In many of the places we’ve visited (such as Romania and Georgia), it seems like we’ve gone back in time. But Dubai is the first place we’ve been that seems like we traveled into the future. Modern, futuristic skyscrapers tower above the city. Manmade islands hug the white sand coast, shaped like giant palm trees and the world’s continents. There are malls so grand that they make American Malls seem as basic and puny as convenience stores. You can quickly and easily find any type of food you are craving, or buy nearly anything you are wanting. I think Dubai is even more convenient than the United States. And would you like to ski, sled, or ice skate even though you’re in the desert and it’s well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit? No problem. Just go to the local mall to hit the slopes.
Bryan’s Dad (Travelin’ Bob) last met up with us in September to travel through England, Wales, and Ireland. But he was already eager to get on the road again. He flew into Dubai to spend five days there with us and then will fly to Cairo, Egypt for a little over a week before Bryan and I begin our 4-month overland tour through Africa.
When Bryan visited Dubai for work in 2004, the city was filled with cranes and the promise of new, exciting things to come. Nowadays, the skyline is lined with big, shiny skyscrapers of all designs (and construction and cranes are still plentiful). One of these skyscrapers dwarfs the others – the Burj Khalifa, by far the World’s tallest building. The Burj Khalifa is 2,722 feet tall and has 163 floors. For some comparison, the Empire State Building is “only” 1,451 feet tall with 108 floors. The Burj Khalifa holds several other records including the World’s fastest elevator (40 mph). It’s a double-decker elevator. Calling the Burj Khalifa a “building” doesn’t really do it justice. It’s often described as a vertical city. There are hotel rooms, residences, restaurants, offices, a nightclub, and more. If you want to visit the top of Burj Khalifa make sure to book in advance online. The price of going to the top is four times higher if you just show up, rather than booking in advance. You can’t go to the very top, but you can go to the 124th floor. The view from the top is impressive. The surrounding skyscrapers look like toys from that height. It makes me wonder how long Dubai will hold the record for the World’s tallest building, and just how high will buildings become?
Another noticeable building in the skyline of Dubai is the Burj Al Arab, often considered to be the World’s only Seven Star Hotel. You have likely seen it on television or elsewhere. It looks like a gigantic sail out in the water, and it lights up different colors at night. With Travelin’ Bob’s 60th Birthday coming up this winter, I thought we could maybe treat him to a night at “the Burj.” HA! The prices started at $3,200 USD per night and go up to nearly $19,000. The largest suite is 8,400 square feet. Sorry Bob, I think we’ll stick to our normal hotel until we win the lottery, or at least get jobs. 🙂 We did want to go to the Burj Al Arab just to check it out and to see the views of the man-made islands “The Palm” and “The World.” One of the ways to do this is to schedule a “Sky Tea.” Unfortunately, all of the “Sky Tea” availability was booked up for weeks in advance. So we found a rooftop bar at the Radisson near Dubai Marina to snap a few pictures of “the Palm.” There’s an Atlantis Resort on the Palm like the one in the Bahamas. We were just able to see the man-made continent-shaped islands of “the World” from the plane. The islands of “the World” are still for sale, so you can buy your own continent! 🙂
I was amazed by Dubai’s international population. It seemed like the majority of the people in the city were not native to the United Arab Emirates. When Bryan visited the city for work back in 2004, the majority of the people were dressed in traditional clothing. This time we saw many people dressed in shorts and tank tops. This seemed almost disrespectful to the native residents of Dubai. With the heat, I was tempted to wear shorts and summer clothing. But Bryan reminded me that we were in a Muslim country. It’s not fair to make the locals feel uncomfortable in their own home city just so we can be more comfortable. Unfortunately, with the huge influx of tourists, visitors seem to have forgotten about respecting the local’s customs.
Don’t expect me to talk about the local, traditional food of Dubai. After five days there, I still don’t think we had any unfortunately. But don’t worry, we ate well. We had plenty of the American foods we’d missed over the last four months since we were home in July. Bryan was absolutely thrilled to find that there was a Texas Roadhouse in Dubai (in the World’s Largest Mall – the Dubai Mall). This is one of our favorite restaurants from the Hampton Roads, Virginia area where we lived for ten years. It was exactly like home – same good steak, rolls, sweet tea, and the servers even country line danced. The only difference we saw was there were no pork products on the menu (pork isn’t eaten in Muslim countries), and the prices were a bit higher. We ate their twice so Bryan could have his steak fix until we come home in the spring. 🙂
I told Bryan I’d be happy to live in Dubai for a year. I think it would be fun and pretty easy. Everyone speaks English, everything is clean, organized, convenient, new, and exciting. But he had a good point. The fascination with wealth in Dubai would get old fast. After traveling for extended periods of time, when we return home it seems like people are very occupied with material things (as we were before this trip). In Dubai, the fixation with material things seems to be on a much greater scale. It seems it would be pretty easy to get caught in the mindset that you “need” a new luxury car, designer clothes, a million dollar yacht, and a fancy apartment just to fit in. There is a vast disparity in the wealth of Dubai’s residents; an enormous difference between the “have-yachts” and the “have-nots” that both live in the city. Dubai is a great place to visit and gape at the parade of affluence, but I don’t think we could deal with that long-term. There are much more important things to worry about in life.
After five days in the fanciest, cleanest, and most organized city I’ve ever seen, it’s time to do a complete 180 and spend 11 days in crazy, chaotic Cairo. We made sure to enjoy the luxuries of Dubai while we could! Travelin’ Bob definitely gets a range of experiences when he comes to travel with us! 🙂