Merry Christmas from Dubai and Mumbai

Dubai was absolutely something else. When we first arrived there, not knowing where to exactly go, we were blindly directed to the Mall of Dubai, one of the biggest malls in the world. A very extravagant mall which made me feel inadequate somehow :/

We went to the desert safari which would equate to an Arabian version of hawaii’s luau. We were picked up in a 4×4, dune bash in the desert, visited a camel farm, ate Arabian food, smoked shisha, sand boarded, took picture w falcon, rode a camel and watched belly dance and a Turkish dance. I thought it was fun and fitting for the very limited time we had to spend in the area.

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We were so jet lagged since we arrived in Dubai that morning at 9 am after a 37 hour trip because our original Royal Jordanian flight was cancelled. As a result, we wre transferred to British airways and had to layover in Heathrow for 9 hours. However, with my strong conviction and a little bit of tantrums, I managed to convince Brady to take me out after the desert safari to watch the Dubai Mall Fountain at 11pm that night. Man, Bellagio has nothing on this. It was beautifully choreographed, and much bigger and stronger than the Bellagio with gorgeous Arabic music.

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I had a RSVP to go up to the 122nd floor of the Burj Khalifa for drinks at the tallest bar in the world but had to compromise for a good nights sleep instead. We did, however, take awesome pics of the pretty Burj Khalifa.

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The next morning,we ventured to the Al Jumaeirah mosque for a tour of the mosque and a cultural talk on the religion and the Gulf culture. Growing up in Indonesia (most populated Moslem country in the world), I thought I had the knowledge of the tradition and religion down. Boy, was I wrong about that. The Gulf culture and it’s Moslem culture is totally different than what I know. The talk was very enriching and enlightening, totally recommended for anyone going to Dubai.
The speaker was eloquent, open and was very good at conveying her faith and why she believes in it. Definitely an eye opener for anyone who has a limited exposure to both the region and the religion (Brady).

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We met up with Aravind who took us to lunch at a Arabian buffet in the Burj Al Arab, the only “7star” hotel in the world. It was Brady’s “birthday” so we got a delicious cake out of it. Rumor has it that there are hundreds of kilos of gold incorporated in every aspect of the building, including the paint on the walls and the inlays on the floors. Definitely a major treat to be able to check that out.
It was outrageously extravagant.we got to see the part of Dubai that is definitely a portrayal of the land of the excess.

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Dubai is very diverse, with every people and culture of the world. It was exotic, intriguing and overwhelming to me.

We flew to Mumbai on the Christmas Eve and arrived at 3am the Christmas morning in our hotel.

Today (Christmas Day), has been really special. We awoke to the hot, sweaty, loud and busy Mumbai. It’s getting late and I’m getting exhausted (130am and I have to wake up at 530 in the morning for our bike tour (pray that we don’t die)), so I’ll be brief.

We got to tour the slums (Dharavi) with a very socially responsible outfit (Reality Tour)- they donate 80% of their profit for the educational development of the region! which we got to witness in the form of community center and computer center. They did an excellent job in ensuring the residents do not feel exploited (we were not allowed to take pictures ), informing us about the outrageous statistics (1 million ppl in less than 1 sq mile), and providing valuable information to help us rid of the western stigma of what slums are supposed to be. What we saw was a functioning, optimistic, and a very resourceful community. It was a very humbling experience (especially on Christmas Day) to see the other part of humanity that I am not exposed to. There were no beggars, no loiterers, etc. more thoughts on this later. Our guide was born and raised in one of the slums, spoke perfect English, educated and was able to give us great insights on how it was growing up in the slums. It is a fantastic tour and I would recommend this in a heartbeat all day any day. Do it. It offered me a great perspective of how good I have it and how wrong my perceptions of slums have been.

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Mumbai is outrageous, intense, crowded and is definitely an attack/allure on all senses. I feel at home and I can definitely spend months here to discover the city (time that I do not have ). More on tales of this mesmerizing city later, Must.sleep.

Merry Christmas, everybody. Have a good one. We are having the time of our lives and have never felt luckier.

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