Having only recently splashed out a small fortune for our summer flights to the UK, a good friend imparted to me her money-saving scheme that has seen her save a stash of cash on flights over the past few years.
Flying from the UK to here is so much cheaper. So she bought a single flight from Dubai to the UK and since then has always bought a flexible return ticket from the UK to Dubai. The emphasis here is on the word flexible because you want to be able to easily alter the date of your return flight – even up to a year later to coincide with your next visit ‘home’.
OK the initial single flight felt a bit steep, being almost the same as the cost of a return fare, but since then she’s been spending a hell of a lot less on flights than we have. Maybe next year?
A chance chat with a friend and she happened to mention that flights were extortionately expensive this summer – she’s ain't kidding!
When we first moved out here, return flights between Dubai and London could easily be booked for 450 pounds (I can't find the pound sign on my new mac) each with Emirates. Not any more.
I don’t have to dig out notes from my economics degree – that’s financial economics as opposed to home economics (although the latter seems so much more appropriate for me these days - I make a mean carrot cake) – to know that inflation has had its part to play over the past five years, let alone fuel price increases, but ‘cry-ky’ (a pertinent mistake) flight prices have almost doubled.
If we fly in July a return to London Gatwick (from which it’s sooooo much easier to hire a car – especially when travelling alone with two kids, three suitcases and two car seats) costs AED4,890. And explain this: (at the time of writing) on the first of August flights drop to AED3,810 each.
Considering I’ve got 58,000 expiring Skywards miles to spend – it’s only taken me five years and well over 12 flights to build up the points – I have to fly Emirates. And guess what date we’re going? You guessed it –August 1st.
Is the July price hike something to do with the Olympics? Answers on a postcard please – or commenting to this blog might be quicker considering Dubai’s lack of door-to-door postal service (yes, that's the truth!).
Today was spent at Dreamland Water Park in the Emirate of Umm al Quwain - a drive of just one hour on the nose.
Now while this may not be the newest and swankiest water park in the region, for us it's most definitely our favourite. Perhaps when the girls are older Atlantis' AquaAdventure or Wild Wadi will hog the top spot with their more thrilling adrenaline pumped rides. For now we're quite happy with the Lazy River, Hippos Island, the massive kids' pool with its over-flowing giant bucket and merry-go-round and the bumper boats. At only AED 135 dirhams to get in, it's a steal (as opposed to AED 215 in Wild Wadi and AED 210 for Atlantis - although check out the residents rates. At Atlantis, UAE residents get in for a bargain AED140).
The cost of the food inside the park is not a rip-off (as opposed to its more modern rivals) - although the money we saved was more than splashed out on alcohol at the next door Barracuda offie. This was our first time at this infamous liquor stall - an Aladine's cave of booze. We were like kids in a sweety shop. It's the Toy's R Us equivalent for adults looking to stock up their drinks' cabinet. It's Majestic wine on a massive scale. Plus, it's legal (you don't even need a license to buy the stuff as you do in Dubai) and there's none of this 30% tax lark that we have to 'suffer' here in Dubai. The main problem for Dubai-ites heading 'home' is that they need to drive through Sharjah, in which alcohol is completely forbidden. So our crates of beer, four bottles of wine, champagne and sherry (for cooking may I add) was placed strategically all over the car - just in case.
Last night I was with the Good Housekeeping bunch for our monthly get together with the current reader panel of women.
We met at Legends at the Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club. I always enjoy these evening 'cos I normally come away having had a real giggle with someone whom I've met for the first time. This month Danielle, the beauty editor, was getting us to try and test mascaras - including one that claims to make your lashes grow, one that makes them fuller and a vibrating one that ....well let's just see what it does for yer lashes.
Working on my bumper June issue all about summer travel, I was asking the girls how they are planning to escape the desert heat in July and August with their families. Boy, are they are lucky bunch! I came across one that's hiring a gite in France; one that's touring Portugal, France and Spain; one that's off to Mauritius for a month; one that's hiring a Mews terrace in Bath for four weeks ....
Suddenly touring the UK - taking in the Isle of Sheppy in Kent, Lowestoft in Suffolk, Thetford in Norfolk, Poole in Dorset, Jersey in the Channel Islands, back to Poole, Haslemere in Surrey and rounding off the month with another stop on salubrious Sheepy(!) - didn't seem quiet as glamorous (and certainly not as relaxing). The girls and I will be staying in no less than eight different beds, unpacking and packing 16 times and travelling hundreds of miles on UK motorways (probably in a Fiat Cinquacento or something equally as pokey).
With that all to look forward to, I must get around to booking my flights.
I read and listened to a fascinating interview today on the BBC online magazine with Princess Basma Bint Saud Bin Abdulaziz, daughter of King Saud, the former ruler of Saudi Arabia. She tells the BBC of the many changes she would like to see in Saudi Arabia.
Now the reason that this caught my eye (and ears) more than perhaps it would were I still living in the UK is obviously because of my location here in Dubai. As a woman I am always fascinated by the Arabic ladies I see. They certainly have a superior air about them and they look so elegant as they float around in their abayas. Often these long flowing black robes are tastefully decorated with sequins to achieve some individuality and I always check out their shoes. Often this is the only other piece of ‘clothing’ on show, so shoes are another way that they can make a statement. And of course the designer bag is de rigeur.
I’m always keen to catch a glimpse of what lies beneath and am often slightly disappointed to see that they are actually wearing ‘normal’ clothes like jeans and t-shirts. It spoils the mystery somewhat.
