DUBAI HERE I COME

MEMOIRS OF MY DUBAI EXPERIENCE (written by my dad)

By the grace of Almighty God, my children Oluwakemi and Oluwatoni both mooted the idea that myself and my wife would travel with them to Dubai this year for holidays to celebrate the 30th birthday of Oluwatoni. I first objected but the stubborn Kemi insisted that before they start to get married, we all must go out on holidays together as a family. This was in January 2017 during the New Year celebration. We all agreed. By the end of January, I had already taken the idea off my mind but suddenly both children started phoning to enquire whether we have renewed or obtained our passports. Noting that these children are serious about the trip, I mobilized efforts to enquire about obtaining e-passports. I went to my people in the police at Force CID Alagbon to meet the Deputy Commissioner.

The force CID shares common boundary with the Nigerian Immigration Service at Ikoyi and I am of the opinion that they relate very well together. The Deputy Commissioner called the Police public relation Officer to take me to the Nigeria Immigration Service and we met the NIS Public Relation Officer who in turn took me to the Passport Control Officer, one Mr. Adegoke, a Deputy Controller of Immigration. Booklets were not available and the PCO advised that I should call back in three days time which was Thursday. On Thursday, both myself and wife went together and we were well received. Our photographs were captured. In short we collected the passports at record time.

I thereafter informed my children that the passports were ready. This time, Kemi was in Johannesburg and we sent her the details of the passports. From there, she bought the tickets and told me they have already booked the hotel we were going to lodge. There was problem in South Africa because of the xenophobic attacks on foreigners. We could only appeal to her to return home. She acceded and came back cutting short her stay. No sooner she came than, she collected visa for us.

On Friday 10th March 2017 at about 5:30am, we boarded a Taxi to take us to the airport.

This is probably the first time I shall be travelling out of Nigeria or say Africa in nine years. I said Africa because, I accompanied my late brother-in-law to Accra Ghana in 2011 for a day visit, otherwise this Dubai experience is my first major travel outside Lagos since 2008 when I went to the United Kingdom with Kemi and mother to meet Oluwatoni.

Our plane took off at about 10:00am and it was a nice flight to Abu-Dhabi in UAE. We landed at about 5pm which is 8pm by UAE time because they are three hours ahead. It was already dark and we had to go by Etihad Airline bus to Dubai. It was a smooth ride and we arrived Dubai at 10pm. The hotel had arranged for a car to take us from the Etihad Park. We finally arrived at Tamani Marina Hotel at the 24th floor of the 55 floors Edifice.

We dropped our luggage and went down again to take a Taxi to McDonald for Dinner. It was here we started spending their money which is Dhiram. The attendant at McDonald wasted our time. She was too slow and this made us to pay more for the Taxi because the meter was running as we waited patiently for the food. We took the food back to the hotel, ate and watched the TV for some time and went to bed.

Our apartment at the hotel is a two bedroom suite, well furnished with a large kitchen, a spacious living room and a dinning. Television of 42”dimension are in every room and the living room. It is a first class international hotel by all standards.

Breakfast is between 7am and 11am and this had already been paid for with our hotel bill. Having not been used to their time, we woke up at 7am of our time which is 10am of UAE time. We had to rush down for our breakfast at HC floor, about twenty floors down. Before we finished our breakfast Oluwatoni arrived from London and joined us at the table. We hugged and chatted and felt happy once again. After breakfast, we went round the floor, which houses the gym, the swimming pools, and other sport activities. Thereafter we went upstairs to freshen up and get ready for outing.

The first impression in Dubai is that all the roads are a one way drive interjecting themselves at various points. The traffic lights are working excellently well and traffic laws are obeyed to the letter. We could not see any policeman controlling traffic like we have in Nigeria. There is sanity everywhere.

The second observation is that from Abu-Dhabi to Dubai, there was light (Electricity) throughout on the highway. Between Abu-Dhabi and Dubai is about two hours’ drive and you discover even the small villages interspersed between these two cities or emirates are all lighted up 24/7. The light never goes off.

My third observation moving nearer to Dubai is the cluster of high rise buildings both left and right of the road; Building of between fifty and one hundred floors. I begin to wonder what their aim of building these high rise buildings was, when there are vast expanses of developable lands.

