For those of you able to recall The Jetsons cartoon, you’ll already be familiar with what Dubai is like.
With tall, gleaming skyscrapers, an occasionally inhospitable outdoors (in the 45 degree heat of summer) and sleek transport tubes gliding silently about the place, it really does look like a futuristic life on Mars.
I took the SOTM World Tour there after my excellent friend Simon kindly agreed to put me up in his flat, along with his smashing wife Sarah. They were hugely helpful to Kate and I the whole time, and I even got lovely photos of them both.
Here’s Simon’s – his audio clip is brilliant, you should have a listen.
I liked this one of a dow driver, even though it was very low light and I took it without a flash while sitting on another, bobbing vessel. So it’s not pin sharp, but the best I could do.
And indeed, there it was, an imitation Olde English Pub, inside a Dubai hotel whose stones did well not to crack in the merciless heat.
While in Dubbers, as it’s affectionately known by the local ex-pats, I was approached by Lavanya Narayan who’s an up-and-coming student journalist. She popped round and we had a pleasant chat about SOTM - here’s the piece she wrote afterwards.
It was also Kate’s birthday while we were in town, so I treated her to cocktails at a bar high up the shiny behemoth which is the Burj Khalifa.
It’s a fantastic experience and a top tip came from Simon – instead of booking tickets to the viewing platform, just book a table for drinks at the restaurant a couple of floors below.
It has a two-drink minimum for men but means that for roughly the same price as the viewing level, you can have a leisurely cocktail and see the sights at the highest restaurant in the world. Boom.
This was taken on an iPhone in darkness, hence the grain, but it captures the spirit of our experience that night perfectly, and is one of my favourite SOTM World Tour photos.
I’m now thinking of making a Burj Khalifa hat for Kate to wear at our wedding.
Another one of my favourite photos is this one of Simon, just after I’d asked him to hold my coconut. He’s a top lad, is the Big Man.
I also met up with some old friends in Dubai, including my second-ever girlfriend, Emily, who wisely fashioned an escape from me many years ago, and is now happily married to the smashing Tristan. He posed for SOTM and had a great story to tell.
Emily kindly took Kate and me out, along with her kids, into the desert, to a hotel where we could cool off with a bit of splooshing in the pool. On the way back, we were just behind a couple of patches of heavy rain – very rare in August in Dubai, according to everyone. I snatched this shot as we sped past a roundabout.
Emily did say that on the few occasions when it does rain, the driving quality deteriorates as the locals don’t really know how to drive when the roads are wet.
I also took a photo whose story I loved and have adopted as a little mantra of my own. I live on my phone and am often far too engrossed with it, frequently too focused on recording experiences I’m having instead of experiencing them first, before sharing them afterwards.
Believe it or not, I’ve just found out that George Clooney has expressed exactly the same sentiments, and if it’s good enough for one of my icons, it’s good enough for me too.
So this one really struck a chord with me.
It was actually not prohibitively expensive, considering all the gold the place has plastered everywhere and that it’s a (self proclaimed) seven-star joint. On this occasion Kate was invited to attend by the hotel’s management, and she wrote about our experience on her blog.
The teas, which include an unforgettable camel milk creme brûlée, start at 295 dirhams (£50, $80, 60 euros).
Here we are with me giving a rose to Kate for her birthday (which was a few days before) and was supplied by the waiters. Thanks boys!
Kate doesn’t like this photo of her, but she looks divine as always, of course. And check out that view behind us!
Taking this photo made me rather queasy – I don’t like really high heights, and when you get to the top of the Burj’s many floors, it looks like this (those desks are concierges for each of the floors). It’s an iPhone shot and my hands were probably quivering at the time, so it’s not pin sharp.
Finally, I thought I’d give you a little insight into the lengths I sometimes go to, so as to get the best possible SOTM shot. I photographed the very charming Elizabeth with a sweet tale to tell about words she heard just before she left home for the über metropolis of Dubai:
I had to get out of the way of cars a couple of times, and some security guards had banned me from taking pictures in the area that you see in the background (for really no reason at all). But I liked the photo, even though I lay down in the road wearing my only white shirt of the trip…
Next time – Japan! A country I was really looking forward to visiting. What would the land of sushi, neon and crazy vending machines have in store, and what SOTM stories would I find? More on all that coming soon.