Unexpected Dubai: The tale of my lost phone, Shangri-La Hotel Part 1, Ravi Restaurant and Dubai Fountain

In October, I travelled to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates as a guest of Emirates and the Government of Dubai, Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing. This is the fourth post in my blog series on that trip.

Another day, another excursion – this time riding in two Arabian Adventures vehicles to visit the wadis and canyons surrounding Hatta. It was a much longer road trip than the drive to the previous night’s desert safari and we were told to bring our passports. The journey from Dubai to Hatta includes crossing the border briefly and travelling through Oman. When we reached Oman, our passports were requested and scrutinised at three different border checkpoints; you definitely won’t be allowed to proceed without them.

This time, we didn’t just see camel crossing signs; we saw camels crossing. Our vehicles didn’t bother them in the least; they took their time to amble across the road while we waited. I was disturbed to see some camels’ front legs were tied together. We were informed camel owners do it to prevent their animals from straying too far.

Close encounters of the camel kind

Several camels crossed the road in front of us. Patience is required!

They are cantankerous but they make interesting subjects to photograph. Eau de camel is pungent, but thankfully not powerful enough to penetrate the closed windows of an air-conditioned vehicle.

As we drove along, convoys of camels sauntered at a leisurely pace on the sandy plains.

The next stage of our journey involved driving through the desert. That’s right – more dune bashing.

This time, a little less ‘gentle’.

Dune bashing

By the time we stopped to look at a small camel farm out in the desert, there may have been a few wobbly-legged journalists and bloggers stumbling out onto the sand.

Camels and baby camels

We followed our driver Waqar to a large rock formation to see fossils embedded in the rock.

Waqar poured water over the rocks to reveal the fossils.

Trudging up desert sand dunes while carefully carrying a reasonably heavy camera is very hot, hard work. I was literally dripping with sweat by the time I got back up to the top of this sand dune and back to our vehicle.

Ugh… have to get back up there!

We left the sand dunes and continued on the road, getting closer to the mountains, which some locals call “the Rocky Mountains”.

I was pleased when Waqar announced it was time to stop for lunch. We stepped out of the car onto gravelly ground that crunched beneath our feet. I walked away from the vehicle to take photos of the scenery. After taking several pictures including the one below, I realised something didn’t feel quite right. Something was… missing. A dreadful sinking feeling came over me as I discovered my phone was no longer in my pocket.

It was here that I realised I’d lost my mobile phone. Surrounded by endless sand, rocks and scrub.

Putting it in perspective: yes, it was just a phone. But like many people who are active social media users, emailers and internet users, a significant chunk of my life was in the phone. For me, it’s an essential tool that I never go anywhere without. The good news: this was my old phone, my iPhone 4. I’d upgraded recently to an iPhone 5 but had left that at home; because iPhone 5 was so new on the market, I couldn’t get an iPhoneTrip nano sim (they weren’t yet available) and I wasn’t sure about the availability of nano sim cards in Dubai – so for this trip I used my old iPhone 4. Losing the iPhone 4 now wasn’t a tragedy, of course not – it was inconvenient. Whenever I travel, I actively tweet and update Facebook while I’m out and about. Without a phone, I could no longer do that. That would frustrate me, as I love sharing photos and interacting with readers on social media while I travel. But my bigger concern was all my passwords. If someone got into my phone they could easily access my email accounts, social media accounts, Paypal, eBay… The battery would run out eventually and the sim card would expire by the end of the week, but what if someone with technical know-how and sinister intentions found my phone…? How likely was that, all the way out here?

I knew I’d have to be incredibly lucky to find my phone if I’d dropped it somewhere out here.
“What is the number? I will call it,” Waqar suggested.
Unfortunately, ringing the phone wasn’t an option; my iPhoneTrip data-only sim didn’t come with a phone number.

It was in a black case. If only it was lime green, hot pink or electric blue.

Yes, I had the Find My iPhone app installed. But I wasn’t sure if my phone would maintain a signal out here in the middle of nowhere. Once the sim card expired in a few days, out here, the phone would be un-contactable. And in a few days, no – in several hours, I’d be far away from here anyway, with no option to return. And even if I could return, where would I start (or continue) looking?

Poor Waqar. He was more distressed than I was. “I have never lost a client’s possession on one of my tours before,” he said.
“But you didn’t lose it, Waqar. I did,” I said.
“We will keep looking,” he declared. If it is here, we will find it.”

Everyone helped me look for the phone. Waqar dug around the inside of the car, placing his hand in every conceivable gap, removing all items, even all the rubber floor mats. One of our group offered to search through my camera bag “Just in case… it can’t hurt to have a pair of fresh eyes looking.”

We had to stop to have lunch eventually. Waqar placed a rug on the ground and we all sat down to icy cold drinks, chicken wraps and salad, with blueberry muffins and apples for sweets. My appetite had all but disappeared and I found it hard to enjoy my food. As I picked at my food, I realised I wasn’t as upset about losing the phone as I was knowing I had to change all my passwords. It could’ve been worse – it could’ve been my new phone, which I’d bought outright.

