Dubai is the largest city in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the capital of the Emirate of Dubai. It started as a small fishing village in the eighteenth century and did not really start to grow until this century. It is well located strategically. close to Iran and was an important pearling centre, before oil was discovered. Since then, financed by the oil money, Dubai has expanded rapidly. It's now the world's fastest growing city, known as the Gulf Tiger, because of its trade and tourism. The population is 83% immigrants - mostly involved in building. It's one of the world's most popular tourist destinations, with the second most five-star hotels in the world and the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa. Crime is virtually non existent. So are addresses. You just describe the location as best you can.
There aren't nearly as many cranes here in Dubai as there were five years ago. So I suppose more things are finished. It's certainly looking more and more like Vegas. Is high tea at the Burj Khalifa, the tallest tower in the world, called high tea because it's so elevated? I thought high tea was supper? I am left to come up in the lift all on my own - it literally whizzes. My ears pop as the numbers rotate like a totaliser and I try not to think about the drop beneath me. The buildings below look like toy town, it's so Brobdingnagian that it feels more like being on a plane. The view's not terribly clear. There's a bit of a sand storm going on and, believe it or not a few drops of rain. But the service is excellent, the miniature food keeps coming and it's delicious. Cocktails, champagne, any variety of leaf tea you can think of. 'A newspaper madam?' I spend the whole afternoon up there eating and watching the landscape change.
Directly below the tallest tower in the world I can see the largest mall in the world - The Dubai Mall. So I head down there for the fountain display. Continuing the Vegas theme this is just like the one at the Bellagio, except shorter, and (for my visit) accompanied by Arabian music, which suits the sinuous movements very well.
I'm so full I doubt I can eat any dinner...
Up early, joined by a surprising variety of birds that I didn’t know existed here. Hoopoes, mynahs and a teeny little thing that is either of the wren or gold crest family. They obviously (and sensibly) adopt a reclusive lifestyle during the heat of the day.
It is wonderful to be cosseted again. I am out on The Palm in Dubai in a Thai owned hotel, the Dusit Thani. It takes forever to motor round the 'fronds' with the colossal monstrosity that is the Hotel Atlantis looming above. Everything looks artificial, incongruent. Thai architecture, especially, just doesn't work in concrete and terracotta. The white sandy beach, ironically, is all imported. But I don't care. My room is huge and gorgeous. Everything functions. It also contains a large display of local dates that I scoff immediately, so I shall pay a price for that.
I've already discovered that the food is divine. (I don't think I'm biased just because I've just been in Uzbekistan). The subtle flavours in the duck with red curry are incredible. I ate too much on the Trans Siberian, lost the extra weight in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan and now I seem set to put it all back on again. Not to mention cost. I have a sneaking feeling that four nights here is going to cost me more than three weeks in Central Asia. But it's great.
The breakfast buffet is gargantuan and it is served till eleven. So I decide to eat as late as possible, with the aim of stoking up and skipping lunch. However, everyone else has the same cunning plan and the restaurant is heaving. It's boiling hot, well almost, 44 degrees and humid. My iPad has shut down because it's over heated - in the shade. The sea is like a warm bath, so not terribly refreshing. Moreover, a couple of jelly fish have wafted by, so I stick to the enormous pool, which is also a little on the tepid side, though the jets in the jacuzzi area are powerful and soporifically relaxing.
I have a giant umbrella (I'm almost out of synonyms for extremely large) that reduces the temperature just enough and a view of the Burjs - Al Arab and Khalifa respectively. The Burj Al Arab is the sail shaped seven star hotel that has an island all to itself. The average price of a suite here is $24,000 per night.
The pool has several pretty subsidiary lagoons complete with hordes of lifeguards garbed in very unbecoming red and white outfits with large floppy hats. They sit stoically on their ladders clutching matching longitudinal flotation devices throughout the hours of daylight. What fortitude in this heat! I doze and read. A little man brings me my favourite drink - lemon juice whizzed up with mint - every half hour.
Back once more. This time I've just been to Afghanistan and completed my last country. And I'm at the Voco, on the stalk of the Palm. It's actually not as crowded and claustrophobic as I had feared. The beaches are small, but neat and tidy. The hotels and apartments are generally restrained in design, though definitely at the high end cost wise. Waiters hover ready to take orders and bear the required icy drinks. It's still hovering around 40 degrees, in October. And it's a relaxing sojourn. Especially as the hotel restaurant is excellent.
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