It was early morning when my boyfriend and I landed at Dubai airport. We had a six hours flight, a short night in which I hardly slept. But the excitement of visiting Dubai in one day activated me. The airplane was not crowded, so leaving the plane went pretty fast. In the terminal building we looked for signs to immigrations and customs and started to follow these. Before arriving at Immigrations and Customs we had to take the elevator at the end of our terminal walk. This was also our first eye-opener. In the giant glass elevator, which descended gently, we could see an indoor waterfall. It was a short moment of peace and calmness. Unfortunately, this peaceful feeling did not take long.
Our first impressions with the Arabic culture
Since Dubai is known for having the largest, biggest, best and tallest of everything, I expected a long queue. But there wasn’t any queue. I was quite confused. Did we make such big steps with our long legs? Did we follow the right signs? Or… does everybody else have to pick up their luggage? I didn’t know but no queue means more time to enjoy Dubai. We went to a counter but as soon as the officer saw us, he pointed at the so-called smart gate. I wasn’t familiar with this kind of service. Later, I found out that only modern passports with a barcode can enjoy this kind of service, but if you use it the first time you still need to register with an immigration officer. I thought I could do it better all at once by going to an officer, and since my boyfriend had an ‘old-school’ passport, this would be easier and faster. We asked another customs officer for help, but the airport immigration staff seemed to be far from being helpful or friendly. They are arrogant and impolite. Let’s hope they all had a bad morning mood and that this was not a culture characteristic. We were happy when we finally got our stamp in our passport and could start our adventures in Dubai!
Struggle at the Toilet
Now it was time for the outside world of Dubai, but first I had to take a toilet visit. I was not expected to see a squat toilet! I had no other option, so I had to give it a try. I struggled with my pants. I was afraid of a bad aiming. I did not want my pants hit the floor, but neither did I want to make it wet. I wonder how women in Islamic countries wearing a burka with clothes underneath are able to do this. Those toilets are made for skirts or dresses. I continue struggling, until I, finally found a way to keep my pants out of the line of fire. When done, I found out that my struggle was not necessary; there are also ‘normal’ toilets at Dubai Airport! ARGH!
Respect for Islamic culture
A warm sweater, long sleeves underneath and jeans…. I kept myself warm during the chilly flight, but I would cook when wearing those clothes outside. So I had to change clothes.
I was aware of the dress code in Dubai. Although I heard that Dubai seems to be a little more liberal than other Arabic places, I did not want to offend anybody with my shorts and tank tops. When traveling to other countries, I respect its culture, its religion and its traditions. With my convertible loose pants and a shirt I made sure my knees and shoulders were covered. And in case I needed one, I also had a scarf with me which I could use as a head scarf. However, I was quite amazed to see several Western girls in hot pants and tank tops. While women are banned in shops, restaurant and public places for wearing burkas in several western countries, western girls think they can wear revealing clothes in Dubai. To me it is all about respecting the country’s culture. I do not want to receive unwanted attention. I’d better be a respectful person.
The first smile
Having changed our clothes we were all set to leave the airport. We checked the different kinds of metro tickets at the vending machines, when a staff member asked if he could help us. This guy had a nice smile upon his face, he was friendly and helpful. Good to see some happy and friendly people here. The officer helped us picking the right card for us. There are four types of metro cards: blue, red, silver and gold. For a short visit the red card is the best. For only 14 AED (about € 3.50) you can take ten journeys by bus or metro. However, it is not possible to use this card for both modes of transportation.
Traveling by metro is cheap, fast and easy. There are only two lines: a red and a green one. So the chance to get lost in Dubai is small. We took the metro early in the morning. It was very crowded, since many people had to go to work. What did it feel great that this time I’m not the one going to work, rather the one that is awaiting an unforgettable trip. While I felt happy and curious about what to experience, people next to me and standing in front of me looked straight ahead, while sniveling and coughing or seemed to have a deep sleep. Maybe due to the AC or maybe due to a hard party life 😉