more than an interesting oasis
by Bill Vanderford
The mind boggles when in one direction you see a Bedouin atop a ragged-looking camel and then a quick 180 reveals a chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce zooming down a huge six-lane highway. But, that’s Dubai!
Built along the southern shores of the Persian Gulf on the Arabian Peninsula, this oasis of concrete and steel is known to be one of the most extravagant places in the world. And of the seven Emirates in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Dubai is certainly the best known internationally and the most popular to visit. More than 1.5 million people live in this multinational city, but only 10 percent of the population is from this area.
In my view, Dubai is a great stopover for a few days on the way to somewhere else. Besides, flying Emirates Airlines is a rare treat in both service and amenities.
Unless one has business in the area, most of what Dubai has to offer can be seen and experienced in a short period, and be warned, everything is fairly expensive. Nevertheless, if you can afford it, do spend a couple of nights at the gorgeous, one-of-a-kind Burj Al Arab Hotel. Sitting on a tiny artificial island and rising more than three football fields tall,“The Burj” appears as a huge, billowing sail which has made it an icon of the city, featured in every advertisement, documentary, TV show, or movie about Dubai.
As might be expected, it has a solid five-star rating though guests who have stayed there have proclaimed it to be seven stars, and the reputation has stuck. Perhaps it’s something to do with the sheer elegance and personal service whether during the check-in process where guests are greeted with cool towels, silver service sweet tea and aromatic fresh flowers, or finding a highly trained butler on every floor, or the Van Cleef & Arpels bathroom amenities, or a hotel shuttle that’s a while Rolls Royce.
Despite a number of unique restaurants and activities that are available without leaving the grounds, everyone should venture out into the city. Shopping is plentiful though at at the Mall of the Emirates, the most interesting section is Ski Dubai. This indoor facility, with actual snow, allows skiing, snowboarding, sledding, and other winter sports in a compact ski resort inside the mall.
While in Dubai, don’t miss the ever-changing skyline with many new buildings including Burj Khalifa, currently the world’s tallest tower. And the various Souqs which are as great for shopping as they are for photographic opportunities. Looking for gold? It’s hard to beat Dubai’s Gold Souq with its jewelry. If you have the time, ride an abras (water taxi) from place to place on Dubai Creek, which runs through part of the city and has long been a connection to ancient trade routes. Along the creek, you can do plenty of shopping and maybe take a camel ride.
Despite the appearance of a huge, modern metropolis, visitors to Dubai should remember that this area still has a strong Islamic culture. Therefore, many actions and clothes that we take for granted in the West are not accepted in the Arab Emirates. Dubai is a beautiful place to see the cultural differences between the past and the present, but bring a full wallet and read about the do’s and don’ts of this part of the world before you come.
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