1) the view from At.Mosphere atop Burj Khalifa looking southwest towards Burj Al Arab (on right) and Dubai Marina
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.
3) the lobby at Grosvenor House
6) the GM gifted us a bottle of champagne a basket of fruit upon arrival
9) G heads across the elevated balcony to dinner at Indego
12) … and looking the other way towards Burj Al Arab
13) wandering Dubai Marina area at night
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.
14) there are amazing skyscrapers all around the Dubai Marina area
15) heading to the metro … looking back toward the Grosvenor Hotel (the two smaller towers centre right)
17) crossing Sheikh Zayed Road …. all 16 lanes of it!
19) the world’s tallest building – Burj Khalifa
20) entering the world’s largest mall – Dubai Mall
21) it has a skating rink but of course
22) and a massive aquarium you can walk through … for a price
23) and you can buy pork despite being in a muslim country though its rather conspicuous
24) and look, even Canada’s National treasure – Tim Hortons coffee – is here!
25) here’s the entrance to access the elevators that take you up 122 stories to At.Mosphere
28) and the view – that’s the shadow of Burj Khalifa on the Dubai Mall
29) moi with champagne atop At.Mosphere looking out towards Burj Al Arab and Dubai Marina
30) you can truly see for miles and miles up here
31) tea service starts with this mousse complete with gold leaf of course
33) a selection of sandwiches and scones
35) looking down to the dancing fountain
36) the Burj from the Metro heading back to the Grosvenor
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.
38) heading into the Gold Market
39) where you can buy things like this
40) G heads into the utensils market
42) heading out on an abra to cross the creek
43) here’s one heading the other way
45) and a short video of the scene
48) G takes a photo of the dancing fountain in the lobby
49) here’s a video of the fountain and a paning shot up to the atrium
50) this atrium can completely hold the Statue of Liberty … it’s that big a space!
51) in the lobby of the Al Muntaha restaurant in Burj Al Arab you can buy – if you so wish – this Apple iPad cover for AED31,880 or roughly CAD$9600
54) the view is beautiful here – in the background is Palm Jumeirah
55) there was a yachting race going on while we were there
57) the ceiling of the restaurant is really neat I thought
64) and to finish more savouries including a camel’s milk creme brulee (yes, camel milk!)
65) sunrise from the hotel on our last morning in Dubai
Fascinating to view Dubai through your eyes. A city I have minimal interest in visiting as I perceive it as being exactly what you describe: soulless. But I suppose I should visit it, just so I’ve had the first-hand opportunity to form an opinion.