ROOM FOR ONE: Dubai
Why did you go it alone?
Through the miracle of Facebook, my University class organized our 20-year high school reunion. We graduated from the United States International University in England in the late 80's and early 90's. It was an amazing, truly international experience - people from all over the world living and learning together.
We chose Dubai because it was the most central location for the Alumni to meet. Dubai is close to the Middle East, Europe, India, Africa and Asia. I was the only single woman who made the journey. I have never let being alone detour me from seeing the world. If I had to wait for a travel companion I might be waiting a long time. I don't want to come to the end of my life saying, “I wish I would have…” That being said, I don't think I would have been allowed to be alone in Dubai, even if I'd wanted to. I was always escorted to my hotel and I was always looked out for in all situations.
Cranes in the Dubai skyline What was your favorite thing about the city? I was amazed at how many builder's cranes filled the skyline. They looked like buildings themselves. There was no vantage point at which one would not cross your vision. I asked a taxi driver about this and he explained how the US market crash had also greatly impacted Dubai. Most of the buildings, except for those closest to being complete had been stopped. I so wanted to visit
Dubai because it’s been called the paradise in the desert and one of the richest countries in the world, but we truly live in a global economy now, for better or worse. The presence of the cranes exemplified just how true that statement is, I would have never thought the reach of our financial tragedy would have gone so far. From far left: Me & the girls
What do you recommend? We did a night safari that ended with dinner in a desert camp and belly dancing, sitting on pillows and some of the most wonderful cuisine beautifully displayed. It was truly vegetarian heaven. We did a river cruise for dinner and dancing and we visited the largest mall in the world (The Mall of the Emirates) and gawked at the indoor skiing. The indoor Aquarium is worth visiting and the variety of food you can experience is mind-boggling. Most of all, I would recommend taking your time to really experience the beautiful people. They are full of life and full of love. They work very hard and play equally hard. Smiles and conversations are easy to come by if you are genuinely interested in learning about their culture. It is definitely worth the effort.
What was your most memorable experience? When I walked out of the airport the air was warm and breezy and dusk was falling. I I have to admit that I was a little intimidated because there were men everywhere - driving taxis, running "things" - but few women in site. I was also fully aware of my Blackness and my American-ness - not in a bad way - just conscious of them. I quickly found out in the taxi that they too were celebrating our new president. That gave me a sigh of relief because being an American and traveling in the Middle East had not been two thoughts I have strung together in a long time. Once I got my bearings, I found that being in a male dominant culture had its benefits. It is nice to be looked after and cared for, and they REALLY know how to do that well.
Worst/Most embarrassing moment?
When I think about what the media has perpetuated about the Middle East and how, even withy my prior knowledge and experience, I was susceptible to the mass fears and stereotypes about the area. I am embarrassed. As has been my experience traveling the world alone, people abroad are ALWAYS kind and gracious to visitors in general. I am a guest in their country and thus treated as such. If I have one bit of advice, it would be believe less and experience more!
Got any solo travel tips? Always pre-book the first night of accommodations and know how long it should take you (and cost you) to get from the airport to your destination. With a good nights rest, all other decisions can be made the next day. This ensures no critical thought or decisions are made in haste or on the basis of sleep deprivation.
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