Sorry for the delay since my last missive, but we've been doin' stuff. Just as when you're going on holiday you go with a list of things you'd like to see and do, (or maybe that's just me, my family and close friends often joke at my expense, 'Les is coming to visit, that'll mean going to an art gallery then...) when we moved out here we (maybe I) did some research and came up with a mental to do list.
Thus we recently went dune bashing, a name/description that always baffled me? Why not dune cruising or just dune driving? I'll tell you why..
Having found a local company and in the process saving a two hour round trip to Dubai, we were picked up on time by our driver for the day in his Toyota Land Cruiser. Off we went at a sedate pace to the rendezvous in the desert and marveled/reveled in the splendor of the wilderness while the other clients arrived. When the group was complete we set off, only to find that a car had got stranded on the peak of a dune, its wheels spinning helplessly. Our driver was asked to help and whilst I don't speak his language, I could tell he was less than impressed with his colleague who had managed to get stuck in what he considered to be a car park. See picture 1.
So we unceremoniously heaved them off the crest and set off in pursuit of the group. Now you need to know that in the blurb you get for the tour they describe this as being 'adrenaline fueled', however I have done some off road stuff in the UK and whilst it had its full throttle moments, most of the time you were being told to 'go slowly and maintain traction', so that was my reference point for 4x4 adventures. As I mentioned, we set off in pursuit, much as a greyhound chases a phoney rabbit. We seemed to be crossing the sand at the speed of light, the driver put his headlights on and it lit up the road behind, you were right Albert.. The car was sideways, pointing down at 181 degrees, pointing up at 359 degrees, we didn't know if it was Christmas, Easter or our birthdays, but we did know it was fun! We were a whooping and a hollering and the driver clearly believed in the fairground maxim of 'scream if you want to go faster'. We did, and so did he.. See picture 2.
It's worth mentioning that our four year old is notoriously car sick, so we were a bit worried that the Land Cruiser could become the Vomit Comet. However, far from being sick she was bouncing around in the third row shouting 'faster, faster!'. After an afternoon of seemingly impossible descents and moments where you were convinced the thing was going to roll over, (sand coming over the side window gives you that impression) we arrived at the Bedouin camp where we spent the night being fed and entertained. See picture 3.
How would I summarise our adventure? It was excellent, truly exciting and in an amazing environment. Even this close to civilization the desert is a place that is breathtaking and awe inspiring, I can only imagine what it's like in the middle of a huge expanse such as the Sahara. The hospitality was superb and we all had a great time. My advice would be that if you want to go dune bashing don't go alone, and use someone else's car, preferably with a roll cage, it makes you feel better.
Now the second bit of stuff what we done (use that for language analysis Camille :-)). It seems a shame not to live in the UAE and not go up the Burj Khalifa. See picture 4.
According to Wikipedia (never wrong) it is the tallest man made structure in the world, and the observation deck on the 124th floor is the third highest in the world. I personally think that it is beautiful and the fact that the architects and engineers combined an aesthetically pleasing design in a building of extreme functionality is a credit to human endeavor. Ascending in the lift you get virtually no sensation of movement, just the popping of your ears and the fast scrolling digitalised display of the floor you are passing to let you know that you're going up faster than the price of gas in a cold winter.
Once on the viewing floor you are at first amazed by the sheer height and then immediately made aware of the geography of this part of Dubai. See picture... you get the idea.
Desert, waterway, random skyscraper. Why build upwards so much when you could go sideways? What do I know, I'm not a town planner. You then see the nearby buildings along with the Big Ben replica. I don't know the answer to your question, 'why'?
Then in the mist the Burj Arab and Atlantis on the Palm.
I thoroughly enjoyed the perspective that it gives you and will be going again in a few weeks time. After all if someone has gone to all that effort to build it, it would seem rude not to have another look.