Where to begin? … Dubai is on many levels a miracle: a modern city of soaring skyscrapers built on acres of desert with oil reserve dollars; a testament to the singular vision of its founder, Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum (the Al Maktoum family has ruled Dubai since 1833 fyi); and a shopaholics mecca. And yet, all that glitters is not gold no matter how desperately Dubais wish it to be otherwise as the city, despite all its modern grandeur, is soulless. Dubai has no heart.
While travelling through its magnificence – and indeed the city is magnificent – I kept thinking of Stephen King’s novel, The Stand, and how Dubai would be such a better locale than Las Vegas for Randall Flagg and his sycophants. But literary anecdotes aside, I am glad I visited but certainly have no need ever to return.
We took up residence in a lovely suite at the Grosvenor House near the Palm Jumierah in Dubai Marina. The hotel was lovely, if big, and we enjoyed an excellent meal at Indego by Vineet our first night in town and then strolled the pathways around the Marina to people watch at the restaurants and hookah bars.
The next morning we took the uber-efficient Dubai Metro into Downtown proper and visited the world’s biggest mall, The Dubai Mall, and enjoyed afternoon tea atop the highest restaurant in the world – At.Mosphere – which, of course, is in the tallest building in the world, Burj Khalifa. Burj Khalifa is quite surreal – nearly a kilometer tall it stands out no matter where you are in Dubai. Housed within it is the Armani Hotel (in fact you visit the hotel as part of the process of getting up to At.Mosphere); stop by the gift shop for some great (if expensive) teas on the way back down from your lunch. At.Mosphere, be warned, is a tourist trap; though a necessary evil one must try when in Dubai. Afternoon tea consists of the usual suspects (though actual tea you must specifically ask your server for?!) and will run you about AED380 (about CAD$110), more if you do as we did and order a glass of champagne to accompany lunch. Servers here pour the champagne in a ridiculously pompous fashion and we had to do our best not to laugh out loud.
(as an aside, we also enjoyed afternoon tea at Al Muntaha in the iconic Burj Al Arab when we returned to the city after several days at Al Maha [more on this in another post] and discovered this same champagne-pouring silliness there as well. Which came first I am not sure.)
Of the two experiences, I much preferred the offerings and feel at Burj Al Arab which was more pleasant and less, I don’t know, stuffy.
Another day we visited the historic heart of Dubai – the area around Dubai Creek with its famous Gold Market, the Deira Fish Market, the Dubai Museum and a reprieve from all the concrete and steel of the rest of the city. There is some authenticity here, with dhows that ply the creek and wee boats, called abras, that take tourists and locals back and forth across the river. You can wander the souk and markets but be forewarned, the merchants here, especially in the gold market, will pester you to the point of fleeing. They are insistent almost to the point of being indignant that you buy. Fortunately, G and I are not hoarders and never really buy anything whilst travelling so they didn’t get far with us, and, I admit, I can be ruthlessly – perhaps to the point of impoliteness – abrupt with salespeople.
45) and a short video of the scene
49) here’s a video of the fountain and a paning shot up to the atrium