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When It Began To Snow In Dubai

April 01, 2024 13:04 IST
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In Dubai, A Ganesh Nadar encountered high speeds on smooth-as-silk-roads, no bureaucracy, gold, Mr Toad's. And snow!

IMAGE: A Ganesh Nadar braved the snow in Dubai. How!? Where? Read on. All photographs: A Ganesh Nadar

IMAGE: All the world is a village in Dubai.

I was so excited to be going to Dubai that I landed up at Chennai airport even before the check-in staff. I was not the only one.

While checking in, the airline representative, enquired when I was returning and demanded I show him my return ticket. I was surprised he was doing the job of an immigration officer too. I guess some people just want to feel important.

Anyway, bless him, he gave me a window seat without an extra charge, which our domestic airlines demand.

IMAGE: The exterior of Dubai's doughnut-shaped Museum of the Future, where the windows take the form of a poem. It's located in the financial district.

The Emirates flight was full. It always amazes me to see the amount of baggage people carry onto an aircraft. The size of the check-in luggage. What are they carrying?

We touched down in Dubai bang on time, though we were 15 minutes late departing.

I have been to Sri Lanka, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand. All in the eastern and southern hemisphere. This was the first time I was going westwards and the furthest west I had ever ventured.

The immigration officer in Chennai asked, "You came back in 2012, and no travel in between." "Nobody invited me" I said. He stamped my passport without further ado. In Dubai at immigration there were no questions asked. "Look at the camera," was all he said.

My friend was waiting outside. The roads were broad and clean. Nobody honked and at the traffic lights cars maintained a distance of at least 10 feet from each other.

The hotel, Ramada by Wyndham Dubai Barsha Heights, was filled with a busload of tourists from Romania. I checked in and had a very spacious room with a big balcony, that looked out onto the desert. The night was cold. Breakfast was chicken sausage and potato wedges.

We drove to Ras Al-Khaimah which is the largest city and capital of the emirate of the same name. It is the sixth largest city in the UAE after Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Al Ain and Ajman.

The smooth roads allowed us to travel at 120 km per hour and the speedometer could touch even 130 km too, if we chose. On the way we stopped at a petrol pump for tea. Bill: 1 UAE dirham.

IMAGE: A view of Dubai's Burj Khalifa.

On the way, we passed Sharjah, famous for its cricket stadium, that has held the highest number of international matches and hosted India-Pakistan matches every time there was a demand for a neutral venue.

Ras Al-Khaimah is on the coast and we sat in a restaurant overlooking a creek filled with yachts, like the ones Bollywood stars preen and lounge on like lizards that one sees on their Instagram feeds. I enquired about a yacht ride. A ride on the cheapest yacht was 850 UAE dirhams an hour for 15 people.

We were only four and I did not feel like asking other tourists if they wanted to join us for a boat ride, so we spilt the cost four ways and took off.

IMAGE: Copying Bollywood stars aboard a yacht. Unfortunately I didn't have an attractive swim suit to lounge in like they do. Just some funky socks.

The drive back was smooth. We stopped at Mr Toad's Pub, a huge bar with two balconies on the first floor. The balconies were in demand though it was cold and windy.

A friend of mine, Chitra Shinde from Australia, was attending a business conference there and she joined us for dinner. A girl born in a village in Khanapur, Maharashtra, she is now the head of operations of DHL Singapore.

The drinks were cheap and the starters tasty. The main meal portions were larger than I anticipated and hard to finish. A meal for four with drinks was around 750 dirhams, bang for our buck. Mr Toad's became our hangout for the rest of the trip.

IMAGE: The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, UAE's largest mosque, spread across 30 acres, took 13 years and 2 billion dirhams to build and opened in 2007.

On the second day we drove to Abu Dhabi to see the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.

If we thought the roads in Dubai were good, the roads in Abu Dhabi were even better. The car hardly made any sound moving on the Dubai roads, but on the Abu Dhabi roads even that minor noise vanished. The roads were so smooth almost soft and you could crusie 10 km above the Dubai speed limit.

The mosque was truly grand -- huge, and, like the Taj, carved from white marble. The pillar tops were covered with gold leaves, each exactly like the next one. Each pillar had intricate art work in various colours which must have been a painstaking job to engrave.

