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Sunday, June 20, 2010

Morning! Dubai weirdness and Dubai kindness

My alarm goes off, I snooze it - still dreaming - then the wake up call from reception, and finally I am awake. I'd laid out my bikini and goggles the night before to spur me on. I sip water and eat the rest of the wasabi peanuts I have heart burn from eating them so late last night but I'm upright now so I eat some more and go to look for the pool. I feel strangely conspicuous wondering through this gigantic hotel of pillars and marble, mirrors and glass. I wonder if indeed I am supposed to walk aroun din my bathrobe, whether this is something peculiarly european. I greet a couple of staff,a bell boy, a house keeper. They're all from somewhere else; the Philippines, Pakistan, Afghanistan. Everyone speaks English, noone bats an eyelid - must be ok. I find the pool, it's frankly hot and humid like the jungle and the water temp is better for my body. The sunlight, even through clouds is making me squint; I'm propped up at the side of the deep end looking out of one eye as this seems to hurt less than using two but there's no sense in that observation.

Later, when I am dressed and ready to go, I argue with the manager at the front desk as they took a commission when they exchanged my $100 usd for the deposit - Now they will give it back to me in Dirhams and I must change it back to dollars and pay yet another commission. I think it's pretty disgusting and I tell him so, it's against the ethical principle of a deposit that they should make a profit like that. He tries to tell me that all hotels do this (probably here in Dubai they do), he tells me that they don't keep dollars at the front desk (yeah - whatever), I say I don't believe you. In the end he agrees that he will refund the commission that they took on the exchange last night - USD to Dirhams, but he can still only give me Dirhams back. I decide to settle for this and at least have the moral high ground if sadly, I still need to pay commission (again) at the airport. My tiny stash gets smaller by the second and I haven't even done anything yet. I decide not to look at the exchange rates and just get myself out of there and to the airport. The hotel are still trying to put me in a Mercedes taxi even though I've specifically said 'ordinary taxi' (I should have said cheap taxi), but one turns up just as the bell boy and I are wheeling down the ramp with my numerous bags. 6.50 Dirhams to the airport beats the 26.50 Dirhams that I paid last night to get to the hotel, but hey ho, I'm a stranger in a foreign land and everyone is just trying to make a buck. This place is the Stepford wives on acid and everyone is working on a feverish commission. Money is king.

At the Safi desk I read the sign which specifies 20kg in the hold, I've got way more than that, (like probably double that) but I say nothing as my bags go on the scales. The guy at the check-in desk doesn't say anything either and I wonder whether we are both silently complicit in something that we can't talk about. Either way I am grateful to him, more than he will ever know, coz I'm down to my last few notes and I know that my credit cards won't work. No way to get hold of any more cash, it could all be rather embarrassing as I stand red-faced at the excess luggage counter. But I am spared this humiliation by the kind guy at check-in - thank heaven for the kindness of strangers.

Terminal one in Dubai is ok if you have time and money to burn on completely bizarre fripperies. Upstairs by the departure lounge is a Costa Coffee and I park myself there with a caramel latte and a fruit salad. I've no idea why a milky caffeine based drink has to be made molten before it can be served to you, the over enthusiastic use of the milk steamer is one of my pet hates - practically volcanic white stuff does not taste better and I wonder whether there is something strangely satisfying about watching a jug of milk flail and boil, bubbling its submission, why else would baristas flog the damned stuff so much in the belief that they are serving the customer?

I find a camera on the seat next to me and, given that it's Dubai airport (ie massive), handing it in to lost property is probably not going to do the owner any good, I have plan that I'll sit here with it, keep it safe in case the owner comes back for it and then if not I'll take it with me, put it in my blog and hope that by the viral marvels of the internet that someone who is looking for something they have lost will happen upon their pictures, message me, and be able to get their camera back.It's like an episode of Bagpuss and I'm waiting for the mice from the marvellous mechanical mouse organ to heave the camera into the shop window. Maybe it's six degrees of separation; somehow from the hub of Dubai someone will know someone who's niece's sister's uncle will know the people in the pictures and claim it back.

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