Thursday, May 31, 2007

Dubai: Beyond Incredible!

When we first realized this world trip might become a reality, my top destination was Dubai. This in turn influenced our decision to fly Emirates, the national airline, and our entire itinerary. Given my high expectations, there was a danger that I’d be disappointed with what we found. Well, there was no need to worry. While India claims to be ‘incredible’, Dubai is ‘beyond incredible’. As I said to an Australian lady on our initial tour of the city, “Even though I’m sitting here looking at these developments, I still can’t believe what I’m seeing!”

Although we had been planning to come here for years, I didn’t do a very good job of planning our accommodation. Since Wotif doesn’t operate in Dubai, and I didn’t really know where to stay, I put off organizing a hotel until the very last minute. In fact, we arrived at the airport not knowing whether we had a place to stay, or not. But thanks to the efforts of my good friend and SFU colleague W
arren Gill, and his former student Robert Booth, and his assistant Sharon Andrews at Emaar, we soon found ourselves in an Admiral’s room at the Dhou Plaza, a new five star hotel in Bar Dubai.

It was a very impressive yet comfortable hotel, with numerous restaurants and lounges, and a wonderful rooftop pool and s
pa with a sauna and steam bath. I used the steam for a brief time in the hope that it might make it seem cooler outside. Fortunately the rate we paid was less than the rack rate of over 2000 aed (about $650). As both Warren and Robert cautioned me, hotels are expensive in Dubai.


Not only are they expensive, but they can be incredibly deluxe. There are numerous 4 and 5 star hotels, the latter always having bidets in the bathroom. I found the Dubai hotels to be amongst the most extravagant in the world. But it’s not surprising. Dubai has to be the most ‘over the top’ place in the world. It is Monte Carlo and Las Vegas, without the gambling. It is also Los Angeles (in terms of its car culture); New York, Paris or London (in terms of its sophistication); while at the same time part of the Middle East. I think it’s even more international than Singapore and Hong Kong, although it doesn’t yet have the vibrancy of either of these places.

But then, it shouldn’t be surprising that it is so international. 80% of the residents are ex-pats from around the world, living here permanently, or on contracts. While they can never become citizens, they get to enjoy the opportunity to purchase freehold property, and live in a tax free environment, with almost 365 days of sunshine every year. When they go to the grocery store, they can buy virtually anything they want from anywhere in the world. Sally’s poolside hamburger came with small jars of French Dijon mustard, English made ketchup, German mayonnaise, and Southern US tabasco sauce.

There were also a few other surprises. I didn’t realize that Dubai is built around a creek, which serves as part of its port system. Old wooden barges or dhous transport a wide variety of goods to the Dubai and elsewhere in the Middle East. The goods are left on the dock, without being locked up, since anyone caught stealing faces very severe penalties. (Dubai is a very safe and crime fee city.) Visitors can take an afternoon cruise, as we did or a dinner cruise along the creek. They can also travel across it for a 1 d coin (about 30 cents). This is a great way to travel between the old souks or markets that are located around the city.Another surprise was the age of the place. Most of the people visiting Dubai are significantly older than most of the buildings! An excellent display in the Dubai Museum gives a good overview of the rapid growth of the place. Indeed, most of what one sees on the skyline was built since the mid 80’s, and the amount of development currently underway is unprecedented. In fact, it is claimed that between one half and two thirds of all the tower cranes in the world are currently in Dubai! And the rest seem to be in Beijing and Shanghai! While the city is very new, and quite artificial, it is a great place to visit.
Although Sally was somewhat apprehensive about coming here, once she found that it has the second largest Marks & Spencers in the world, grocery stores selling her favourite cereal, and virtually every other major shop in the world selling goods at duty free prices, she realized it was not going to be very difficult enjoying herself. And it goes without saying, but with its spotless crime free streets, inexpensive taxis, air conditioned malls, and impressive buildings, it was a change from India!

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Dubai is beautiful but other aspect of this fact lies in the dens of prostitution , almost in every 2 big hotel has a club where girls enter for free while men must pay 100 dirhams. you can take liquor with high consumption,

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