Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Adventure Which Is Dubai

Entering Dubai for the first time is like waking up in the future from an induced coma after travelling to another planet: sort of like what it would be like to arrive in Avatar. If that were possible. The road from Abu Dhabi is a huge eight lane freeway that cuts through the scrub brush speckled desert. There are a few little areas with buildings with odd little businesses on the ground floor. Mostly it is this large road seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Illumination (street lighting) is generously provided the entire 120 kilometers (75 miles) between the two cities, something typically unheard of in the states where highway miles between towns is highly unusual and unaffordable.

As you near Dubai an impressive futuristic looking light rail station kicks off the elevated travel way that runs parallel to the highway and into the City with stations located frequently throughout. Groupings of office towers push out through the lower building landscape of the older city. If you’ve ever flown over Seattle and looked down at the City you know how contained her skyscrapers are. Each of these groupings of buildings poking up through Dubai appears to be like a downtown Seattle. Only buildings of a much bigger variety, some of which are very strange. Many look like they were the result of some architect’s odd dream come to life. Among them, the world's tallest structure, the 828 m (2,717 ft) tall Burj Khalifa with 160 habitable floors. By comparison, the Empire State Building is 443 meters (1,453 ft) tall with about half the habitable floors. The building gained the official title of "Tallest Building in the World" at its opening in January 2010. It is taller than any other man-made structure ever built.

This building is the backdrop to the fountain by the Abu Dhabi Mall, which is the largest mall in the world with a total area of 12.2 million square feet. After 4 PM there is an hourly water show at the fountain that is said to rival the show at the Bellagio in Las Vegas (which I haven’t seen). In fact I heard somewhere that the head Shiek of Dubai was in Vegas and saw the Bellagio show and contracted with the developer of that show to build one just like it only bigger and better in Dubai. The show is set to Arabian music and is quite spectacular with the Burj Khalifa in the background.

My flat mate, Melissa, is an awesome driver and took on the tangle of roads and honking drivers with great confidence. When we missed our exits she just went around and around and ended up where we needed to be. In the parking garage at the mall they have a nifty system of lights high above each space that are green when empty and go red when a car is in the space. This makes it easy to find the empty spaces. It’s a great system and I wish we had in our large garages which would reduce the circling around we so often have to do.

We came into the mall by this incredible fountain that extended down from the highest level with life size metal sculptures of men diving through the water down toward the bottom. The water roared past all floors creating a stunning statement. We wandered through the mall, as interested by the people walking through as we were with what was in the shop windows. There was a “gold souk” area with high end jewelry shops. People were actually in looking at things. Most of the shops elsewhere in the mall, were very shi-shi without much merchandise on display but you could tell what they did have was very high end. Most of the shops didn’t have many, if any, people actually inside shopping and the shopkeepers were sitting or standing around looking very bored. We had to be careful about showing too much interest in what was in the windows as we didn’t want to let down the sales people that looked ever hopeful for a potential sale.

At this mall we saw more people dressed less conservatively than in the Abu Dhabi malls. Also many more kawadjas. And also many women in Abayas. In fact just as we were getting ready to leave the mall at the end of the day we noticed lots of activity near the fashion runway in the center of the mall. So we stood nearby and watched all the excitement and obviously important people that were seated in the cordoned area near the runway. Many large TV cameras were set up and a most elegant woman in a gold lined Abaya was interviewed on camera by many of them. We finally figured out it was an Abaya fashion show. It was quite amusing to see the thin tall models strutting their stuff in these fashionably decorated black flowing garments. Unlike real Emerati women, their head wraps were piled high up top their heads and most gowns had high slits showing their skinny long legs, which were in clad in black leggings. I bet these high fashion models turn around and go to France to model tiny little swimming suits and strapless dresses. One day they will look back and tell about the wild assignment they had early in their career to model fully covered in Dubai.

In another part of the mall, the high fashion section, thousands of strands of clear wire laden with white fabric butterflies extend to the bottom floor from the top levels of the mall. Just about impossible to capture on film you have to see it to believe it. The mall also has an aquarium. While you have to pay to actually go into the aquarium there is a huge tank that is exposed to the interior of the mall. People gather around to see the sharks and fish going by and the divers inside feeding them. Melissa said that she heard the front of the tank is the largest solid piece of plexiglass ever made. Apparently they had a leak a while ago and it was quite a mess. I can only imagine.

While there we went to the food court which was just plain overwhelming with “fast food” from just about every country you can name. After wandering around for some time I opted for the Greek to get a gyro but when I got to the window was informed that they had no gyros at the time. After wandering around again for a long time I finally just opted out and went for the McDonalds chicken sandwich. I can’t believe I picked McDonalds with all those choices but that’s what I did. It tasted good too. With all the international food available having something from home just seemed comforting.

During the day we took a break from the mall to go see other parts of town. We were able to find our way to the waterfront where we parked and walked on the beach, putting our feet into the ocean. It didn’t feel that hot, considering the 110+ temp of the air and even hotter sand. We got somewhat close to the iconic sail building, the Burg al Dubai (burg means tower) and a few other modern marvels. I look forward to going back and seeing more. This time I was mostly in shock at what I saw and unfortunately not fast enough on the camera to try to capture it for you.

We got back to the flat as tired puppies and after a light meal of salad from our earlier grocery store purchases and herbed flat bread from the bakery down the block were in bed and soundly sleeping in no time. Also purchased from the little store attached to the bakery, feta in a little box (like a juice box) which was delicious in the salad, and mango juice. Another end to another dream world day.


Maria said...

Dhow Cruise Dubai Nothing is more adventurous then Dubai. i love it a lot. we friends mostly visit Dubai and enjoy a lot.

Desert Safari Dubai said...

Desert Safari Dubai
nice blog. i live in Dubai and i love it a lot. its so beautiful.