Rising up like a massive concrete jungle amidst the special effects of construction dust, we prepared for our descent into Dubai. This was where the summer of 2008 took me. "Crane City". A land of luxury and extremes. A celebrity destination. A land of contrasts. Where Emirati Sheiks and high-powered foreign executives brokered deals in lavish hotel lobbies. Where the traditional white dishdash and the mini skirt walked side-by-side down the street. A land where you could go snow skiing in the blazing desert heat and then cap it off with an extensive champagne brunch.
Call it what you will, Dubai in July was a steam room. We were met with a hot blast the moment we stepped outside the airport. 106°F and 85% humidity. Dubai's proverbial oven door had just opened on us. Nonetheless, we were still pumped. We were upgraded to a suite at the Fairmont Dubai, and it was already shaping up to be a good trip. It was just my cousin and me and we had plans to paint Dubai red. But Dubai’s sizzle was about to take on a whole new meaning.
The first night was a blur, admittedly: celebratory shots, sushi at the hotel, ridiculously-priced drinks at Cin Cin and, what we thought were good dance moves, at Boudoir. The headache the next morning was not. My cousin was sleeping so I grab my towel and head to the rooftop pool. Baking away in my own bubble, I look over and notice a gorgeous girl who looked like she just stepped off the cover of the magazine she was reading. She was sucking her thumb, so I jokingly asked her if she had lost her pacifier and we start talking. We’ll call her Jade; and here’s her byline: British bombshell from London with modeling career, staying at the hotel until she found a job as an English teacher. I fell in love that summer.
My cousin wakes up and joins us. Drinks―once again―were in order. Pushing the planned sightseeing aside, we hang out with Jade most of the day, talking, drinking and playing silly pool games. The day was off to a good start, and now that Jade was going to join us for the evening festivities, the night was gearing up to be just as fun. The plan? Dinner at Sho Cho and then out to 400―the latest hotspot that summer.
Dressed in our after-dark best, we meet in the hotel bar for a few more drinks as a prelude to the night ahead, and then hail a cab to dinner. Dinner was good, the company better and the night young. It was time to make memories in Dubai. And we sure did. As we wrap up dinner, Jade had the brilliant idea (cue in the sarcasm) of ordering flaming absinthe shots. Not thinking twice, my cousin picks up the shot, fails to blow it out, and attempts to chug it. All I remember at that point was seeing Jade's Fendi purse (which was on the table) go up in flames. It was my chance to look like a hero, so I dive in to the rescue, not realizing that meanwhile, my cousin was flailing around in what looked like a version of the Running Man...the burning version. I look up and he literally had a beard of flames around his chin, and his right arm was on fire! Aparently the flames from the shot had singed his lips and the knee-jerk reaction caused him to spill the highly-flammable drink all over the place.
The restaurant's vibrant atmosphere comes to a screeching silence, and we now have a captive audience. Awkward. It was going to be hard sneaking out quietly after that lovely fire show. His hand was severely blistered so we get him a bucket of ice and book it to the closest hospital. Jade, surprisingly enough, chooses to come with us. The cabbie drops us in front of an Iranian Hospital. Now keep in mind, despite Dubai's party reputation parts of the city still remained extremely conservative. So here we are. My cousin, me, Jade and the bucket of ice―dressed up like we just wrapped up a Diddy music video―walking into a dingy, pink waiting room of what looked like a group of bearded men and a few veiled women. More awkward. We once again, had another captive audience. I wanted to leave. Thankfully, service at the hospital was terrific. In less than an hour, and for under $70, the ER had treated his burns and gave him medication on the spot.
We were good to go. And we went. To 400. Yes, despite the fact that his hand was bandaged up, and parts of his face singed, we all decided to keep the night going. And it did. ►SS
Sayuri leads us to a small door in the wall, after which another Oriental girl steps out with the purse we pointed to. Now, if you know anything about Chinatown, you know that haggling is a popular Chinese sport. We go back and forth a few times and--not agreeing on price--Sayuri is now throwing in everything but the kitchen sink. In the interest of bringing a long story to close and keeping your attention, the magic number is finally reached and we settled on a couple of black and white Chanel handbags. The only thing missing was Bob Barker calling us to "come on down". ►SS