A Travellerspoint blog

United Arab Emirates

Dubai

Route: Colombo - Dubai - London

sunny 26 °C

December 2019

As the plane approached Dubai the clouds parted to reveal a pristine desert below us. Then as we got closer the view began to change, the desert was now filled with small construction sites that finally turned into a sprawling concrete jungle.
Dubai airport is clean, smart and efficient so passing through it was easy and fast. With our bags collected and a taxi secured we left the airport and headed for the bright lights of downtown. It was evening now, all the roads and buildings were illuminated, so much so that the level of visibility wasn’t much different to the daylight hours.
Our apartment was on the 13th floor with the balcony looking across to the Dubai Mall. Once settled in, we spent some time out on the balcony admiring the massive skyscrapers all around us and being dazzled by the amount of artificial light on display together with the variety of colour.

View from our apartment balcony

View from our apartment balcony

View from our apartment balcony

View from our apartment balcony

View from our apartment balcony

View from our apartment balcony

Our apartment block, we are staying on the 13th floor

Our apartment block, we are staying on the 13th floor

Before arriving we had perused the attractions that Dubai had to offer. Many were family oriented (not of interest to us), many were silly money (out of our price range) and others offered something that we had been lucky enough to experience before and didn’t need to do again. However, we did find a few that interested us and managed to do all of them during our stay.

Our first visit was to the Dubai Mall, not because we wanted to shop, although we did need to go to the Waitrose supermarket that was there, but to experience the vastness of it and to see the shear number of outlets in it. It was also on our doorstep and had the novelty of visiting it without having to go outside. The Mall was connected to our apartment block by a number of elevated corridors all with conveyor walkways. No Poundshop or H&M in here, all the shops were high end and catering for the wealthy clientele that were circulating inside. It is very big, in fact the biggest mall in the world with 5.9 million square feet of internal floor area made up of 3.77 million of retail space and 2.13 for entertainment. It is also not very easy to find your way unless you download the app to help navigate you, conventional signage is a bit lacking. There are also buggies circulating for shoppers who can’t walk the vast floor space or just get tired.
Impressive as it was inside, the outside fountains stole the show. At a certain time in the evening an illuminated lake would become a spectacle of water jets that seemed to dance to the music that accompanied it. This was then followed by a light show on the outside of the Burj Khalifa, again accompanied by music and best viewed from the lake side.

The Fountain display, the show lasted 3 minutes and photo doesn't do it justice

The Fountain display, the show lasted 3 minutes and photo doesn't do it justice

Burj Khalifa at night

Burj Khalifa at night

Burj Khalifa light show

Burj Khalifa light show

Our second visit was to the Burj Khalifa, at 829.8meters the world tallest building. Not cheap, with the basic entrance at £50.00 per person, and that only gets you to the 125th floor viewing deck (there are 160 floors). An impressive structure and an interesting visit, especially the light show in the lift as you go up. The view from the deck was obviously amazing but still not worth £50.00.

View from the Burj Khalifa

View from the Burj Khalifa

View from Burj Khalifa

View from Burj Khalifa

View from the 125th floor of the Burj Khalifa

View from the 125th floor of the Burj Khalifa

Burj Khalifa

Burj Khalifa

View from taxi on our way to stadium with light shining on Burj Khalifa

View from taxi on our way to stadium with light shining on Burj Khalifa

Next on the agenda was a day at the Dubai Rugby Sevens, this one had been planned for some time and tickets bought in advance. A full day of rugby was rather a lot to ask of Anne but she was great and agreed to join me. The day started with a 36km taxi ride out into the desert. A rather strange location for a venue that needs lots of water to maintain several rugby pitches to an international standard. What followed was an entertaining day of sevens rugby, enhanced by a cloudy sky filtering out the worst of the suns rays. We even had a bit of rain which seemed surreal considering we were in the desert. I also didn’t touch a drop of alcohol, not because of any local laws but for the fact that a small (33cl) can of Heineken cost £7.30.

Entrance to Rugby 7's tournament

Entrance to Rugby 7's tournament

Rugby 7's (England vs France)

Rugby 7's (England vs France)

Crowd at Rugby 7's

Crowd at Rugby 7's

Our last activity during our stay was to explore the coastal strip. This was partly done by taxi, aided by a very informative driver, and partly on foot. Our first stop was the supposed seven star hotel of Burj Al Arab Jumeirah. An impressive structure, but with a wow factor somewhat subdued due to all the other amazing buildings in the area.