After breakfast, we decided to go to town. First we want to see their trams and then the train station. The trains work on schedule at about five minutes intervals. As we walked to the tram station, one came which took us to the Train Station. We boarded the train to Dubai Mall Junction where we alighted and had to trek about thirty minutes to one hour, at times using the travelator to get to Dubai mall, the biggest mall in the world.

Before moving out of the hotel, I had to read a magazine about Dubai and here is what the editor wrote on hello, Dubai “Don’t get us wrong, we are just as bananas about brunch as the next person with their face in the chocolate fountain. But sometimes forking out hundreds of dirham for a three hour race to fill our faces just isn’t how we want to open a Friday or a subsequent Saturday, nursing the gastric after effects of eating half a tone of triffle. There is a lot to be said for kicking on a pair of flip-flops and heading out at your leisure — to a sunny spot with good vibes great food and cold drinks and accidentally losing an entire afternoon”. And this is exactly what it was. The trek from the Train junction to the Mall was not easy especially for my wife who nurses a leg problem, but for the fast moving electric rails called the travelator, we would have spent hours getting to the mall. At the mall, you will see incredible installations, dramatic designs, affordable auctions and dimming experiences. But we decided not to tour the mall today as we plan to climb the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. We settled at the Food Court of the mall to take lunch before embarking on the journey to the top. While myself and wife were eating my daughters went to buy the tickets that would enable us visit the Burj Khalifa. They returned within 30 minutes and after they had taken their lunch, we started off. It was not a small journey to get to the base. On getting there, we had to undergo routine check and lectures on what we can and cannot do when we get to the top. Our guide took us to the elevator and we boarded together. Within 10 seconds, we had reached the 148th floor where we had to disembark to take pictures and from there see works of nature and the design of man far below. You could see cars like ants down as if you were in a plane. We took photographs and were served refreshments. We were not allowed to go up further for security reasons and after about thirty minutes, we descended to 125th floor where other rounds of refreshments were served and further photographs taken. Here I realized I had mistakenly left my bag at the 148th floor. I went back with Toni and luckily we still met the bag where I placed it. After about two hours, we finally descended to the ground floor and walked back towards the mall. My daughters said they wanted me to buy some loose shirts and a jeans trouser which I objected to but they insisted. But fortunately, we could only get the shirts to buy. Kemi went and bought gsm suits and when we got to Costa Coffee Bar where Toni and mum were waiting, she discovered she left her hat, I had to follow her the long distance to look for the hat at H&M store, which we saw at the place she left it. From there she decided to go again to the food court to buy our dinner which we took to the hotel to eat. We called an Uber Taxi which missed its way but luckily another Uber came to pick someone he did not know and we just hopped inside. On the way he asked for our name and when he realized it was a wrong passenger, he was dumbfounded but we pressed him to take us to the hotel. He could not put on the taxi meter and finally agreed to take us on payment of cash of 71 Dirhams. We got to the hotel tired and worn out and after the meal went straight to bed. But before then Kemi and myself went out again to buy some medicine for my cough.

The next day, 12th March is Oluwatoni’s 30th birthday. At 10:00am local time, we went downstairs for breakfast and came up again to sleep. After about one and a half hours sleep, Kemi and Toni went downstairs for a bash to mark Toni’s birthday. They came back to inform us that they had already booked a car to take us to a Safari in the Sahara Desert about two hours drive away from Dubai. By 2:30pm we set out and got to the Sahara at about 4:30pm and started the Safari ride on the undulating sandy land. It was an experience of two hours drive on the high hills, low valleys, dishes, canals, up and down and at times as if you would fall head on but thank God we had no hitches. It was all fun but risky venture. After the ride, we came to the Safari entertainment joint where different groups meet to relax. We were served different foods. My daughters went for a camel ride in the desert and came back an hour after. We were entertained by Indian dancers both male and female and at 7:30pm, we decided it was time to go back to the hotel. We got to our hotel at 9pm which was a bit faster than when we were going.

At the Safari, we took series of photographs as family and with some whites that admired our dresses. We could only see a Nigerian with this wife, an Ibo man who was in shirt and trousers. Because of our dresses, he came and greeted us and kindly introduced himself to us. It was from his introduction we knew he is from Nigeria and an Ibo man.

