Under Construction...Dubai City of the Future

Trip Start Jun 25, 2006
Trip End Aug 01, 2007

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Flag of United Arab Emirates  ,
Sunday, September 24, 2006

He Said:

Prior to the controversy a few months back when a number of US ports were purchased by a Dubai company, Dubai and the United Arab Emirates were certainly not on the radar of most Westerners. That's not a big surprise, it is a tiny nation and other than hosting the occasional high-profile golf event or having some truly jaw-dropping architecture, it seldom creates much news interest to the outside world. However it has been very much the Las Vegas of the Arab world for the last few decades.

So here's the obligatory history lesson: Other than occasional influences by regional powers from prehistory until the early 1800's the entire Arab Gulf region was a poor backwater, inhabited solely by Bedouin goat herders and pearl divers. The British intermittently controlled most of the area until finally quitting the territory in 1971. In the negotiations around the British withdrawal, three new nations were created: Bahrain, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates. The UAE is actually seven very small Emirates (kingdoms ruled by an Emir) that operate together in a sort of confederacy. Modest oil reserves, huge duty-free ports, light manufacturing, and some very good tourist marketing have dramatically buoyed the fortunes of the nation in the last decade.

Rising trade and tourism (Dubai has no oil exports) have put the city in a serious building boom in the last decade that is still continuing at a breakneck pace. I was told that 1 of every 6 cranes on Earth is currently in use in Dubai, and after a few hours of driving around I completely believe it! Buildings like the sail-shaped Burj al Arab hotel are already world architectural landmarks. The innovative and whimsical designs make other buildings seem rather boring by comparison. The skyscrapers and land reclamation that are currently under construction promise to surpass anything you've ever seen. The Burj Dubai tower, which is currently progressing on its 80th storey, is less than halfway completed! By the time it is finished it will the tallest building in the world, topping out at over 2000 feet (More than 500 feet taller than the Empire State Building.) Another remarkable project under construction includes "The World" which is a group of over 150 man-made islands each housing a luxury resort or private residence. Viewed from the air, the series of islands together form a map of Earth! Do a Google search for "Palm Dubai", "World Dubai" and "Burj Dubai" and you will see what I mean.

Because the city is quite spread out and we are going to Oman in a few days, we have rented a car, a Chevrolet no less! The driving is fast and furious; Jersey commuting prepared me well! Yesterday we took a trip to the Mall of the Emirates, the largest mall outside of North America. It actually has and indoor ski slope inside it! Katie and I were literally standing in front of the viewing windows with our mouths agape. There is something innately surreal about being in a shopping mall on the Arabian Peninsula, sipping a Starbucks latte, watching people snowboarding while the temperature outside is pushing 110 degrees!

Today we started out by driving around a bit and seeing what it look like to have an entire city under construction at the same time. We should definitely come back here in about three years once everything is finished. Katie redeemed her birthday gift from me today, an afternoon at Wild Wadi Water Park! (wadi is the Arabic word for creek or stream) See the videos to laugh at our exploits with the surf rides. Tomorrow we are off to the oasis town of Al-Ain then on to Oman for three days.

She Said:

Wow!! Double wow! Dubai is amazing!!! It is ultra modern, to the point that you actually feel like you are 10 years in the future. For example, at the Mall of the Emirates, there is a parking space monitoring system... you never have to wonder if there is a space in a certain row because digital screens hanging on the ceiling let you in on how many spaces are available in each row! Great idea!! No more circling around the parking lot! Yesterday while walking around the mall passing the sweet smell of Cinnabon and carrying the suitcase full of English books purchased at the Virgin Megastore, I almost felt like we were in some suburb outside of New York City. Except of course for the indoor ski resort!!! What is that about??? For $40, they rent you all the gear, clothing, and even give you disposable socks! I think we might rent snowboards in a couple of days (when we return from Oman), and give it a try!

While there is a lot of unbelievable architecture in the downtown area, the area right along the beach seems to be the next hot spot. Our hotel is in the middle of the world's largest construction site. Dubailand (like Disney World), the 3 Palm shaped islands, Culture Village, Internet City, Media City, and the Dubai Marina are just a few of the hundreds of major construction projects currently underway. It is amazing to see all of this happening now, and Dubai will be an even more incredible tourist destination in about 2 or 3 years.

Wild Wadi Water Park is another amazing place! Now I have ridden quite a few waterslides in my life after holding a season pass to White Water in Atlanta for a few summers as a teen, but Wild Wadi has something I have never seen - water slides that go uphill! No more climbing tons of stairs with a inner tube to get to the top - you just leisurely float around the Lazy River to the start and the extremely strong water jets propel you to the top! There is also an area to body surf on a wave... not my forte exactly, but Todd did pretty well! Check our humiliating videos (and remember it was my first time)...
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