The first day, 4th April, 5th April, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th and success
The 3rd of April
We flew in Gulf Air to Dubai International Airport, checked through customs and the like and found the hotel booking office. Aye here's the rub. We expected a couple fo days in Dubai to clear the car and onwards we go. What we hadn't bargained for was not only Haj which we knew about but also the Dubai Shopping Festival. Anyway, there was a room at $100 at the Inter Continental, suites us down to the ground.
We checked in to the Inter-Continental, not knowing where and what was up we thought that at least things would work, did they? no way and what a waste of time that proved to be. There wasn't a room prepared for us when we arrived so we were stuck with either a long wait or getting out and doing. We chose the getting out and did in the Magic Planet for about three hours. When we got back our room was ready, in fact not so much our room but any old room as this was clearly a single while we had booked a double with a king size bed. Two calls to reception and a call to guest relations where I told them I was more than happy to be a disgruntled guest in the lobby rather than the privacy of my room and they had 5 minutes before I came down did the trick and we were moved to a room with a king sized bed. Funnily enough we passed another couple who were in the same process of being moved and they recited the same story.
The Duty Manager eventually admitted that the hotel was 100% full and thus had no rooms spare which was the reason we didn't start out where we had expected. I said that in that case they shouldn't have accepted the booking and thus would have avoided all this hassle and we would have then booked into a hotel that actually had the rooms we wanted. Could it get worse, of course it could! We made the mistake of ordering a Pizza through room service, a four cheeses , Quattro Formagio' in hotel speak without any dusting of herbs and spices and other yucky bits that boys of 6 don't like. It came and hour later, was cold and not what we ordered, quattro yes, pizza yes but formagio no. A definite mock stagioni which any self respecting Italian would turn their nose up at. Boys of six only eat the ham bit and leave the other three quattro's.
Note: This seems to be standard ploy which we met in Sri Lanka. Non business guests get the run around, you get put into the bottom standard room of the house. The first couple of complaints are ignored in the hope that you will go away, only people who are persistent actually get what they had originally paid for. The trick is to call their bluff - they in turn are calling yours. Also, make sure that the argument over poor quality goes on in reception not in your room where the other guests are ignorant of your complaints. I only got satisfaction by giving them a time limit of 5 minutes to sort the problem out or I would start banging fist on table in the reception area. I also explained that I knew exactly what their game was.
We did get lots of apologies, the room we requested but thatís all. Basically the definition in this case of 5 star was the public areas, not the quality of service nor room. You don't pay for what you get rather you pay to embellish the areas that anybody can use for free.
NB. Inter'con' paid for from the airport was Dhms 450 for a double room, the Intercon would normally charge between 800 and 1600 for a stay. We eventually ended up in one of the 'executive' rooms which had standard international hotel decor.
On checking out on the 3rd we moved to the Golden Falcon - passing by the airport to make another booking and pay. That seems to be the important thing that the payment is made at the travel agents though I would guess that knowing the rates the hotel would also accept a discounted amount.
The Golden Falcon was back to Pakistan but clean and with standard medium grade international hotel grade stuff. It was four star and cost us Dhms 207 which at the time equates to about £33. We checked in, dropped the bags off and on to the kids place 'Magic Planet' yet again. We left at about 20:00 and joined the taxi queue which seemed to be a bit shorter this time round.
4th of April
4th April and time to contact the Embassy and see if the duty officer is around, make ourselves known and so on before the big day - the 5th when we try to get our car out of the container depot. The emergency mobile phone number was either engaged for an extended period or switched off. Anyway, today was the day at splash-land, a water amusement park for all.
We left the hotel at 10:00 and finally got a taxi at just short of 11:00. 30 Dhms sir said the taxi driver which came down to me saying 20 and he 25, I guess I got it right as he smiled at me when he got the 20 while asking for 25. Splash land is basically a load of large swimming pools where you pay a one price buys all entry fee and then pay extra for anything that might conceivably be called extra. Anyway the kids loved it apart from the fact that the concrete tiles between the various water attractions were blistering hot and there was no shade unless you were in the few shady areas away from the water. The prices were 40 for adults and 35 or so for kids. Burgers chips and a coke was 15 or a burger on its own was 10. The quality was okay. The benefit for daddies coming from extended periods in Pakistan was a host of near naked females, some of a form that were very look-able at - loads of large middle age Russians, a variety of Brits of all shapes and sizes - one particularly huge one, but many rather scrumptious. One interesting site was a gaggle of ladies in Burkhas who arrived and proceeded to strip off to their cozies - what a strange world.
