Wednesday, December 1, 2010

November 26th – Dubai in a Day

Today we tried to tick off as many Dubai sights as you can see in a day. We caught a taxi to the oldest part of Dubai, the Bastikiya District which has a few of the original buildings to survive from the time before the city's rampant development, when this was a simple town of just 5,000 people. Even though these were original buildings, they had been so over-restored that the whole area felt completely devoid of atmosphere – in Dubai, even the original can feel artificial.

We then had one of the more genuine Dubai experiences, catching a chugging wooden Dhow across the Creek with all the foreign workers and a few tourists – in this working class environment, you definitely don't see any locals. From the Creek, we walked across to the bustling old Souks, where we perused the pungent Spice Market and the glittering Gold Souk, without getting suckered into buying anything.

Next, we moved from one retail extreme to another, as we caught a taxi to the largest shopping mall in the world, the unbelievably big Dubai Mall, with its 1,200 shops, ice rink (an ice rink in the desert?) and countless restaurants. The place had quite an empty feel to it, which could have been a reflection of Dubai's financial crisis; but when something is this big, it's difficult to tell if it was really deserted or if it was designed to soak up all the shoppers without ever feeling busy.

From the air conditioned comfort of the Mall, we emerged into the heat, to stand at the bottom of the impossibly tall Burj Khalifa – a literally unbelievable building. How you can even contemplate building something half a mile high (the height of two Empire States end-on-end) is hard to comprehend, but this is possibly the most eloquent symbol of Dubai's anything goes, nothing's impossible atmosphere.

Then, after all this marvelling at Dubai's many contributions to the biggest and best of so many things, it was time to return to the ship to start a new 7 day cruise around the Middle East.