Dubai, United Arab Emirates
I am naïve. I trusted Seat Guru by Trip Advisor, and I’m naïve. They said the best seats on Emirates A380 Sydney to Dubai were row 54 – actually, any row that began with no seats in front of it. No seat? Yes. That meant extra legroom. For me, I felt so proud to have researched, reserved a seat early enough to get a good seat, and be rewarded with row 54. Seat D.
Babies. Next to me were three parents and two babies. Colleagues warned me that these seats were for the parents, they did have flying experience behind them far superior to my travels, but I trusted Trip Advisor.
Crying had filled the cabin before I’d arrived at row 54 seat D. I was agitated, more so that my colleagues were right than the crying itself. I quickly reached for my ear buds and jammed them into my ear canals tight. Given my seat, I couldn’t flip out my entertainment screen until after take-off. I plugged into the audio socket and fumbled through the options until I found what I think was the music menu – I was flying blind, pun unintended. Noticing a familiar tune that took me back to year 11 and our rendition of The Pirates of Penzance, I watched our take-off via outside cameras from the communal entertainment monitor to the surprisingly calming sound of the Overture from Act I.
Not long after take off, a kerfuffle with the basinets that, yes, were accessorised into the legroom in front of me saw a cabin manager approach me and ask if I would mind moving. “Not at all,” I obliged, and soon regretted saying as I followed her to the end of the cabin, u-turning at the cross-over and moving forward a half-dozen seats to a mid-row seat, asked to stay put and wait until she found another isle seat for me. My backpack was hastily stowed between my legs in a rush to have me just seated.
Here I stayed, during dinner service, during drinks, becoming anxious as I thought I’d been forgotten. I’d already followed up once before my meal and I was already not liking the thought of being trapped between two stocky men who didn’t understand the concept of personal space.
And then, Miriam – I later learnt her name – reappeared and asked me to follow her, again to the back of the cabin. But then, complementing me on my willingness to assist, she said she’d return the favour. “Follow me upstairs.” No, I wasn’t about to join the Mile High Club. Miriam was seating me in business class – with all the perks. If I could afford to, I’d never fly cattle class again. I made friends with crewmember Adam. “There’s an Eve working this flight also, would you believe?” he added, showing me how to navigate the chair. I was well liquored up by the time we landed, “We’re trying to get you drunk so you don’t notice the heat.” And at a cool 34°C upon landing, climbing to a top of 43°C, the scotches overnight and champagnes with breakfast still didn’t help.
The people of Dubai are friendly. Ridiculously friendly. Nothing was ever too much trouble and people wanted to know how your day was. David Jones or Myer could look to Dubai for a refresher in Customer Service 101. My room wasn’t ready when I arrived at Al Manzil Hotel, and fair enough given it was now 6.00am, but I was offered shower facilities at the local Fitness First Platinum next-door. I was regretting leaving my gym card for Klaus to use while he stayed in Sydney, I could’ve fitted in a chest and bicep session. It’s Ramadan at present, the ninth month on the Islamic calendar where Muslims observe a month of fasting. This also means no pubic eating or drinking between sunrise and sunset. To accommodate those not observing Ramadan, our hotel offered meals in the restaurant but used privacy screens to conceal this area from public viewing.
If there’s one thing I was to learn from my 24 hours in Dubai it’s that this city can be described in the same way as Texas: everything’s bigger. I set out to do three things: dune buggy riding across the desert, scaling the Burj Khalifa – the tallest building in the world, and watching the Dubai Fountains.
The dune buggies here are like go-karts on steroids. The Dubai Fountain is like the Fountains of Bellagio in Las Vegas in terms of beauty; Céline Dion and Andrea Bocelli’s The Prayer was playing to the pumping water while I was in the audience. And At the Top of the Burj Khalifa is like nothing in the world.
Between the Fountain, the Burj and my hotel was the Dubai Mall. A place nothing like Chadstone in terms of size – the Dubai Mall is the equivalent size of 50 football pitches or 12 million square feet, but everything like Chadstone in terms of brands. There was even a Brunetti there; clearly they’re too big for Melbourne now.
Jetlagged, despite a wonderful rest on the flight over in business class, I retired to my room about 9.30pm. My flight to Rome departed at 9.20am the following day.