The social hierarchy in Dubai seems to be:
Arabs at the very top who wander around in nightshirts and towels on their heads.
British who ignore the Arabs and act as if they own the place. They run it and get paid to run it but don't own it.
Filipinos who tidy up after the Arabs and British and wear large tee shirts and jeans
Pakistanis who do the taxi driving and run hotels while either saving up to buy a shop or taxi back in Lahore or Pindi - or stay for 5 years and get nationality. With the number of Pak's in Dubai, if they all get nationality and any say in Govt. then Dubai might as well give up and become the umpteenth stat of Pakistan now and get it over with.
A clear difference that we have seen between 3rd world Pakistan and 1st world Dubai is in the sophistication and cost of the amusements. In Pakistan our last night was spent wandering down Lady Hails promenade erected at the turn of the century. The structure wearing well and requiring little more than a good sweep and clean to make it look like new. On that promenade, standing in the miasma of the smell of urine from the base of the walls which are used as an open air toilet were men selling the services of their bathroom scales for a rupee or so, and boys with air rifles selling a slug for a rupee which you use to pot a plastic toy soldier.
In Dubai there is at bottom the video game which has a cyber gun that you fire at life like cyber characters who are trying to shoot back at you. With this one you might get 100 shots off before being annihilated, all for two tokens or at present exchange rates £1 or thereabouts. A difference of almost 100 times to the slug from the boy with the air rifle, but then 100 slugs would cost the same as the go on the video game!
5th of April
We started with high hopes which over the course of the morning were dashed. A call to the Embassy established that the Bill of Lading hadn't arrived and worse than that, the whole of Dubai was about to close down for Christmas until the 12th or in the case of the Embassy the 14th. We got numbers for Allied Pickfords who confirmed that they would be unable to assist us until the 14th.
The one possible bit of good news was that they had known of somebody who had just recently driven a car with Right Hand Drive back home from the UAE through Saudi to the UK, so at least that problem had receded a little bit. During this time, we spent the morning variously in the hotel room killing time while one or the other of us made phone calls or at Marks and Spencer opposite where the kids were vaguely amused playing in the kids play area and while we tried to get them to eat what turned out to be the worst burgers in Dubai.
6th of April
The 6th of April started with an expectation of waiting at least until the 12th and most likely until the 14th with the need to find things for the kids to do to fill in the time. For two adults, there would be no great problem, but with an almost three and almost 6 year old, giving them a book or wandering around the Corniche or old Souk is a torture.
So, a false start took us up to the remains of what might have been one of the beaches, but as it looked more like a building site in the distance we went on to the supposed 'Cyber City' which was tent on one side of the road where one might log on to the internet for 30 mins for 10 Dhms and on the other side was a deflated bouncy castle - to be fair, the event might not start until dusk, but it didn't fill us with any great amount of excitement! On into the computer Souk and we happened to pass a freight forwarder who totally demolished the statements that Allied Pickfords had made - they had said that the docks as a whole would close down until the 12th and that we would be unlikely to clear anything until the 14th - these guys said that the docks were open each day for a limited period, that they themselves were closed on the 7th and 8th but would be reopening on the 9th and as long as we had all the correct documents would most likely be able to clear the car that day. We were almost happy. But what of the Bill of Lading.
We Called Freeline movers in Pakistan to ask what had gone on, they said that they would pursue the matter and we found out that the document had been sent under consignment 92 on EK603 on the 4th of April. The company it was going to was closed on the 6th and unlikely to open until the 9th which meant we would have to move quickly in order to get everything done on the 9th. The courier service that our agent had apparently got was a 48hour service which was rapidly turning into a 7 day service. The lesson we learnt was that after four years in Pakistan we still hadn't learnt that nothing works out here. It was insane of us to leave Pakistan without the bill of lading being carried by us personally. Suleiman Shah agreed that he would fax a copy immediately, time will tell what happens, two hours after agreeing that, the fax copy hadn't arrived at the clearers this end. What was irritating was the insistence that we should send a fax to the couriers, what was the point when they weren't answering the phone, what good a fax would do and anyway, how when you're standing in a phone box at the side of the street.
