We took the Hop On Hop Off bus tour of Dubai, and became instant authorities on the city. Reading further on the Internet provided a background to a successful country's development from the days of tribal desert dwellers, through an organised maritime trade entrepot to modern Dubai, a city with over five thousand construction sites, one of which is to be the largest airport in the world.
Interesting articles in the local paper were about tolerance and allowing people to behave according to their cultural styles-Western people who wished to swim and sun bathe on the beautiful white beaches were to be left alone under pain of imprisonment and/or lashing.
Crime is less than two percent. Gaols are airconditioned and spacious, with Internet and education. Inmates are only allowed to serve a sentence of five years, after which they are deported.
We learned of the discovery of oil in the late 60s, and took away the perception that this was the foundation of modern Dubai. However, further reading emphatically pointed towards historical success in handling not only the use and distribution of oil revenue, but the wisdom of the rulers, who had brought down through the generations the ability to manage current fiscal policy based upon age-old skills. In those days, trade and pearling provided the income. The current ruler of Dubai followed the successful policies of his father, and the family is greatly revered.
The British, under the auspices of the East India Company, where a huge power in the period up to 1969, but withdrew prior to the foundation of the United Arab Emirates-five states joined together for mutual benefit.
We never worked out the precise significance of the clothing of the Arab people-we were there such a short time and never found anyone we were comfortable to ask. In the evenings there were many wearing the destinctive outfits in the lobby, where we used the Internet with our laptop.
The service people all seemed to be from the Philipines, from Myanmar and from Pakistan.
We saw some of the extraordinary new projects, buildings and infrastructure. We also saw the docks, where ancient boats are loaded by the most basic system-manpower.
We went through the wonderful museum, which looked like a fort from my favourite Beau Geste, a film of the Foreign Legion.
It has an underground section full of displays of ancient bedouin lifestyles and the old markets and pearling industry. It was a highlight of our few days there.
We went to the gold souk and were surrounded by a myriad of choices in gold, diamonds and pearls, which left the head spinning. Tashie chose a necklace for a gift from me to thank her for giving me the gift of her time.
We drove through different parts of the old town-where the tailors work, where the old mosques are positioned and the old buildings.
It was 43 degrees, and we tried to get onto airconditioned buses, but sometimes we were not able to, so we did not do the city justice. We missed our included ride on the so-called Creek on a traditional dhow, so will do that next time.
We did get to the Mall of the Emirates, and watched the people on the man-made snow ski slopes.
The shops held merchandise we could only compare to the most luxurious we saw in Paris. It was free to look, and that we did.
Our hotel had a swimming pool; we were on the fourteenth floor, but the view at this time of the year is clouded from dust and heat causing a type of smog. It was all very exciting and interesting, and although a little intimidating for two women on their own, that did not stop us from using every available second to enjoy our last two days on holiday.
As we were leaving the Mall of the Emirates, Tashie helped a young woman with her stroller and shopping as she entered the small shuttle bus. She was from Melbourne and it was her daughter's second birthday. She was delightful and we spent the trip back to the Hostel exchanging experiences in Dubai. She invited us to meet at the pool for cake and candles later in the evening.
After the grueling 43 degrees heat, the first thing we did when we returned to the hotel was to take a long cold shower. We pulled on our bathing costumes and headed straight for the pool on the third floor.
As we came through the corridor, we spoke to the attendant, a young lady, confirming that the pool was available to us. She assured us that everything was available to all guests.
So we were puzzled by the reaction of the swimmers already in the pool, as we removed our outer clothing and lowered ourselves into the water. Three Caucasian men immediately left the pool by the nearest wall, turning their backs and continuing a conversation. Three Arabic men also turned their backs. Everyone stopped swimming. It was an uncomfortable atmosphere, but nice and cool in the water.
We did not enjoy the swim and left the water quite quickly, even the confident Natasha opting out of her usual twenty laps. We ordered an iced drink which we drank on the lounges arranged about the pool and quietly talked about our day in Dubai.
After a time, a girl who seemed to be in her early twenties entered the pool area. She had a mop of curly blonde hair and we watched as she shed her sarong, revealing a tiny bikini.
She confidently strode towards a shower we had not noticed, on the wall at the entrance end of the pool. After the briefest rinse, she slipped into the water and began slicing her way through the waters of the pool.
Immediately we realized this was the cause of our discomfort. The pool occupants were neither misogynists, nor racists. It was obviously a cultural expectation. We had not showered publicly, before entering the water. Again we filed it away as a lesson learned.
Later that evening, we came out onto the pool surrounds to watch the lights of Dubai as the moon rose behind the twin towers opposite our Hotel. Our friend and her baby were there, and another lady friend of hers. We said our goodbyes and after a short time returned to our room.
The hotel bus took us to the airport, where we spent the last of our Euros. A lady in one shop told me they handle many different currencies, and are able to give the correct change in fourteen. Australian dollars was not one of them. Nevertheless, the prices were very competitive and yet more gifts and purchases were added to our luggage. Luxury goods were displayed everywhere, amazing lotteries are based there on the floor of the airport. It is truly an exciting place to visit.
Dubai aiport currently handles twenty million passengers per year, and the new airport is being built to accommodate three times that many.
We were two of the millions, happy and exhausted, as we made our way through the long corridors to catch our flight home with Emirates.