After a more than three week long stay in Dubai (I had planned on 10 days), waiting for my visas to Uzbekistan and Iran, I finally got set to leave today. I have a boat ticket for tomorrow morning, that will take me across the Persian Gulf to Bander Abbas, from where I’ll begin cycling north. Finally! My impression of Dubai hasn’t been the best, so I’m more than happy to get going again. Here is a short piece on my stay in this city where everything is Impossible:
Getting things done in Dubai turned out to be much more difficult than I had expected. People – expats, that is, as local Emirates are rarely to be seen and never to be met – have on the contrary been about as friendly and helpful as is possible; saving most of the otherwise dreadful days. Now just to explain the city given that you just like me probably imagine a modern, well-planned thing (construction begun less than 40 years ago), here is a shortlist of facts that might change your perception:
- To cross the main-road which cuts through Dubai (Sheikh Zayed Rd.), you’d often have to walk several kilometers in either direction to find an under- or overpass.
- To take a taxi, you’d better know the exact route to where you’re going (even for sometimes obvious landmarks) as taxi drivers here have no clue. Those of them that have a GPS don’t know how it works.
- To find the Uzbekistan consulate took me over a week, despite great help from local Mathew who drove me around the area for a total of five hours; occasionally using four-wheel-drive since many roads here are under (constant) (re)construction. The tourist information – in fact not even the Ministry of Tourism – had no clue of the address, or worse gave me incorrect directions.
- To phone abroad you’ll have to face that Skype is blocked by the government, which in turn owns one of only two tele companies.
- And speaking about Internet, it is regularly super-slow. ‘Sorry, our low-bandwidth version of this page has been suspended’, said the website of UPS.
- To reach the most well known bicycle shop in town, most people put their bike in the back of their car and drive there – the shop is all but impossible to reach without cycling partly on the ten-lane highway. I was lucky to meet British Lee who drove me there.
- To go by any transport from Sharjah to Dubai in morning, you’d have to calculate for up to four hours time in the traffic jams. The distance? 40 kilometers.
- To read Sweden’s largest on-line newspaper is only sometimes possible, when the regime hasn’t blocked/censored the article because of some semi-nude photos.
- To find a map of Iran? Forget it.
Last but not least a huge thanks to all those who made my stay fun despite the above: Mathew and Angela from Alaska/Kentucky, Lee from the UK, Fabio from Italy, Fereshteh, Mohsen and Hamid from Iran. All of them living and working here since months, years or even decades.
Next update will follow from somewhere in Iran.