I help with Melbourne Perl Mongers.
I spend an awful lot of time talking about Perl, and have had my picture in the Australian newspapers with a camel. That's rather scary.
I'm in Dubai for a 10 hour stopover between flights, and I'm loving it already. Having come from a very cold, very wet, and very dark Melbourne, having a world that's bright and warm and humid is just fantastic. I'm itching to get to the beach, or walk across the desert, or just go exploring generally. I've already done some of that in my local area, but I can't go too far as I still need to get back in time to catch my flight.
Of course, getting into Dubai wasn't all fun and puppies. The flight was fourteen hours long, and while I had brought along sleeping tablets, they seemed to work better at dulling my thinking while awake rather than helping me sleep. I don't remember sleeping on planes being anywhere near this bad for my trips to the USA, but then again those trips were done without me sleeping the night before.
Besides trouble sleeping, my biggest oops was forgetting that I had brought two bags with me, rather than one. Luckily, the helpful Emirates staff were able to find my errant luggage, and since Dubai airport has free wifi, I was happy to wait.
Customs seemed very relaxed, and while I was selected for 'additional
screening', that mostly consisted of chatting to the friendly
guard about how much extra battery life my laptop can get from
my external battery. The best part was after the security guard
asked me to "step this way", he acknowledged that I had been on
a flight for 14 hours, and so if I wanted to duck out for a smoke,
that would be perfectly okay. He looked very disappointed when I
said that I didn't smoke, and in hindsight he may have been
looking for an excuse to go to the smoking area.
Currency conversion rates at the airport are nowhere near as bad as they are in Australia, at least when converting from Aussie Dollars to Saudi Riyals and UAE Dirhams. Overall about 5% of my money went on currency conversion, whereas in Australia it was hard to find anyone who'd sell Riyals for less than 10%, plus waiting times.
The food so far has been excellent. The aircraft food was tasty
(for aircraft food) and bountiful. Emirates has given me a hotel
(quite spacious) at which to stay between my flights, and the hotel
comes with lunch (a huge buffet), dinner (an even bigger buffet), and
a "snack" (which looks like it's really "second lunch"). The food is
really good, there's a fantastic vegetarian selection, and
the service is excellent. I can wholeheartedly say that I
like the airport hotel.
My only problem with the hotel is that there are no tea or coffee making facilities. That's not a big downside, since I can always walk downstairs with my "snack" voucher and be given a half dozen cups of coffee, a pudding, a huge slice of cake, some very nice freshly made creme caramels, and assorted morsels to "fill in the edges".
Prices in touristy places seem about on-par with prices in Australia. Prices outside of touristy places vary in my short experience with them. I went to a supermarket to refresh a few supplies, and found fresh fruit and vegies at about the same prices in Australia. However the cans of coke and associated soft-drinks in the "impulse buy fridge" were only 1 AED each, which is about $0.33 AUD. Coffee at the airport is the most surprisingly expensive, at the equivalent of $7 AUD per cup!
Most ironic experience today was one of the locals pulling up in his car and asking me for directions to the hospital. Oddly enough, I could give them, as I'd walked past the hospital on the way from my hotel.
I'm now just about to hop on a flight to Saudi for my assignment teaching Perl. I may be out of Internet range for a while.