Burj Al Arab Jumeirah

Burj Al Arab Jumeirah

Next it was a drive along the coast with insightful commentary from our taxi driver before we arrived at the start of the Dubai Marina Walk. This was listed as a highlight but let us some what underwhelmed. We started by walking along a pedestrianised zone lined with restaurants and gift shops, then finished on the sidewalk of an inland waterway filled with a few expensive boats. Even with the sea on one-side of us it felt claustrophobic from all the high rise hotels and apartments that we were required to negotiate. Even the architecture was uninspiring, resembling Disney-world more than cutting edge construction.

Marina Walk

Marina Walk

Marina walk street mural

Marina walk street mural

Marina walk street art

Marina walk street art

Marina Walk street mural

Marina Walk street mural

Dubai Marina, a very small portion of it

Dubai Marina, a very small portion of it

Dubai Ferris Wheel, the highest of it's kind at 210m

Dubai Ferris Wheel, the highest of it's kind at 210m



With that our time in Dubai had come to an end and the following day we flew back to the UK. In conclusion, we were pleased we had seen it, weren’t as impressed as expected and unlikely to return.

Personal Observations & Interesting Facts

Dubai
Dubai is one of seven emirates making up the United Arab Emirates, the other six being: Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Fujairah, Was Al Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm Al Quwain.
The United Arab Emirates, sometimes simply called the Emirates, is a country in Western Asia at the southeast end of the Arabian Peninsula on the Persian Gulf, bordering Oman to the east and Saudi Arabia to the south and west, as well as sharing maritime borders with Qatar to the west and Iran to the north. It has a population of 9.2 million, of which 1.4 million are Emirati citizens and the other 7.8 million expatriates.
Dubai has risen from a small fishing port to a sprawling modern city funded by oil money. But with the demand for oil set to decline its economy is diversifying into finance and tourism. In fact it is now the fifth most popular tourist destination in the world.

UAE Flag (Red is for sovereignty, Black for courage and power, white for peace and green for goodness and agriculture)

UAE Flag (Red is for sovereignty, Black for courage and power, white for peace and green for goodness and agriculture)

The Dubai Experience
It wasn’t very long after our arrival that we realised that there was something very different about this city. With most of it built in the 21st century it doesn’t resemble anywhere else that we have visited. It felt more like a movie set, a Sci-fi town or you had joined Jim Carrey in the “Truman Show”.
Very few people venture out on the streets and that is not because of the heat, it is quite mild at this time of the year, they stay in the buildings or use vehicles and connector bridges to get around. That is except for one of the few pedestrian only areas, where you do see a good number of tourist and nannies entertaining the children in their care.
The streets are clean (which is commendable) and manicured but lifeless. This is definitely not a London, Paris or New York.

Downtown Dubai street, its only 19h00 on a Saturday.

Downtown Dubai street, its only 19h00 on a Saturday.

There are no old vehicles, even the cheapest looks as though they haven’t been long out of the show room. There is also a disproportionate number of luxury cars which emphasises the wealth of the city. There is not many places in the world where the front few rows at traffic lights will consist of a Rolls Royce convertible, a Ferrari, a Bentley, a couple of Lexus and a top of the range Land Rover. It was also interesting to see the car show room segregation as we drove down one of the main roads, on the left were Bentley, Lamborghini, Ferrari and Maserati and on the right Toyota, Hyundai and VW.
We came to the conclusion that the bird population of the city was three. As we only ever saw a group of three doves at any one time. Although a couple of sparrows did make an appearance on our last day. There are also no dogs or cats, unless they are confined in the apartment blocks.
With the exception of a few bushes, ornamental trees and small patches of manicured lawns, there is no greenery in Dubai (hence the lack of bird life). I am sure this statement could be challenged but I believe it gives the general picture. What there is, is a lot of concrete and more is arriving by the day. For every new glistening sky scrapper there is another one being built next to it and that is not to mention the ongoing construction of the World Island and Dubai Creek .
The city has unbelievable wealth from the few home grown mega rich to the very wealthy foreigners who now call Dubai home (well at least for part of the year). For those with very deep pockets anything is possible, we even heard of a hotel where every room has its own private swimming pool and I am not talking about a plunge pool.
But not everyone is rich in Dubai, in fact the majority of residents aren’t. They are the people that work in the construction and service industries and who are generally not Emirati. There is plenty of employment in Dubai for these sectors and we understand wages are quite good. But what we were never able to ascertain is where they live, eat and socialise.
There appears to be no homelessness, at least not in the areas that tourist frequent. The government does not release official data regarding any local poverty levels, but independent studies suggest that this effects 19.5% of the population. However, it should be stressed that the government have policies in place to start tackling the problem.
Now I am not a city person so the above commentary may come over as a bit negative and I won’t make it worse by questioning the city’s climatic impact.
This is rather a long script of observations so I will stop now.

Posted by MAd4travel 09:12 Archived in United Arab Emirates Comments (1)

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