You need to see the road to the Safari. Very smooth and wide, typical of all the roads in Dubai, the express roads are ten or twelve lanes with five or six on each side i.e. dual carriages. There are no pit holes, no damages done to the road sides; the hand rails on the bridges are intact. Thieves do not tamper with the chromes on the hand rails, and I don’t even think there are thieves in the city judging by the fact that we left the Safari very late without fear that armed robbers could waylay us.

On the 4th day, we decided to give ourselves a little bit of rest and decided that we would go to one of the markets later in the day. After breakfast, we had a short nap and dressed up at 4:30pm to go out. This time we boarded the Train first by our hotel and disembarked to join the train at a station of about two stops from the tram station. One needs to see the cleanliness of the tram and the train and their promptness. At the stations, the board shows when the next tram or train is coming and they don’t fail. At exactly the time shown, you will see the train coming. There are no struggles to enter the trams or trains and no one sits on the roof top. We took the metro redline because that is the one that takes off from near our hotel and later crossed to the green line which took us to the Deira market. The market is expansive such that on a number of occasions, we missed ourselves in the market. Thanks for landmarks that guided us. This market is not like our markets in Nigeria but resembles the shops in broad street Lagos but about a hundred times the size of the broad street market. You will see clothing materials in a stretch, another stretch may display gold items, while another displays perfumes, another household materials etc. You must be very careful while buying because the vendors are smart at convincing you to buy at exorbitant prices. You must haggle to the extent of being abused if you don’t want to be cheated. I fell a victim when I bought two Jalamiyas for Dhr210. When both my wife and Kemi came to meet me at the shop, they shouted at the man that it was not worth more than Dhr100. He disagreed but was later forced to refund Dhr.60.00 to me. You see how much he would have cheated me with? I later bought two dresses, this time in company of my family and they agreed that the buy was good.

You know it is not easy to go to the market with women; they will like to visit all shops of interest even if they are not buying anything from the shops. At about 8pm, we were all hungry and thank God there is a Nigerian restaurant in the market. We all went in there, ate Pounded Yam with Egusi and Ogbono Soup and felt satisfied moving away from chips and burgers.

We boarded the train back to our hotel and got there at about 9:15. We only watched the TV for some time and went to bed.

Today is Tuesday, the fifth day of our arrival in Dubai. Kemi decided she would visit one Dammy, the sister of her very close friend Timilehin, who resides in Ajman in the outskirts of Dubai. We wanted to stay indoor but later Toni said we should go to Atlantis otherwise called the Dubai Pam Area. We called an Uber Taxi which took us there. You need to come and see what the Arabs have used money to build for their advantage. This is indeed a Tourist desire. The atmosphere there is welcoming, the beach fascinating and the camaraderie of the Tourist is encouraging. We went first to the Dolphin section where we had to undergo a lecture of what Dolphin is, its life and the use to which the British/Australian manning the area have put it.

Dolphin Bay in Atlantis is one of the most sophisticated Dolphin habitat in the world. Here you have the opportunity to swim with the Dolphin in Dubai. Interaction range from standing in shallow water to swimming or scuba diving alongside these charismatic creatures. Whether you are a hotel guest (they have a hotel here) or visiting for the day, Dolphin Bay in Dubai offers an unforgettable experience. It was only Toni that changed to swimsuit provided to go into the lagoon to swim with the Dolphin with a guide. They were six in their group. Various displays were shown with the Dolphin. They rode at the back, kissed, touched and played with it. All these activities were videotaped. Finally it is the turn of myself and wife to go by the side to play with the Dolphin. We were guided to stoop down to kiss and play with the Dolphin and took photograph with it. After this, we went to the restaurant and had some snacks before going to our final destination there — The Lost Chambers, which is an aquarium of the best standard ever seen. The mysterious ruins of Atlantis are re-captivated for exploration in this beautiful Dubai attraction. The collection of various species of fishes is unsurpassable. Here we have big and small fishes most of them never seen by me either in pictures or physically. This aquarium is built on about four plots of land and you have to go round from one point to another in a merry go round manner. We videotaped all we could and when we felt tired, decided it was time to go. But it was an experience worth it even though we had to pay so much as Dhr.1680 for the visit. We called another Uber Taxi that took us back to the hotel at about 7:00pm. A walk round at night is a sight to behold in Dubai. Activities are still as busy as during the day. Restaurant compete against one another, lights are on 24/7 and traffic still as heavy but reduced. There is sanity on the roads and the roads are immaculately clean without bumps. We trekked to a Chinese restaurant about a kilometer from our hotel to buy dinner. After ordering the food, we strolled to a nearby Yatch where there were many boats for hire. A number of visitors boarded some boats for a boat ride but I rejected to go on such excursion this night. We left to collect our food orders and returned to the hotel.

