DAY 27 - 07 February 2023
AT SEA enroute to Penang, Malaysia
Queen Mary 2 World Centenary Voyage
102 days, 31 ports, 18 countries.
Ellen Frazer-Jameson reporting live from Queen Mary 2
DUBAI - EXPERIENCES AND MEMORIES
Dubai is a fast-paced universe of sky-high towers, gravity-defying architecture, a feast of luxurious developments and ostentatious displays of wealth in a red-hot environment where every innovation, invention, and new development is claimed to be the Biggest and Best and Tallest in the World. A sparkling jewel in the Crown of the United Arab Emirates.
Home to a mega Media City, the globally connected Internet City, a CNN tower and half a million blooms in Flower City. The reimagined Atlantic Hotel with its iconic double towers and a walkway in the sky, lords it over the capital, offering 1,539 rooms with views for around 20,000$ per room per night.
It is claimed that every construction crane ever built is being used to take Dubai to even more stratoscrophic heights. Brand-new sightseeing attractions spring up every year; an hotel with an indoor ski slope; outdoor dancing fountains and waterfalls rivalling The Villaggio in Vegas, Swarovski crystals dripping from a Japanese restaurant ceiling.
Infinity was discarded as the name for one mega million development. Infinity was too ordinary – not as attention grabbing as it once was. Fashion designers and world-class celebrities, plaster their famous names on properties; Cavalli Tower, Armani Hotel, the Hilton.
The Sheik expressed the view that the Dubai shoreline was not long enough to accommodate all the super-rich clients who wanted to live in Dubai. There was a solution. Reclaimed land, used to construct Palm Jumeirah, man-made islands in the sand.
Burj Khalifa has already overshadowed its competitor Burj al Arab. The previous highest Tower. At 828 meters, Burj Khalifa is a gleaming space age spiral of a silver tower with floors of restaurants, coffee houses, and over 200 shops conveniently located next to the Mall of Dubai.
On a ship’s tour with 30 other passengers, one-hour to explore the temple of retail was never going to be long enough to shop till we dropped. Though walking vast distance through the Mall might have hastened a loss of walkability. That’s what we’ve come to, a spinning virtual world going too fast for a customer to stop and make a purchase - or three.
Another option, the Jumeirah Souk, an upscale version of a local market, housed in new sandstone arched building, designed in traditional style, tiled and painted and immaculety clean. Hoping for a leisurely stroll exploring the goods and even buying a few souvenirs but the problem was the same. The hustle and bustle. Too many things, too little time.
The Souk is an Arabian Bazaar of cashmere, silver, gold, perfume, silk and satin ladies’ clothing and jewelled sandals, salesmen with silver tongues and nimble fingers. An Aladdin’s Cave of all that glitters but magically disappears before your eyes. Mistake number one. I allowed my eyes to alight on a piece of jewellery.
Maybe for myself, perhaps as a gift. Before I knew it, the ring was on my finger and haggling had begun. Protests of “it doesn’t fit me, I don’t want to buy it,” fell on deaf ears. As quickly as I took the ring off my finger, the stallholder had placed it on my other hand. Polite, pleas had no effect, he was determined to sell me that ring. ‘Only 300”, he said and before I could protest, “Ok. 200. I make it 150. Your first time in Dubai. My gift to you, 100. 50 dollars.”
For $25 I bought my finger back. If my whole hand doesn’t turn green before nightfall, I’ll be pleasantly surprised. For light relief from the high-pressure selling culture, a drive along Jumeirah Road, known as The Beverley Hills of Dubai, to the free public beach, La Mer. Most beaches are the property of hotels or private owners.
La Mer is a man-made beach in a sheltered bay with gently lapping waves and finest white sand. Water sports and kite flying are on offer and showering facilities are available alongside a well-stocked waterfront of sun loungers and beach furniture. A huge water slide dominates one end of the beach and a hotel, restaurants, and bars offer exotic cocktails.
Early on a Friday morning, the beach was almost deserted. On a summer afternoon in sweltering temperatures the scene would be very different.
