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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

OK, this is the first post in a while. In the meantime, I've gone to Orlando for Braves Spring Training, and I've gone to Los Angeles and San Francisco a couple of times, but I was without a camera and decided that the posts would be boring, so I didn't bother.

But, now I've bought a new camera, so I'm traveling internationally again, so here goes a new post: DUBAI.

I am sitting in the Dubai airport on my way home from Dubai. I’ve got a long bit of travel ahead of me.

I left Atlanta on Sunday evening at 7:20 pm. After a short layover in Paris, I was on the way to the United Arab Emirates. Flying over, I found it strange to be so close to Iran and Iraq. Yet upon landing, I was really surprised to see that Dubai wasn’t at all the foreign land feared by American in the recent Dubai Port scandal. Instead, I found it very American. It is really easier for an American to navigate than many of the European cities I have visited. First, while there is written Arabic everywhere, every sign is also in English. Nearly everyone speaks English. And the feel of the place almost seems to be not as much Arabia as a Disney Park devoted to Aladdin. Today, there was a moment when I thought I could just as easily be in Vegas. It’s big, splashy, and glitzy. Of course now, with 16 + hours of flight time ahead of me combined with a 6 hour layover in Paris, I wish I were.

Now I’m writing from Paris. I mostly slept on the 6 hour flight from Dubai, but luckily have access to the Air France Lounge in Paris for the long layover.

After arriving in Dubai on Monday night, I met up with Mark, a coworker who arrived in Dubai at around the same time on KLM, while I was arriving on Air France. A car from the hotel picked us up and we checked into the Palm hotel shortly after midnight. After a quick shower, I met Mark downstairs and we headed next door to the Hard Rock Dubai for a quick beverage before going to bed.

The next day, we had meetings all day in a conference room that was by the pool.

Afterward a long day of fighting leg lag, we packed into a jeep for a dessert safari. Our jeep had me and Mark as well as other industry colleagues Manuel, Rachel, and Caroline. I had met Rachael last year in Vancouver. I believe I met Manuel in Montreal the first time, but had since hung out in Los Angeles and Dallas.

We drove out quite a ways before deflating the jeep tires and heading into the dessert. Even before heading onto the sand we had to slow down for camels on the highway. Luckily, we had a professional driver as we tackled the dunes. It was quite a roller coaster ride, at times feeling like the jeep would topple over.

Along the way, we got out several times to stretch, walk around, and take pictures of the dessert.

At sunset, we arrived at our destination—a camp where we would ride camels, eat dinner, watch belly dancing, and smoke shisha.

The next day was an even longer day of meetings, but after they were over, Mark, Manuel, Carsten and I headed to the Madinat Jumeirah complex ( to walk around and have dinner before catching our post-midnight flights back.

Upon arrival, we took pictures of the Burj Al Arab, the largest hotel in the world.

We walked around the market (called a souk), relaxed with a beer as we overlooked the Persian Gulf, then finally had a wonderful dinner a Pisces, a restaurant in the soukha. It was very trendy and stylish, with lots of surprise mid-course treats. I had a tuna carpaccio appetizer followed by pan seared scallops.

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