Bring a little belly dancing magic. Chapter 3 Holiday dramas

The weather in Dubai in November can include rain, but not much, while temperatures generally range between 18-31 degrees celsius. The warm weather was the principal reason for visiting albeit for only 5 days. Since serious shopping was curtailed, we shifted our focus to sunbathing. In keeping with other futile attempts to gain good fortune, we had rain for 3 of our five days so sunbathing was ditched just like the serious shopping. Still, we had excursions and sightseeing to look forward to.

Dubai certainly has a lot to offer; the Dubai Mall (despite trying hard not to look at the fabulous jewellery) has an actual aquarium in its midst. In close proximity is the iconic Burj Khalifa surrounded by dancing fountains. I had downloaded the city of Dubai from trip advisor which was a fantastic asset and it guided us to the main attractions in and around the Mall. We ate in one of the many fantastic restaurants located there and although alcohol is not on the menu there was a much greater variety of soft drinks and mocktails to choose from. From the metal divers on the waterfall to the Arabian coffee with camel milk, the visit to the largest Mall in Dubai was memorable.

As it was our anniversary I booked us a desert safari trip, which promised an authentic Bedouin experience; a desert sunset, camel ride, henna tattoos, belly dancing and sheesha in a variety of fruity flavours. There was also some dune bashing which involved quite a rough ride over the dunes by an experienced driver. Now this was the only issue for my husband who lives with a very serious back injury so we asked if we could do without the dune bashing. That was no problem so a private hire, different from the event operator, was arranged to take us direct to the site.

Our driver was lovely, providing us with a commentary on our short ride to the desert. We stopped outside to deflate the tyres which was necessary for dune driving but he reassured us we were not going to be bashing them any time soon. The drive was enjoyable and when we arrived I was busy taking in the sights filled with trepidation and delight at the night ahead of us. We thanked him and he left us to commence our ‘desert experience’.

They made it a special occasion by placing us at our own table, but in all honesty the whole experience was special. We even managed to make a dignified entrance on the camel, despite falling flat on my backside when I tried to disembark. The food was wonderful and unusually alcohol was also on offer. The exotic belly dancing and other entertainment contributed to a fantastic night. All over too soon, darkness fell along with the temperature and we were not dressed for it.

The hundreds of people who were at the event, made their way along with us toward the exit area where similar numbers of blue and white 4×4 vehicles were waiting with their drivers. It began to dawn on me at that point (ok maybe a bit too late) we weren’t too clear about our pick up arrangements, we didn’t have the required number for our vehicle, and we didn’t know which company we had booked with. Within minutes the desert was deserted. We were the last ones standing; no cars, no drivers and no marshal to herd any lost causes- like us.

Thankfully the alcohol had been limited because the temperature was dropping fast. We could see the food being cleared up and that attracted cats. I am terrified of cats. That is sufficient information for now but their appearance had me frozen to the spot. I couldn’t take another step toward the lights that were quickly diminishing as the staff readied to make their way back to their homes. I clung to my better half, as we were forced to forge into cat territory. I was now operating at critical alert status.

Not everyone spoke English, but we managed to secure a barman who, when he got over the initial surprise that we were actually still on site, made several calls to try to find us our driver. We were directed to the Sheesha tent where I was relieved of cat terror for a few moments, reducing the threat level to severe but that could change at any time. We didn’t do the Sheesha, and were becoming increasingly anxious as one by one the lights went out around us.

Finally our saviour in the desert arrived shrugging his shoulders and telling us he couldn’t find anyone willing to take ownership for abandoning us. The strappy dress I was wearing could easily double as a nightie, but it was getting pretty cold and I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep here, even if the place was plagued with cats. I could feel the firm lips and cutting glance in my direction from he who rarely makes mistakes, so I avoided his accusatory gaze. But our saviour was not finished yet, he had secured us a lift home with the belly dancer. Instantly the firm lips broke into a smile as he recalled the tiny, beautiful lady who had entertained us so majestically less than an hour ago. I guess that was the point I was reprieved and the journey in this little beauty’s company was more than sufficient for my latest drama in the desert…….

