The Jewel Of The Arab World, Sprung From The Desert & Reinvented As The World’s Premier Luxury 5-Star Destination
In the infinity pool of the Oceania Beach Club on Palm Jumeirah, Dubai. April 19, 2014
Regrettably my time in Dubai has come to an end. I’ve been here a while. Eleven nights all in, good for 10 days of sweating. I rarely spend 11 nights anywhere. I tend to get restless, bored, and anxious to experience what’s next. But even after 10 days/11 nights I’m sad to be (reluctantly) leaving Dubai, one of the 7 Emirates that make up the oil-rich Persian Gulf country of The United Arab Emirates (UAE). The tiny emirate, twice the size of London, is a kingdom built on the profits of its (almost depleted) oil reserves and so one shouldn’t be surprised to learn that this is one of the richest places in the Arab world. Actually scratch that – it’s one of the richest places in the world. But the Dubai oil is running out (it’s supposed to be gone by 2016) so the Emirate has been forced to reinvent itself to keep the money flowing. And that’s what it’s doing – and has been doing for over 15 years now – by going to some outrageous, almost superhuman lengths to rebrand itself as nothing short of the world’s premier 5-star, luxury tourist destination: it has constructed, and is in the process of constructing more, massive man-made islands to increase the Mother Nature-supplied white sand coastline by over 500 kilometres; it has built an already iconic 7-star hotel; an indoor ski resort; gravity-defying water parks; floating bridges; an abundance of mega huge, mega shiny shopping malls; & it’s sprouting towers galore from the desert sand, including the tallest ever made by man. Oh, and everything being built is striving to be the biggest, best, & shiniest. So I guess it’s maybe not surprising that the Dubai plan of ‘Build it and they will come (& we’ll ensure they have lots of fun while spending lots of money in the process)’ worked on me just like it would work on anyone giving themselves & their credit card over to the Dubai program for 11 nights. Yep, they got me alright, hook, line & sinker.
– Lonely Planet Dubai
Dubai || The Second Coming
I was here before, almost exactly 6 years ago, when I blogged on the Dubai rebranding effort as I saw it then. I wasn’t much of a tourist back then (or photographer for that matter) spending only two nights as I (very briefly) passed through the region en route from India to Egypt. But two nights was/is more than enough time to get a good appreciation for the ersatz, Disneyesque road that ostentatious Dubai has chosen to hurtle itself down, all horns blaring & with headlights on dazzle. I was here for a lot longer this time, enjoyed it like I never thought I would enjoy somewhere I was already familiar with, & of course took a few pictures in the process. Here’s a day-by-day pictorial look at my second, but by no means last, visit to Dubai, the so-called Jewel of the Arab world.
Read all postings from this visit to Dubai in chronological order or jump to specific areas of interest using these links.
DAY 3 – The Burj Al Arab & Dubai Shopping Centres || DAY 4 – Deira, The Spice Souk & Dubai Creek || DAY 5 – Pool Day || DAY 6 – Desert Safari || DAY 7 – Dubai Hotels & Getting High – Burj Khalifa || DAY 7 – Palm Jumeirah, Pool Day 2 || DAY 8 – Nighttime Dubai – Burj Khalifa
Day 3 || Big Bus Tour
April 14, 2014
It wasn’t until day 3 in Dubai that I switched into tourist mode, taking myself & my camera out in the high 30 degree Celsius temperatures. And when I did I was a guest of Big Bus Tours Dubai who showed me around what present-day Dubai has to offer. And I’m glad they did. Dubai is very spread out and even though the surgically clean metro – which was under construction the last time I was in town – is awesome for getting around, there was something pretty neat about being driven around from one fantastical, overly flamboyant Dubai highlight to another, the latest mega this or newest over-the-top that. The first stop was at the iconic Burj Al Arab, or more precisely, at the for-the-commoners public beach beside it.
Burj Al Arab
– Sam Wollaston, The Guardian, describing the Burj Al Arab
DEIRA || THE SPICE SOUK & DUBAI CREEK
Day 4 || Deira – Traditional Dubai
April 15, 2014
Outwardly Dubai is all about man-made islands, multimillionaires & iconic mega projects. But it’s not like that here in Deira, the city’s grittiest & most colourful area lining Dubai Creek & from where present-day Dubai grew. Deira is a remnant of the past, it’s what Dubai isn’t supposed to look like these days, an area a million miles removed from the credit card frenzy of the rest of the city. Getting lost in the tight lanes, trading banter with the jovial souq (market) vendors & getting a glimpse of Dubai’s trading heritage by watching cargo being loaded & unloaded from the traditional wooden dhows lining Dubai Creek are all essential parts of any visit to Dubai.
Day 5 || Pool Day
April 16, 2014
Enough of being a tourist. Day 5 was a laze by the pool day.
It’s mid-April here in Dubai. Best not come here in the height of the summer months.
