Sir Sack and Madam Sponge

Soaring over the vast, mountainous desert of the UAE was extraordinary, if not reminiscent of the matchbox car towns of Sponge's childhood. It really was like nothing we had seen before.

After a 'small world' encounter (our immigration officer had lived in Canning Vale and studied at Murdoch), we opted for the convenience of a taxi - but not before disappointing the driver with our 2 star hotel's proximity to the airport!  

Two things struck us in the first few hours in Dubai: 1) there is a lot of men. And 2) American fast food restaurants are everywhere. Cinnabon served us well for a late night snack; accustomed to tourists, the service we received was impeccable (sir and madam if you please). However, the city is not friendly to pedestrians, especially when you aren't used to driving on the right - each outing involved a great deal of luck and courage to get to our destination.

We soon became masters at stumbling across interesting sights and places (partly due to the fact we had no map); whether it be a Souk market in Deira buzzing with life on a Friday night, a very pleasant beach with casual acrobats and a running track, or the fancy tourist part of the city that exuded luxury and exposed skin.

We even braved the metro, which is surprisingly underdeveloped - just two lines, with 3,645,373 stops (or so it felt) and huge distances between. And once again, so many men (and unpleasant scents). Between the infamous towers, suburban Dubai is modest in its appearance and looks exactly like a scene from a modern war movie or Homeland...

We surrendered to being tourists, visiting the Mall of the Emirates and Dubai Mall which are ridiculously oversized and contained a ski slope, aquarium and theme parks - just in case you got bored of every store imaginable.

Determined to participate in something authentic we found a restaurant on Al Muraqqabat St and had a feast we could barely finish for a ridiculous price (so many complimentary sides!). It was sufficiently awkward to know we were eating with the locals. 

Dubai definitely lives up to its reputation, with everything on its grandest scale.  We didn't think it was possible there were bigger things to come...