So around the middle of last year, my platonic bosom buddy, Shelby, approached me about being her travel partner for a once in a life time trip to Africa for a wedding and safari. My first reaction was "hell yeah", but then I started thinking about what I could possibly be getting into. There were all sorts of political uprisings happening across the continent, and when I found out the main destination would be Nairobi, Kenya, that didn't put any of those thoughts at ease. Let's face it, I'd only be a stones through away from Somali Pirates and what's left of the Taliban....or at least that's what I thought...
After talking to a few friends and fellow photographers that have traveled that region quite a bit, and seeing the work they had done there, my mind was made up, I was going to Kenya. I then sat down with my wife and son and got their seal of approval for me to travel 10,000 miles away. Game on.
So after months of planning, arranging and receiving shot, after shot, after shot (and I don't mean the alcoholic kind) our itineraries were set. We would fly non stop (14.5 hours) from DFW Airport to Dubai, spend 2 days there soaking in the desert sun, then head to Nairobi for the wedding. After spending 3 days there we would fly to Masai Mara and spend 4 days on safari before returning to Nairobi for a few hours, then Dubai for 22 hours, then back home (our final 16 hour flight). 13 days of pure EPICNESS.
Before I knew it the morning of June 17th had arrived and I was still trying to figure out how to pack all my stuff into my bags, all the way up to the point of us leaving for the airport.
Warning there is a mixture of shaky and grainy iphone pics in here!
Luckily I got to take my son to school and have my lovely wife see me off at the airport. I also got to sit down and hangout with my mother-in-law at the airport before we left. For those that don't know, she's a "High Ruler over DFW Airport" and keeps the whole place in check with the shake of her golden scepter. Some how between the time I was talking to her and the time Shelby arrived and we checked in at our gate, our tickets were magically upgraded to Business Class. This was a complete surprise to both of us, and I owe my mother-in-law a great bit of gratitude and thanks. She really started our trip off with a bang!
Our airline was Emirates, and although there was a little bit of a snafu on the way home (I'll get to that in a later part), I really have nothing but great things to say about the planes and their flight crew. Some of the nicest people I have flown with, and some of the geekiest most technologically advanced in-flight entertainment I have used.
Our meals were fantastic, not once was I left hungry or rummaging through the cabin looking for something to gnaw on. And with everything Emirates provided for us, our 14.5 hour flight, um, flew by. Once again a great way to start out our adventure.
So I didn't snap too many pictures in the Dubai airport on our arrival. I think Shelby and I were more preoccupied with not getting lost or doing something wrong in our new surroundings. But after we breezed through customs we were quickly taken to our hotel and began our role as "brother and sister". Yes it is illegal in the UAE to share a hotel room if you aren't married or related. But I've know Shelby since before the era of grunge exploded in Seattle, and us pretending to be brother and sister really isn't that hard, we already pester each other like that anyway.
I chose to upgrade our room to one that faced the Burj Khalifa, a building I have been fascinated with since they broke ground on it in 2004, and if I'm going to be this close to it I want to have the ability to shoot it when ever I wanted to, day and night. And that's what I did.
Once we were checked in and settled, we decided to walk the two blocks to the Dubai Mall.
The mall is a playground of excess and materialism. If the buildings and gold plated fixtures everywhere didn't already reflect that, then the mall will. Every major fashion designer owns real estate inside the mall, some have three or four locations, split up as individual departments. But if it exists in the retail and fashion world, then it's in this mall.
It's pretty well known that this mall houses on of the biggest aquariums in the world (the ski resort is in the other mall). In fact it holds the record for the largest single panel aquarium according to Guinness. Well, it's pretty amazing and I don't think words or pictures can do it justice, but here's my attempt:
The rest of our time at the mall was spent perusing various shops and the giant fountains.
Yes those outfits were appropriate to be displayed in a mall in the U.A.E. I was totally shocked by it.
So this is the part where we talk about the temperature in Dubai. I was expecting it to be warm, okay, hot....but after spending most of the afternoon in the Dubai Mall I wasn't expecting to walk outside to a dark evening sky and have the wind completely knocked out of me. It was like hitting a wall of humidity and instantly having your clothes covered in sweat. Shelby and I turned to each other with a look of helplessness and isolation and at the same time we said, "What just happened?" I thought it was worse then when the sun was up.
A few locals told us that Dubai has two seasons, Hot and Hell, and we were just a month or two from Hell. If we were in Hot, I don't want to be around for Hell.
We finished up our arrival day with a stroll back to the hotel, a few drinks by the pool and some shooting from our hotel room.
So a few things I learned in my first day in Dubai: a) It's hot, but extremely clean, b) it's not as radically religious as I thought it would be, c) everyone was extremely nice and I never felt unsafe, and d) it's every bit as amazing as I thought it would be.
Tomorrow our journey continues through the Souks and the Burj Khalifa.