Remember how I always characterize our travels by saying we are not tourists, and how we are not on vacation? Well, here in Dubai we ARE tourists and we ARE on vacation. We are in Dubai for one week.
Emirates (the airline company) was smart to allow us a stop in Dubai on our way from Johannesburg to Amsterdam for no extra charge. I think they must have part ownership in the malls, restaurants and activities here because we have certainly dropped some serious coin in ALL of those places! Dubai is many things but cheap is not one of them. Dubai reminds us of Las Vegas, only in a much more genuine way. Whereas Las Vegas seems to go over the top in kind of a “fake” way and it seems to be only skin deep, Dubai goes over the top… but for reals. There is massive luxury here. The top ranked 7-star hotel in the world is here. We
stayed there, stayed near there, went there just to have coffee, drove by it.
Dubai is a very young city. There were only 13 registered cars in Dubai in 1968, which is roughly 154,000 times less than there are today. Around 20 years ago most of what we see today was just desert. But boy has it grown.
In an attempt to share our journey with you I will do so mainly with pictures, and in categories. In no particular order, here was (part of) our week:
Dubai has some of the most interesting buildings, including the (current) tallest in the world (the Burj Khalifa). But even the not-tallest buildings are impressive. Every building seems to be trying to outdo the building next to it; bigger, better, more interesting, more unique. It was fascinating to see them all as we navigated our way around the city. They were building a new one that looks like a giant picture frame. When it is done they plan to put in a giant picture, natch. Our tour guide said it would probably be the Sheikh. There are a lot of really big pictures of him around town but I guess there’s always room for one more. And coincidentally enough, the future picture fitted inside the picture frame building is nicely visible (straight on) from the top of the Burj Khalifa. Talk about a healthy ego. Wowza. They don’t do anything by happenstance here.
There is so much growth going on in this city. It seems like it will never end. Dubai will be hosting the World Expo in 2020 so there is a lot of preparation going on for that. It is guaranteed to impress the visitors who come for it. There are some statistics online saying that 25% of the world’s cranes are in use in Dubai. We believe it, they are everywhere. The construction can be a pain when you’re trying to drive around but at the same time it gives a feeling of vitality and vibrancy to the city.
Gone are the water issues from South Africa. These guys have plenty of water despite being a desert city that gets 1.4 inches and FIVE days of rain a year. Yes, that’s right. FIVE days a year of rain. A forward-thinking leader invested in desalination projects many years ago and now there is essentially unlimited water for more growth. Wells also provide some water. The water from the ocean also means growth in another way, as people create man-made islands in order to enjoy the water from the comfort of their own homes. This is the home of the famous palm-looking man-made islands called Palm Deira and Palm Jumeirah. Then there’s the not-yet-fully-developed The World and one other island project called “The Universe”. The attitude here is “if we need it, build it”. These guys clearly have a “FSO” mentality.
The water is also available for entertainment, as you can see by our afternoon on a “yacht” (really just a nice, bigger boat) exploring the marina. The water was so salty it was easy to float. The temperature was lovely and refreshing and it was incredibly clean. Dan threw his apple core into the water and then decided to fish it out because it looked so out of place. There is no trash anywhere. I don’t even see guys picking up trash. I am pretty sure no one litters here.
Boy do they know how to do malls. The World’s Biggest Mall (measured by area) is here, along with Mall of the Emirates that houses a ski slope and winter playground (snowsuits are provided). Ice skating, arcades, haunted houses, flight simulators and Kidzania are all in the malls too. But you really don’t need any of that stuff. You could sit on a bench and people watch for hours. The people are fascinating here. More on them later.
A desert climate means you need some things to do inside while you escape the heat. They have it here. The kids found a huge gaming center unlike anything we’ve ever seen in the US. It offered the video game fanatic a new platform to play virtual reality games, or a place to play the traditional way on a big monitor, with great headsets and lightning fast internet speeds and ping. We lost the kids for about 7 hours there. We were reminded of Zoe’s love for obstacle courses as she spent 4 hours navigating the same one, over and over and over. When Zoe expends energy in a physical way, we all benefit.
But Wait There’s More
That’s enough explanation for today, but don’t think you are done reading about Dubai just yet. We have more descriptions and pictures for you coming soon. This place is fascinating.