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Published: June 29th 2008
When I mentioned to my mother-in-law that I thought Dubai was like Las Vegas, she laughed and said, ‘More like Las Vegas on hormones!’ It was time to find out for myself. Here’s what I discovered on my trip last week... Barat the Builder
Dubai is still being built. A quarter of the world’s cranes are in Dubai and construction is absolutely everywhere. This means road directions are rendered useless and it’s all too easy to find yourself going the wrong way up a one-way street because the No Entry sign is hidden behind hoardings. Everywhere you go there are signs apologising for the inconvenience, which led me to think that one cover-all sign at the airport, warning visitors that they’re entering a construction site, might be a good idea. The Toddler, nevertheless, will love the view from our apartment - giant cranes, diggers and hundreds of builders create a bustling panorama that might even beat Bob the Builder. Go Green
Dubai has ambitions to go green - and I don’t mean in the environmental sense. Places are named things like Green Lakes, The Meadows, The Palms, Silicon Oasis. Yet, while there are some beautifully landscaped areas, there is
Taking on the dunes
Saskia Kuschetzki - Fotolia.com
no hiding the fact that you’re in the desert and there’s a whole lot more sand than grass. Artistic impressions show what Dubai will look like once all the building work is complete and the landscapers have moved in to create scenic lakes and grassy knolls, but for now, lush isn’t a word I’d use to describe Dubai, despite the aspirations to greenness that keep cropping up. (OK, so Green Lakes sounds much more appealing than Yellow Sandpit or Dust Ball so I see what they’re doing, but it did make me laugh!) Street Law
The driving in Dubai is what led me to mention before that I’d like a tank-like vehicle. Most people drive responsibly, but a minority of the Emirati nationals drive very fast. I’ve heard about - though fortunately am yet to experience - a practice called extreme tail-gating, where a fast car comes right up behind you and sits on your bumper until you move over. Add to the mix the fact that there are 180 different nationalities living in Dubai - all of whom learnt to drive in different countries - and it’s easy to see why the roads can become interesting. Having taken
advice from local expats, I did persuade my husband to buy us a huge SUV, which I’ll probably have huge problems parking! On the bright side, petrol is very cheap - cheaper than milk, in fact. Beat the Heat
Every morning I’d jokingly ask my husband what the weather was like, knowing what the answer would be. Yes, it was hot - seriously hot, but with powerful AC everywhere I felt chilly more times than I felt hot. Walking around outside during the day is pretty much out of the question for me right now, but I’m assured that the temperature should peak at about 43°C (109°F)! Awe-Inspiring Audacity
Not too long ago, Dubai was a sleepy fishing village; now it’s a booming international hub for business and tourism, with shiny skyscrapers, monster malls and superb beaches. Flashy and feisty, Dubai is a true cultural crossroad - a cosmopolitan city where Arab men and women in ankle-length robes mingle alongside Western expats and other nationalities too numerous to mention. A bright-light, glistening oasis in the desert, Dubai is home to the world’s only 7-star hotel and the Mall of the Emirates - a shopping resort that has its
Shopping in the Gold Souk
© Udo Kroener - Fotolia.com
own ski slope.
So ambitious are Dubai’s rulers, it’s breathtaking. Run out of coastline on which to build hotels and luxury villas? No problem. Simply build a man-made archipelago of 300 islands in the shape of a world map (Sir Richard Branson has reportedly bought England, while Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie were rumoured to be buying Ethiopia). Need an engineering odyssey to beat this? The developer that’s constructing The World has announced plans to start work on The Universe, a series of islands in the form of the sun, stars and planets of the solar system. A theme park to dwarf Disney is also being constructed, and plans have been unveiled for an 80-storey skyscraper with revolving floors, giving the building an ever-shifting shape and the residents a continually changing view of the Gulf and city skyline. Home Help
Nannies and housekeepers are commonplace among the expats and nationals - the social structure feeling very alien to me. I was astonished to read that if you like everything just so, you can send your housekeeper on a course to learn how to clean, tidy, wash, iron, etc, and organise her time effectively. Many thousands of labourers from
India, Pakistan and other Asian countries have flocked to Dubai for better-paid work, leaving their families far behind. My heart went out to them. Their working conditions are terrible. A security guard my husband got talking to was on a three-year contract, without a single day off during that time - and how the builders survive a single day working in the searing temperatures, I don't know.
My husband also tells me that soon I’ll be looking to employ a nanny to help with the kids, and being a hopeless housewife (plus I’d love to do some work), he’s probably right - so if The Toddler and Ghengis (yes, Zygote got promoted, to a name not of my choosing!) start speaking Filipino, you’ll know why. Update:
As I send this to press, there’s still no word on when our house will be ready! Yes, you guessed it, the complex is still under construction, and no doubt will be called something like Green Fields or The Pastures. So we’re still in limbo. Our temporary apartment is very nice, but we’re harbouring an illegal immigrant - the Cat, and thanks to the no-pets policy, it looks like poor husband might
© Udo Kroener - Fotolia.com
have to move again. I’m planning another trip, with The Toddler this time, then intend to come back here to have Ghengis (ok, so I have to hold my hands up high: I’m an NHS tourist!).
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