But the women who fascinate me the most, are those completely covered up wearing the burqa or niqab. Either only their eyes are visible or nothing at all. I cannot help but wonder what they think of it all; what they think of me and wonder if they wish they could simply drink a cup of coffee in public by putting the cup straight up to their lips without having to grapple with a veil.
When a group of five, six or more ladies are in a Mall together, wearing either abayas or burqas, laden with designer bags and accompanied by usually just one man, the chances are very high that they are from Saudi Arabia.
This interview gave me a further insight into their lives. If you're a woman, interested in how other women live, take a look at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-17446
Well, there must have been something wrong with that rum I was drinking last night around the camp fire, 'cos my head is thumping this morning. It doesn't help that we all spent the night sleeping on planks! Even Lindsey, whose alcohol was not 'off', woke in the wee hours complaining of a few too many aches and pains.
OK, so the beds were not the best - but they are a darn sight better than sleeping on an inflatable mattress in a collapsed tent for the night.
We soon washed away any grumbles with a dip in the warm sea - the shores of which were numerous die-hard campers. The beach was so 'un-Dubai-like' with real sand! The backdrop to the beach was a mountainous sand dune that tumbled down to the shore - and served as a great playground for a spot of sand skiing.
We all took it in turns on Patrick's paddle board, although when it was my turn the memory of those ruddy great big sharks seen at the market yesterday seemed all too recent and when I saw a shoal of sardines I decided to paddle like a true Amazonian back to the safety of the shore.
A lunch back at the 'Stone House' as the kids had christened it, and at about 2pm we packed up and retraced our tracks along the E119 back to 'the smoke'.
Ten out of ten for a fabulous weekend!
By the way: the cost of renting out the Adventure House exclusively is about AED1,900. For a group that works out so cheap. But if it's just, say, two of you travelling, then opt to stay in the soft beds of the Golden Tulip (Turnip - remember the joke?) and take part in the activities offered by Absolute Adventure.
Eight a.m. and I’m ready to glamp. There’s just about enough room for us four Baggotts to squeeze in the Honda MRV amongst all our overnight luggage (if you consider the size of an MRV, that constitutes a hell of a lot of baggage).
Off we go again (as we did a few weeks ago when we stayed at Le Meridien Al Aqah) heading towards the Hajar mountains. But this time we take a far more scenic route. Rather turning onto the E88 off the Dubai Bypass towards Fujairah, we (in a convoy of three) continue along the E611 towards Ras al Khaimah and take the E911.
It’s seems only a matter of minutes before we’re in the desert, where the dunes hug the road and the sand is a deep romantic orange. This sea of rolling sculpted waves stretches as far as the eye can see and, of course, camel spotting is obligatory....
Spent the day packing for a trip to Dibba, Oman. We're leaving tomorrow morning at 8am. Along with some good friends we've hired a house on the beach. Sounds very luxurious? It's NOT. It's glamourous camping - in bunk beds and we're expecting to spend the night socialising with a locust of mosquitos! Check it out and I'll give you my opinion when we get back on Saturday.
Approximately 5,000 animals live on Sir Bani Yas Island, including one of the world´s largest herds of Arabian Oryx. This beautiful species of antelope is sadly now extinct in the wild, but Sir Bani Yas is home to a managed herd of over 400. Apparently the African giraffes that amble around were once the pets of the Sheikh given to him by his friends in Kenya. He was given four and he kept them in his garden - today they make up a herd of 40. All bar the giraffes are indigenous to Arabia.
Getting out to explore the island is what a stay here is all about. In truth there are just as good (and even better) hotels closer to home, but the island itself is unique. There are loads of activities available that get you out there – mountain biking, safari drives, horse riding (from the newly opened stables), hiking, sailing, snorkeling and – our choice – kayaking.
Andy from Scotland was our guide for our 11am kayaking adventure. From Scotland, you could hear how enthusiastic he was about his job (although 18 months on the island we suspect was turning him a bit stir crazy).
In a double kayak with JB at the back taking the strain (I’m not stupid) we drifted along the channel beside the mangroves. The water was so clear and the atmosphere so peaceful. Andy told us all about the mangroves and how over time they help create more land and encourage more birds and marine life to the area – they are clever little things.
This was a fabulous experience and we returned to the hotel at for a dip in the pool and lunch (breakfast was indeed an improvement on dinner, yet still, in my opinion, not what you would expect from a hotel of this caliber – perhaps it is the hotel’s isolated location that might explain the lack of freshness?).
At 2.30 – half an hour shy of 24hours at the hotel – we left on the bus for the 3pm ferry back to the mainland. We arrived home at 6.30pm – in time to put the girls to bed.
A truly memorable experience and definitely worth the drive. 9 out of 10 for Sir Bani Yas Island (one point lost in the kitchen).
We left Dubai at 9.30am (having dropped off Charlotte to school with a box of birthday cupcakes for her class mates and Emily to nursery resplendent in Tinkerbell costume for her end-of-term Easter party) and headed down the E11 (the very road that was the subject of yesterday’s blog) towards and 250km BEYOND Abu Dhabi.
Sir Bani Yas Island was today’s destination in Abu Dhabi’s Al Ghurbia region, bordering Saudi Arabia. All in all we travelled 350km in three and a half hours along the same road the whole way to the Jebel Dhanna – the port from which the ferry departs to the island....
About this blog...
I set up this blog to reveal what real life is like here in the UAE - the good and the bad. I'll chat about what I've been up to, Dubai news and developments, my thoughts about expat life here (and in general) and reports about my holidays and adventures in the region (travel is my bag after all).