Dubai – City of contrasts
Chances are not that I´d be bored after a month in Dubai. Chances are rather that I´d be broke.
First of all; I am not a big city-fan. I seldom visit big cities if I have any chance to avoid them. When I do visit them, it is because they offer something beyond being just a ”big city”.
Dubai has beautiful beaches, great food and exotic excursions into the red sandy desert dunes, which cover ¾ of the country of the United Arab Emirates.
Still, the city of Dubai alone is definately worth a visit, even for a no-city-person as I am.
Seeing the colourful and artistic skyscrapers of the worlds most state-to–the art skyline is something of a lifetime experience. To walk right in the middle of them, feels just crazy. Normally I´d feel like getting claustrophobia just by thinking of walking down a narrow city street surrounded by skyscrapers. But in this young and certainly well planned city centre, there are enough space to make you feel comfortable, even in densely populated areas like the Dubai Marina, Jumeirah Beach, and the Dubai Mall.
On my first walk to the Dubai Marina I felt like stretching out a prolonged arm to touch the top of the highlighted buildings, just to feel if they were real.
Jumeirah Beach- a great place to start
But there is no doubt the lollipop-lighted giants of Arabia are real. They are spread out on three different locations in the town, split up by areas with “small”, more normal high rise blocks and buildings.
I could easily stay a month in this incredible city without being bored for a second, at least if I had a rich uncle or were married to an Arabian Prince. But even though neither of these are the case, Dubai offers a great choice of man-made and nature-made attractions.
Our biggest problem is that we are staying three days only, and have to make priorities. Hard priorities.
We choose to put some money in accommodation. Since we also want to enjoy some hours at the beach, we end up at the Jumeirah Beach Hilton. This turns out to be a very good place to stay, with excellent service, nice and clean beach area, and a good selection of restaurants on site. From our balcony on the fifth floor, we have a great view of the pool area, the beautiful white hotel beach, and the artificial archipelago The Palm Jumeirah. Actually, I do not recognize the “palm shape” of the latter, since all we can see is a huge coats line with hotels.
Palm Jumeirah is one out of three artificial “Palm Islands” under construction on the coast of Dubai. As the smallest, it still covers an area of the tidy sum of 5,72 km². It is also one of the few man-made constructions to be seen from space. No wonder we don´t recognize the palm shape from the fifth floor of the almost neigbouring hotel…
Burj Khalifa – like a high mountain resort
Taxi in Dubai is quite cheap measured by Nordic standards, and the best way to reach Burj Khalifa and the Dubai Mall, is to pay 50-60 Dirham and get a yellow taxi to drive us 15 minutes to the Dubai Mall, which is the gate to the world´s tallest building and the great fountains underneath. Dubai has 911 highrise buildings, and 88 of these rise more than 180 meters up in the sky.
The king of the Dubai skyline is Burj Khalifa, towering incredible 828 meters up in the sky. With 163 floors, this is the world´s highest building, and also the tallest man-made construction since it was completed in 2010. As a tourist you can take the lift up to the top deck and enjoy the view. More as a result of lack of time than fear of heights, we stayed on the ground, looking up on the summit of what could have been a suite in a high mountain resort back home… I tried in vain to get the arrow-shaped tower to fit into my 17-40 camera lens, but ended up taking a selfie with my friend with the phone, covering maybe the upper ¾ of the construction.
The skyscrapers of Dubai are mainly clustered in three different locations. Based on the average height of the ten tallest completed buildings, Dubai has the tallest skyline in the world.
Big time shopping
I already mentioned Dubai Mall as the gate to the Burj Khalifa. This mall is the world´s biggest shopping mall, containing an ice rink and a huge aquarium with sharks sneaking around watching you while you walk by on the way to your next shop. Next to the aquarium is the world´s biggest candy shop, that we are proud the say we visit without buying a single candy.
The Desigual Shop on the other hand, happens have some nice offers, so even with a limited budget, this shop turned out to be the top attraction for me inside the walls of the mall.
Dubai Mall is part of a 20-billion dollar complex, and includes 1200 shops. In 2011 it was the most visited building on earth, counting more than 54 million visitors.
Riding a camel on the beach is ok if this is the only option you have during your stay. Still, it is much more fun to go on a morning trip to the desert and get an hour on the top of a “desert ship” in its natural surroundings. Arabian Adventures offer several trips to the desert, including dune driving, morning camel trekking with breakfast, and sunset camel trekking followed by a local mezze dinner. For those who have time, the ultimate experience is the overnight trips, where you sleep under the stars in a luxurious camping.
Just half an hour drive from the city, we meet the first red dunes. From here, everything is red, and after adjusting the pressure of the tyres for the sand, we continue another ten minutes before we reach the camel camp. On the way, our driver Adnan tells us about the camel races and the life in the desert. He shows us the beautiful white antilopes and sand gazelles that we pass on the way.
– A camel may live as long as 40 years, but they normally stop racing at the age of 10-12 years, Adnan explains when we pass a group of camels and their jockeys doing their morning session.
– But just relax, your camels today are not that fit, he laughs. He turns out to be right, fortunately! A race camel might reach a top speed of 50 km/h. We are on vacation, and like to take it slow…
The elegant animals are patient, and let us enter their back before they rise up. But I have to hold on tight, because the camels are big, and when they rise up with their back legs first, it´s wise to be prepared.
We walk for almost 45 minutes in the red sand. It is hard to believe that this world of sand is only a short ride form the city. Then again, ¾ of the country is actually made of this stuff.
After a light breakfast by a creek, it is time to go back to the skyscrapers and enjoy the last afternoon at the beach.
And all of a sudden, it is quite clear what the word “deserted” is originating from…
See the highlights of our stay live here: (low quality mobile video)