844 days, 20,256 hours, 1,215,360 minutes, or 72,921,600 seconds. That is the approximate duration of my world tour. I never wanted it to end and now, in a manner of speaking, I suppose it never has to. If you wish to go by country do so by clicking on one above. They are numbered in the order I visited them, more or less. If you enjoy reading about it even a tenth as much as I enjoyed living it then you will not have wasted your time. Grab a refreshing beverage, settle in a comfortable chair, and make a journey across the world, experiencing it as I did. Then get off your ass and check it out for yourself. You're not getting any younger.

"I Am The Burj Khalifa" (Dubai, United Arab Emirates)

April 14th, 2010 - The truth is I could fill volumes with all I do not know about Dubai and UAE. I should have spent a bit more time here as it is an interesting place, albeit a bit expensive (Good luck finding cheap holidays in Dubai). My Couch Surfing experience has been, in the words of Borat, a 'greeeeat success'. Mustafa (my host) has been nothing short of exceptional. As far as I can tell he has no homicidal tendencies at all, which comes as a relief. In fact he is an extremely friendly and considerate guy. He gave me the key to his apartment, showed me around, and even cooked me breakfast. With him friendship is part of the package. I have enjoyed myself thoroughly and am sorry to be departing so soon. 

I also had the privilege of meeting part of the resident Dubai couch surfing community. It turns out that it is also a great way to meet fellow hosts and squatters (like myself). Less than 20% of the people in Dubai are from UAE and the foreign workforce is extremely diverse. Over a couple of gin and tonics I met folks from Egypt, Iraq, Pakistan, Sudan, Canada, Mexico, Iran, and the Netherlands. A fascinating experience to say the least.

So what have I been doing? Two words: shopping mall. Anyone who knows me is aware that me and shopping go together like peanut butter and asparagus. I am not big on malls either but I have to say that I was awestruck by the shopping centers in Dubai. They are like nowhere else on the planet and far surpass anything I've seen previously. Although I normally shun such places I could not help enjoying (in a morbid fascination sort of way) a walk through a few of these commercial behemoths. As I have spent the vast majority of time in the developing world stepping off the plane in Dubai felt a little like beaming 100 years into the future. I found the photos below on Google.




I suppose it is fitting, and not at all a coincidence, that the largest mall in the world (Dubai Mall) sits adjacent to the tallest man made structure in the world (Burj Khalifa). If my calculations are correct I think it feasible to maneuver a Boeing 747 through the corridors of the mall. You name it, it is there. They even have a huge ice skating rink (not to be outdone by the Mall of the Emirates which has an indoor ski slope). Why not? The Dubai Mall also has the best aquarium and underwater zoo I have even seen in a mall or otherwise. I must admit it was pretty darn neato (First two pics below from the internet).





And then there is the Ibn Batuta Mall which has international themes. I had the pleasure of window shopping in China, India, Egypt, Tunisia, Persia, and Andalusia. Don't want to walk? Well, hop on the golf cart taxi for your international shopping tour. Of course, if you do and you are not suffering from some sort of physical malady then you are more than a little pathetic.







And yes, in case you are wondering, I find all of these ostentatious displays of wealth utterly ridiculous. It is so obnoxious it fascinates me. The world financial crisis laid the smack down on Dubai as the legion of silenced cranes testify. Excess in excess of excess. I have been told that the Burj Dubai was renamed the Burj Khalifa after Abu Dhabi (the emirate next door) bailed out Dubai with billions in aid. Oops. Not enough? Ever hear of 'The World'? Oh, those, silly, silly fools. What hath thy wrought?




I could not resist a visit to 124th floor of the Burj Khalifa for a bird's eye view of Dubai. As you might expect the building is an engineering marvel and does not require a degree in architecture to appreciate. The elevator reaches near supersonic speeds and is accompanied by a psychedelic light show. Again, from a morbidly fascinating stance it was well worth the $27 US ticket price.


I also took a short stroll through parts of old Dubai in the Bur Dubai-Dubai Creek-Deira area. Hard to believe it is in the same city. No building taller than a mosque and a Middle East market vibe contrasts starkly with the ultra modern city just minutes away. Go back fifteen years and you would not even recognize Dubai. Skyscrapers have multiplied like randy rabbits and there seems to a contest pitting architects against one another in a heated competition for supremacy. 

Yesterday, Mustafa took me to the city of Al Ain located in Abu Dhabi (another of the seven emirates comprising the UAE). We visited a date palm oasis, a museum, and drove to the top of Jebel Hafeet, a small mountain/rock formation outside of town. What makes it so picturesque is the contrast with the flat desert surrounding the mountain along with the intensely green grass that proliferates in the park at the foot of the cliffs. Where do they get all that water required to keep the park green? Dunno.

























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'Love me or hate me, but spare me your indifference.' -- Libbie Fudim