Saturday, 3 March 2012

U.A.E. – The first seven-Star hotel

February 17-18

Hello everyone!

Our final two days in the U.A.E. were very, very different. One couldn’t have been more challenging and intense; the other was spent in a water park. Such is the diversity of life here.

Friday and Saturday is the weekend in Dubai, owing to the former being the Muslim day of prayer. We woke up at 4am on the first day of the weekend, though not a prayer from a minaret was to be heard. Instead it was the shrill noise from our alarm clocks telling to us to get up and onto a bus. We were off to our third Emirate – Ras Al Khaimah. Why? To run a half-marathon, naturally.

It is one of the less developed Emirates, and possessed an atmosphere that suggested it had been left behind by its bigger, brasher neighbours. The race started at 7am due to the potentially fatal heat that could land later in the morning. It was a relatively flat track, but we had a few issues with wind. The main one was that we had to run into it for what seemed like quite a long time. I won’t have an ego and say that that was because I was running so quickly, though I was very happy with my time of just outside 1 hour 35 minutes. 151st overall in a race of over 1600 half-marathon competitors is more than enough to keep me happy.

My reward for completing the race was my first drink in 39 days (not that I was counting…). A sly sip of vodka and coke at roughly 9.30am resulted in me lying flat on my back feeling nauseous for the next twenty minutes. I blame it on the race itself. Protein was vital to aid recovery, and came in the form of two meals from McDonald’s and one from KFC. Just for me. Pure gluttony.

The rest of Friday was naturally a write-off. It could have been a permanent write-off for all of us when our bus decided to veer across numerous lanes of traffic in a vicious sandstorm. We were woken up by being hurtled into the seats in front of us. Apparently our driver hadn’t seen our exit off the highway, spotted it at the last minute…and then decided he could make it across.

We spent our Friday evening at a barbecue on the fourth floor of one of the many high buildings that dominate this city. We ventured up to the top floor, which had a view of the sea, the sand…and a golf course. I may or may not have then ended up being removed from a bar on the beach for falling asleep on a rather comfortable mattress…

This area of the city is close to the Palm Islands, and we returned there the following morning to gaze in wonder at a place often referred to as ‘the world’s only seven-star hotel’. To call the Burj al-Arab – known amongst us as the sailboat –a luxurious hotel would probably be a gross understatement. I say probably because we weren’t allowed inside. Still, it is stunning to look at.

From here we drove a short distance to the artificial palm islands. The creation of the Palm Jumeirah began in June 2001, and consists of a tree trunk, a crown with 16 fronds, and a surrounding crescent island. Its pride and joy is another lavish hotel: Atlantis.

As well as a hotel, it has many other fun things to enjoy. We spent our afternoon revelling in the joys of wearing not very much outside in a water park, capturing every last ray of sumptuous sunshine before it was time to leave. Aside from sprinting for a bus that then decided to remain stationary for an hour, and cheekily sneaking into first-class for five minutes on our plane and subsequently being removed, our arrival back to the chill of Astana was straightforward.

Dubai is a very strange, extravagant yet wonderful place. It seems to have an innate desire to show off its recently-discovered riches and to attract the elite of society to come and play on its golden sands. It’s not normally a place I would come for a holiday, but has been very enjoyable and relaxing. Aside from 1 hour, 35 minutes and 32 seconds of it, at least…

Love you all



  1. Fascinating story and pictures as always, Matt. Thanks for the post.

  2. I won’t have an ego and say that that was because I was running so quickly, though I was very happy with my time of just outside 1 hour 35 minutes.

    Al Raha Golf Gardens