Bikinis and Burj

Trip Start Nov 30, 2007
Trip End Jan 17, 2008

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Flag of United Arab Emirates  ,
Friday, December 7, 2007

Got back into the swing of things today; started with a tour of the Jumeirah Mosque, the largest mosque in the country -- and the only one open to non-Muslims. They do a one hour tour/demo/Q&A session that was fascinating and informative. Our guide (a real estate agent normally) demonstrated the ablutions before prayer, and the prayer itself; talked about the mosque and the practice of the faith, and then spend half an hour answering questions. The mosque itself was more ornate outside than in, and the inside had a much simpler, cleaner look than a typical Catholic cathedral or something of the sort. Very enjoyable.

After that, I decided to hit the beach; Jumeirah Beach Park is a decent-sized park, with lush gardens and palm trees, plus all of the facilities needed for a beach. The weather was hot and mostly clear, just like it always is, and the water was turquoise, clear and wonderfully cool. I can't remember the last time I swam in the ocean, actually, but I think it was over a decade ago. It was an excellent beach, made all the nicer as you swam out to the buoys marking the edge of the approved area -- out to sea, you could see (quite close!) some of the islands comprising the Earth megaproject, with a couple of yachts floating nearby, and dredgers further in the distance. If you turned right, you saw the giant UAE flag at Union House, along with the cranes of Port Rashid. If you looked left instead, you saw the Burj Al-Arab and the hotels beyond it, and if you looked back to shore, rising above the palm trees lining the beach you could see the Burj Dubai, which is just astoundingly big when you get that kind of perspective.

Finally, I went to the Emirates Towers, part of the new downtown being built on Sheik Zayed Road. This is just a spectacular and bizarre piece of urban form; it's more or less in the middle of nowhere (there is sort of an adjacent suburb, but it's very low density), along this massive highway, just a forest of skyscrapers maybe 3 or 4 km long. The World Trade Center, which was the first skyscraper here - late 1970s - and a source of some national pride (it's on the hundred) just looks sad sack next to the glistening new towers. The Burj Dubai is here, but so are dozens of skyscrapers, at least 10 of which would be the most notable building in the skyline of virtually any city but here. Just astounding.

And it's equally astounding urban form; just these skyscrapers on an access road parallel to Sheik Zayed, which is 16 lanes in points and a freeway (until it gets to the roundabout, at least). Very little else here, and, as far as  could tell, no way to cross from one side of the road to the other -- it's like the idea was too bizarre to even consider. They're running the Metro parallel to the road, but I don't see any evidence at this point that they're building any sort of ped bridge to go with. Just strange. Also strange, or at least frustrating, was the half an hour it took for me to hoodwink a cabbie into taking me home.
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