The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Bur Dubai (Dubai residency day 6)

Mostly photos today, because I have an economics assignment due before I can get some desperately-needed sleep.

Today we did our Culture Dash (see the entry about the deliverable) through some of the same Dubai streets I walked just yesterday. Some highlights: first, Dubai Creek, with an abra (commuter flatboat) in the foreground and an Airbus 330 taking off in the background:

The textile souk in the old Bur Dubai neighborhood:

And last one tonight, a minaret during the evening call to prayer:

More tomorrow, or possibly Saturday given how much we have to do before then.

Finding the real Dubai

After a two-hour walk in the 34°C heat, I actually feel much better. (People who know me can feel free to express surprise and alarm.)

As I mentioned yesterday, spending too much time in a hotel depresses the life out of me. When will I ever again visit Dubai? Probably never. Since the hotel has gone to great lengths to make itself indistinguishable from any other similar hotel in the world, I fled the official corporate tours and hopped the Dubai Metro for Deira, the old part of the city.

Sadly for my scrap-book, and despite having my good camera, I spent nearly the whole time experiencing a place unlike any I'd ever seen rather than photographing it. The best part: a delicious one-dirham loaf of flat bread I bought from a "bakery" that consisted of a guy sitting cross-legged next to a small oven in a shop that couldn't have been two meters on each side. One dirham.

Second best part: hearing about 40 muezzins simultaneously call the faithful to the Asr prayer around 15:20 local time.

I did get some photos; here are two:

And I found that Dubai has lots of very small, completely fearless cats:

In all, despite sweating through every thread of clothing I wore, and despite feeling completely taken in one bit of bargaining I did (but not in the other, when I was only slightly robbed), I think I spent the afternoon perfectly. I feel much better than I did this morning, and I'll feel even more human in 15 minutes when I get out of the shower....

Disconnected from the culture

Some people might enjoy a week in a five-star hotel where the weather is warm and the beaches are only 10 minutes away. I might, too, if I had time to leave the hotel.

Each residency, we have to write a "cultural disconnect" blog post describing an incident within the local culture that resulted from a disconnect between the cultures. For example, in London a student wrote about making a joke in an elevator that caused his American classmates to laugh out loud but the English people nearby to flee. He compared his personal communication style to the typical English style and analyzed the interaction using cultural and interpersonal-assessment tools the course has taught us. It wasn't as dry a paper as my description makes it seem, and since the professor singled it out the top paper, it was worth reading.

Since the only Emiratis I've met in five days have been the public speakers Duke brought in, and since I've only actually gotten a chance to leave the hotel twice, I think today I may skip the official corporate visit to Nakheel and instead go into the Deira neighborhood, where I hope to find people who actually live in Dubai.

I have a lot of impressions already of the city, which will take me a couple of weeks to fully process, but none of these thoughts have any data about living in Dubai supporting them.

They grow 'em tall here

Dubai has tall buildings. Many of them. Like our hotel, the Jumeirah Emirates Towers:

The 51-story hotel is 309 m tall, about the height of the Chrysler Building.

But that's not the tallest building here. No, from my hotel window I can see this:

That's the Burj Dubai, which at 818 m is almost double the height of Sears Willis Tower back home. Here's a comparison (from Wikipedia):

I'm working on an essay (not explicitly for the CCMBA) about Dubai's growth, including its monumental projects like the Burj, and what that may say about its future. Later though; right now I'm exhausted.

Catching up on photos

Now that I have a functioning monitor once again, I can post a few photos.

Despite American's mess-up with my seat assignments, a lovely British Airways flight attendant found an empty upper-deck window seat, so I did, in fact, get to have a total aviation-nerd-heaven trip:

P.O.V. shot:

A couple of things: first, the text on the screen is in Arabic, which makes sense if you're flying to Dubai. Second, the screen shows the plane has just gone over Italy's big toe. We had great views of the Alps and the Italian peninsula on the way down. (More on our route in a moment.) Third, the seat faces backwards, which may not be at all obvious from the photograph. Finally, I didn't realize that the upper deck curves too much to get really close to the window. So while I'm awfully happy to have sat up there, I'll probably not sit up there again unless it's an overnight flight.

About the route. Does this look odd to anyone else?

