to process it all and my brain full. This made today a breakfast-pool-lunch-nap-TV day. We left the Persian Gulf this morning, sailed through the Strait of Hormuz, and saw Iran off our port side. (Seriously, is this really my life?)

Tomorrow we are in Oman for yet another Hop on Hop off tour. I imagine my brain will feel fuller than my stomach after a Thanksgiving turkey dinner.