Sunday, July 07, 2013

Big Five and the Burj Khalifa - 3 - Dubai Diary

This is the 3rd and last part of the 3-part travel diary "Big Five and the Burj Khalifa", featuring Dubai. You can read Part-1 here and Part-2 here.

A Platter of Skyscrapers & Flowers in the Desert 
I am standing in  front of our hotel on  Sheikh Zayed Road. Fresh off the flight from Nairobi, the contrast is striking - in place of nature's bounty we left behind in Kenya, here in front of us is a modern, man-made marvel of a city.
There is a row of skyscrapers of various shapes and sizes gleaming in the morning sun,  reflecting a stream of shiny cars whizzing past. Later in the evening, when we are standing at the beach, the famed Dubai skyline is replete with all kinds of skyscrapers, the most famous among them being the Burj Khalifa. 
Dubai Skyline
Our hotel has 65 floors and while I look down from our 41st floor room, I think I might not recommend Dubai to someone suffering from acrophobia.   
Panel of elevator buttons in our hotel 
 Along the road runs an excellently maintained, elevated metro-rail. The flyovers are beautifully painted in golden yellow, unlike the shabby concrete colored ones back home. There are neat rows of flowers blooming and lush grass carpet at some traffic intersection beneath the metro. I am told that the shiploads of fertile subsoil needed for flowers is imported from Holland. 
Many times during the two days I am here, I get the feeling that I am in the midst of a shiny tourist brochure of some city in future.    
Dubai came in to prosperity in the early seventies when oil was discovered here but it is in the last two and a half decades that it has really blossomed as a business, tourism and shopping centre of the world. 
The reason for this is clear as we roam about the city - the rulers have a vision and the will and enterprise to implement it. It helps, of course, that this is a constitutional monarchy. And also, that there is a faceless army of expats who toil behind the general store counters, metro counters, in schools, behind taxi steering wheels, in construction fields, wherever.   

The miniskirt and the abaya 
We have just come out of the hotel for some morning coffee when we see a couple of young girls getting out of a car. The girls are both clad in miniskirts. Miniskirts? Out on the street in the United Arab Emirates? I am surprised.  
Moving inside the coffee shop, I find myself queuing up behind a young girl clad in the traditional  abaya - loose black robe from head to toe - with only her face visible.  
Which is the real Dubai, I ask myself. 
In the two days we are there, I see that Dubai, which has Islam as its official religion, has achieved a comfortable juxtaposition of the miniskirt and the abaya to become a true cosmopolitan city-country. People from all over the world come here as tourists and for work, and Dubai accommodates all religious and social identities with confidence and aplomb, worthy of a mature state. 

The world's shopping mall
That Dubai is a shopper's paradise was not unknown to me. What I never imagined was the sheer scale and magnificence at which Dubai shops. 
Wikipedia lists 69 shopping malls in Dubai, but the list does not tell the whole story. Each of the mall is an island of cornucopia with the best brands from around the world vying for the shoppers' attention.   
With only a day and a half on our hands, we get a chance to visit three - Dubai Mall, Mall of the Emirates and the Ibn Batuta Mall. 
Dubai Mall is the world's largest mall, with around 1200 stores, stretching along various levels and arms. It provides entrance to Burj Khalifa, and hosts magnificent Dubai Fountain.
Atrium in the Dubai Mall
Mall of the Emirates is the original shopping destination, and it seemed to me that it houses  exclusive brands. 
Mall of Emirates
Ibn Batuta Mall is a beautiful, themed shopping mall, based on the travels of famous Arab traveller Ibn Batuta. Ibn Batuta lived in the fourteenth century in Morocco and in the 30 years he travelled, he covered pretty much the whole world. 
This mall has different sections designed as the various places he visited. I wish we had more time to explore all the sections. 
Persia, in the Ibn Batuta Mall
At the top of the world..well almost.
Burj Khalifa strikingly demonstrates the power and beauty of superlatives in the modern world. It is a 163-floor building, the tallest in the world, and houses hotels, offices, residential apartments.      

Dubai markets all its attractions well. Burj Khalifa offers a chance to look out on the city from its 124th floor observation deck, and we realise this is probably the highest we would be able to get to on the Terra firma, bar the Everest. We decide to ride up and are able to get tickets for the 10pm slot.
We return in the night to join a queue, which passes through a succession of sleek galleries lined with attractive visuals about this modern architectural marvel to be finally let in to a plush elevator.
The adage of a journey being even more enjoyable than the destination is proved correct, as the elevator doors are shut. The walls are lined with moving visuals, emitting a bluish light within and soft music fills the cubicle. As the elevator starts its approx 1-minute journey upwards at a speed of 10mtrs per second and our ears start popping, the tempo of music slowly increases to match our rising excitement and reaches a crescendo, when the doors open to reveal a bejeweled Dubai glittering beneath our feet, beyond the glass walls of the observation desk.
From The Observation Deck
As we soak in the beauty of the scene below - streaks of lights of the traffic, gleaming rows of Dubai fountain, Burj Al Arab, our hotel, the Palm in the distance - we once again admire the bravado of the vision which has produced this feat - the Burj, and also this city called Dubai. 

And in the end - the wailing baby
It is the day we are flying out. Far behind us in the queue is a woman travelling with her baby. While she is trying to manage her luggage, her baby starts wailing uncontrollably.  When the wailing and her discomfort continues, the stern  official at the counter gets up to see what the commotion is about.
It seems to us that he is visibly irritated, as some of us are too. 
However, he calls out to someone and the mother and the baby are escorted to the counter, ahead of everybody else to be cleared on  priority. The queue resumes. 
We are back home the next day.

1 comment:

Steve Paul said...

This is superb stuff! Just need to rate it max! burj khalifa

Related Posts with Thumbnails