The day moved on to a visit to the Dubai Fort and museum which the kids loved - at least they loved and spent 20 minutes watching and re-watching the film clip which had the baby desert mice popping in and out of their holes and being attended to by their mother.
Dubai Museum, a good place to visit and well worth the 3 Dhms per adult.
While Lesley was at the Museum I checked to see that the bill of lading hadn't been delivered to the Embassy, it hadn't.
Back to the hotel room with a promise to Geoff that we would wander out to the Magic Planet that evening.
I later went down to the Embassy and despite the 48 degrees temperature, walked most of the way
Anyway, we still had to kill another day in Dubai which suited Geoff, ha been great but one has to keep te and be horribly polluting in the Phili which is
Lots of walking
Lots more walking
Started well with a call to Mr Mumtaz which turned out to be the General Post office. The first call was a promise to call back in 30 minutes with the details, when I called thirty minutes later we started again but I was handed over to an assistant who seemed to read out the letter addressing - maybe we were in luck. I said that I would go down immediately and there it was, waiting for me, the bill of lading which was lost but now was found and the end of the biggest lesson - it is very stupid to go ahead without all the relevant documents!! Even the notice that we were without a hotel room and that Dubai was full didn't take the gloss off the wonder of having the BoL. We checked out and left our bags behind reception while we went off to kill some time before heading off to the airport to find a room at the hotel bookings desk.
This was at a Mall which we happened upon behind the McDonalds, but for the Mac we wouldn't have even known about the Mall and in terms of numbers of shops it came close to City Centre which was huge. Here we found a few possible solutions to our various small problems. There was a shop that sold camping gaz at about £1.20 a cylinder and it had a stove and other bits a pieces. There was also a GPS which in retrospect after having planned on getting one for some time for this journey, my map reading and navigation has been sufficient and anyway, when using a GPS in the areas that we wanted to travel through it implied having suitable maps o we didn't.
My bit of off road navigation was based on the memory of turning left away from the coast at Abu Zaneema, a GPS was hardly likely to help!
After lots of mooching about the Mall - I hate Malls though this one had a Kids play area where you could deposit a child for Dhms 5 per hour and had loads of staff, as opposed to the M&S which cost Dhms25 and though being bigger had NO staff apart from the one that took the money. Anyway Lesley and I had a reasonable time looking at stuff and came to the conclusion that the City Centre Mall was about 10% cheaper on most items.
Down to the airport and once again the hotel reservations staff who were getting to know us quite well. The hotels this time that were on offer was the Intercon which we really didn't want to go anywhere near at any price and the Dubai Park hotel which was a Dhms 60 taxi ride out of the city. The Dubai Park won out and off we went past the Golden Falcon, home of the air conditioning wars and the mattress that means one small corner of some foreign mattress will forever smell of Wee.
After a good rive we checked in and went through the same rigmarole of fighting for sleeping space - the King sized bed was a small double, but a call round the various offices of Duty Manager, Room Service, House Keeping and Reception with a repeat of the storey each time from the start finally got us an extra bed which was sufficient. Also the water heater wasn't switch on by the porter so we came back later to a cold bath and believe it or not there was no water in the room apart from 1/2 litre bottles in the fridge at Dhms 5 each (normally expensive at 1 Dhm) what a rip off. The first call for a carafe of water got a carafe but no water, the porter went straight back for good cool water - free water at that.
NB. Hard Rock Cafe
Things start to move and we make an early start to try to get the car out of customs and the container port. No dice as the customs are open until 11:00 then closed until Saturday - in fact open only for perishable goods! Basically what happened was that we arrived at Bin Jasim Cargo at 08:00, these guys where very helpful but said it was 99% certain we wouldn't get the vehicle out today. Anyway they tried their best and from there we went on to the container company sun-lines where we had to pay port fees and get all the documents finalized. This was now 09:00 and the main possible problems were that the company or customs would expect a release letter from the Embassy - this ultimately didn't seem to be necessary. Now there was a missing manifest number which had to be got from the port. Sun Lines also pulled out all the stops and sent one of their guys down to do that immediately - it might be that it should have been done before?
