August 2008

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The Mall of the Emirates

I would be remiss if I did not post a diary about the MOE since it has, for better or worse, played such a large role in our daily life here so far. Beth and I remarked yesterday, as we were tugged by some unknown force through the threshold of yet another clothes store, that they really know how to sell things here. They have marketing down to a degree of perfection that I only wish they had applied to their mastery of street planning. But the mall provides a cool respite from the overbearing heat and sun of the outside. You can always find a parking spot and the rows have numbers that are wired to the individual spaces telling you how many are open in any given aisle. The walk is short and not too hot to the sliding doors where you can start to feel the coolth from a distance of about 20 feet. The mall is the town center. It is where everything happens in Al Barsha (our neighborhood), and certain people make it their destination from all over the city. It contains as many restaurants as a medium size American city. It has more and better stores than you can find in pretty much all of New York City. And of course it has a ski slope. So below are some photographs of the mall preceded by a simple interactive map that if you click HERE you can make larger on its own page.











The shopping cart ramps are everywhere in Dubai. They are pretty great. The carts have magnets on the wheels that keep them from rolling once they hit the “rampscalator”.



















Orientation

While Elizabeth is at her faculty orientation in room B107, I’m hanging out in the lounge putting together some maps in order to orient you to the city. Elizabeth will be getting her residency by Monday at the latest and then we can really start to pull things together. We will then get the car from the Peugeot dealer which will look a little something like this. We have to wait until then until we can get our own DSL line to our apartment too. So for now contact will remain a little spotty. We’re hoping that we can skype from our DSL line. The Etisalat connection at the Mall of the Emirates makes it hard to. We’ll see. You may have to click on the maps below in order to get a nice resolution that will be readable.



So here we have a broad overview of Dubai stretching from Jebel Ali in the Southwest to the old city section of Deira in the Northeast. The yellow box shows the boundary of the next map:



So this map shows you the neighborhoods where we spend most of our time. Getting to and from is not as easy as it looks from the sky. Once you commit to a road that looks and has a sign that says it is going where you want to go, you may end up looping onto the highway heading the opposite direction. Everything is still under construction so a lot of the roads are blocked off suddenly or turn into a one way going the other way with little or no warning. Everyone is doing U-turns all the time. It’s just what you do. Each intersection has a sign that tells you if it is allowed there or not and it usually is.



Here is our walkable neighborhood. I had to draw in some of the streets because Google maps had them not built yet. The satellite photo is also very out of date. It shows the mall under construction and has none of the apartment buildings which are now near completion. It doesn’t show Lu Lu’s hypermarket either. The Enoc gas station is right there off of Umm Seqeim Road as well as the place that we’ll most likely get oil changes and the like. That road is a nightmare of traffic almost all day every day and we often find ourselves on it despite our best efforts. I also drew lines in the middle of some of the streets to show that they are continuously barricaded along the middle, one side of traffic flow from the other. This means that if you are turning onto the street you have to make a right turn. The only traffic light on the entire map is circled in green. There are no stop signs anywhere in Dubai except the occasional one when merging onto a highway where there is no merge lane at all.

I hope this helps you get a sense of the layout of things. Time to go meet Beth.

Furnished

Here are some photos of our furnished apartment. More to come later. We just got some more stuff yesterday and I don’t have those shots yet. The apartment building across the street is named “THE BARON” and their neon sign illuminates our living room at night just perfectly with a moody blue glow. It’s their internet connection that I’m stealing right now until we get our own next week so it’s really low signal and cuts out randomly.













Our Second Night in Our Apartment

We took our new float and a bottle of wine up to the pool last night…







Furniture

Thanks to dubizzle.com, Scott and Christie Grisham, and Shabir’s Pickup Truck Service, we now have everything that we could ever need moved into our apartment. Everything. We have a Christmas tree, a polar water cooler with hot and cold dispenser, espresso machine, toaster, rice cooker, router, phone, couch, love seats, dining suite, bookshelves, two beds (one king, one twin), coffee table, work table, bar table with stools, sheets, pillows, etc.

So this means that the end of our stay at the hotel is near. That also means that the internet connection is coming to an end. I’ll only be able to check in and keep in touch at wireless cafes until we can get internet in the apartment. That should be by the middle or the end of next week. We’ll do our best but it will be less frequent than it has been since Monday.

xo

Our Apartment

We got it. The University switched us to the other building which is just great.



























Atlantis

http://www.palm-jumeirah-dubai.co.uk/atlantis_the_palm.html



Morning Walk

This morning I got up early and decided to take a walk in the early morning 90 degree coolness. There were some people out riding bicycles and jogging but not very many. I’m not sure what is up with the concrete tower with the wires and re-bar sticking out in all directions. I guess it’s in the process of being demolished but that is odd here as most things are on their way up, not down. Beth and I think it is really beautiful though!













Driving

After a morning orientation, we got a rental car and went to IKEA today. Driving the streets is pretty exciting here. They have not invented the grid yet in Dubai and are instead relying heavily on the roundabout and the u-turn. IKEA was exactly the same as one might find in Pittsburgh or Topeka. We aren’t psyched about doing home shopping at IKEA but we are also very interested in conserving our resources and the trip there by car was pretty fun. We actually may be buying some things off of someone locally who is leaving town. We’ll see about that tomorrow night. But we picked up essentials like dishes, towels, etc. today.