Picnic lunch: chicken wraps, salad, muffins and apples.

When we packed up after lunch, everyone was ever so hopeful we’d find the phone under the picnic rug… alas, no luck. It would be ridiculous to have everyone continue searching in the afternoon heat. “Where exactly did you walk when you took photos?” they asked me. I tried to retrace my steps a number of times but I couldn’t pinpoint the path I had walked. Everything looked the same.

I tried to backtrack in my mind and work out when I could’ve dropped the phone somewhere. I definitely didn’t lose it on the sand dunes. But when else did I get out of the car? The phone was in my pocket when we crossed the border – I remembered because it buzzed when we crossed into a new mobile network zone. I got out ever so briefly at the service station in Oman. Could I have dropped it there?

“We will look at the petrol station on the way back,” Waqar assured me. “Next time I come back with new tour groups, I will look again.”
“Thank you, Waqar, but I think it’s gone,” I said.

As it turned out, half our group wanted to return to Dubai; they’d had enough of the driving and weren’t keen for much more. One car continued to the wadis while the other headed back to Dubai. I decided to go back to Dubai so I could use my iPad with the hotel wifi to change all my passwords as soon as possible. We did stop at the petrol station in Oman on the way back. No phone. Yes, I realise the irony: if we hadn’t gone on this trip to see the wadis, I may not have lost my phone… and after all that, I never ever got to see the wadis anyway!

Shangri-La Hotel, Dubai

We arrived at the Shangri-La Hotel where we’d be staying for the rest of our trip. We’d been booked into the hotel’s Horizon Club rooms on floors 40 and 41 and so had access to the Horizon Club Lounge where afternoon tea was being served. I couldn’t resist trying a couple of the little cakes, and ordered a cafe latte. It was very milky, with a creamy frothy top.

Petite fours for afternoon tea in the Horizon Club Lounge

Cafe latte

The Horizon Club has been designed for frequent business travellers and offers a higher standard of accommodation, personalised service and access to special amenities, including the Horizon Club Health Club with an infinity pool, sun deck and gym. My room was spacious and tastefully decorated. I grabbed my iPad, sat at the executive desk and went through the process of resetting my passwords, one by one.

My room

I munched on the complimentary fruit and pastries while I changed my passwords. And when all the passwords had been reset, my reward was a cat nap on the comfy bed.

Complimentary fresh fruit (delivered to Horizon Club guests daily); bite-sized Arabic pastries.

My bed

My room, clockwise starting at top left: the bar, with complimentary bottled water, replenished daily; the executive desk; complimentary L’Occitane toilteries; spa bath (shower was separate).

In the Horizon Club Lounge, breakfast, afternoon tea and pre-dinner drinks and canapes are served daily, though if you want the full breakfast buffet, it’s better to dine downstairs. I emerged from my room rested and refreshed, ready to meet the others for a drink before dinner. I was a little sad to see all the delectable canapes on offer – I didn’t want to spoil my dinner, so resisted the urge to raid the Lounge buffet now. There was a different international theme every night – tonight was Italian Night. Other canapes on offer were tomato confit with mozzarella, bocconcini and basil; and beef pastrami with rocket and parmesan cheese.

Prawn and papaya salad – canapes at the Horizon Club Lounge

Cheeseboard at the Horizon Club Lounge

We were only at the Shangri-La a few nights, but the Horizon Club staff learned our names and what we each preferred to drink. The next evening, the charming Aldo had my drink poured and ready for me as I took a seat. And downstairs at the breakfast buffet, I was greeted by name each morning and they remembered my coffee order too. Very impressive! And this personalised attention wasn’t just for our media trip group; I observed the staff greeting guests by name and remembering their coffee/drink orders at the breakfast buffet as well as the Horizon Club Lounge every day. In the next in instalment of this series, there’ll be more on the Shangri-La Hotel Dubai, including the amazing views from the sundeck, and of course, the breakfast buffet and restaurants.

Aldo mixing drinks for us. I swear the cheeses were talking to me from over there…

Shangri-La Hotel Dubai
Sheikh Zayed Road, United Arab Emirates
Telephone: (971 4) 343 8888

Ravi Restaurant

For dinner, we went to Ravi (not “Ravi’s”), a legendary Pakistani restaurant in Satwa. Well, it’s three restaurants in a row – Ravi Restaurant and two Ravi Palace Restaurants; expanding and taking over the street. It’s best to sit at an outside table, especially if you like to people-watch. The clientele was a mixed crowd that included brightly sunburnt tourists, cabbies grabbing a quick takeaway, well-dressed expatriates, and local young men proud of their shiny cars.

Piles of dirty dishes were whisked away and newly vacated stainless steel tables swiftly wiped clean as we pulled up chairs, and a waiter in a hat and white uniform took our order. The waiters were serious rather than surly, working non-stop to take orders and deliver plates of food, constantly clearing tables for the endless stream of punters that kept turning up.

