New to Dubai

It’s a crazy crazy place. I’ve been here just on two weeks now and haven’t stopped to write at all so my first impressions are now, first, second and third impressions.

So what are they? Over-engineered landscapes; lush gardens in what should be desert; building sites, construction; no footpaths; having to drive everywhere; few street names, no street numbers; bling, glitz and glam; mish-mashed cultures; public processes created on top of each other; a lack of forward-planning; gold, marble, diamonds, diamantes…

I’ve been living in a hotel. The Rihab Rotana is a really lovely place but I am tiring of it. The service is stiff and overblown, but well-intentioned and staff are indeed well-trained. I’d just prefer ‘how are you today’ with a smile to ‘how are you today ma’am’ with a bow.

Hotel life is strange, and it’s my first time but I imagine it is weirder here than anywhere. Take the breakfast buffet, for example. I’ve never seen so many tastes catered for. It’s enormous. For Aussies, there’s fruit and yogurt and cereal, but no spoon on the table, so you have to remember to collect one from the buffet table before sitting down. That’s because that’s the only fare that requires a spoon.

On the cold buffet there is a selection of savoury yoghurts (labneh) served with oil and lemon, or rolled into balls, with or without herbs. There are cucumbers, corn, pieces of haloumi and pickled vegetables. Then there is a continental type selection: sliced cheeses and meats (but no pig).

Then there is the warm stuff: an eastern dish called Foul Moudames which I often have: a kidney bean stew which is nicer than the westeren-style baked beans. There is also hash browns and scrambled egg and some beef or chicken sausages and some beef or veal bacon.

Then there is their selection of breads: I usually take the leb bread because it’s fresh and chewy and really nice. They also have small loaves of wholegrain, french sticks, squares of white and brown and some pastries too.

Other highlights? The Rihab has a lovely rooftop pool and gym, and lovely chocolate cake. Unfortunately I’m more familiar with the latter than the former. I’ve just been served a double slice for lunch. I expect it’s because the girls in the restaurant know how much I love it. Light and a little mousse layered into the sponge, with a wicked ganache icing.

I’m told some of the people at work don’t like the Rihab so much because it’s a dry hotel but I’ve discovered that there are too many opportunities to go out drinking so I don’t need access to it at ‘home’. I’ve never been one to need a drink with a meal or in my room on my own at night so I’m happy.

Getting around is supremely difficult. There is no such thing as a pedestrian culture. For starters there are few crossings. Roads are all busy and wide. To cross from my hotel to the Creek Club (maybe 200 metres as the crow flies) would take me 45 minutes to walk I’ve been told, because I have to walk a few hundred metres in the opposite direction to cross Al Garhoud Road then back again.

I say Al Garhoud Rd but that’s quite rare to be able to name it. To catch a taxi to someone’s house I have to describe it by its proximity to landmarks. Very very difficult for newcomers.

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