The following is taken from Dave’s Journal regarding a long weekend spent in Dubai
I took a quick trip up to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates 3 weeks ago in the midst of the annual Shopping Festival. Thirty years ago this was a local regional city. Today its an international nightmare, depending on your perspective. Perhaps it is a city that will cause you to have a strong visceral reaction. Lots of craziness with the terrible traffic, inability to get taxi’s, frustrated drivers, construction zone garbage dumps, and high prices. It is a city for exclusivity, a city full of money, and ground zero for service oriented jobs. Compared to other Arabian area cities, Dubai is remarkably open. Clothing is a mix of Islamic and western, depending on where you are from – shorts are fine to wear in the city.
There is much history here but it is easily overlooked or forgotten because of the huge explosion of construction, resorts, islands, malls, souks etc. It took me over an hour just to get a cab – there are over 5000 taxis in this city but you canNOT get a ride. You can go to certain malls and wait in a line that lasts over 2 hours snaking around metal dividers specially built for taxi lines, just to get a damn taxi. Dubai cannot continue to grow at this pace forever but while it does, its amazing to see. For the time being this is a CAN DO *ANYTHING* town – and people from many countries who live here want a piece of the pie.
Being caught up in this can do anything atmosphere is exhilarating. This is not a town for budget travelers. Most hotels are quite expensive and if you are a true vagabond budget traveler you might sleep out in any of the construction projects killing this town. Even couchsurfing.com is blocked by the government’s morality messages. Interesting to mention the name of the current US President at the time of our visit and see smiles fly to the faces of the taxi drivers and have them give thumbs up. Hard to find countries, especially in Europe – where this is possible today. During his recent visit all the main arteries into town were completely closed down and many people took a holiday. The self appointed 7-star Burj al Arab is of course way cool. All hopes to get inside will be dashed at the entrance unless you have a prior reservation. Where else but here can you buy a government issued gold coin with a hotel on the front side of the coin!
One of the real highlights for me was seeing the Burj Khalifa which is now the worlds tallest building BY FAR!! Check out their website for this amazing engineering piece of work. It was still in the middle of construction and during my visit, stood at over 600 meters almost right at 2000 feet! And it was not yet done by any stretch of the imagination as more and more floors are being built and my driver said that 1 floor is being built per week, which is now taking less time as the height of the building is causing the floors to be smaller in overall size.
There are 160 stories already completed and several sources have said that it will top out at over 2,700 feet (it actually topped out at 2,717 feet). You can do the math – at the time, the Burj management was keeping quiet about its exact final height. The desert is too hot during certain times of the year and besides the ski resort mentioned below, this is one way humans can reach living altitudes/environments that are much more pleasant. This building is also called the Dancing Burj as it can become very windy at those heights. www.burjkhalifa.ae
The Ski Dubai resort is amazing and *huge*; it even has 1 black diamond run – chairlifts, chalet, ski rental shop, and more. It is located in a massive Emirates shopping mall and you can sip your latte at any of a number of shops that are located at its base, all the while watching the skiers drop down the slopes as you gaze through the large glass windows. A new ski resort is opening in Dubailand and is even more impressive than the first. This one features a revolving ski run, ice bridge, fake mountain terrain and more! Visit: www.skidxb.com
I drove onto the Palm Island which from space or plane looks just like the shape of a huge palm tree. Not that long ago, its location was best for sailing or fishing as this island sits where ocean water once was… Today massive condo’s and other resort communities are right in the middle of construction – and the main spine of the island is only partially accessible because of the major construction. I did not get a chance to visit “The World” – which is a massive collection of human created islands each in the shape of the 7 continents all lumped together, located about 10 minutes by boat from the mainland – unlike the palm island which is tied to the mainland. Do a search for “The World Dubai” on YouTube to watch some videos – pretty interesting stuff.
The sand runs right to the edge of the city as there are lots of sandy washes and small dunes outside its borders. I was there in the middle of the annual shopping festival, hence the craziness at each of the over 40 malls in the city…hence the 2 hour wait in lines for taxi…normally it is long, but not that long. Dubai also has an excellent gold souk where you can buy gold literally by the kilo, or any number of jewelery pieces starting at $5000 US plus US for Indian designed necklaces, pendants, earrings, wedding head pieces etc – tons of shops – also spice & perfume markets.
Dubai is only one of the 7 Emirates each controlled by a ruling family. If you have the budget and are not turned off by large cities, I recommend 5-7 days in the Dubai area to take in the local attractions as well as some of the desert attractions including off roading, camel racing and dune skiing.