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Published: August 29th 2006
The landmark of Dubai
Being the first time to this city is a bit surprised experience, with the first sight of its huge duty free shops in the airport. However, Dubai is not just a busy transit point between continents, it is currently a big construction site. One would not help but notice the new high rising buildings, many still in construction, including the will-be-tallest in the world, around the Sheikh Zayed Road, or the few Palm projects undergoing on the sea. This may be just one part of the ambitions that this city has in its quest to being ranked alongside the world-class ones. Meanwhile, one can find people from all parts of the world coming here to find their dreams, whatever that might be.
But Dubai is also a city of contrast. Whilist you can spend a USD 1000 a night in the luxary hotels like Burj al-Arab, many people you encounter may be just working there for a more reasonable wage than they would do in their own countries. It is not surprising then that more than 80% of the population is not local (for instance, my driver was from Nigeria), and that English is more spoken than Arabic. And it
Dubai Creek, overlooking the traditional centre of Deira
is a city as traditional as it is westernised: not too far from the souq, there are some of the biggest shopping malls in the world. Then, there is the yatch club where one can see a few dhows sailing nearby.
Getting out of Dubai I went a day trip around half of the UAE. First stop is Al-Ain, which is an oasis and a border town with Oman. Despite this, there is no immigration checking and people are free to cross between the two countries here. (One can easily tell on which side he or she is because in UAE most people you see on the street are not Arabic, which is different from Oman). There is a tourist sight called Jebel Hafeet nearby, which is essentially a mountain. Strangly enough, a four star hotel was built on top of it, which made a good resort location as the temperature is lower up there. But I wondered how expensive it was to build a whole new road up the mountain just for one building. Well, this is a country where nothing seems impossible!
Next stop was Fujairah and Khor Fakkan, on the east coast of UAE facing
the Indian Ocean. Basically, there is nothing to see here except for the beach alongside the mountain. I, with my driver, went to a hotel crawl, to see the resorts one by one. Building a hotel in this area, I think, is quite a smart idea, because once the guests have checked-in, they cannot go anywhere else but the beach and the swimming pools next to it (that means they have to spent all their money there!). So again, in this part of the country, one can find strangely a six-star hotel in the middle of nowhere in the desert.
Back to Dubai, I quite enjoyed my visit in this city. I am especially impressed by its multicultural environment where business is taken seriously, abeit at a relatively relaxed pace. But one thing is certain: that the metropolis is looking to the future with confidence and ambitions.
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