Day 6 || Desert Safari
April 17, 2014
Day 6 was overnight desert safari day & I was back on the tourist horse, or camel to be more apt. Popular overnight desert safaris from Dubai give visitors the chance to experience the barely-alive-these-days UAE Bedouin heritage – off-road 4×4 dune bashing, camel rides, desert sunsets, traditional Arabian dance performances & sleeping under the desert stars. Yes, it’s plastic, touristy & highly choreographed but it’s also great fun.
– Reproduced from a panel The Desert on display in the Dubai Museum
Day 7 || Desert Safari, 5-Star Shuffle & (Finally) Getting High
April 18, 2014
Probably the best part of a desert safari is getting the opportunity to sleep under the stars. However, rising before the sun creeps over you is well recommended – it gets mighty hot mightily quick around here.
– Reproduced from a panel The Camel on display in the Dubai Museum
Hotels || The 5-Star Shuffle
After returning from the desert it was time to check out of one 5-star hotel…
… and check in to another.
– Ibn Batutta
From the iconic sail-shaped Burj Al Arab to the pyramid-shaped Raffles, Dubai is home to some of the world’s most instantly recognisable hotels. The city’s hotels can mostly be split into two types – city hotels and the beach resort hotel, self-contained compounds that guests rarely have reason to leave. Reputable hotels are nearly all 5-star with service levels, amenities, & prices to match. They offer nicely appointed rooms & marble bathrooms with rainfall showerheads – ablutions are a cornerstone of Arab culture & Emiratis love their bathrooms (tourists do, too). New 5-star hotels seem to open daily, each with its own set of attractions and serving to accommodate the vast amounts of wealth flooding into the city, one that boasts the highest hotel occupancy rates in the world (86%) even accounting for the 50 Degree Celsius summer months.
— davidMbyrne.com (@ByrneDavidM) April 18, 2014
The Burj Khalifa || Getting High
The last time I visited Dubai, in April 2008, this wasn’t completed (but even so, it was still the tallest man-made structure on earth at the time, just as it is today) and it was known as the Burj Dubai. Now, & exactly 6 years later, it’s fully open for business and is called the Burj Khalifa.
The Burj Khalifa
At 829.8 metres (2,722 ft) the Burj Khalifa is the tallest building in the world & the tallest man-made structure ever made – certificates, dated January 4, 2010, from Guinness World Records Ltd. stating such are proudly on display in the At The Top 124th floor viewing deck. The tower was constructed by Samsung C&T of South Korea (who also made the Petronas Towers in KL, Malaysia, & Taipei 101 in Taipei, Taiwan) with work beginning in September 2004. The exterior was completed in October 2009 & the structure was officially opened on January 4, 2010. It houses mainly office space, residential apartments and The Armani Hotel, Giorgio’s first foray into the hotel business (it’s 5-star, of course). The tower, which itself cost $1.5 billion to build, is the centrepiece the $20-billion-dollar Downtown Dubai, a large-scale mixed-use complex boasting the aforementioned Dubai Mall, 30,000 homes, nine hotels & a huge 30-acre man-made lake with dancing fountain (the green pool in the above picture). The Burj Khalifa was built solely to wow and it was never, ever going to be anything less than the tallest structure on earth – according to officials it is necessary for projects like Burj Khalifa to be built in the city to garner more international recognition and hence investment. Well take a bow guys because it seems to be working. And you got €80 out of me.
Day 8 || Pool Day, Take 2
April 19, 2014
Day 8 was another pool day. There probably should have been more.
Building Islands In The Sun
Just like the Burj Khalifa, the Palm Jumeirah, a 16-frond palm tree-shaped man-made archipelago in the Persian Gulf, also wasn’t fully completed when I was last in ‘Under Construction’ Dubai back in 2008. Six years on and it is now open for business, seeing me as a customer on this day. The 5 km² Palm Jumeirah, construction on which started in 2001, may have been the first of its kind in Dubai but it won’t be the last as the reclamation madness goes on unabated. Much bigger & much more ambitious land reclamation projects are ongoing one of which is The World, an outrageous archipelago mimicking a map of the globe – not content with putting Dubai on the map they are putting the map on Dubai. Constructed with sand dredged from the bottom of the Persian Gulf and rock quarried in various parts of The United Arab Emirates, the islands are, not surprisingly, the largest land reclamation projects in the world the aim being to increase the sun-drenched Dubai shoreline by over 500 kilometres. Why? To providing more space to house more people and to provide more options for them to part with their cash. Yes, build it and they will come, or so the Arabs hope.
– Kevin Costner, Field of Dreams
NIGHTTIME DUBAI - BURJ KHALIFA
Day 9 || Nighttime Dubai
April 20, 2014
I paid one final visit to Downtown Dubai last night to see the Burj Khalifa illuminated & the fountains dancing.
And that is that from Dubai, take II. I’m heading to the UAE capital of Abu Dhabi tomorrow. The chance of scene will be nice but I’ll miss Dubai.