Perhaps you are someone who is intrigued by the allure of medieval castles or the draw of futuristic, science fiction cities or you just appreciate things for what they are in themselves. No matter where your tastes for life lie in this regard, I believe you will be pleased and utterly astounded by a visit to the ultra-modern metropolis that is Dubai. A trip to the Emirate of Dubai is beyond words in my honest assessment, but I will try to do justice to it in the words I can scrape together. First off this is a destination which may seem far off and out of range for many, but it is a trip that is really worth saving and planning for. While Dubai has a well deserved reputation as a playground for the wealthy, it also has a variety of options for differing budgets. I’m not saying this is a backpacker’s destination, but neither is it so exclusive that the average working person need not apply. As a traveling student this trip was one of my more challenging, it required adequate time, research, preparation and savings for me to go but it has been worth every penny.
The first impression one gets of Dubai, or at least it was mine is simple glamour. The city sparkles with a cleanliness so intense that one would think everything is remade brand new every day. Besides the mint condition of things there is grandiosity and an elaborate theme that accompanies all aspects of life: food, architecture, shopping and even public transit. This destination differs from other dream resorts or parks in that it is not just a diamond studded theme park, but a real city with its own infrastructure, development and wonders. I am particularly amazed at the amount of expatriates living and working abroad here. In fact the population of Emirati people is but a fraction of the total population here. This gives the city a wide variety of cultures and a strong sense of pride and achievement in every sector of work and society. Dubai as a modern city aims all its efforts to attract. This attraction comes in the form of business, banking, tourism and trade. The city prides itself on a series of first and bests. Here new ground is literally being laid for the present and future of this 21st century desert bazaar.
As regards Dubai as a city of firsts and records the best place to start is right downtown. Settled amidst compelling skyscrapers, twelve lanes of highway traffic and manicured lawns lay the tallest building in the world and the largest wall in the world. The former is known as the Burj-al Kalifa and it is a testament to man’s ingenuity. The tower has a very slim figure but is quite massive inside, it is definitely the highpoint on the horizon and its sheer magnitude is best perceived standing just beneath it. The style is unique and reminiscent to me of the ziggurat structures which graced the general area of the not too distant Mesopotamian shores various millennia ago. The jagged and pointy spires and sides are graceful yet somewhat alien, depending on your state of imagination. The tower is full of businesses, apartments, facilities and the world’s only Armani Hotel. There are trips available to the top observation deck and may be purchased inside the adjacent mall. The Dubai Mall is a massive concourse that has more retail in one setting than a New York mile or Rome’s Via Condotti. The mall is surprisingly wider and longer than it is tall. It seemed to me that there was enough walking space to host a marathon and the selection of products and accessories is mind blowing. I highly recommend that anyone take advantage of this experience. The mall itself is an attraction so even if you don’t like to shop, you will find plenty to do and see in this air-conditioned city within a city.
One thing anyone will quickly become aware of in Dubai is the strong feeling of desert heat. I recommend lots of sunscreen, hats and water. The main objectives and luxury spots are almost always found indoors and excellently air conditioned, but there are some great places to walk, swim and relax outdoors too. For a charming view of the downtown mixed with the raw beauty of the gulf and the beach I recommend a jaunt to the Dubai Marina. This area has a marvelous walkway lined with restaurants and shops set amidst the towering financial and technology district. The perfectly cobbled path follows the natural contours of the marina inlet and view of some of the worlds most impressive yachts are par for the course at the Dubai Marina Yacht club. Just a few minutes’ drive presents one of the most iconic symbols of Dubai which is known as the palm. This is a manmade island which has been constructed so as to look like the outline of a palm tree when seen from above. The branches are lined with world class houses and apartments while the stem serves as the main transit route. At the top of the whole “tree” lies a rim shaped barrier island which has been built to protect the palm from winds and waves and itself serves hosts an incredible resort known as Atlantis. This resort is one of two in the world, the other being in Nassau Bahamas. It is a fantastical palace of epic proportions. The hotel is bounded on one side by a beautiful gulf seascape and on the other by an amazing view of the Dubai skyline. It hosts powdery white beaches, interior furnishings of decadence and leisure, massive aquariums with a spectacle of marine life and a fantastic water park known as Aquascape Adventure which is a great way to beat the heat.
Perhaps the most iconic symbol of luxury and exclusiveness that has come to define Dubai is the Burj al Arab hotel which is set just along the coast near the famous Jameira Mosque. This is the world’s only seven star hotel and it features absolute exclusivity and distinction in hotel service. It is quite an elite place to stay and even a visit will cost you a guided tour. There are some spectacular views from the elaborate gold souk complex just next door. The Burj al Arab is a marvel of engineering, design and its sailboat like shape recalls the trading roots of this area which first came from the boats and sails of the Emirati people. This structure and indeed the whole city reflect the success and prowess for trade among these people which has continued until today. There are many other spots and sights to see in Dubai such as the expansive mall of the Emirates which hosts an indoor ski and snowboard slope, the Dubai creek area which is full of shops, walkways and much belabored greenery and many of the mosques and wonderfully presented attractions of Emirati culture.
Dubai for me has been overall the experience of a living dream. For me it is a city with a deep vision of progress and goals. It is a futuristic and technological city which can teach us a lot about cleanliness, organization, hard work and pride. My time here was well spent not only in fascination for the wonders of a modern and inspiring city, but also in great relaxation and tranquility. The city captures well the Arabic sense of hospitality and the luxury and refreshment necessary from the harsh climate and surroundings. Dubai offers a clean and contemporary haven of delights and luxury and the experience here is a non negotiable for any modern traveler according to me. I found Dubai to be a model city, one which I think everyone should discover to see a living testimony to the ingenuity and goodness of man. We can accomplish great, new things and reform those we already have. Dubai is an example of how to live and better yet how to live well.