Chapter 2 - Most Wondrous Sight in the World 1

Chapter 2 – Most Wondrous Sight in the World

I woke up too early the next day at around four in the morning, which would be one hour after midnight back home. The body clock I would say was still not adjusted. I had downloaded a navigation software into my iPad and I immediately set to work, trying to plot my journeys around Dubai. From my computer, I discovered that the legendary Gold Souk was less than 300 yards away from where I laid. I also made a note to urgently visit the Dubai Mall next day, because I had promised friends to get them some items from that place.
The geography of Dubai may be quite easy to understand if you choose to ignore those bits that don’t matter to you. The city appeared, from my own lazy tourist perception, to be made up of two parts separated by the Dubai Creek. On one side of the creek would be Deira region where I was presently lodged, and on the other region was Bur Dubai which was also a big shopping district. The Deira half would contain the Gold Souk and also the Dubai International Airport further north. It would also be the way out to Sharjah. The Bur Dubai half contained much of all the other tourist attractions including Dubai’s most popular shopping malls, hotels and landmarks. Those inclined toward marine pursuits would learn that the Creek opened out into the Arabian Gulf through Deira and Bur Dubai districts.
Not knowing what else to do with myself, I watched television. Russia had just invaded the Crimean Peninsula and I was interested to see how events would consequently unfold. Later deciding that this was not any of my business, I went to my Facebook page to read the many wise sayings, gossips and arguments. What would be the most dramatic way to show my friends where my new adventure had taken me? Not knowing the right Arabic greeting to use, I went to the Google Translate website. Salam, my dutiful search advised; and that indeed sounded very appropriate. It meant Peace; and peace was a word I loved to use a lot.
Salam! I wrote. Peace.
I left my room for breakfast at the hotel restaurant around nine in the morning. Breakfast was free and included in my daily fare. I safely ate eggs, some salad and some baked beans, ignoring the greasy potato chips, bread, sausages and whatever else that was on the buffet table. I drink neither coffee nor tea, and always carried my own supply of hot chocolate powder whenever I travelled. So I asked the table attendant for some hot

