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Published: March 7th 2006
I have come to believe that you can tell a lot about a city by its airport. This is true about Cairo Airport, where waiting for 12 hours in a dirty, stinky, uncomfortable and unorganised terminal, is pretty much is similar to the city itself. This theory is also true about Dubai International. Modern, efficient, clean and roomy. There is also a terminal 3 under construction which will dwarf the original. It's sleak, modern, unusual architecture pretty much sums up the city. Nowhere else in the Middle East, or perhaps in the world, is there a city quite like Dubai. Once a small creek side fishing and pearl village, Dubai has risen to become one of the fastest growing cities in the world. After the oil boom in the 60's, the United Arab Emirates (which was officially formed in 1971 after the british pull-out) became exceedingly rich.
Dubai has exploited that wealth and has some of the most audacious construction plans underway anywhere in the world. How does the tallest building in the world grab ya? (Not tallest by 10 or 20 metres like a lot of recent record breakers have been) The Burj Dubai will reach a staggering 3/4
of a kilometre high, dwarfing the current record holder, Taipei 101, by over 200 metres. The Palm Islands are a current project consisting of 3 massive palm shaped islands stretching out into the Gulf which will contain a plethora of hotels, houses, fun parks etc... There is also The World Islands where a map of the world is made out of islands in the Gulf and sold off as abodes. Many celebrities have already staked thier claim to that one. Dubai already boast the world's only 7 star hotel, the Burj Al Arab, but what can beat it? How about an 8 star hotel built entirely underwater. Dubailand, International City, Dubai Sports City, Jumeirah Village, The Lost City etc... all these projects underway and it shows. My first view of the city at a distance, all I see is construction cranes, teetering on top of tentative skyscrapers.
With all this new development, you'd be excused for thinking that there is a lack of things to see and do, far from the truth. The attractions already in place here in Dubai are plentyful. One of the first places we went was the Wild Wadi Water Park. At the foot of
the Burj Al Arab and Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Wild Wadi is a pretty good water park with a magnificent location. At the top of the fastest ride in the park, you get unparalleled views of the Burj Al Arab, Jumeirah Beach Hotel, the park itself, the Palm Island Jumeirah to the left, the World Islands to the right and the new Business Bay a little ways inland. The quickest way of getting down is via the slide. Never before the Smashdown in Bali had I been screaming down a slide so fast. This one puts it to shame. On my back I lay and off I slide. Over the first roll then the second, the water blinds me as it lashes my face. I feel like I've fallen off the slide as I begin my final descent. My body tenses, my breathing stops and I scream over a thin layer of water reaching speeds well over 85km/h. Almost as quickly as it started, it was over, brought to an abrupt halt by a larger amount of water. Another great slide wasn't a slide at all. Sqeezing my fat arse into a small rubber tube, I'm pushed onto a water jet
that propels me upwards. It's basically an upward water slide. We also tried our luck on the wave machine. A machine that spews out huge amounts of water very quickly over a roll that creates a wave. It's bloody hard to keep the board on the water before it pushes you off, but some people managed alright. When all said and done, Wild Wadi was good but the lack of rides was a bit dissapointing.
Ski Dubai is a massive silver ramp that sticks up out of the new Mall Of The Emirates like a flamingo burying its head in the water. Even in the extreme heat of summer when it can reach unbelievable temperatures of up to 50 degrees, one can still dabble in a little skiing. The whole area is a winter playland with a chair-lift running up to the top. It's pretty good and while not the real thing, a reasonable substitute. The Mall Of The Emirates itself is damn impressive. Possibly the largest shopping centre I have ever been in. There is a shop there (plus many around the UAE) called Carrefour. It's basically a one stop shop for anything. You can cruise through and
pick up your groceries, a new stove, widescreen TV, a whole new wardrobe and still barely see half the shop. If you can't find what your looking of in there, your too hard to please.
Global Village is a curious park that gives a whole new look on the boring old souk. This massive park is filled with pavillions that represent a different country. Within each country is a little shopping souk. Unfortunately, the countries don't mean you can get stuff relating to that country but some of the set ups are pretty cool. There is also a replica of the Taj Mahal on display.
Even with all these new fantasitc buildings and shops on offer, there is still a unique part of old Dubai left. Wandering along Dubai Creek is a picturesque combination of new buildings, old streets of souks, old woodern Dhows loading up supplies to take to all parts of the middle east and copious amounts of mosque's minarets pierce the sky line like they are struggling for air. On the north side of the creek (called Deira) is the famous Gold Souk. Never before have I seen so much gold in one place. Wandering
Construction of Dubai 3
The beginning of the Palm Jumeirah
down the souk, getting hassled by an endless stream of hawkers trying to sell me immitation gold watches, I can't help but notice how gold the gold is. Much more of a vibrant colour than gold I see in Australia. The bangles, chains and necklaces on display have to be some of the most hiddeous bits of jewellery I've seen, but I guess gold has never excited me. On the South side of the creek (Bur Dubai) the souks take on a newer but still old style feel. Dubai seems to do this a lot. Building all this new development doesn't mean they've obliterated all the old traditional buildings and built a sterile concrete garden like Singapore, they have not only saved a lot of tradtional buildings but are building more in the same style. In Business Bay, which will be known as Downtown, they are going to build a whole new old part of town. Completely new but as if it had been there for a hundred years. I think it's good that they are keeping all this, it definately adds to the charm of the city.
Getting around town is expensive unless you walk, rely on the
slow public bus or hire a car. We opted for the latter. Getting around Dubai is very easy, most roads double as a freeway so speeds on most roads is 120km/h. The road signs not only direct you every step of the way to areas, but to major buildings. Traffic can build up a lot so hopefully that is due to the construction because as the city gets bigger, that will be a major problem.
Dubai is an amazing place. The things to see and the things to do make it an exciting destination. However, the real attraction is the atmosphere. When you wander around and see all the happenings, you feel your part of something. Dubai is basically a city under construction and apparently people don't recognise it if they are away for a few months. Most of the construction will be complete in 2010 and I definately will be back to see how it has all turned out.
Thanks to all who have left comments, keep 'em coming I love hearing from Oz. My next stop is England, my home for the next 2 years or so. I have just received word that I'm temporarily placed
in a place called Olney, Buckinghamshire but it may not be so. Once I get settled I'll put another blog up but after I start working, blogs will slow down for a while. I work for 3 months then hopefully head to Spain in June. Untill next time
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