At the hatch

When I got back home I realised what the green trim reminded me of: Bistro Guillaume!

And thus began our epic feast. Like the people sitting at the next table, we probably over-ordered.

Salad

The butter naan had the most wonderful warm smell.

Naan stuffed with chicken and cheese

Freshly baked flatbread, charry, puffy and crispy-edged.

Palak paneer – spinach (palak) cooked with cubes of Indian cheese (paneer). Looks like swamp sludge but tastes divine.

Dal

Briyani. Around the table, bowls of raita.

We also ordered grilled marinated chicken – succulent and finger-sucking good. It’s much easier to just eat with your hands.

The cook nodded and smiled at me but never stopped cooking.

I highly recommend Ravi. It’s a no-frills neighbourhood eatery with not a hint of Dubai opulence. The crockery looked like op shop specials and we drank our water from disposable foam cups, but the food was seriously good, the service efficient. And it was cheap, really cheap – we paid a grand total of 168 dirhams. With AU$1 equivalent to roughly 3.8 AED , this was approximately AU$44 to feed 7 people very well – around AU$6.30 per person. Incredibly good value. If you’re going by taxi, ask the driver to take you to Ravi on Al Satwa Road, near the roundabout. I’m told every taxi driver in Dubai knows it (and probably eats there regularly!).

Ravi
Al Satwa Road, Satwa (near the roundabout)
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Telephone +971 4 331 5353
Open 5am till 3am

Ravi Restaurant – our table was outside this restaurant, in line with the “RAVI” part of the sign.

Across the alley, Ravi Palace Restaurant.

The Dubai Fountain

I was amazed by the crowds gathered at Burj Khalifa Lake outside The Dubai Mall to watch the Dubai Fountain, the world’s largest (of course!) dancing fountain. The fountain was designed by the same team behind the iconic Fountains of Bellagio in Las Vegas.

At certain times of day (see end of this post), the dancing fountain is choreographed to music. The song while we were there was Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’. Although the highest water jets shoot up to spectacular heights – 150 metres/500 feet – the sheer number of people gathered to watch the show can make it difficult to get a good viewing spot. It’s even harder to get into an ideal photographing spot – especially challenging if you’re a shortie like me. Still, it’s fun and worth experiencing at least once, especially if you happen to be shopping at The Dubai Mall.

Dubai Lake, near Dubai Mall. You can see how crowded the bridge on the right is.

It’s crowded and busy, but not unruly. The views of the waterfront are lovely.

The Dubai Fountain dancing to ‘Thriller’. In the background, the twinkling Burj Khalifa building.

The trees are very Vegas, all bling and glittering.

Dubai Fountain
Burj Khalifa Lake, Lower Ground Waterfront Promenade, outside The Dubai Mall, Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Afternoon shows at 1pm and 1.30pm.
Evening shows every half hour between 6 to 11pm (Sunday to Wednesday) and 6 to 11.30pm (Thursday to Saturday).

My lost phone: Epilogue

13 days after I lost my phone, I was back home in Perth and amazed to receive an email:

Travelling around Hatta today in the Emirate of Dubai, we found an iPhone on a dirt road with your business card. If it is yours, please let me know. Hope you’re still around…

I usually kept a business card or two in the pocket of the phone’s leather case – so that’s how the kind person who found my phone got my contact details. I could hardly believe it. I quickly wrote back. She was away on business so wouldn’t get the chance to send the phone back right away. I assured her I was in no hurry and told her there was no need to rush. I was grateful she had bothered to contact me, that she wanted to return the phone to me. A few weeks later, it arrived.

Apart from a few fine grains of sand caught in the leather case, it looked absolutely fine, not at all weather-beaten like I had expected from 13 days lost and exposed to the elements. And it still works! As I have the iPhone 5 as my regular phone now, the iPhone 4 is enjoying retirement from active phone duties; I use it as a music player and internet radio streaming device, plugged into the iPod dock in my study.

When I thanked my phone’s finder again, she replied: “I’m glad it still works… and I’d like to know someone would do the same for me if I ever lost my phone.”

Have you ever lost something that a stranger kindly returned to you?

TFP travelled to Dubai as a guest of Emirates and the Government of Dubai, Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing. All images, words and opinions are my own.This is the fourth post in my blog series on that trip. See the list of Dubai posts so far. There’s still more to come in this series.

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  • Melodie

    I use a site called Dropbox.com. You get 2GB free and it is only $9.99 /month for 100GB worth of storage. So when you are traveling you can usually get to an internet cafe and put all of your pics on there. Then you can reach it from any computer and easily add it to facebook, twitter etc. if you are in to that kind of thing. I highly recommend it. You can also have folder and share the certain folders with other people. For example, if you have one folder that your family and friends can see your pics, and then some that only you can see. It is a great site. Meodie