Paddling at the water’s edge, it was time to seek out the luxury I had heard about and now craved. An Ice cream sprinkled with golden flakes. I’d been assured that 24karat gold is digested by the body. I walked up and down every inch of beach. No gold flaked ice cream today. The store was not open. Surely in this land of plenty I could send a private plane to pick up a double cone for me?
Ever helpful, a young man setting up a rival stall promised to direct me to an even better treat. Sadly, a hamburger sprinkled with golden flakes, does not satisfy my desire. That’s the problem with being in a place where the sky is the limit – you can’t always get what you want!
Leaving behind exclusive suburbs, our excursion takes us to the ancient parts of town. At the Shindhaga Museum there are 15 small houses each depicting a different cultural theme. The country’s economy depended upon fishermen who dived into the deep blue waters of the ocean up to 500 times a day to collect pearls. After World War Two , the Japanese developed cultured pearls which sold at more affordable prices to the world, Arabian fishermen lost their livelihoods and families starved. By the end of the 1960’s oil had been discovered. Black gold saved the country.
The Emirates are transformed. Jumeirah Island in phases 1, 2,and 3, reclaimed land from the ocean and the impressive residences which are already inhabited, and phases 2and 3 still in development, are said to be the Eighth Wonder of the Modern World.
The Creek, a new bridge and highway divide the city into ancient and modern. Here are found the traditional Arabian markets of spices, gold and silver.
The Spice Souks (markets)are a kaleidoscope of tantalising smells and bright coloured herbs. Saffron, myrrh, frankincense, hibiscus, are passed around by the store keeper while other salesmen try to distract shoppers and lure them away to sample their wares.
Next stop, through a maze of alleyways to the Gold Souk. Following a guide with a numbered paddle, 40 cruise ship [passengers weave their way through crowded alleyways and canopied shops.
The largest gold ring in the world worth three million dollars – according to the Guinness book of Records is displayed in the dazzling showroom window of a well-known jewellery store. Gold rings, necklaces, earrings and bangles shine their brightest to vie for attention. Gold mush dresses and gloves, gold animals, armour, weapons, lamps and housewares are all touched by the magic of 24karat gold in Aladdin’s cave.
And outside the shop of every seller of gold treasures there is a young man who sidles up and whispers, ‘Come with me, designer handbags, Vuitton, Gucci, Dior.” They push under your nose coloured leaflets or mobile phone photographs of the handbags.
The sellers are persistent but not troublesome. Every woman or girl is a potential buyer and they soon move on to approach other prospects. Bargaining is expected in the Souks, and the traders play the game whereby they start high and expect the buyer to knock them down by about to 50%.
“I think I did ok, “ one lady New York passenger told me, “We haggled in local currency and started at 175. I knocked him down to 120. Mind you I don’t have any idea how much that is worth in US dollars, but it was fun bargaining. I’m not even sure what I want the spice for but I expect to give back something to the local economy when I come to visit other countries.”
Again, we follow the young lady with a paddle as she shepherds her flock of cruise ship guests across the busy highway and summons up our coach, sadly not golden. We speed back to the mother ship, QM2. Running late. Mustn’t miss lunch.
ONWARD - NEXT
A day in Muscat, Oman / On Board QM2-Sea Days / Health Update
Current position of Queen Mary 2 - 07 February 2023
Under way from Muscat to Penang, Malaysia
Departure was 3 d 2 hrs 20 min ago. (at 18:00 h local time)
Arrival will be in 3 d 7 hrs 40 min. (at 08:00 h local time)
Traveled distance since Muscat: 1,393.04 nm (2,579.91 km)
Remaining distance to Penang: 1,798.10 nm (3,330.09 km)
Traveled distance since Dubai: 1,710.56 nm (3,167.95 km)
Happy Sailing ... The Journey continues... Ellen
NEXT PORT - PENANG, MALAYSIA
11 February 2023
Photo of the day (from the archives of JD Schwartz)
"OCEAN OF GLASS"
Further updates will be posted as soon as we get them from Ellen onboard Queen Mary 2.