I was impressed with Dubai, not so much the city as the people. I was expecting to encounter hostility towards Americans but never encountered any. I guess you can attribute some of that to the fact that 90% of Dubai’s population is expats. Of that 60% is from India. There are large representations of Lebanon, England, Egypt, Pakistan, and Iran.
I spent about a quarter of my time there trying to get my Russian visa sorted out (You have to have an invitation which are extended by hotels and faxed to you. You then take the invitation, application, photos, and a ton of money to the local Consulate and they decide if they want your capitalist attitude in their country). The first day I gave myself a self guided walking tour of the city center courtesy of Lonely Planet. The souqs (think small outdoor shops) were interesting. The walk had pretty good examples of the new and old styles of Arabian architecture along with good view of Dubai River. There is an insane amount of construction going on and it’s all ultra modern. Dubai boasts 25% of the world’s cranes are at work in the city and it shows.
The spice souqs
Old Arabian architecture
New Arabian architecture
Old Arabia with new Arabia in the background (Burj Al Arab)
One of the main mosques
That evening I headed about an hour out of town to the sand dunes on a desert Jeep safari. We loaded into a Landcruiser and tore around the dunes for a good half hour. We stopped for a break and most people tried their luck at sand boarding. I was just glad I didn’t fall because if you do apparently you are cleaning sand out of every orifice for at least a week. They also turned us loose with four wheelers for about a half hour. I managed to get mine stuck twice and almost flip it ramping off some of the steeper dunes. The last stop was a sunset BBQ dinner complete with belly dancing and camel rides. I knew I was in trouble when I saw the dancer walking towards me pulling people up on stage. She belly danced while balancing a cane on her head then made me do the same. I managed to keep it from falling while I did a couple of spins much to the amusement of the crowd.
Camels roaming the desert on the way out there
Cheesiest Arab ever
Nice and easy
Our bread crumb trail
Good thing I had that stylish helmet
The evening's entertainment
The beaches reminded me of the Gulf of Mexico, white sands and clear waters. I spent one day at Umm San beach is right next to the Burj Al-Arab (the seven star sail hotel). People watching at the beach was entertaining as well. A local family showed up and the mother was draped in black from head to toe. I can’t imagine how hot she must have been.
The Arabian Sea
Notice Mom's beach attire in the lower left
I also met up with a fellow London Business School student, Nader, who has worked there for the past two years. He’s originally from Lebanon and works at IT Infrastructure sales to African governments. Nader, four of his friends from Beirut, and I all went out for drinks and dinner. It was interesting to hear their take on American politics and hear about what it was like growing up in Lebanon. They had all attended American University of Lebanon which is the Harvard of the Middle East. The night started with Guiness and finished with dates (the fruit not the women) and green tea.
My last day I went snowboarding at Ski Dubai, the world’s largest indoor ski slope. The snow was mildly entertaining, but watching the locals try to negotiate it was the funniest part. They were all horrible. I watched several collisions, numerous crashes, a couple yard sales, and one kid almost decapitated himself on the entry turn style (think NYC subway entry gates). He managed to slide under on his butt missing the metal bar by about an inch or two.
Ski Dubai Village
The ski suit is included in the ticket price so everyone is wearing one
I also visited the Dubai Marina (where my camera didn’t work because of the change in temperature from Ski Dubai to melt you face hot outside). I also wandered over to the Palm Jumeria, the large sand island they constructed to expand the beach front property. I was amazed at how big it was. It had to be several miles in diameter. They are building another one that is four or five times that size too. The final stop was the Burj Dubai, slated to overtake Taipei 101 for the title of the world’s tallest building. They are building it at a rate of over a floor a week right now.
The Palm Jumeirah, one of the largest construction projects in the world
The Burj Dubai
From here I’m heading to meet Graham in Africa to climb Kilimanjaro.