Drama in Dubai- anyone for TV? Chapter 2 Holiday Dramas

Being in Dubai without a credit card, is a bit like forgetting your swimming costume when you go to the SPA, the whole experience is diminished. Shock – Horror we were credit card less in Dubai. And it was not that straightforward to get cash from the ATM’s there either. There was a glimmer of hope however as our lobby, linked into Festival City shopping centre, which had an ATM that actually took our debit card ( thank god). We could access some cash albeit that particular purse was severely limited.

Desperate to look as if we could afford to be here we tried this out, but I could tell it was dawning on the night manager that he was dealing with a right couple of chancers. Any credibility that we were actual customers of a certain standing seemed to have disappeared into the night along with the bogus taxi driver. Despite his obvious misgivings, and probably against his better judgement, we were finally taken to our room, it was 2 in the morning.

Our room was palatial, we had upgraded this so would have been disappointed if the reception cock up meant we would not have been able to get the room we had paid for. But we were comfortably ensconced and with this securely under our belt, I rang the credit card company to establish why my card had been cancelled. OK, I get it I did have a slight idea why, but I also knew that the process had been aborted (I threw the phone away). Frankly I had not expected the automaton (that couldn’t speak Scottish) to have a modicum of brain matter that allowed it, not only to translate my abrupt narrative sufficiently but equally to have the artificial intelligence to complete the incomplete and work out that it needed to cancel my card.

While the call centre staff were helpful and understanding of my plight (even to the point of empathy for the lack of a card in this particular location), there was no way I was going to have my card reactivated and available to me on this holiday. Out of the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of my husband, who had remained quite quiet throughout this conversation, breathing a sigh of relief that our bank balance had unwittingly achieved a little reprieve on this particular trip.

At 3am I fell into bed, exhausted, frustrated and annoyed. Sleep in this state was elusive but after about an hour I could feel my eyelids weighted with exhaustion and just about to drop off when the TV (60 inch screen) suddenly jumped into life and bellowed pop music. We sat erect shifting from semi-slumber to wide awake club in seconds. Searching frantically for the doofer to turn it down or off we scrambled from the bed feeling around the furniture before finally locating it on top of the TV unit (where else?). And we zapped it ferociously and the room fell into momentary silence.

Now all we had to do was get back to sleep, but the wheels of frustration started rolling again and it was another 20 minutes before I started to fall asleep. I was just about there………….then the TV lit up again, not quite booming but nevertheless shattering the silence and our sleep. We zapped it again, muted it and tentatively looked at each other before we lay back down on the bed. And this blinking TV insisted on breaching into the bedroom every 30 minutes after that.

On the fourth occasion, I murdered it; frenziedly pulling the wires out of the wall. It lay motionless and blank but it did the trick and finally we were able to get some shut eye. We were both exhausted and deflated as we headed for breakfast the next morning. But first stop reception, where we had become so familiar with the night manager the evening before, to report the malfunctioning tele.

It was while in reception I noticed that there was a bit of tartan adorning the pillars surrounding the Lobby and a poster welcoming the Graduates of Herriot Watt University. All the way to Dubai and a graduation party for a University less than 10 miles from home, it was unbelievable! As we headed for breakfast, sitting at the first table as we entered the buffet, was a lady I knew well enough to have shared more than a few glasses of wine with.

Turns out she was organising the graduation party, what an incredible coincidence. We exchanged niceties but I also regaled the tale of the credit card, (you can tell how much this had upset me). She went immediately to her purse to offer us her card, how tempting it was but I declined this offer, preferring to stew and wallow in my misfortune because I knew my other half was actually breathing a sigh of relief it couldn’t be used.

I was ready to accept this, after all we were on holiday, it was Dubai and nothing else could go wrong, could it???????????????????

Dramas with Dirhams in Dubai. Chapter 1 Book of holiday dramas

A Facebook post this week reminded me of our eventful trip to Dubai in November 2013. It’s really no coincidence that we take holidays in November, it is our wedding anniversary as I have previously intimated. As we couldn’t afford a honeymoon in 1982 every year since I try to organise a holiday masquerading as the honeymoon we never had. We have had a few interesting trips over the years and not always abroad. But if you go in November and you want sunshine you do have to go a bit further to get it and Dubai appeared to deliver that.

