Day 516: The Burj Is The Word

31.05.10:

UAE: Damien kicked me awake at the marvellous hour of 6:30am (5:30am in my still-in-Kuwait time zone) and after stuffing my stuff in my bag I headed out into the big dirty world.  Damien dropped me at the swanky new metro station (looks like a big silvery sand worm from Dune) and we said our fond farewells (although there’s a good chance I’ll be back here in a couple of weeks – I honestly don’t know what is going to happen next, but I’ll explain more tomorrow.

My mission for today?  Ascend the Burj Khalifa (nee Dubai) – at 828 metres high by FAR the tallest building in the world.  I was told that tickets had to be booked in advance and that if you turned up on the day they would want £100 off you.  I got there at 8am (the eager beaver that I am), only to discover that the building didn’t open until 10am.

Which, in my opinion, is a bit silly.  At 8am the heat haze isn’t so bad and so you should be able to see further, but I guess you can’t get the staff these days.  The good news was that none of the trips up the tower were full today, so I could quite happily book myself a trip to the top without having to shell out a month’s wages.  Excited at the prospect I rose 124 floors to the viewing platform – the Burj is so high that the 124th floor is only two thirds of the way up.

The view was, well, impressive more than inspirational as I didn’t have a clue what I was supposed to be looking out for.  One side looked out over to pure desert whereas the other side looked out over Las Vegas.  I guess that’s what you’d see if they built a ridiculously tall tower in Las Vegas (and why don’t they?!).  But as a feat of engineering and human ingenuity I take my hat off to it.  Do you think in 4,000 years time, annoying stoned morons will be of the opinion that it was built by aliens?

You can’t see The Palm from here, but you can see The World, although it’s at such a funny angle I guess you could be forgiven for pointing out it looks like the Koopa Beach level off Super Mario Kart.

Koopa Beach
"The World", Dubai

So back down to Earth and over to the bus station – nice and early, just in case (and lucky I did – the bus left an hour earlier than advertised!) and before long I was whispering too-de-loo to Dubai.  One thing I like about the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait is that (much in the manner of The Kray twins) they look after their own.  Immigrants might get the short end of the stick (good luck getting a passport, matey!!), but if you’re a national you are given the golden ticket and no mistake.  Now you compare that with other decidedly (and grotesquely) oil-rich nations such as Nigeria, Angola and Gabon and you see how much the leaders of these basketcases happily shaft their own people in a way that only African leaders, shielded from WHATEVER THEY ATROCITIES THEY WISH TO COMMIT by Go-Go-Gadget-Historic-Guilt, can.

Anyway, when you hear that Emiratis (OH I LOVE THAT WORD – sounds like a secret cult of magicians who fly about on magic carpets) are given £2,000,000 on their 21st birthday and an extra £2,000,000 if they marry a fellow Emirati (sorry, just had to use that word again) – you only have to wonder what magic and miracles could be achieved in Africa if just someone – someone – would have the brains and the balls to call the thieving scumbags who run Africa into the ground up on the great disservice they commit to the good good people Africa.

And so onto the border with my 159th nation state of The Odyssey – Oman.  I’ve been told good things about this place, although all I have to report today is that there is a good 50km between the border posts of the UAE and Oman (seriously – who OWNS those mountains???!) and that the Omani guys on the bus (as well as sporting nifty hats) were of a friendliness level that I last experienced in Iran.  Oman – you’re doing well.

Next Month >>>

Days 549-577: Delayed in Dubai

03.07.10–01.08.10:

So I wound up stuck in Dubai for four weeks. Tons of stuff happened, but not much of it relevant to the ongoing quest that is The Odyssey.  I’ll divulge the whole sordid affair once I have more battery power on my laptop.

Here’s what you need to know:

It took two weeks to get a visa for India and then shipping myself off to the Sub-Continent proved amazingly difficult.

I was helped (immensely) by the following people: Mr. Kashi Samadder, Damien (Damo!!), Fajer, Ben, Dan, Alena, Pamela, Sarah, Martin, Youhan and Barry from CMA-CGM.

Mandy, my beloved, came up with the goods in the end, securing me passage onboard a ship bound for Bombay via Karachi.  Hurrah for the Mandster!!

Whilst in Dubai, I sailed around The World, won at Laser Quest, watched the World Cup final in the Barasti Soccer Dome, learned to play backgammon again, attended a 4th of July party dressed as a communist, watched myself on telly, got recognised off the telly by a guy standing next to me in the urinals who was dressed as Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer (eek!) and generally staggered about the place much in the manner of Barney from The Simpsons doing an impression of Keith Richards.

One sad piece of news for you, though – my kick-ass old laptop, Dell Boy, has finally gone to silicon heaven.  His screen is cracked and he’s been shipped back to England for a formal burial.  He’s been replaced by Sony Jim who seems a lot more delicate and has a nasty habit of ignoring the keys I press when writing stuff.  Don’t know how long this guy is going to last out in the big bad world, but at least he’s got the processing power to play Psychonauts.  Hurrah!

In the end it was Rickmers Group Shipping who came to my aid, they stuffed me on board the magnificent MV CMA-CGM Jade bound for Bombay via Karachi in Pakistan (two birds with one stone, so to speak).  I’m eternally grateful to them and will be adding their name to my lists of helpers very soon.