8 Nov 2012

UAE Adventures: Dubai - Abu Dhabi

Arriving at Dubai Airport it is hard not to be impressed, although also annoyed by how long one has to walk to actually get out. 

Walking out of the airport you immediately find yourself in a sea of people from all over the world. Literally from all over the world. You walk a few meters and hear no less than 10 different languages being spoken and you notice Asian, African, European, Middle Eastern faces as you look around.

I wanted to use public transport to go to Abu Dhabi. Not that I couldn't have grabbed a taxi straight from the airport to Abu Dhabi (expensive), nor that I couldn't have called up a friend or relative of many I have in the UAE to fetch me. I simply wanted to know the country at a different level. It was also a very pleasant temperature compared to hellish summertime.

For years I have been travelling around the world in semi-luxury, not because I am rich in any way, but because of my work requirements that would use all means possible to reach places the fastest and safest way possible. So whenever I arrived anywhere, there would be a car with a driver to take me around. I would be taken to a luxurious hotel, in which I would spend very little time because of work activities awaiting me day and night wherever I went. 

I have decided to take a break from all of that. Before I became an Al Jazeera correspondent I had travelled all over the world, backpacking, camping, hitch-hiking. It was fun. I am not sure I would like to do that as much now, but some of it is fun. 

Female taxi

So after asking for advice from people at the airport, I ended up in the line for airport taxi. Immediately a man assigned me a taxi with a lady driver. I noticed taxis driven by women have a pink colour on top instead of the usual red one on ordinay taxis! I had never seen that before in the Gulf. I mean, next door in Saudi Arabia women are not even allowed to drive until today. My female driver was Ethiopian. She has been working as a taxi driver for 2 years. Just like all the other drivers she was wearing a pink-and-white uniform which incorporates a veil. The female taxi drivers were there especially for female customers. 

She drove me to Bar Dubai Station, where I was supposed to catch a bus to Abu Dhabi. But the bus was not even there (late) and there was a long line of passengers. I looked for alternatives and got seduced by the idea of a "shared taxi" with other passengers. It is common in my native Syria, known as "service" (pronounced in Arabic: sarveeees)!

I was worried I would be the only female passengers in the taxi (after having been driven by a female driver, it felt so extreme) but a Filipina lady joined. She wanted to sit in the front seat : fi hada hini? mal min hatha? 
The Indian man replied : fi wahed nafar. 

A typical conversation in broken Arabic between Asians, very funny to hear for a native speaker like myself.

It took 35 minutes for the 7-seater taxi to fill up with passengers from India, Bengladesh, Nepal, Phillipines and Egypt. The bus was still not there. So, off we went in the shared taxi.

The first chunk of the road was pure highway with huge billboards full of colourful ads for all kinds of products. I detected spelling and grammar mistakes in the Arabic versions of the ads, which annoyed me. Then I saw Dubai's skyscrapers pass by my window, full of lights. It was late night.

Crossing with an Egyptian

At minute 22 suddenly the road turned into pure empty desert on both sides. Hardly any palm trees, until we made it an hour later to where I was going, an area outside Abu Dhabi city.  The taxi driver dropped me with my luggage on the highway. I was supposed to cross it to the other side to catch a cab to where I was going.  Luckily the Egyptian (young) passenger helped me cross over the highway fence all the way to the other side. Egyptians are probably the most skilled and most courageous people in the world in crossing streets!

My flight landed in Dubai at 9pm. I made it home past midnight. 

If I had taken a cab directly from Dubai Airport I would have arrived around 10.30pm, half the time, and it would have cost around 280 Dirhams, double the money, and almost the same amount I had paid for the flight Doha- Dubai ! 

My first taxi in Dubai cost 50 Dirhams
Shared taxi to Abu Dhabi 40 Dirhams
Last taxi home 37 Dirhams
Total : 127 Dirhams 

I found a beautiful orange-yellowish halfmoon waiting for me. It had just risen in the horizon. It was a perfect timing. I was glad I didn't do it the easy/expensive way this time. 

6 November 2012

اقرأ النسخة العربية مغامرات في الإمارات : دبي - أبو ظبي

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