The Lost Chambers Aquarium

Wednesday the 15th march, we remained indoor till about 5:30pm when we decided to go and watch the dancing fire on water by the Dubai Mall, it is called the Dubai fountain. Out of the 83 attractions in Dubai, the Dubai fountains consistently ranked No 1 among the tourist and families as a favourite spot to visit during holiday. The Dubai fountain shoots water up in the air as high as 500ft (about 50 storey building) choreographed to beautiful music. It is an unforgettable sight and experience, it is a sight to behold equally. Come and see what these people use money to make, attracting visitors from far and near to watch. it is a show for only five minutes from 7:00pm when it is closed but you need to see the influx of people coming to watch the show.

We left for the Global Village which houses the products of various countries except Nigeria. Each country’s stand is built in form of a big shopping plaza designed to show the architecture of the country. Various articles from these countries are on display. You have to go from one country’s plaza to another to windowshop and probably buy what you think might be of need to you. We could only visit four countries before midnight when the village closes for visitors and we had to take a Taxi back to our hotel. It was a journey of about one hour plus back to the hotel.

Thursday 16th march, 2017

Toni left Dubai this morning back to Leicester. I saw her down the elevator to the Taxi taking her to the airport at 9:30am to catch her flight at 12:00noon. Myself and Kemi hugged her and bade her safe journey. From there we went to the restaurant at the 4th floor (Health 2 fitness centre floor) for our breakfast. We went back to bed and at 5pm decided to visit the Mall of Emirates. Here I bought a shoe and some T-shirts for my male children, Damilola and Israel. Mummy bought a shoe for her church robes while Kemi left us at the McDonalds to visit other shops. She came back exactly one hour after. We then boarded another Taxi to go to Deira Market, a distance of 47km which took us about 58 minutes because of Traffic. Alighting from the Taxi actually spoilt the day because Kemi, while dosing off, dropped her iPhone in the Taxi. The Taxi had zoomed off before she realized it. It is in this phone she records everything she does and captures all the images she admires. It is like an office for her. She was demoralized like any of us as we do not know how to go about recovering it. We approached a police sergeant who advised we should dial 8009090 to report the loss but they informed us that they could not treat our case until 27th March as they were having about 7000 such cases yet to be resolved. Thanks to one Rasaq, a Nigerian residing in Dubai, whom my wife had earlier called to meet us at the Bus Stand. He advised that we go back to where we boarded the Taxi as the Camera must have captured it there since we did not know the car number, we only know the time we boarded the Taxi. Kemi decided she would go alone to be faster while we go and buy her a box and any other thing we might want to buy. About one and a half hours later, she phoned that she had got there and laid the complaint and was asked to wait for 30 minutes while contacting various people. Thanks to technology and the fact that records are being kept here. They got the Taxi number and the company the driver is working for. It was when the company phoned him that he realized there was a phone in his car. Probably Kemi has put it on silent such that he could not hear when we were calling the phone number. He finally agreed to bring the phone to the Hotel and the charges was to be Dhr100. Kemi phoned to inform us from there and that we should all meet at the hotel. We immediately finalized what we were doing, bought food (pounded yam) for take away and hopped into a Taxi back to the hotel. We got to the hotel at 10:30pm but did not meet Kemi. We became worried but later concluded that she might have collected it and headed to other shops. We took our dinner while waiting for her at 11pm.

