This trip will be unlike any other I’ve ever taken. My plan is to jump out of a working airplane in the Palm Drop Zone of Skydive Dubai – one of the top five spots (according to some websites). I had to plan this part a month and a half in advance, as people travel the world for these adrenaline rush-type activities. I booked my flight for the night before and a stay in the Pearl Marina nearby, having had a look at Airbnb and not being impressed with the monopoly on certain buildings.
I figured while I was in the country I would drive around and see the other Emirates, having already spent eight days among three (mostly in their capitals), the other four deserve some time. I had a spare set of keys made, as our locks had just been changed as maintenance works their way through the list of things that need fixing, and handed them to a friend. Caleb would be home sometimes, busy from 5am to 8pm making Chief, and I would need someone else around for the times in-between.
Caleb is able to get a couple of hours off work to drop me to the airport with the plans that I’ll be gone from the 24th to the 29th – back in time to spend my birthday with him – if I want to visit him at work. I wake at 8am and write a letter to the dog-sitters, quite a lengthy one, for the four men who have offered to watch Sparky and Piggy in my absence. I zip up my bag as Caleb walks in the door at 11:10am. I pick-and-choose my outfits to make sure they are modest as I’ve been getting comfortable in Bahrain, but not as much as I was in Amwaj wearing only a short sundress to walk the dogs.
We hang out on the couch for an hour while I have a shake consisting of bee pollen, flax and chia seed, coconut powder, cinnamon, green superfood, cashew and protein powder, coconut water, and rice milk – among varying ingredients – inspired by ‘overnight oats in a jar’ on Pinterest. Sometimes I will add oats, peanut butter, and frozen fruit. Caleb eats from his stash of shawarma (what he plans to eat while I’m away) and then we drive slowly to the airport at 12:30pm.
He takes the driver seat at 1pm after telling me how jealous he is that I get everything handed to me and really live the Life O’Reilly and wonders how I get upset or need a vacation from the constant one I live in – because I want a different view and other experiences – I need things to blog about (and the dedication to do so). Inside, the Bahrain customs agent notices the foot of extra hair in my passport photo and says I cut it because it’s hot here – yes. I sit near gate 12 for an hour reading while my phone charges, then by gate 11 where I’ll be departing from for 20 or so minutes.
I get up to pee, as I always have to do, but the doors are locked, so I sit behind the guy blocking my window seat. There are so many empty ones that he could easily move and I could sit closer to the front, but don’t. I take a picture for him when we’re descending after trying to show him the house in the desert with the tiny car in the dunes on my phone. We land and the passport line is long, but I’m able to pick the fast lane – retinas scanned, book stamped – done. I’m also lucky to be an adult in a line where a toddler is free to roam and slap other children.
Customs is even faster with nothing to declare, and the agent notices I’m leaving before my birthday, but I’m here to celebrate it. I’m happy that the rental car office is in the same terminal this time – so no pricey cab ride – just the $5 McDs coffee I had before leaving Bahrain and the $7 falafel-cheese wrap from Costa that I will chomp on during the paperwork process. It takes only a few minutes to scan my passport, drivers license, and credit card before they hand me the keys to a 2015 Nissan Micra. They asked if I wanted the Oman insurance (the reason I chose them) – for only $81 for 7 days (about what I’m paying now), which is better than I thought, but I’ll concentrate my time in the UAE and maybe make it back to Formula Rossa!
I turn on Waze – an amazing application in Dubai with 50 users online – and got on the road. I’m hesitant at first as the sun has set, but I’m an adaptable driver, and soon texting, photographing, mapping, switching lanes, and eating – they can’t get me for whatever stains are in the back seat, but the breadcrumbs are all mine. I miss the turn to Dubai Mall, but the app is one step ahead, and I get there easily after a U-turn. I find a spot in cinema parking, on P2 in the C-D area, go downstairs to the fountain level via lift, and walk a partial length of the mall past the Power Rangers Super Megaforce, and by the coffee shop Caleb and I had breakfast at on my way outside.
The area is packed with tourists and regardless of what else people can judge you by – they do more so when you take a selfie. This is the largest dancing fountain set to songs in Swahili, Arabic, and Italian to name a few. The water shoots a measly 500 feet in the air compared to the set of WET Superlights, over 6,000 in total, that can be seen from 20 miles away. The show runs every 30 minutes and I’ve been here for ten. The facts and technology are impressive, but I think it speaks to the child in us as well – it’s lights, water, and music – like a giant snow globe that’s been released – loud, beautiful, and powerful (which might be Dubai’s new slogan).
I take a video and pictures, and then cast my eyes over the sea of screens to see it for myself. I go inside the Souk Al Bahar. I know what I’m looking for, but somehow can’t seem to pass the yummy nuts shop, Munch & Crunch, without buying something new – and it wasn’t the stuffed dates I was eyeing – though it’s my birthday week, which is enough of an excuse for me. After that expensive charge I keep walking and pass ladies enjoying gelato from the same place Caleb and I got coffees – I’ll be back to order a scoop of forest berries as it feels more like summer than the strawberry cheesecake.
I go upstairs and the kopi luwak café (not its real name) is open. The woman wants $49 for a tiny cup to drink in-house from a three-chamber pot. I knew I’d regret walking away, but I also knew that skydiving was taking precedence over the beginning of this trip. No point in drinking expensive coffee and staying up all night when the excitement alone will do that for me. I tell myself I’ll be back, but it might be another year. I go to the car park near P2 towards C-D where I left the car… didn’t I? I walk around clicking the key and three car wash men start to help. I panic and they tell me to check other levels – different colors and letters. I check P1 and P4, not finding P3 and start to freak out – it’s been 30 minutes.
I go back downstairs and am directed to the police station, i.e., security/customer service. I wait in there for 10-15 minutes for a guy on a cart who drives me from P1 to P5 while making small talk to calm me down. He asks about where I was coming from – then he’ll know the direction I took. I can’t believe I forgot that badly – level P5, but I’m so grateful to see the little car after 9:30p – and that I have a passport and athletic shoes to jump with tomorrow. It’s not until I’m stuck in traffic, at a standstill, 3.5 km from my bed for the night that I get out of the car for water.
I’m by the marina for the night, at the end of the street, and the man at the desk has a sense of humor – giving me a special rate as he charges the rest of the room to my card – and I thought it was pay upon arrival. It’s already 10:30pm and I thought I might have time to walk the marina or go to the beach, but I put my tiny car in the garage and take the lift to the wrong floor. I’m glad to find my room with a large bed and a message from Caleb at the end of his long day.