I had never been to the Middle East and, as Dubai was enjoying a period of popularity as a holiday destination, it was an easy decision. I made plans and booked our trip some 6 months ahead for November. I was so excited to be staying in Festival City and travelling Emirates for the first time. For me it was an exotic, untested adventure for us and one that promised romance, mystique and intrigue. For my husband; he was not an explorer, he was non-plussed, not one for demonstrating his emotions, instead he prefers to humour my childlike excitement and anticipation for the trip. However on reflection given all the dramas we have experienced perhaps it’s more likely that he’s quietly speculating what calamity will befall us this time (note the choice of tense).

In a totally separate but connected incident the mermaid put my driving licence in between a space in the floorboards a few weeks before we travelled, and unless we wanted to lift the floor ( which we had to do two years later) I had to apply for a new one. I went on-line, but unfortunately it was early in my silver surfing career and I was not aware of the Google algorithms that would prioritise services for me. Hence it was that I was guided to a site, similar to the Government site, but where you had to pay money for what was in essence a free service. I was reasonably far into this application, including having given my credit card details to pay for what was free, when it crashed and everything was lost.

This alerted me to a potential fraud and misappropriation of my visa credit card, so my next move was to cancel that. Now I was more than a little frustrated by this techno failure but cancelling the credit card took that to an entirely a different level. It was an automated system (non-human) requiring you to speak, fine, except it did not speak Scottish (most of them don’t). Despite using my best rolling r’s accent (received pronunciation) I continued to flummox the computer persona, unable to make any progress with the process, and as I was already frazzled I discontinued the call (threw the phone away) half way through.

I didn’t hear another word from them, and having calmed down sufficiently to make rational decisions, I determined that since the process had failed my card was still active. The card details did not appear to have been compromised so I was going to forget about cancelling it.

The next two weeks flew past, and soon it was time to head off to Dubai. When we arrived at the airport we were immediately approached by a man offering to taxi us to our hotel. Although we later became suspicious of him, when he took us to his car in the car park, we initially judged him harmless and threw in our cases and got in the back. Nothing about this vehicle looked like a taxi, there was no meter, it was sparkling clean (should have been a clue), but lacked any safety or regulatory notices. Our hotel was only a five minute drive from the airport so despite nervously exchanging glances and holding onto our hand luggage just that little bit tighter, we made a timely and safe arrival.

When he charged us 100 Dihram I contemplated whether that was bit too much, but to be honest we were more relieved we hadn’t been slaughtered or kidnapped by this random individual posing as a taxi driver. What a start to our holiday… I was immediately distracted by this absolutely fantastic hotel; splendour and glamour emanated from within the Lobby, which was a vault of statement, stature and style. It was midnight and although there was an absence of guests, clearly staff were still milling around in numbers and smartly whisked our cases off to the desk and corralled us into the reception

Exhausted from the travelling, overwhelmed by the Lobby and relieved we had our lives intact, we prepared to check-in. I provided our details and waited, taking in our palatial surroundings I noted it was almost 1230am. We waited, then the desk clerk went off to find the night manager ( sorry, it was not Tom Hiddleston). He arrived and while we continued to wait, both of them were transfixed by a screen, muttering in Arabic, and then making another call which had the effect of summoning a woman. Half an hour passed while all three continued to stare at the screen, before finally informing me that our booking had been cancelled. Flabbergasted, but ready for retaliation I proudly produced the email confirmation. This created further palaver and to-ing and fro-ing, all the while being reassured that everything would be fine. Then suddenly to a cacophony of 1000 apologies, we were allocated our room, our anxiety palpably disappearing momentarily. ” We just need your credit card” and I handed it over.

We did not have many Dirhams with us, and had planned to rely on using our credit card to savour many of the treasures that Dubai had to offer. But that was until the manager advised me it had been cancelled……………………