The night before we left for Dubai, the media was covered with news that the Torch Tower in Dubai was on fire. And the Torch Tower was right next to Princess Tower, the world’s tallest residential building, where we would be staying for the week. The reports were indicating that nearby streets were closing and that molten glass was falling from 50 stories in the air. A “chunk” of the building had even fallen off into the pool at Princess Tower. We started to panic, thinking we might not have a place to stay…
Thirty-eight hours later, we arrived at the Dubai International Airport, the world’s biggest airport. We had spent hours reading about Dubai and the culture. And everything we read had said to make sure we didn’t have any medications with us. Nothing. No melatonin, no sleeping aids, no prescription drugs, not even an Advil. And so we arrived in Dubai medication-free. We strolled through passport control and onto customs, thinking this would be where they interrogated us to make sure weren’t doing anything illegal. But we simply laid our bags on the scanner, watched them slide through, and left the airport without a question being asked.
We grabbed a taxi outside, and as we drove through the city, the lights of the high rise buildings illuminated everything. The buildings were upcoming and cutting-edge, including the JW Marriot, the world’s tallest hotel, and the Dubai Mall, the world’s largest shopping mall. There was no way to escape the wealth the city held. It was everywhere. About 30 minutes later, we arrived at Princess Tower. The Torch, next door, had been extinguished and everything cleaned up. It was dark and we couldn’t even see the charcoaled part of the building, which ran from floors 50 through 70. It was though nothing had even happened. Quite incredible!
We were expecting a pretty large taxi bill, so when our driver told us it was only 100 Dirhams (the equivalent of $25 USD), we were pleasantly surprised. Gas in the UAE is going for about $0.15 a gallon. Taxis were incredibly cheap, and thus became our primary form of transportation.
We took the elevator up to floor 70 where we had rented an apartment from Airbnb. And what an apartment it was! Four bedrooms, four bathrooms, and several balconies overlooking the city and The Palm islands, the world’s largest artificial and man-made islands.
We spent a few hours absorbing the glitz and glam we were already experiencing. And in the distance, we were able to see the famous sailboat-shaped building, the Burj Al Arab, the world’s only 7-star hotel. We would never make it into the building of course, as reservations (at a very hefty price) are needed. Our view from afar was plenty to satisfy our hungry eyes.
The next morning, we woke early and headed to the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, tallest man-made structure, and tallest free-standing structure. We purchased our tickets to go to the top, where the world’s highest outdoor observation deck was. We rode the world’s tallest service elevator up to floor 125, where we changed elevators to finish our ascent on floor 148.
The elevator doors opened and we were greeted by staff carrying trays of the most eloquent little deserts, all lined perfectly on their trays, with the colors complimenting each other and the smells aligned so that we had no way to avoid indulging ourselves. The views were astonishing, and outside, we spent hours staring off into the distant lands of the Middle East, water on one side and desert sands on the other.
The most entertaining part of the Burj Khalifa was the selfie stick we had. I simply snapped my iPhone into the holder and started snapping pictures, one right after the next. It was entertaining for us…and probably a few observers as well!
On our way down from the top of the Burj Khalifa, we stopped to view the Dubai Fountain show, the world’s largest choreographed fountain show. The show was a mere two-minutes long with the production of lights and music to accompany the so well timed water shooting into the air.
Our remaining time in the city was spent absorbing the beautiful architecture and shopping. We spent an afternoon in Traditional Dubai, where we browsed the souqs, full of gold and diamonds…herbs and spices…scarves and shoes.
The next day, we had a day trip planned to Abu Dhabi, where we would visit Yas Island, which held Ferrari World, the world’s largest theme park. It was also home to the world’s fastest roller coaster. And of course, Abu Dhabi was also home to Capital Gate, the world’s furthest leaning man-made tower.
We had been in Dubai for less than two days, and I realized that it was different than I had ever expected. Dubai is a new city, most of it developed in the last 15 years. The local people are few and far between, and rather, the expats fill the cafés and sidewalks and shopping centers. We were told to be respectful of the Muslim culture, and dress conservatively in public. But before we even left the airport, I noticed several women in tiny, short dresses. What was I doing in jeans and a sweater in 90 degree weather?
I came away from the trip feeling that the culture was too new and undeveloped for me to give it an accurate description. Most of the people (85%) were from other parts of the world. There weren’t local foods, or local traditions, or local styles. It was truly a “new melting pot.” I imagined that this must have been how the USA felt a hundred years ago. It was a new experience for me, and a new feeling, nothing I had ever experienced before. I suspect that over time Dubai will grow into a city, a place, with abundant culture, so much that it becomes overwhelming. And it will likely always be the world’s best…