Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Dubai on $4 a day

My time in India was up. I took another overnight sleeper back to Delhi and flew to Dubai, where I had planned to spend the night before going on to Lagos. All the flights seem to go through Dubai nowadays. Besides, I figured it would be amusing to check out the futuristic and hedonistic city I’ve been hearing so much about -- both good (NY Times party destination 2008) and bad (massive exploitation of foreign workers).

One problem: I lost my ATM card, which doubles as my credit card, somewhere along the way. I had two choices: wait around a few days in India for a new card, missing my flight, or push on with whatever money I had. I knew I had just enough money to get out of India, and that my flight would arrive in Dubain at 3 p.m. which would hopefully give me enough time to find a Citibank for an emergency cash withdrawl.

Bad news: banks close in Dubai at 3:30, and our flight didn’t arrive until 4. I had $4 in my pocket and no way to get any more. Good news: when I asked for a Citibank at the Air Emirates counter, they offered me a hotel room for the night, with a free shuttle to and from and 3 meal vouchers.

The hotel was not as luxurious as I imagined, but there was a shuttle to the City Centre, which sounded promising. Sadly, “City Centre” was an American-style shopping mall amidst a maze of highways and construction sites. I had nowhere else to go. I wandered around the mall looking for free internet access. Finally a woman in the coffee shop took pity on me and gave me their wi-fi access code. What a strange, soulless place. I took the shuttle back to the hotel, just in time for the buffet dinner.

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