We We arrived in Abu Dhabi on the 2nd of July at 1230am and took the complimentary Etihad coach to Dubai and got there about 2am. We were not going to disturb Alan’s lovely caretakers Mary and Augustine at that hour so the Etihad man kindly took our luggage on a trolley around the corner to a “Tim Hatton’s” 24hour coffee shop where we checked our emails and drank coffee until 5.30am when we took a taxi (the driver got hopelessly lost even though we had a good map to show him) and got there about 6.30am.

The villa is very close to Burj al Arab – one of the most recognisable buildings in Dubai with Burj Khalifa the tallest building further to the south.

We were like zombies after little sleep and so spent most of the day sleeping or resting. The day after we went for a walk and it was very hot (over 40degrees) but nice and dry and we were only about 15mins walk from the beach.

Alan (a captain of the A380 with Emirates) arrived from Australia the next day. It was lovely staying at his house rather than another hotel and we enjoyed having a conversation in English again and Maurice was able to talk aeroplanes ( his passion ) with Alan.

We went to the Mina al Salam mall near Burj al Arab and wandered around the old style building with beautiful heavily carved and decorated wooden beams where they had a wonderful assortment of mostly expensive shops. The packaged dates and towers of turkish delight were a delight. Little boats took tourists up and down the waterways.

Alan took us to a great little restaurant where we sat outside and had murtabal (eggplant dip) hoummos,tabouli and lamb – it was all delicious. The next day Maurice and I went to the “Mall of the Emirates” which is enormous with an indoor skiing area (complete with penguins) and a cafe with a large fake fire burning brightly.

We caught the train from there down to the old city of Diera where we walked around the gold souk and the spice market. The train stations are like 5star hotels with all signs and announcements in English as well as Arabic. At Diera we caught a small local boat across the river for 1 dirham (3.7dirhams to the $) and by then it was over 45+degrees so we stopped at a restaurant and had some nice arabic salads and hoummos and delicious pommegranate juice. Most of the staff in the restaurants and cafes and a lot of the shops are Indian or Asian and speak English.

Maurice was happy to be able to communicate easily with people on the street again. We decided that as we were over that way that we would walk down to Sheik al Maktoum’s house which is part of a cultural village that they are in the process of renovating. It was very interesting and also nice and cool inside as it had got much hotter,the humidity had increased and there was no shade.

Alan took us to a wonderful Persian restaurant at night and the food was again delicious – flame cooked chicken, lamb and fish and a tasty eggplant dish and salads.

The next day we decided to splurge and went to “afternoon tea” at 1.30pm! at the skybar on the 27th floor of the Burj al Arab. It is the piece in the photos that juts out of the building. The only way to see the hotel is to book to eat there or you cannot get near the building. It was a wonderful experience with expansive views over one of the “palm” developments, the ocean, beach and towards the suburbs and one part of the city in the distance. The service was impeccable and the “tea” was more like a feast with a glass of my favourite “Louis Roederer” champagne. There were about 20 teas to choose from or coffee. We decided not to opt for another glass of champage as it was $40 a glass.

I had a headache from looking into the ocean by the time we went to go and asked one of the hostesses at ground level if they could find me a panadol. She came back and said that she was not allowed to give it to me but their paramedic was on his way! I thought that a bit extreme but he in his suit accompanied by the hostess arrived and asked me if I was allergic to anything and then gave me a sealed packet with 2 paracetamol complete with date/date of expiry/dossage etc. I thanked him and he left but he didn’t think of some water with which to take these so I asked someone else for that.

Salim my UAE friend from Mandarin class in Hangzhou picked us up from there and took us on a drive around the city and over towards Sharjah which is his home. It is about an hour’s drive from Dubai. We went to an interesting mall called “Wafi” which has an area showing the architecture and goods for sale of different countries like Syria, Turkey,Morocco and Jordan. It has a large open air eating area with tandoor type ovens and all the various nationalities’ foods.

We then went over to the “Dubai Mall” which the largest in Dubai. It has a wonderful music fountain show every half hour and the tallest building the “Burj Khalifa” as a backdrop. It was very hot with a very hot wind blowing but it was worth seeing the fountains.

We were invited by Salim to his aunt’s house for lunch on the Friday when all the family get together and we me his parents and Maurice met his uncles while I met his mother, auntie, grandmother and his three sisters. It was great to meet all of his close family and they made us so welcome.

We had the most delicious roasted goat (from the family farm) with saffron rice, delicious pickles, yoghurt and salads. Salim’s second youngest sister Noura just graduated from high school we had a lovely cake that his older sister Amel had made.

The family made us so welcome and they gave me an overwhelming number of gifts. As a tradition I had incense wafted around me and sprayed with lovely perfumes before we left the house.

After lunch we had dates and coffee and relaxed in the lounge. Salim then took us on a tour through the ruggued mountains and where the familie’s goat farm is and up to Fujaira past the Friday makets where mountains of mangoes, plants and other goods were for sale.

We then went on the new highway back to Dubai. It was a wonderful day.

On the way home we went to the Wafi mall again to buy me a lovely dress for my birthday that we had seen the previous day.

The next day Alan took us on a Cooke’s (his surname) tour of the Palm with all it’s villas and hotels and past the Atlantis hotel which is a spectacular building. The further palm constructions have halted but the plans are there and there are more hotels being built and more land reclaimed. They dropped me at the train station after a nice coffee on the Esplanade and I changed metro and met Salim who took me to lunch with his mother and an aunt we had not met the previous day. We went to an Indian seafood restaurant and the food was delicious. Salim’s grandfather used to take him there when he was a small boy and it has been open since the early 80’s. We then went for a drive around Sharjah and to a very interesting museum in a beautiful building with a very plush lounge at the top.

Later we visited the old bazaar and had a tea in an original little shop where some of the old men sat around enjoying the afternoon.

We drove back to Dubai and met up with Alan and Maurice at “Barbeque Delights” another great Indian restaurant which served a delicious spiced leg of lamb and spicy eggplant dish.

We bid Salim farewell and we had an early night. Against our wishes, Alan most kindly took us to the airport at 4.30am on the 8th July for our 7am flight to Istanbul.

We really enjoyed our time in Dubai and Sharjah and our time with Alan, Salim and his family.

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