It was now 09:40 and customs closed at 11:00 and I was lost as to what was really happening. but where we had to get the bill of lading turned into a dispatch document at the Container handling company. All went through up to the point that a manifest dispatch number was required, that number had to be got and time was running out. There was no more to be done at the handling company so we went back to the forwarders and waited to see if things were going to happen in time. A quarter to eleven came with only word that it would take a further half hour - we had lost.
We checked in to yet another hotel, this time an undiscounted cheapy at Dhms 250, the 'Honesty Hotel' which turned out to be just like all the rest, yet another disaster. Checking in at 11:00 and the room though small was clean and neat and suitable for a couple of nights. As with the Golden Falcon the beds would accommodate us all, the room was hot and on calling reception they said that the A/C would be checked directly. Anyway we went out for the day with an itinerary of breakfast for 4 at the cafe next to the water taxi stand for 12.5 Dhms and then a ride across the water for .5 Dhms and the start of a relatively cheap day - Dubai was eating into our holiday money so we had to be careful. Across the river and we headed into the shopping and town area looking for the Mall that had the leave your kids for 5 Dhms an hour store. We almost got there on foot and Geoff did fantastically walking a huge distance for a young man of 5 years. But when he got to the point of asking for a carry we took to the taxi to do the last bit of our journey to the Mall.
Notable things: Camping / cooking stuff can be bought at the Irani Bazaar for a fraction of the price that is asked for at the Mall. e.g. Gaz cylinders are Dh5 and a gaz stove is Dh 65 while the mall shop where we earlier found them but fortunately didn't buy them was Dh 10 and Dh 200 respectively. The Irani Bazaar also offered locally made? larger gas cylinders which were about Dh200 for a full cylinder and top burner. The Irani Bazaar is next to the Northern Dubai side water taxi stop.
One eating thing we noticed was the fattening up of the locals. Join a queue for food and one food item that appears in preponderance is 'fries' and pastries and soft drinks. Queuing in the Ikea cafeteria behind a party of three young women in black and the trays held French fries, pastries and coke all in large portions, a shame as the Ikea cafe is just about the healthiest place to eat in Dubai. Taking a look at the young men at Splashland and where they are not of an athletic build, very very few, they are invariably overweight to various degrees. The degree of obesity is almost graded by age, the older the fatter. The WIBs seem to show the same grading, obviously disguised somewhat by the cloaks, it was clear that though the younger ones were generally normal, the older ones were invariably of various stages of bigness.
Tomorrow was going to be the day - not famous last words I hope, but I can always rewrite this - before the day we got Sally, yet again. So we had to kill the day which was going to be trip to splashland by way of the cafe where eggs were eggs and cost what eggs should cost - the one we went to yesterday that is and another trip on the water taxi, this time past the Irani bazaar to get a price on camping gaz which was half the price of the Mall even when considering the 10% discount the Mall was going to give us WOW! They had just what we wanted and we would come back when we had the big car rather than cart the stuff around. The river taxi was a nice cheap Dh.5 excursion which I am sure keeps lots of boatmen in work as there is a succession of them going back and forth across the creek.
Off the boat on Deira side and into a taxi for a trip down to wonderland / Splashland (Dh 12.5 metered from the boat drop off) and a few hours spent in the water until 17:00 when we left just at the right time to get a taxi without a huge queue.
On to City Centre and a meal at Ikea, that bastion of good diet who seemed to be recognizing me by now - Stir fried noodles and Beef stroganoff today - then on to Magic Planet for the kids to have their turn at killing time. Finish at the planet at 20:30 and on to a taxi after a short 15 minute wait and lto the water taxi stand - not a necessary part of the journey - and a trip across the creek and a walk up though the shopping area to the 'Honesty Hotel'. I stopped to ask the price of one of the 'Leathermen' multi tools and was surprised when I was quote Dh 350 against Dh100 less than that in the mall, the price immediately dropped to 250 and I guess would have come down to about 200 or possibly less. There are bargains to be had but you must bargain and better than that you are best off not really wanting the item - unless the price really comes down. Finally to bed and the possibility of sleep in a room with an A/C that works!