I had to go downstairs at 11:30pm when she was nowhere to be seen and there was no way we could contact her as my wife’s phone to which we had purchased the local sim card is also with her. We could not contact her neither could she contact us. At last, after I had given up waiting downstairs at about 12:45am, she finally arrived. As earlier assumed she had gone to other shops as can be seen with the shopping bags she was carrying. Seeing her, I was relieved. She asked from me whether her phone has been brought to us in the hotel. I was dumbfounded and frowned at her, questioning her why she stayed out that late when she told us her phone would be brought to the hotel and that we should find our way back to meet her. Another period of uncertainty. We went outside and used the mum’s phone to contact the man who informed us he was held up by traffic. We waited for fifteen minutes and he finally showed up. He asked us to use our phone to call the number to confirm she is the real owner which we did before he released the phone. I am really impressed by the degree of honesty in this Emirate and the use to which they employ technology and how it works. Is this possible in Nigeria? To certain extent, it is not, at least in this generation except by miracle. Our rich people place their priority wrongly. They amass wealth just for their selfish ends. They do not think of improving the standard of living in the country except to flaunt their wealth. Come to Dubai and see what money does, what partnership does. Three people join together to build Tamani Hotel Marina, an edifice of 55 stories with 209 suites and 36 single rooms suitable for solo travelers and nine exclusive penthouse suites on the highest floors.

The mall of the Emirates is another very big mall but not as big as the Dubai Mall. It was opened in November 2005, developed and owned by Majid Al Futtaim properties. It features more then 700 stores, 11 anchor stores with a total gross leasable area of 234479 sqm, including department stores, fashion, lifestyle, sports, electronics and home furnishing outlets. It has more than 90 international dining and cafes.

Friday 17th March

We are indoor throughout watching the TV except for Kemi who went out with some of the friends she has made. She came at 9pm bringing with her our dinner. We watched the TV till about 1:30am and went to bed.

Saturday 18th March

We decided to go out today. We took off at 3pm by Train and connected the Train to Deira market which opens at 5pm. We got there just around 5:15pm and went round shopping. I bought a second Shoe, a Pam and two Jalamiyas for friends while my wife also bought gifts for her friends. We were in the market till about 10:30pm and went back through the same means having purchased to and fro train tickets in the afternoon.

Sunday 19th March

We are leaving Dubai today at 10:30pm for Abu Dhabi to connect plane. We checked out from the hotel at 3:05pm left our luggage with the hotel security and left for Dubai Mall to make last minute shopping. We did some minor shopping and left by train back to the hotel at 9pm to collect our luggage. At 10pm we were at the hotel and had to look for Taxi that would be roomy enough to contain out luggage. When we couldn’t get one, we decided for two and straight to Etihad bus station where Etihad airline has arranged to collect us for Abu Dhabi. Here we left Kemi behind at exactly 10:35pm. She immediately felt out absence but we had to console her that it was just for one week. Kemi decided to go to Turkey from here to look for business opportunities as arranged with her friend, Allanboy. We prayed for her that God being with her she will come back safely to meet us in Lagos. We arrived at Abu Dhabi at 12:45am. It took us about 10 minutes to get our bearings as to the location of Etihad checking point to Lagos. We finally checked in and underwent various security and immigration checks. After this, we trekked about a kilometer within the airport to where we were to board the plane. Here we sat for another one hour before the boarding proper. A bus took us from here for about two or more kilometers to the plane. This is a very large airport which cannot be compared in no way with our Murtala Muhammed Airport either in terms of size, amenities, neatness, etc. At 2:45am our plane took off and after about 10 minutes of turbulent weather, we finally ascended to a good height and we bade United Arab Emirates Republic Goodbye.

I thank you God Almighty for making this a reality in my life and I pray that you continue to bless the children you have given me, especially Kemi and Toni whom you have used to making this journey a reality. I appreciate you Lord and I give you honour, glory and adoration. I pray for my children, that they will continue to go from strength to strength; they will never lack anything good in Jesus Name. They too will have children who will show mercy to them in Jesus Name. I pray that I will also see their children’s children in Jesus Name.

Thank you Lord!!!

Kemi finally arrived on Sunday 26th March but got to us on Monday 27th. She narrated her ordeal from Dubai to Istanbul Turke y, a journey of five hours flight. For four hours they were in turbulent weather during which all of the passengers had lost hope of life. Most of them started weeping while some sent text messages to bid their relations farewell.

But thank God, the merciful who does not forget His own. The plane landed safely. We prayed to thank God with “Now than we all our God” hymn and worshipped Him for His mercies. Kemi vowed that she would not travel for some time to come judging with this experience. Once again, Thank you Almighty Jehovah.

Samuel Sunday Olanrewaju