IMAGE: A pic with the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque as the backdrop was a must.

A huge dome greeted us at the entrance to the mosque. It was a very long walk with escalators to take you to a higher floor. Entry was free, but we had to register.

We met my younger sister Saroja, her husband, my cousin, his wife and son there. On the way to the mosque there were various shops selling or renting appropriate wear for the mosque. You had to be completely covered to enter. My cousin's wife was wearing a long gown with a hood. It was a bright red and I was reminded of Red Riding Hood.

The walk around the mosque was very tiring. The powers that be know that -- there were electric vehicles to take us back to the entrance of the mosque and another one to take us to the parking lot.

My friend had some work to do and while he hammered away on his laptop I fiddled with my cell, while having delicious coffee with a giant burger.

The return ride was fun, but there was no energy left to go to Mr Toad's.

On the third day I went to my friend's office in a commercial building. They had a café on the terrace and a windy place with a fantastic view to grab a smoke. Most people were vaping.

SEE: The aquarium at Dubai Mall, is one of the largest in the world. All videos: A Ganesh Nadar


In the evening we went to the Dubai Mall and to the huge Carrefour department store, which was worth visiting.

A very large aquarium was located there, with equally large fish, particularly sharks, who seemed well fed, because they were not attacking the other fish. You can go under the aquarium, but for that you have to buy a ticket.

We sat at a restaurant named Jovi, which overlooked the famous Dubai fountains and was beside the tallest building in the world, the gaily-lit Burj Khalifa. The lights on the Bhuj were continuously moving and changing and advertising their builder Emaar, which comes from the word emarat or building.

Global Village Dubai

IMAGE: An Indian in front of a red Indian (now called native American), outside the Global Village.

A visit to Dubai is incomplete without a visit to the Global Village Dubai. Various countries had put up stalls featuring their cuisine, culture and crafts.

The Turkish stall was the biggest. Iran had showcased its rugs and carpets and also perfumes and clothes.

You could not buy something simple there like a shirt or dress -- only full flowing gowns for both men and women.

IMAGE: Several international artistes have performed at the Global Village, including Shah Rukh Khan.

Thailand had plenty of food stalls and the US had an enormous native American sitting outside to welcome you. India had a big stall as well.

SEE: The Dubai Fountain is on Burj Khalifa lake and was designed by the California company that designed the gimmicky fountain on Bellagio Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas. At any given moment, 22,000 gallons of water are flying through the air.

The Dubai Fountain came alive every half hour for five minutes, when music was played and the water streams danced to the music. The Burj Khalifa lights joined in and the effect was mesmerising.

The fountains started dancing at 7 pm and we watched till 8.30 pm and I felt like exclaiming 'Dil Mange More' when we had to leave.

The next day we went to the gold souk, near Dubai Creek. The entire street was lined with gold. Shalini, my friend's business partner, was with me to help. She was an authority on gold, and pretty much every thing else. She took me to Al Anwaar, famous for not tacking on making charges or wastage fees. I bought a pair of earrings, weighing 400 mg (not for myself, most likely).

My friend explained that the creek connected Dubai with the Gulf and was the reason for Dubai rising as a trade centre in the years gone by. Boats and dhows from India would come here laden with goods and took back dates. Those days, oil had not been discovered in the Middle East.

SEE: The wonderful indoor resort of Ski Dubai.


The next day we experienced the magic of snow at Ski Dubai.m You can ski at its ½ km ski track, bobsled, meet penguins (additional fee) or have snowball fights. To enter, we had to pay 220 dirhams, per head, for which you rented gloves, snow shoes, socks, jacket and a pair of snow pants.

The snow was incredible and you were transported straight to the Alps, without having to go there. It was even more lovely when it began to snow.

The snow clothes didn't help much and I had to walk around to keep warm. It was time to leave. Before that we had tea at a coffee shop called -- what else -- Reindeer.

At the airport there was no police or any security at the gate. At the check-in-counter I paid for an extra-leg-room window seat, which was 100 dirhams more and worth it.

The flight back was faster -- we had a tail wind. At customs in Chennai I was asked to scan my bags. The man found jewels inside, which turned out to be a bunch of my house keys.

The first thing I noticed on my return to Chennai was the heat and the honking cars. Sigh.

Feature Presentation: Ashish Narsale/

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