NB. Splashland part of wonderland is open from 10:00 onwards and is great for a day with noting else to do. Entry includes payment to enter wonderland and during the DSF was Dh40 per adult Dh35 per child. Wonderland appeared to be an overly tacky amusement park which you pay to enter and then pay for each ride (you can get an all ride tag). Splashland inside wonderland is inclusive but bring your own towel (otherwise hired for Dh10 with a Dh 10 deposit) and flip flops as the surfaces can be very hot. Loads of water thingy rides and shade available. The top of the mound where the water flumes are give a great view of the southern part of the city area of Dubai. If going by and returning by taxi, leave by 17:00 or thereabouts to avoid the scramble for taxis that happens later.
NB. City Centre has Magic planet which is a well put together amusement arcade with loads of computer games, many bang up to date. Great for kids of all ages and worth a visit - if you need to kill time and like tat sort of thing, otherwise don't fly to Dubai just for this! Rides are got with tokens, generally two tokens per quality ride going up as high as 4 for the high tech simulators. Each token is Dh 2.5 making it about £1 a ride on average. If with under fives buy them a Dh40 all ride ticket which covers the kiddy stuff, even the staff at MP commented that it was the cheapest option.
Otherwise City Centre is one of the largest Mall in Dubai and of the Malls fairly competitive with regard to costs. This is where Ikea is with their restaurant which is highly recommended for a good solid ordinary non fast food meal at a truly affordable price. Evenings, Fridays and other holidays the place heaves but during the week it is less packed. There is a huge 'Continent' the French hypermarche which is very well stocked and offers good prices for food and other goods - this is where the expats do their shopping.
If going by taxi, do leave by or earlier than 20:00 as that is when the queues for the taxis start to build up. I asked a taxi driver why the queues where so great and why there was such a lack of taxis when surely it was dead cert for a fare. He told me that City Centre was unpopular with taxi drivers as they invariaby took a long time getting into it due to the traffic and the fare was most likely going to be a local drop so it wasn't worth their while. Obviously by the drop off in the number of taxis after 20:00, most if not all the taxis are those with fares too the City Centre.
And up early as this is supposed to be the day we get Sally and in to Bin Jasim's at 08:00 where we are met with the news that the Manifest number has still not been got and that we should come back at 10;00. Enough time to get breakfast from our chap at the taxi boat boarding stage and for Geoff and Dom to start fighting each other which resulted in me taking Geoff for a walk and Lesley taking Dom until we reunited at one of the landing stages and watched a stream of people come out to feed the fish with broken bread from plastic and other bags which were promptly thrown into the creek when they had been emptied.
Back to Bin Jasim's and the advice to wait another half hour and another through until 12:00 when the office closed till 16:00. Off to City Centre for lunch at Ikea and a chance for Geoff and Dom to play in the Ikea play area which is sort of supervised - the play area is and the video lounge isn't - and for Ikea customers, but since we must have spent a good few hundred Dhms there we felt not too dishonest using it. Lesley and I took the opportunity to have a wander round City Centre and we bought Lesley's new watch a Raymond Weill number which came with free entry to some of the raffles - we have a good chance of winning for the sole reason that if luck is reasonably balanced, we have a credit (tongue in cheek that last bit). I called Bin Jasim at 16:00 and wonder of wonders the manifest number is there and I had to get to the office. Off I went leaving Lesley with Geoff and Dom at City Centre and got to Bin Jasim just on 16:30 - apparently I was late and we headed directly to the port. First stop at the port was the front office where the first stamp was got from the man who sits at the very front in a small office next to the entrance, beyond that being a series of counter positions labelled import or export. I was pushed to the front of the desk by BJ1 - who happened to know the guy well - and prompted to tell my story - everybody fell silent, stopped pushing to get their turn and listened as I explained about our failed attempt to drive though Iran and the alternative route that brings us through the UAE. With a few questions about why we weren't going through Iran etc we got the first of any stamps which led to another stamp further back within this office and on to the next step which would take us into the port to the car inspection area.
At the car inspection desk where there were about 5 men behind the counter I explained what we were trying to do in driving from Pakistan to England. They were most impressed and wished us luck. One asked if we would be going through Iraq to which I suggested that were we to take that route we might well stay there. I think they appreciated the humour. We were passed on to the container area as the car was in a container.
