From Athens to Singapore 9 of 12: Dubai

Author: , October 22nd, 2010

by Mike Shaughnessy, Traveler

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Purple Roofs is happy to welcome back an old friend. Last time, Mike regaled us with tales of his trip through South America. This time, he brings us details from his two month trip from Greece to Singapore. Enjoy!

Dubai, UAE

Dubai, UAEOur next stop in the United Arab Emirates was the amazing but crazy new city of Dubai. Not sure how to describe this place, I am sure they would not appreciate it if I were to say it is like Las Vegas on steroids or Las Vegas times 100.

Dubai, UAE

This is where they built from sand the huge manmade Palm Islands that can be seen from space by the naked eye, built the world’s tallest building from the top of which you are so high you can actually see the curvature of the earth.

Dubai, UAEIn fact something like 30% of all the tallest buildings in the world are here in Dubai. The icon of Dubai is the huge Burj Hotel on a manmade island that looks like a large sail boat, another self-proclaimed seven star hotel (ratings actually only go up to five stars).

The world’s largest theme park, called Dubai World, is/was under construction but also because of the world economic crash it is currently $60 billion in debt default and causing a nervous banking situation here in the Middle East.

With the world economic slowdown, some of the underway huge construction projects not yet completed in Dubai have been put on hold and construction workers sent back to their home country. The advantage is that now it is much easier to find a taxi, there is less traffic in Dubai and you can buy a local apartment or property at half the inflated price before the economic slowdown.

However, it seems much of the city is still under construction as everywhere you look there is metro stations or buildings or malls still being worked on and edging more toward completion.

Dubai is known to be a great place for shopping, with low prices on all kinds of electronics and gold items. Again, there are no import duties levied on any of the goods and no taxes to pay on purchase.

Skiing in Dubai

The world’s largest malls are located in Dubai; one of the malls even has an indoor snow skiing mountain, another mall has an indoor ice skating rink.

They have built some world class golf courses here on the sands in Dubai. Since this is really a desert originally consisting of nothing but sand there is constant irrigation going on everywhere to keep the grass, flowers and trees all green.

When my friend Jerry visited here a few months ago he enjoyed the air conditioned huge malls as a place to go to be cool and get out of the desert heat.

Across from the Dubai Mall are the huge dancing fountains. They are very much like the Fountains of Bellagio in Las Vegas, only bigger.

ubai, UAEDubai has clean, large well functioning city bus system. All of the bus shelters are enclosed and fully air conditioned so you can stay cool and comfortable while you are waiting for the air conditioned bus to arrive.

The new metro is space age looking and fully computer controlled. I was told it was driverless too but I saw a man sitting in the front car of the train.

One portion of Dubai is being developed as “Internet City” a place where all of the high tech companies are concentrating.

Dubai, UAEDubai city is divided by what is called Dubai Creek which is really a huge salt water inlet. There are three ways to cross from one side of Dubai Creek (old Dubai) over to the other side; modern highway bridges, road tunnels and the old fashioned abra (boat taxis) that cost one Dirham or about 25 cents to cross.

The traditional way of life in Dubai has disappeared in the shiny reflection of glass and glitz of high rise buildings and modern highways. Some parts of old Dubai still retain the souk (market) and Arab feelings as they go about their business in this mix of old and new. In the many huge modern malls every brand name product can be found. There are even the ever present MacDonald’s and KFC in the food courts.

Dubai MosqueThe largest mosque in Dubai “only” holds 1,000 worshippers which is tiny compared to the 20,000 in Muscat or 40,000 capacity in Abu Dhabi. However, mosques in Dubai are like Starbucks in the US, one on every corner.

I went out to that man-made Palm Islands development. The sheer size of it is hard to comprehend, it was sea prior to dredging up all that sand, no wonder you can see it from space with the naked eye. There are a total of 17 fronds on the palm, each lined with condos, apartments, houses and marinas for the wealthy. Many of the buildings are still being completed and much of the completed ones are still not occupied. I cannot imagine where enough people will come from to occupy all the living units put up in this massive development!

IKEA DubaiTraveling along the center of the ‘palm’ is both a major highway and a monorail system. The entire palm development is separated from the mainland so you cross over a bridge to reach the beginning of the palm.

There are breakwater developments circling the entire palm. All the way out at the very end, furthest out in the ocean, is a huge new glitzy Las Vegas style five star hotel called the Atlantis, named after the lost city under the sea.

Dubai AquariumOne of the newest fun things to do in Dubai now is to go out to Atlantis and spend the day playing in their huge water park, swimming with dolphins, or taking a gigantic water slide down into their lagoon. They also have a big aquarium called The Lost City.

Dubai has the world’s tallest building, scheduled to open in January 2010 so just in two months.

Dubai a few months ago opened its first metro line to assist people getting to and from work and to lessen the traffic during the commute hours. There is a second metro line under construction to open next year. This makes it the only Emirate in the UAE to have a major public transportation system. This comes none too soon because with all the cars there is growing air pollution.