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When I visit the Arabian Peninsula for work (every 6-12 weeks) I like to take a weekend break in more relaxing countries like Bahrain and Dubai. On this trip I had a week in Bahrain but that was very busy with long work days so I treated myself to a weekend in Dubai to relax and recuperate from working 3 weeks straight without a weekend break. I had booked with Khasab Tours an overnight tour to Musandam, in the far north-east of Oman, but that was cancelled at the last minute for spurious reasons (ostensibly bad weather but it was perfect weather that was both forecast and experienced so I suspect they simply couldn’t get the numbers they needed to make it profitable). I tried to book with another travel agent (Excite Tourism at Mercure Gold Hotel, Dubai) and they claimed I could’t get a one-day visa, which is definitely not true because I’ve had one before, and once again I wish they would just tell the truth.
I stayed one night at Mercure Gold Hotel, Dubai (booked by my corporate travel agent in Australia) while trying to arrange the tour and was very disappointed to find that they put me in a room overlooking the nightclub where I was subjected to the wailing of tourists performing karaoke until 2am. I was doubly upset about the tour not running because that meant staying on at that hotel without sleep, and looked desparately for somewhere with access to a private beach that was remotely affordable. I found that the Mövenpick at Ibn Battuta Gate has an agreement to use a private beach on the Palm Jumeirah and the room was reduced in price so I booked in there for 2 nights.
The Mövenpick was the nicest hotel that I’ve ever stayed in. Not only were the rooms very nice and the bathroom gorgeous, the lobby was spectacular with 3 storey high ceilings hung with dozens of gorgeous Moroccan lamps and at either end are murals of Ibn Battuta on his travels. I used the free shuttle bus to the private beach and enjoyed relaxing in the sunshine with lots of Russians and Europeans. I had a massage to try to remediate some of the work stress that has made my neck and shoulders in a terrible state. I swam in the lovely roof-top pool that is heated to 30C in winter. I also did a lot of work on the very strong and free wifi.
Across the road from the hotel is a shopping centre called the Ibn Battuta Gate Mall. I don’t like shopping and normally avoid it but I went there in search of affordable meals rather than pay 5-star hotel prices and I was amazed by the incredible decorations in the mall. I wasn’t sure who Ibn Battuta was but I spent about half an hour learning about his amazing travels in an excellent set of exhibits in the centre of the mall. Ibn Battuta was a Muslim scholar and Moroccan explorer of Berber descent, in the 14th century, who took the Hajj to Mecca and must have developed a taste for travel. Over a period of thirty years, Ibn Battuta visited North Africa, the Horn of Africa, West Africa and Eastern Europe, and to the Middle East, South Asia, Central Asia, Southeast Asia and China. Ibn Battuta is generally considered one of the greatest travellers of all time and co-wrote about his travels in the Rihla. I’m now enjoying reading about him in The Adventures of Ibn Battuta: A Muslim Traveler of the 14th Century Book by Ross E. Dunn.
By now my readers must have realised that I am more than a little bit interested in Central Asia and the Middle East. I have read dozens of books written in and by authors from these regions, I am learning Arabic, I am privileged to travel several times a year to the Middle East, where I am slowly making deep friendships with people who embrace me a sister, and I’ve brought home to share with my family Arabic coffee, Saudi Sukkari and Halas dates (praised resoundingly by Palgrave in his excellent travel book), frankincense and myrrh (known of by all Christians but burnt by few), bought from their sources. Often I have pondered why I am so interested in these cultures when they are so different to my own and frankly relatively inaccessible to a solo female agnostic traveller. It was with delight then that I read this quote in Dunn’s book:
Westerners have singularly narrowed the history of the world in grouping the little that they knew about the expansion of the human race around the peoples of Israel, Greece and Rome. Thus have they ignored all those travellers and explorers who in their ships ploughed the China Sea and the Indian Ocean, or rode across the immensities of Central Asia to the Persian Gulf. In truth the larger part of the globe, containing cultures different from those of the ancient Greeks and Romans but no less civilized, has remained unknown to those who wrote the history of their little world under the impression that they were writing world history. by Henri Cordier
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