Monday, 31 December 2012

Do-buy Part 2: sharks, spiders and pythons, oh my!

Once the seminar ended, I ventured out on my own.

My last trip to Dubai in April, I didn't do my homework (old habits die hard) on what to do and where to go. I just stopped by the Mall of the Emirates, did some quick shoe shopping (TWO pairs of shoes my size on SALE! ah bliss) and admired the Burj Khalifa as I passed it on the way to the airport. The tower was awe-inspiring and I thought the next trip I'd marvel at the view from the Observation Deck. It didn't happen. I would have loved to see the sunset. It must be a heavenly sight; why else would the online tickets for the sunset time slot be sold out two whole weeks before the date I pick? A weekday at that!

So I stuck with checking out Dubai Mall, its Aquarium and Underwater Zoo. Which in retrospect, is good enough. I didn't have time to see the famed Dubai Fountain or 'the beam of light shining upward from the fountain' that is supposedly visible from space. I dislike being rushed; everything splendid must be done justice to. I downloaded the Dubai Mall app on my phone and freaked over it. It was very convenient and helped me locate all the shops I needed to go to instantly.

I had it all figured out. It was 5 pm when I reached the mall. I gave myself three hours. Half an hour dedicated to making the required purchases - shoes and a couple of books. Two and a half hours at the aquarium and zoo. I was all set.

After buying a pair of shoes, I set out to find the mall's only bookshop, Book World, with the app guiding me. I finally spotted it beside Virgin and...

Oh. Mein. Gott.

It was the biggest bookstore I have ever seen.

This is just half the travel section.
I was too busy gawking to take more pix.

I thought Landmark in Pune was big. It's got nothing on this place. Book World by Kinokuniya (headquartered in Japan) is MASSIVE. A bibliophile's fantasy. My eyes widened like Belle's did when she saw the library for the first time in Beauty and the Beast.

"I've never seen so many books in all my life!"

(For readers living elsewhere that have seen so many books in all their lives on numerous occasions, you are fortunate to live in places where books are valued.)

Shelves and shelves stuffed with books of all genres imaginable, neatly categorized. Customer service assisted me by finding the book I asked for; less than two minutes later it was waiting for me at the cashier on the other end of the store. Talk about efficient.

And of course my timed plan went awry. The sheer vastness of the place and the number of books around me were overwhelming, even intoxicating, and I squandered precious minutes there.

Finally, I tore myself away, consoling my grieved heart with buying a book on writing, and dashed off to find the aquarium. It wasn't too hard to find—you can't really miss the signs or the gigantic panel if you're in the right section of the mall.

After twenty minutes (the thought that there would be a queue didn't occur to me), I finally got my ticket and went in. Before stepping into the aquarium, a photo session takes place in front of a green screen; you can collect the photo (I heard the attendant say it would cost 200 AED!! I'm pretty certain I heard wrong.. 200 AED for a lousy Photoshop job?!) once out of the aquarium.

The aquarium was actually a glass tunnel going through the tank. At one point in the tunnel, a ray had parked itself on the roof, inspiring tourists and visitors to make silly poses under it.
It was quite breathtaking, watching the sharks lurk past you and the rays and schools of fish swim by.

On to the Underwater Zoo.
So many colours!

Dory! Marlin! NEMO!

Water rat nibbling on a carrot =D

The not very fearsome looking lion fish, dressed in all its finery.

I love this colour on fish.

The 'Creepy Crawlies' section had plenty of ominous looking reptiles and a few roaches (ugh!) and spiders.

The Burmese python.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

A shy iguana? Or maybe it was fed up. It never showed its face.

I half-expected the chameleon to change colour. Wish it did.

Now that's Stoicism and poise for you.

A gecko imparting the cliched lesson: 'If at first you don't
succeed, try, try again.'

This little fella kept trying to climb the glass walls it was confined in, refusing to believe that its feet, so adept at grasping at branches and scurrying through sand, were quite useless here. Its determination reminded me of the story of King Bruce and the Spider. When it saw me approach it scuttered away, almost embarrassed, eyes peeled for when I would depart and it could return to its half-baked but commendable attempts at escape.

The Arabian Toad (below) seemed a bit starved for attention. As soon as it noticed the glint of my camera lens, it hopped out and posed, almost regally, with its head in the air, as if it were the king of beasts. Disgusted with my inability to get my camera to behave and take a decent shot of it, it turned its back to me. It allowed me to click a couple of pictures of its backside, and then, deciding it had humoured the stupid human long enough, disappeared into the darkness with a hop.

"Buzz off, you half-wit."

Somehow I missed the penguin colony and the octopus. And a lot more. I think I accidentally skipped two sections. Pity.

There was a 'Fish Feeding' included in my ticket package; I assumed it to be a tank feeding with divers involved. Turns out you get to feed the fish yourself from a platform above the tank with the stinkiest bits of whatchamacallit. I tossed the pieces at the sharks but there were smaller, quicker fish that darted in and out, devouring the food in the blink of an eye, unafraid of coming within so close a proximity of the sharks' jagged teeth.

The Aquarium also offers cage snorkeling, shark dives and diving lessons for people who aren't certified divers for AED 875 (cost of lesson + dive). I think this is reasonable, but I would much rather go scuba diving in the open sea than in a claustrophobic tank with insipid tourists all around, furiously clicking away on their smartphones (yes I belong to the same class).

I also took a ride in a glass bottom boat! It was slightly unnerving to have just a pane of glass separate you from the sharks and rays. After watching some of The Glass Bottom Boat (1966) on TCM a few weeks prior, I was a little fascinated with the idea. It definitely wasn't the same, for one thing the glass was quite scratched (wonder if any of the sea critters are responsible for it—mental image of a shark going berserk and attacking the glass). For another, it was odd to bob on controlled waters in such a cloistered environment, with a roof on top of your head. It didn't deter me from enjoying the wonders of nature beneath my feet. The sharks skulked by the boat and below it, tolerating the mortals trespassing on their territory.

Next day trip, the unexplored areas of the zoo and the Dubai Fountain.

Part 1


  1. Beautiful writing and amazing photographs! Felt like I was truly in Dubai.


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