I wasn’t quite sure what to make of Dubai. After the realness of Thailand, Dubai is cuckooland opulence. It’s bigger and sparklier round every corner. It’s impressive but it’s also like Brave New World and the Alphas are the Emiratis. The other 85% of the population are expats.
Dubai has just won the Expo 2020 bid, and boy are they chuffed. I was secretly hoping somewhere else might win – somewhere that doesn’t have it all already. Internet traffic is censored in Dubai.
It’s a very weird mix here. Arriving at the airport you notice the multiple abaya-clad wives (multiple wives not multiple abayas) following a few paces behind the husband, some of them pushing buggies of siblings the same age who aren’t twins. And often (presumably) the youngest wife with 5 inch silver shiny killer heels poking out from beneath the black.
Unlike in Al Ain (previous blog post) where the five times daily call to prayer is heard loud and clear wherever you are, in Dubai it’s very subtle. But the quiet reminder of prayertime is there, with signs on the hotel room furniture pointing the way to Mecca.
True to form, however, Dubai does have the tallest twin minarets in the world. You could see them from the swimming pool on the roof.
The place is just plain flash. Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world at 829m, towers in a pointy sort of a way above everything around it. There are 163 floors and it houses the world’s highest restaurant, the world’s highest nightclub (on the 144th floor) and the world’s highest observation tower. If you don’t book in advance, it would be a mere snip at 400€ for a family of 5 to take a trip to the top (advance tickets are less). We kept our feet on the ground.
All around the base of Burj Khalifa, it’s pretty much a building site just now.
In Dubai, they photoshop cranes as well as fat.
The malls are big. I mean very big, like with ski mountains and ice rinks in them big. But they have the same shops as every high street. With slightly elevated prices. Because they can.
….. or not.
Eight months ago, we booked a moderately priced apartment for 5 not far from the Burjh Khalifa. We didn’t really check the booking site, and were a bit surprised to find our “wee” apartment had 4….. bathrooms. Try finding one tube of travel toothpaste between four bathrooms of a morning. A challenge we were happy to accept right enough. We’ll be back soon enough to the campervan.
Christmas Eve was brilliant. We scoured the internet for something different to do. Santa doesn’t stop in the Middle East.
First the boys took up the challenge of a Geocache near the CNN building with security guards watching from afar. Mission accomplished, we went out for afternoon tea. To a place lovelier than lovely, called the Samovar Lounge at One and Only Mirage Residences. Something we’d totally recommend over a trip to the shopping mall.
The staff were ultra helpful, the surroundings beautiful, and the tea, perfect. Lovely sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam, and cakes. A teapot each of whatever tea we fancied. Lunch in Starbucks is more expensive.
The menu recommended we take our time and relax so we did.
Post script – I wish I’d looked a little harder for the “other side” of Dubai when I was there. The spotlights are most definitely pointing the other way, and dazzling us not to look beyond, but there is a sad sad other life of fairly horrific working conditions for all the immigrants making the big, “beautiful”, shiny clock tick from below.