Back in Dubai for a couple of relaxing days before heading home. It was an interesting time to be in town with Ramadan being on and the considerations around that as a tourist and as a runner.
When I used to travel a lot for work during my time in the private sector I stayed in hotels not unlike the one we stayed at in Dubai this time around: the Sofitel. A common meal for me to eat if I was staying in and having room service was always the club sandwich. It was often one of the cheaper items on the menu, but also usually substantial enough for me. With Ramadan on while we were in Dubai and restaurants are closed until sundown, the best options for tourists are either to eat in the privacy of your hotel or grab stuff from a supermarket and make it in your room. We chose to order a club sandwich off the room service menu to share for lunch. It did not disappoint. We decided to have a ‘bed picnic’ as the bed was big enough to host a family, and besides, mum didn’t want to get out of her new favourite outfit: the pyjamas she was given in business class on the flight over from London!
On our last night in Dubai – our last night of our holiday we went on a desert safari (more on that below). As part of the safari, we ate a bedoin style meal at a desert camp while watching traditional dancing. The food was right to my liking – lots of middle eastern foods. Falafel, hummus, olives, lamb kofta, etc. Meat galore! Exactly what I was after following my marathon run earlier in the day! We were greeted into the camp with a cup of Arabic coffee and fresh dates. Once again, dates – mmmm! Fresh dates are so moist and sweet, as opposed to the quite dry ones we tend to have back home. Very very moreish!
As promised from last visit, the spice markets were a serious destination for us this time. As it was Ramadan, they were not open until sundown, but that was perfect. It was cooler and the sights and sounds (and smells) are different in the evening in the older part of town where the souks are. We experienced the typical hassling of the vendors trying to steer you to look at their wares and entice you into their shop. We ended up going into a few. In each one they offer some samples of dates, nuts and other items to taste and smell. Once again, mmmmm…..fresh dates! We bought quite a bit of stuff for ourselves and as presents. Hopefully we can get it back into Australia, as I know the customs department are pretty picky!
The highlight of this leg of the journey has been the incredible service and experience at the Sofitel Jumeirah Beach. Other than a slight hassle with our reservation (not in their system!), nothing was too hard, and often they anticipated our needs or exceeded expectation. For example, the lady who checked us in at the front desk had noticed on my passport that it had been my birthday the previous day, and arranged for a beautiful chocolate mouse cake to be delivered to my room that evening. I did not spot it straight away when we got back from the spice souk, and was completely surprised when I saw it on the buffet in the room. Small actions such as this really made our stay at the Sofitel extraordinary and incredibly relaxing.
On our last night we went on a desert safari. I could write an entire blog and more on the safari. It was fantastic, and well worth doing if anyone is thinking to come to Dubai. We were picked up from our hotel at 4.30, along with an Australian couple, Guy and Alicia. Including our other tour companion already in the 4WD, Marianne, the five of us made up the group that our wonderful guide, Emam had to suffer with. We were pretty chatty as a group with each other as well as with Emam, so the drive out to the desert went pretty quickly. Incredibly, it rained for a few minutes on the way out there, which was amazing as we couldn’t see any clouds and it was 42 degrees outside! The first part of the tour involved a short and easy drive across a few dunes (where we spotted some oryx) to a small shaded area where we watched a falconry demonstration. Such beautiful birds! We then went dune bashing for about 45 minutes. What great fun! Our guide/driver, Emam, was clearly very experienced, and ended up assisting a few other vehicles that had gotten bogged in the soft sand. We stopped to take some photos in the dunes before heading to the camp for the feast, dancing, tattooing, camel rides, and shisha smoking among other activities. It was a great night. Our group did mix a bit with others – there were about 20 odd cars from the same company doing the same tour; but we mostly chatted and had a great evening together. Emails swapped at the end, new friends made, and memories created.
I only did one run in Dubai, and chose to do that entirely inside. Smart move on many fronts. If it had only been a short one, I would have done it at night, but it was going to be a long one. My scheduled distance was 41.84km, so I decided to round it up to make it a full marathon (42.2km). It was Ramadan, so there were a few considerations that I needed to take into account. It is not possible for Muslim people to consume food or fluids from sunrise to sundown during Ramadan. Similarly, it is culturally impolite for visitors and tourists to consume food or drink in public either as mentioned earlier. I need to drink quite a bit of water and some electrolyte fluids during a marathon, as well as eat some food (peanut butter Gu and a protein bar), so I spoke with the gym staff the day prior to work out how to manage this. I was advised to lock my food and water in a locker in the ladies change rooms of the gym and just would need to go int the change rooms and take any refreshment requirement needed in there, away from the eyes of any staff or others who may be practicing Ramadan. So I set up my locker with all of the odds and ends inside it for my refuelling needs, and headed int the gym to claim my treadmill. The gym was very well equipped. There were three treadmills, and as it was over 40 degrees outside, I didn’t think I would need to fight with anyone for use of a treadmill for 4 and a bit hours. Correct assumption. Only a handful of other people came into the gym for the entire time I was there. The most frequent visitors were the staff, who would pop in roughly about every half an hour or so and offer me a freezing cold moist towel (in place of water)! Once again, amazing service from the staff. Running on a treadmill for about 4 hours 20 mins odd can be a bit tedious. Thank goodness for cable sports channels and multiple TVs! I managed to see an entire match of rugby league, some motor racing. wrestling, a bit of soccer and some cage fighting. The time went pretty quickly with such distractions, and before I knew it, lunchtime had passed and I was finished. This was my last long run before the ultra. Now my weekend runs start to progressively decrease in length. I have enjoyed them, as opposed to dreaded them – something that I was surprised about to start with.
Next stop: home!