Compare with the great circle path that I expected:

I understand not wanting to fly over Iran, but then again, why not? British Airways flies London to Tehran, so I'm sure the overflight isn't a problem. It also looks like we skirted around Iraq as well, which, again, is not unfriendly (officially) to Britain. Anyone have an answer? If I'm able I'll get a shot of the return trip for comparison.

More later, with photographs of the world's tallest building.

Compromise solution

When they ask why I missed a guest speaker and an alumni panel discussion, I will tell them about the lovely donation I'm making on Sunday. What donation? Why, a brand-new 50 cm widescreen monitor I bought this afternoon at the Dubai Mall:

And why did I buy this monitor for AED 449? Because the one built into my laptop looked like this:

No, you're not going blind, and that distortion isn't a compression effect or camera artifcat. That's real. And that's why Duke will get the monitor when I'm done with it this week.


Quick update (Dubai residency day 2)

My laptop monitor has horked.

On the way over to Dubai, while hanging out at Logan, the monitor went from normal to slightly magenta and missing every fourth column of pixels. This did not make me happy.

Finally today I had the opportunity to connect the laptop to an overhead projector, which showed it has a fully-functioning video chip. This means that the problem is either in the LCD monitor itself or its connection to the motherboard, neither of which I can fix. So, the Duke IT folks have gone after a loaner external monitor from the hotel, but I may have to duck out this afternoon to get one at the local mall. Not that I'd rather spend $50 on food or souvenirs, of course. And not that I didn't want to get a new laptop in general. (Repairing this kind of problem can cost almost as much as a new laptop, believe it or not.)

Worse things have happened. The laptop still has all its other parts, for example. And I remembered to pack ties this time.

Things I learned from my trip, part 2 (Dubai Residency day 1)

Yes, the 7-hour layover at Heathrow did me in. The total trip took 28 hours and 48 minutes, during which I slept a couple of times but not well.

Another thing I learned: it's hard to fix a laopto when they don't let you have tools in your carry-on bag. It appears that the connection between my laptop's monitor and its video chip has come loose. The screen appears to be missing half of its pixels, but otherwise it still works. A loose cable is the best case, anyway; the worst case—the monitor itself has died—requires me to get a new laptop. I'll have to try fixing it after my macroeconomics exam, which starts in 13 hours and for which I am woefully unprepared.

So, even though I have a few minutes right now, without a working monitor I can't really prepare any photos. Otherwise I'd have art. I'm digging the hotel room, I must say.

All the little things

I generally love American Airlines, to the extent that I fly oneworld carriers unless there simply isn't another way to get there. But today, in an effort to be helpful, an AA ticket agent actually made an error that may have dashed a dream I've carried since I was six.

I'm on my way to Dubai for school, and to get there I'm going through London. (Faithful readers may recall I tried going through Amman, but that didn't quite work.) Going through London means British Airways, which doesn't let you choose a seat until 24 hours before flying unless you've got the equivalent of American's Platinum status. It turns out, I'll have Platinum status in two weeks, but not yet, and "almost" doesn't count.

The dream since I started flying is as nerdy as it is prosaic: to fly in the upper deck of a 747. I arranged my flight to Dubai so that I would fly one segment on a 747, in the appropriate class of service to sit on the upper deck. And because of the peculiarities, just mentioned, of British Airways' seating rules, I got up very early this morning in time to book the seat I wanted. And I succeeded. Woo hoo! Friday is Hump Day!

Flash forward to my check-in at O'Hare. British Airways and American have a deal that allows passengers to check their baggage through even if they've booked multiple reservations. Not wanting to go through baggage retrieval at Heathrow, and not wanting to schlepp my enormous (33 kg of baggage—comfortably less than when I went to the first residency) pile of crap to Heathrow's Terminal 5, I asked the O'Hare agent to check my stuff through all the way.

I don't know how, but whatever she did to check my bags through, she also erased my seat assignment—the one I woke up early to get—and there's nothing I can do about it until I get to Heathrow tomorrow morning.

I suppose I need to look at this in perspective. I'm going from Chicago to Dubai in less than a day, something imposssible even when I was a child. So, I'll just have to depend on the charity of British Airways' Heathrow agents, or wait until some other time.