Thursday, 25 February 2010

Dubai - Day 9 - Dubai Museum, Grand Mosque

Driving Me Crazy, Two Misses, Daisy

sunny 28 °C
We decided to visit the Dubai Museum and the Jumah Mosque next door (this is the name of mosque indicates on our map. can't say it's the best of map, and quite small). As before, we took a metro on the Red Line from Mall of the Emirates Stn and got off at Khalid bin Al Waleed Stn. We then took a taxi from there to Jumah Mosque.
Got into the cab, and surely enough our Asian appearance invited the cabbie's standard probing of bio(graphies). I didn't mind at all. It meant I could in turn get to know him better too. He told us he was from Parkistan. I told him that I wanted to get to Jumah Mosque. He corrected me, "Jumeira Mosque." We had been to Jumeirah Mosque last week (detailed in diary entry "Dubai - Day 3" with more taxi dramas).
So I said firmly, "No. Jumah Mosque." I pointed to our tiny map with the name Jumah Mosque printed on it.
"Jumeirah Mosque." He won't let off.
"Jumah Mosque." I said. "Next to Dubai Museum."
"No. Jumeirah Mosque." He said.
I felt like we were doing an Abbott and Costello's famous What's-on-Second-Who's-on-First routine. If we kept this up, we were going nowhere, literally. I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. Who knew, maybe there's another mosque of the same name. And said "Ok. Take me there."
After the exchange of personal profile, I posed the logical follow up question, "how long have you been in Dubai?", I asked.
"1 month." He replied.
He must have heard my question wrong, or I must have heard his answer wrong. One of us had to be wrong. Judging from his accent, he should understand me with no problem. So I repeated the question in a slightly different way, "How long have you been staying in Dubai?". I emphasized 'staying'.
Without pausing for breath, He said, "1 month."

Neither of us heard it wrong. And then I started to worry. How is he supposed to know the streets of Dubai in 1 month? Dubai government must be giving away taxi license easier than travel visa (and I don't need one). I guess the Dubai traffic authority must be desperate for cab drivers. Dubai's cab-fare is several times cheaper than Bahrain. In fact, the cab-fare was driven to low levels.
The way he drove convinced me that he just came from the war-torn Pakistan where life and death are part of daily living. He sped into a car that was 3 car lengths in front in a speed of about 50km/hr, and braked sharply just to unnerve the old driver ahead. He was cheesed off with this old driver because he turned into a house too slowly (How dare he drives so slowly!). The driver was fuming. I had no idea if the old driver was unnerved or even noticed our cabbie. I put on my seat belt at a speed of 100km/hr. The sand-dune ride in the Adventure Safari is a child's buggy ride compare to this.
After the composure, I realised he turned into Jumeirah Rd, which I recognised. I told him this isn't where we wanted to go. So I decided to tell him that we wanted to go to Dubai Museum instead. When he got there, I pointed to the mosque next to the Dubai Museum and said "This is the mosque I wanted to go."
He was quite peeved, in a scolding voice, accompanied by some Shakespearean theatre hand gestures, he said "Why don't you say so?"
I still haven't been able to think of a good come back. A young tourist couple hopped on his cab as soon as we got off. I said 'good luck' to them. Maybe 'God speed' would have been apt.

In his defence, the mosque next to Dubai Museum is actually called the Grand Mosque. The stupid map shows the wrong name. Still, I mentioned that the mosque we wanted to go is next to the Museum. And I also pointed the mosque out to him on the map. There's nothing like a taxi drama to start a trip.

We visited the Museum, took a few snapshots of the Grand Mosque, took an abra across Dubai Greek and re-visited the Old Souk because many shops were closed in our last Friday visit. Took a Metro to see the Burj Khalifa in the day time this time. Also we wanted to go to the observation deck to get a panorama view of Dubai, but was told that it was under maintenance. Bugger! Atta did some shopping and had two meals in the two malls - Dubai Mall, and the Mall of the Emirates.

We took a cab from the Mall of the Emirates back to Fraser Suites . Hopped on the cab, and the cabbie asked my destination. As soon as I told him, he spat out a whole lot of thing that I didn't understand. At first, I thought he spoke English in a thick foreign accent that I couldn't catch. A few seconds later, I realized that he was speaking in his native tongue (perhaps, Hindi). Atta speculated that maybe he wasn't happy that our destination was so close (the distance was about 35 mins walk), and the taxi rank was quite long. It didn't worth his while. I thought I smelled another taxi drama.
He suddenly stopped his rapid-fire talking, turned to me and asked where did we want to go again as he took off his bluetooth from his left ear, which was hidden from us all this time. He was busily talking on the phone. He didn't hear anything I said to him before.

Two misses in one day in Dubai cabs: first, miscommunication, then misunderstanding. And quite a few scary near misses on the roads, especially with the Pakistani guy. They both seemed very stressed. It reminded me of Cairo cabbies, the same highly stressed, fast talking, fast driving maniacs who growl, bark at the paying customers. Are they stressed because they drive madly? Or do they drive madly because they're stressed? Or this is a just a vicious circle - trapped a kinda Karmic Cycle of Traffic Mayhem. I wonder.

Bangkok roads may follow the rules of the jungle, but Bangkok cabbies drive in a civil way because the traffic is usually chockablock. They're not stressed at all, having learnt to put up with the bumper-to-bumper traffic.

Big Bus Company runs in many countries including Dubai. They tend to charge an arm and a leg. But in Dubai the cheap cabbies help the Big Bus Company to justify their steep prices. This company may cost an arm an a leg, but may save you an arm and a leg by using a taxi. I've thought of a good marketing jingle for the Big Bus Company in Dubai, "Big Bus Company Saves Lives". Still, I haven't used their service during this Dubai trip. My life is cheap. And I like to live my life on the edge of my taxi seat, or was it the seat of my wet pants?

Stepping into a zebra crossings on the streets of Dubai has a higher chance of getting killed than stepping into the water of a shark-infested beach. I have done both, and hence speak from personal experience. The seemingly quiet nature of the water/street belies the hidden danger. A couple of times I stepped into a zebra crossing and nearly got run over. I had to stop using the crossings or else the epitaph on my tombstone would read, "I thought I have the Right of Way. I was Dead Wrong." (Painting the word 'Dead' red should enliven my tombstone, and grab attention from passing mourners while I push up daisies). Because there're practically no pedestrians in this country (or anywhere in the Gulf countries), motorists actually don't know what these markings on the road are. They probably think they are street decorations. When I mentioned my pedestrian close shaves to David B, he said that these are places where the traffic authority designs so to facilitate the maximum pedestrian killings in one fell swoop. What can I say, he's Aussie driver. Motorists from other Aussie states complained how terrible Sydney drivers are. I guess they haven't driven in Dubai.

There should be a souvenir T shirt that says, "I Survive Dubai Taxi and Live to Tell the Tale" (I probably wouldn't buy it). So buckle up and enjoy the g-force when you're catching a cab in those countries! Some dry undies would come in handy. Yes, indeedie.

2 comments:

  1. Magnificent. The Mosque itself is one amazing work of art. Looking at it you can't help but be amazed at its grandeur.

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  2. Dubai museum is a must go place in there. There are lots of nice things to see and just marvel at their heritage and past lifestyle.


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