water in a mug. Finally done with breakfast, I returned to my room to sleep for another two hours.
I woke up around noon, resolved to give the Gold Souk a closer look. It was not far from my hotel and just about 50 yards away from the Deira Hotel which I had visited the previous day. You entered the Gold Souk through a bronzed gateway and into an arcade filled with brightly lit shops, all with even more brightly lit front displays. The place, as one would expect, was full of tourists and from the entrance of most of the shops a cheerful attendant attempted with outstretched arms, to persuade you to come inside and hopefully buy something. I don’t like jewelry, neither on myself nor on anybody else, and thus found most of the specimen quite gaudy and many of them in bad taste. Even so, I wandered around for nearly a full hour observing the display for their artistic content, and most had indeed been very masterfully crafted. I took photos of several of the exhibits, some admired for the sheer brilliance of the artist behind such a creation, some to be used to later broadcast my disgust. There was actually nothing for me here at the Gold Souk. There was nothing that I could spend my money on.
I found that the neglect of Abass my guide to find me lodging in a more respectable part of the city had turned out to be an advantage. Here in Deira market, every house was either a shop or a hotel and you never really had to walk far to do any shopping. After browsing around little shops selling clothing, luggage, electronics, useless toys and anything else you can imagine, I decided finally it was time to visit the Dubai Mall.
Now this is how you will know a green tourist or a rich tourist – they always called the taxi when going to a popular tourist destination and they always tell the driver that they are new in town. This you might really be wise to do so the taxi would make sure you didn’t get taken to any other place than the destination you had in mind; but eventually this revelation also sets you up for being ruthlessly cheated, somehow or the other. This taxi driver looked Indian or Pakistani, as my sojourn in East London in UK advised.
“Where are you from?” he seemed friendly.
“I am from Lagos,” I proudly replied.
“Your first time here in Dubai?” he again asked after a long pause.
“Yes,” I happily answered. What a friendly taxi driver.
But all the while, the taxi driver kept fiddling with his meter, exploiting the newest advantage in his hands to the fullest. Something told me I was about to be cheated but what could I do but just grin and silently hope for the best. At the front of Dubai Mall he charged me forty-four Dirham. Something told me this was more than a fair charge, but what could I do? Anyway I was now safely at my destination, and that was what mattered the most.
You may never be able to fully appreciate the magnificence of the Dubai Mall until you got inside it. It was indeed a good example of tasteful architecture which did not torment the senses whether you were inside or outside the building. I am told that it is the largest shopping mall in the world and that it is as big as fifty football fields and accommodated about a thousand and two hundred shops. The foyer at the main entrance appeared to be guarded by the skeleton of a dinosaur; a Tyrannosaurus Rex I think. Or maybe this was a temporary display which is changed several times in the year. Behind this and before one of the entrances into the ground floor outer shop area one could find the information desk and consoles. Further down to the left of this main door is a similar entrance; this one contained a couple of sculpted camels which I couldn’t resist taking some pictures with. Much of the outer shopping area on the ground floor are built in the fashion of the traditional souks or markets and rather resembled shopping arcades delicately hewn out of the base of this gargantuan edifice.
The primary reason I had come here was to purchase some packets of exotic incense for a friend back home. The helpful information desk advised me where to look and thereafter I set about my journey. Navigating the entire four floors of the Dubai Mall should indeed count as a major journey, and I did wander about for quite more than two hours, quite lost and desiring to remain lost, while perusing the numerous shops and side attractions.
There was an aquarium which housed thirty-three thousand marine animals. It has a front clear panel which I would later learn is thirty inches thick and weighs nearly two hundred and fifty tons. I wasn’t really much excited about watching fish, so I passed. I paid very little attention to the expansive skating rink located, I think, on the second floor. Nevertheless the thought never even for a minute left me that the Dubai Mall was indeed the most astounding structure I’d ever seen planted in the ground.
The promenade at the back of the mall, or as it appeared to me, is overlooked by the Burj Khalifa which is the tallest structure in the world. The promenade abuts the Dubai Fountain, a normally placid body of water which erupts several times a day into a fantastic display of powerful water jets in an unforgettable choreography. On afternoons such as this one, it would be usual to find tourists taking boat rides around the pool; and more engaged in a decadent ritual of sunbathing. I must have roamed the mall for nearly three hours and until my poor legs and waist told me it was finally time to quit. I quickly purchased the incense that had brought me here, and which I had finally found on the hallway leading to the promenade, and headed out of the building.
The taxi driver taking me back to my hotel again repeated the same chicanery as the first. Apparently, green tourist strongly reeked of a special kind of musk which extremely excites taxi drivers toward acts of dishonesty and greed. The taxi decided to drop me off at Baniyas Square station. He didn’t know the way to my hotel, he had unsuccessfully attempted to reason; and rather than take me through a heavy traffic he advised that it would be better if I got off here and asked people for the direction and hopefully it shouldn’t be too far away. I was stunned, angry and disappointed, but again what could I do? I knew what the true reason was though. By reason of his hanky-panky, the meter in his vehicle said I had to pay him fifty-two Dirham, which was already like daylight robbery. His fear appeared to be that I could get hostile at my destination and this didn’t seem to him like a territory where thieves were handled with any kind of loving care.
I eventually found my way to the Al Arraf, very tired. In my excitement I surely had walked more than necessary today. I took a shower and strolled up to the Afghan restaurant. This time I safely ordered half a charcoal-grilled chicken. The manager, whom I had made friends with the previous day, looked disappointed, but the truth really was that my stomach could not take anything bigger. I had earlier at the mall bought a small take-out meal of biriyani, grilled chicken and fruit salad at the Waitrose supermarket delicatessen, and which I’d taken to eat at the Dubai Fountain. Even then my order turned out quite intimidating, together with the naan bread, vegetables and hot broth. I carried my purchase back to the Al Arraf in a small plastic bag.
A more careful hunt through the TV/SAT showed that there were definitely English channels to be viewed, and I could at last watch and listen to updates on current news worldwide. I finally settled to watch a goofy film called Bullworth or something like that on Fox. Sleep came easier tonight, I was certainly tired.


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