At the container area money changed hands - officially - which seemed to pay part of the port fees and another stamp was got on the import document. On again to the Information Systems Department (operations) where we organised the inspection of the container for the following day. Basically the container would be got, transported to an area where it could be inspected and opened but that would happen tomorrow as the customs people were away. and that was it for the day but apparently all had gone well and now depended on the customs people and how long they would take. On the way out of the port we passed loads of small warships - the Armilla patrol I guess as they were flying the whte ensign. BJ1 made the comment that we the British were ripping of the UAE in bing paid to defend it as there was nobody to attack it. I mentioned the Iranians and Iraqi's but that didn't cut ice.
We drove on out of the port and to the office where we agreed to take the next step first thing in the morning. I really felt so grateful to Bin Jasim and obviously to Marouf Mhmd who was obviously pulling out all the stops.
Back to the hotel room at 19:00 which was a bit late to risk getting to the Cit Centre in time to collect Lesley so back to the hotel room to write this up.
I'm writing this while a BBC world documentary on Martin Luther King is on TV. One of the points that is being made by the 'black' Americans is that they have the names and religion of the whites who carried them off to slavery in America. So they are changing their names and religion to that of the Arabs who first enslaved them and sold them to the guys who shipped them to America. Pretty strange if you ask me
Today its all supposed to happen. Up early and into the doscks with the Bin Jasim guys and straight to the place where the container is supposed to be. There it is so on to the car clearance people, the first problem being there are no inspectors available until one roles in five minutes later. He will do the inspection until he realises there is no key for his car, the Bin Jasim guys have a truck which is too demeaning for him to go in and I have to persuade him to come with us to check the vehicle. So its about 09:00 and we're on our way to the container where the car is with inspector in cab and me telling him about our trip - so you've got some effects in the car - yes says I stupidly so I was to later discover. Much he asks, about a crate full to which he immediately orders Sashi who is the driver to turn round and head back to the inspectors office. Things started off too well. The Chief inspector tells the BJ people that they must leave me and go to the shippers 'sun-marine' to get the goods bill altered to included used personal effects. Ten minutes later they come back to report that no, SM wouldn't change it. So the inspector sends us to the normal inspection depot (phone 285) from where we are sent to the main customs office from where we are sent to the outside main customs office to see 'Jamal' who seems to be one of the head men, I guess a national. He says we should deal with the inside customs office where, with a short interlude where we visit the car inspectors again, we get one of the senior people a 5 shoulder striper to agree that they will inspect it. This is agreed by 11:00 we've been at the port since 08:00.
One horrifying possibility rears its ugly head, if the bill of lading and the bill of entry are considered to be unacceptable then we will have to wait for another corrected bill of lading to come from Pakistan. Oh Hell! That possibility will realistically mean that we must cancel everything, ship the car on to the UK and give up.
Back to the container as the inspector will follow when we telephone to confirm that all is ready to be unpacked. All is already ready and we call, then call again and a third time when I speak to one of the Ladies in Black. At 12:00 we head back to the office to see them personally and one of the inspectors confirms that he will come straight away. At 12:15 the car is unloaded and we start to unload everything which has taken hours of careful packing. How many packages are there, what is packed, to which I really don't know and as to how many packages, most of the stuff is liberally strewn around inside the vehicle. A few items which really shouldn't have been in the car are discovered at the very start and are placed to one side and rapidly vanish, no problem as I guess but for the fact that they disappeared there might have been a problem for me.
With the customs inspection done we head back to the customs office where the report is written. There is thought that we must then take the eport to Sun Marine where tey must again be persuaded to change the manifest document. This possibility receeds as we are then directed back to the outside the port customs house to see Mr Jamal who seems to approve the form and passes us on to the guy who starts the entry clearance process. The next step which is to go to one of the cubicles and start the final part of the processing finishes when the clock is 5 past stricking end of play for this morning. With that, apart from a last ditch attempt by BJ1 we must head back to the office to try again this pm.
For me a trip down the road to check out of the hotel, first confirming that there is a room available in case we have to check back in. Bags all packed - that was Lesley's doing before she left - and left behind the counter and all paid up, so its 2 hours to kill and a walk on my own through the mainly closed back streets of Bur Dubai. Kentucky fried chicken for lunch, too much in fact as I think my tummy has shrunk over the last few days and then a wander down to the creek side for the last 30 minutes before the five minute walk thta can be extended to 10 minutes back to Bin Jasim.
