Every time I come to Dubai, I'm afraid that I'm left a little less impressed by it.
The first time you visit, you're wowed by its amazing skyline, by its massive malls, and by man-made islands that offer the "biggest" and "best" of everything. Several visits later, they still have an impact, but I'm increasingly asking myself "why"?
Why build a city in the desert that consumes and wastes so much energy and water? Why do people travel around the world to stay in expensive luxury hotels in what's actually an incredibly inhospitable natural environment? Why go shopping for western goods in huge impersonal malls, when the prices back home are much cheaper?
Of course, the reason is that Dubai does shopping, hotels, and consumerism incredibly well – all three are an industry here. But, for me at least, the levels of conspicuous consumption have been pushed a bit too far. In a place where everything is shiny and new, where the vast majority of people you meet are foreigners, there's no real feel for the "soul" of Dubai.
So, today we restricted ourselves to just exploring the area around the Dubai Mall, experiencing the biggest Mall in the world, housing the biggest aquarium in the world, in the shadow of the tallest building in the world. Curiously enough, our favourite bit was stopping in the French chain, Cafe Paul for a western-style coffee surrounded by ex-pats.
But, all was not lost, because where Dubai particularly excels is in its amazing array of different restaurants – and, we wanted to sample the closest thing that passes for "local" cuisine, by visiting one of its excellent Lebanese restaurants. So, we headed to the impressive Dubai Marina, and had a rare Dubai experience – actually being outside – as we scoffed our way through some superb alfresco Lebanese food in the shadow of a row of glittering skyscrapers.
If you can't beat the conspicuous consumers, you might as well join them.....