I’ve attached some photos of the University, the Mall of the Emirates, and construction on the metro stop by Bur Dubai.

More tomorrow. We should have some resolution on our apartment by then hopefully.

























Day One

The day started with us sorting out the hotel mix up. It went fairly smoothly after Beth called the school, but when we went to the front desk to confirm everything, the staff insisted on talking to me, despite the fact that it is Beth who is the main guest and it is her job at the University that is arranging the accommodations. The guy at first ignored Beth and shook hands with me and expected me to explain the situation. But because 1. I didn’t really know what the situation was exactly, and 2. Beth was not having it, she did end up getting his attention and resolving the matter without my participation. That was really the only situation today that was so blatantly sexist but it was enlightening in its forcefulness.

Breakfast at the hotel consisted of Fatoosh Salad with Pomegranate for Beth and a Smoked Salmon Sandwich on Wheat Baguette with Horseradish Spread for me. It was great and it came to about $30 (US). Then it was off to the University. We took a cab there and it was about $4 and 10 minutes. Overall, we probably spent about $50 on cabs throughout the day.

Beth met with Yvonne and then Lily at the Human Resources department and Lily gave her the keys to our apartment (a building called “Al Madam” in Al Barsha near the Mall of the Emirates) along with some welcome cash and the money to furnish the apartment. The university is beautiful and the walking around the campus was our first real taste of 110 degree humid heat + intense sunshine. We waited in that sun for a cab to take us to the apartment for what seemed like far too long but was really only about 5 minutes. After about 3 minutes in direct sun your mind starts to wander to thoughts of water and shade and ac and you have to sort of nudge it back to the situation at hand.

The cab driver was not the best. Lily had warned us about that actually as we left her office. You really need to question the cab drivers here before you get in. Some of them may be more new to the city than you are even if you’ve only been her for 24 hours. So we sort of meandered around with the “help” of a pretty poorly conceived of map that was made by someone who had never been to the apartment building themselves since it has only been above grade for a month or two. We gave up and had him drop us near the Mall of the Emirates where we eventually walked around looking for “AL MADAM” on some building until we started seeing fata morgana instead and had to take refuge in the mall itself.

The mall is just huge. It’s the one with the indoor ski slope. We browsed through no less than 6 furniture stores the size of any Weisshouse or Arhaus or whatever. Prices seemed maybe a little up there but not unreasonable. Couches and beds for around 4000dhm and dining room sets around 2000dhm. But we couldn’t start buying stuff until we knew what the apartment looked like so we tried again. This time we got a cab driver who was willing to try and looked a little more competent. Still, we couldn’t find it exactly and we had him drop us off where we thought we were very close. We finally got our lead upon entering a corner grocery store where they have delivery men. They pointed us in the right direction and it wasn’t until we actually got inside and asked someone in the lobby that we knew it was the right place.

The real problem with wayfinding is that there is not a system of street addresses in Dubai. Most places are known of by the building name which sounds ok, but when 10 buildings are newly added every day to the pool of places, it turns out not to be a very good system. So even though our apartment building is on 31st Street in Al Barsha, it has no address number on that street. I’m not sure how mail will get to us but I will figure it out.

The inside of the apartment is a little hard and the design choices are just really bad — there’s no way around it — but it has potential and it is a design opportunity for us. The location is pretty good. It’s a little closer to downtown than the University and the proximity to the mall is convenient. There is a small chance that we will look at another place tomorrow but we’ll be happy there if that is the one.

From there we took another cab to Diera and the old Souks, meandered through the narrow winding streets selling mostly kitch made in China. Every 10th store or so is a beautiful rug shop or a great spice place. We may not have been in the best part since we kind of decided to get out blindly at the place that the cab driver said was “the souk”.

We had dinner at an Iranian restaurant near Dubai Creek. I ordered the “vegetarian platter” which it turns out consists of three kabobs of meat. It’s not “meat” though because one of the kabobs is chicken and it comes with lettuce on the side. There was a washed out photograph of the meal on the menu which after I looked at it again realized that it did look like meat, so it was kind of my fault. But the waitress would not leave the table from the moment we sat down. We said, “we’ll need a little time to look over the menu.” And she said, “ok,” but stayed there looking at us anyway. So I felt that I had to order quickly and didn’t take a good look at the photograph, paying attention to the name of the dish: “vegetables”. But after I explained to the waitress that I don’t eat meat or chicken at all, she really felt bad and said that she would find something for me. Then she kept coming back every 10 took a really strong liking to Beth, introducing herself and talking about how some people are not friendly and you could tell that Beth was a professor or something along those lines. Her English was hard to make out. But her name is Sunshine and she was one of the highlights of our day.

A lot of English is hard to make out in fact. Everyone “speaks” it and no one is shy about using it on you, but in a few cases during the day it really did no good at all.

Back at the hotel now and looking forward to our second day! Beth has a meeting at 10am and then we will probably rent a car which will give us a lot more freedom. It will be 180dhm/day but we spent about that much in cabs today and we have to drive to IKEA which is a bit of a distance.
Tomorrow we will start taking photos…

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