Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Arabian nights in Dubai


the iconic sail-like Burj al Arab
I wonder if spending a couple of nights in the Persian Gulf region qualifies as Arabian nights?  Exotic visions of Arabian nights went up in a poof when I stepped foot in Dubai.  1st impressions? Ultra-modern city, no expense spared skyscrapers co-existing with a mosque every 500 metres.  It was remarkably like a faceless US city plonked in the middle of the dessert, albeit with shinier taller buildings and non-stop construction.

Dubai boasts of accolades - world's tallest building (Burj al Khalifa), world's best hotel (Burj al Arab), 1st indoor ski slope in the Middle-East(Ski Dubai), artificial islands of Palm Jumeirah and the World (why would you need artificial islands?!) are amongst some of them.

Whizzing along the highways, you'll see a plethora of brand new skyscrapers, and some more frenzied construction; but with a population of approximately 2 million (of which 80% are non-locals), you wonder if they are all going to be fully occupied.

Unfortunately for me, my trip agenda was packed out with meetings all day followed by dinners.  This didn't leave much time for any exploring. 

So armed with my "things to do in Dubai" list, here's how it went :
  1. The nearest I got to the desert and sand was the view from the airplane window.

    2. Camels? Only saw the pop kitsch statues that were scattered around the hotel.
    variety of spices sold in Carrefour
3.  Spice market - sadly, the only spice market I saw was in Carrefour. Managed to make a quick dash to Mall of Emirates one evening for spice supplies. While Carrefour may not be the most exotic of places, it has an amazing range of spices, nuts and dried fruits with English labels so it's very convenient and easy.  No haggling.  No chicken-duck talk.  The MOE is where the indoor ski slope is too. 
    fountain at Burj al Arab lobby area
4.  Burj al Arab, the world's first 7-star hotel -  check.  Great views from the hotel, and luckily just a 5 minute trot away too.  Managed to gawk at this opulently and lavishedly decorated hotel.  What can I say? I was blinged out. The interior is done in vibrant gem colours of fuschia, purples, blues, greens and all that gold everywhere.  It's like King Midas ran amok in there.  Good thing I had my trusty Ray-Bans with me.  It's still a gawk-worthy hotel, with the floor-to-ceiling aquariums flanking the lobby and boasting the tallest lobby atrium.
    Burj al Khalifa - tallest tower in the world
5.  Burj al Khalifa -  caught this as I was being whisked to the airport.
    
    selection of mezze
    
    Ourzi with rice
    
6.  Taste of Arabian mezze - check. Lucky for me, every meal started with the ubiquitous flatbreads served with multitudes of hummous, baba ghanoush, tabouleh, olives and a vast assortment of salads.  Suffice to say, I was very happy just tucking into the mezze.  Dinner one night had a roast lamb dish served with pilaf.  It was called ourzi.  Being a sucker for anything lamb, I thought it was fab.

Dubai is a city somewhat contradictory city; ultra-modern city and ostentatious wealth flaunted coupled with a shocking lack of social responsibility ( I've seen people littering without a thought in the malls), Chanel clutching women, covered head to toe with their Loubotins peeking from under their black abayas...While I've barely scratched the surface with this visit, Dubai is probably worth a look only if you are in the region and have a day or 2 to kill.  It hasn't rated yet an entry in my bucket list.


Jumeirah Beach Hotel looks like a sail

suburb in Jumeirah area


one of many mosques dotting the city

playground for the rich


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