Back to Bin Jasim a few minutes early and a quite retreat as all were enjoying a siesta which was surely the most sensible thing to do in country like this. A few minutes past four in the afternoon and off we go back to the container port and a long wait to get the documents finally processed. First stop is the man who was just closing as we left this morning and a smile from yours truly with a reminder that we should really be first an our documents go through that bit of the routine. The next step and Rafiq made use yet again of his chum who sits in the office at the font of the customs hall and fortunately we are able to queue jump a bit. The man we got to do the next round of documents had a whole pile of somebody else's that he was certainly going to finish first.
A female screamed and the hall as one ran across to see what the commotion was - here was a crowd forming and I was able to watch it happen, an amazing experience, totally alien to the British character where disaster is treated calmly and people let those whose personal disaster it is get on with it but for a rather embarrassed saunter across to see what the problem might be or if a helping hand might be required. None of that here, each and every one was at a rush to be there first - no wonder there are regular deaths caused by crowds and crushing.
The incident had been a cockroach, not that the roach screamed but the woman did when confronted by it. She was moved from her position and it was all change in the hall as all the people who had been queueing at her counter moved to my counter, my man in turn moved to another counter and all was chaos for a few minutes. Fortunately our man had taken our documents with him and proceeded to process them. long with the lots more tooing and froing my collection of docs had picked up a duty not payable stamp. This seemed to have been as a result of the Carnet but on a photocopy of one of the pages rather than as a sheaf pulled from the book. It had worked but not as it was supposed to do.
We finally walked out of the customs hall with all the docs, the last thing to do was get the gate pass and the temporary plates, these guys were closed and it was a job for the morning. Back we went to the city.
Lesley meanwhile had been coping with the kids. This involved the basic expedient of taking them to the City Centre, feeding them at Ikea, walking them around and then finishing at Magic Planet. As this would have been planned around the consumption of 6 or so hours then the description above is very feeble. Having checked back into the hotel I headed off to the City Centre by Taxi.
The taxi driver in this case was a Syrian in a metred cab. He was spending 5 years out of the country to avoid national service and had been in Dubai for six months. and considered it a cesspit of vice and immorality what with all the western women walking around semi naked and the Russian girls trying to sell themselves at every opportunity. He said that he could barely cope with it and would be glad when 6 months had passed and his 5 years were up. One story he told was of a tap at his door which woke him up. There standing at the door was a vision or so he thought until he rubbed his eyes and realised it was real. She couldn't speak English nor Arabic, in fact the only English word she had was the one that begun with F and that was going to cost Dh 100 which at current rates was about £16. I wonder what one would get for that?
NB. While in Dubai we caught many glimpses of the CNN news about the Haj, peculiar as there was nothing particularly special about this Haj than other years. One thought was that as there had been a disaster just about every year for the last three or so years then the news hounds might as well be prepared and report this one as it happened. And yes there was a disaster - a crush at the Satan stoning event. I guess that when you have one symbolic Satan and 3 million pilgrims desperate to cast at least one stone within a one or two day period then trouble is likely.
Yet another morning in the Honesty Hotel and a pretty rotten night what with the next room or perhaps the whole floor smoking away and jabbering on till late. But up early for a sart at BJ for 08:00 and yet again this was to be the day we got Sally out of the port. Off we go and straight to the inside customs HQ where we need a customs stamp counter stamped. To do this we have another inspection, this time
And we left City Centre at 17:00 with the speedo reading a round 4988. A brief delay as we chatted to a lady who appeared to be German, very interested in what we were doing and also a keen Land Rover enthusiast. Had one back at home which was started every two or so years. and the trip-meter reading 564 when we filled with Diesel (Dh 3 -50p-per gallon) and re-set it. The tacho was showing 5022. At the petrol station we were stopped by a Brit who was very interested in what was going on and before that we were stopped by a very friendly guy - British expat- on what looked like a Harley Davidson in fantastic condition. Could we do with any help, what were we doing, what did we think of the Land Rover, he had an air-portable which was 28 years old and he loved.
On to Saudi Arabia....