"" Writer's Wanderings: Dubai, A Sleek Multi-Cultured City

Monday, April 04, 2011

Dubai, A Sleek Multi-Cultured City

Arriving at Dubai after a good twelve hour flight on Emirates Airline, we were wide-eyed taking in the enormous palacial appearance of the airport. Huge silver and glittering columns supported a ceiling several stories above our heads. Moving through immigration was very smooth. Before entering the baggage claim area, carry ons were sent throught the x-ray machine. Unlike other countries we have visited, there was no paperwork. You either walked through a "Do not declare" area or an area of "Goods to declare. It was about 7:20 p.m. local time when we landed and by 8:15 we were in the Grand Hyatt Dubai looking out our 9th floor window to the lights of the city anticipating what it would be like in the morning. After a walk around the beautiful grounds of the Grand Hyatt and some refreshment by the outdoor pool, we retired, hoping to be able to sleep through the night and begin to adjust to the new time zone (8 hours ahead of our own). Friday morning found us again at the floor to ceiling window looking out over a city shrouded in early morning fog adding to the mystique. We hoped the sun would melt some of it away by the time we were done with breakfast. It improved throughout the day but the humidity in the air from the nearby ocean and the smog created by traffic kept it a bit misty-looking from a distance. Our tour operator arrived at 9 a.m. to pick us up for the city tour we had arranged. We were the first in the mini-bus and so we got to see some of the other hotels of Dubai and an area of lower rent apartments where many of the ex-patriots (non-nationals) live. Eighty percent of the 1.5 million people in the city are from other countries. A good deal from India and Pakistan which is where our driver and guide originated. By the time we had collected all of the passengers, we had quite an international mix--Algeria, Canada, Australia, Pakistan, India and of course, the USA. We began our tour where we picked up our last passengers at the Al Seef Marine Transport Station on the shore of the Dubai Creek which is large enough to call a river. The creek has been expanded and dredged to allow larger vessels and thereby encourage more trade in the port city. Our next stop was at the Gold Souk, several blocks of store after store filled with gold jewelry and precious gems. Being Friday, many of the stores were closed due to it being the holy day of the week, but the ones that were open offered everything from the daintiest to the most opulent adornment you might desire. The side streets contained small shops offering souvenirs, scarves, and traditional Arabic dress. While we did not get to see the large spice souk, there were several shops open directly across from where the bus was parked and we got to peruse the exotic spices of the East along with dates and figs and all sorts of nuts. Our driver took us along the road that paralells the water and stopped for a photo opportunity across from the Jumeirah Mosque, the only mosque among the many in Dubai open to non-muslims provided they wear proper attire. Tours can be arranged on certain days for a small fee. Mosque properly documented in photos, we continued on past the Jumeirah Beach Park and stopped on the beach near the world's tallest, and according to our guide, probably the most expensive hotel in the world, the Burj al Arab. He told us he had a complimentary one night stay worth around $2,000 USD and couldn't sleep surrounded by so much gold trim on the doors, the faucets, the floors, etc. The hotel is a landmark that resembles a large sail and easily identifies the city of Dubai. Just past the Burg al Arab, our driver turned right and we began what was a surprisingly long drive out onto the Palm Jumeirah. When it was first constructed, I remembered seeing reports of it on news and travel shows but I had no idea just how large it was. And this one is the smallest among the three that will be built. At the end of the island that is shaped like a palm tree, is Atlantis Dubai which looks exactly like the Atlantis in Nassau, Bahamas, and also has a large aquarium. As we neared the Dubai Mall, we could view the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa--a little over 2716 feet. It narrows considerably as you reach the top making it look like it points to the heavens. By the way shoppers, the Dubai Mall is said to be the world's largest as well based upon total area and has over 1200 shops. After dropping off several avid shoppers, we were driven back to our hotel to rest up for our "shopping" excursion at the Mall of the Emirates. It is said to be a little smaller with almost 600 shops but our main interest was in the indoor skiing facility. And maybe just one or two souvenirs?

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