Dubai: United Arab Emirates – 23rd-24th February 2019   Leave a comment

In my last post I detailed our visit to Abu Dhabi. This was part of a week long trip to the United Arab Emirates. Our next stop was the Emirate of Dubai another of the seven emirates that make up the UAE, we spent our time in the city of Dubai.

From Wikipedia:  Dubai is a global city and business hub of the Middle East. It is also a major global transport hub for passengers and cargo. Oil revenue helped accelerate the development of the city, which was already a major mercantile hub, but Dubai’s oil reserves are limited and production levels are low: today, less than 5% of the emirate’s revenue comes from oil. A growing centre for regional and international trade since the early 20th century, Dubai’s economy today relies on revenues from trade, tourism, aviation, real estate, and financial services.


Dubai seems to be the product of a competition entitled ‘who can build the most outlandish building’. There seems little point of this structure other than somewhere to go up an elevator on one side, walk across to the other and then down an elevator again to ground level.


Our first stop in Dubai was the Dubai Mall. This is not just any shopping centre, its absolutely enormous …


… and has dinosaur skeletons in the concourse …


… multi-level fountains complete with sculptures of diving men …


… all discretely wearing swimming trunks of course …


… and even a massive aquarium where you don’t see minnows or goldfish swim by …


… you come face to face with sharks and rays.


Outside the mall you are overwhelmed by the scale of Dubai’s towering skyline …


… never more so than when you gaze up at the world’s tallest building – the Burj Khalifa at a mere 830m. Originally named the Burj Dubai, the project ran into financial difficulty during the financial crisis of the ‘naughties’ and the project was rescued by input from the president of the UAE Khalifa bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and so was renamed in his honour.


Fancy a job as the window cleaner on the world’s tallest building?


Here is a diagram from Wikipedia showing the Burj Khalifa in relation to other notable tall buildings.


Of course the Burj Khalifa won’t remain the highest building for long, it is said that Saudi Arabia is building an even taller one, so not to be outdone Dubai is erecting a new tower that will be over a kilometre high in the Dubai Creek region. Here in the Mall is a model of what it will look like.


As a town Dubai didn’t exist until 1799 when the Bani Yas clan established it as a dependency of Abu Dhabi. It wasn’t until 1966 that oil was discovered and the place was transformed beyond recognition. As a result there are few old buildings in Dubai and a historic tour would be short indeed. One old building that survives is this fort that has been turned into a museum.


The museum contained many reconstructions of traditional Arab life including the pastime of falconry. A falcon, usually a Saker, was used to catch and kill a Houbara Bustard (I know that officially its now called Macqueen’s Bustard but most people still use the name Houbara). Unfortunately in the modern era this traditional practice is having a devastating effect on both predator and prey, with both the Saker and Houbara being wiped out in the wild in Arabia. The demand for wild hatched Sakers is now so high that few exist west of Tibet and the Asian form of Houbara has been extirpated in most areas west of Kazakhstan, (except of course, Israel for obvious reason). Unusually on this blog these photos of birds, albeit dead ones, are the only ones in this post.


We crossed Dubai Creek by traditional dhow on our way to a traditional market …


…where we perused the spices, fabrics and other stuff on sale …


… but didn’t buy much.


That evening we went on another outing on Dubai Creek, evening meal included.


As we slid under various bridges we passed buildings that were even higher than those in Abu Dhabi …


… and of even weirder shapes.


The first port of call this morning was the dreaded carpet warehouse, I’ll mention that little inconvenience in the next post. Then we went on to the Burj El Arab, said to be the only 7-star hotel in the world (a description the management say they didn’t coin) but certainly one of the most expensive. We paused briefly at the gates for photos …


… and at this hotel with a herd of ‘golden horses’ on the lawn …


… before we drove to the Palm Islands. There are three artificial islands in Dubai shaped like palms (and another group of islands shaped like a map of the world) and we visited one of them. The apartments on the fronds of the arms are mega expensive but there is a huge waiting list for them.  After all they have a guaranteed sea view! Photo from Wikipedia.


We drove up the central ‘trunk’ of the ‘palm’ and through the arch of the mega hotel at the end.


They build them big in Dubai.


In the foyer of the hotel was the biggest aquarium I’ve ever seen, not only was there full sized sharks and rays in there …


… guests can even scuba dive or rent a room with a window onto the aquarium. Imagine waking up to see a shark float past your bedroom window.


We also strolled along the breakwater which forms the perimeter road in the hope of seeing some seabirds, no joy but Red-vented Bulbul near where the car was parked was notable in a (Greater) WP context.


After returning to the hotel we came back that evening for what was to be one of the highlights of the trip, a visit to the Burj Khalifa itself. First we visited the adjacent plaza where at dusk the fountains played to music every half hour.


Although it was difficult to get a clear shot due to the crowds, the display was breathtaking, especially as it was all done in the shadow (perhaps not the most appropriate term, as it was now night) of the Burj Khalifa …


… which was illuminated by writing in a variety of languages promoting the Dubai Mall and the Burj itself.


In due course it was time to leave and ascend the mighty tower to the observation platform. There are two observation platforms, the main one on the 124th floor at 452m or the more expensive one ‘Sky Level’ at 148th floor at 555m.


Not very often you see an elevator with floor numbers like this!


If you pay for ‘sky level’ you can visit both observation platforms. The upper one is a lot less crowded, but as always its difficult to actually get a view due to people taking selfies by the windows.


The view from here was more like the view from an aeroplane than a tall building.


The lower level had one advantage, there was a narrow slit open to outside so you could poke your phone (but not your proper camera) through and get a pic of the fountains playing around the lake below.


The evening wasn’t over we headed past other strangely shaped buildings …


… to the impressive Burj al Arab hotel which is shaped like a spinnaker sail.


This hotel displays an ostentatious level of opulence and is completely ‘over the top’. This is the view looking upwards from the foyer.


From the reception desk that looks like an old fashioned juke box we took the escalator to the first floor …


… past a series of waterfalls and fountains …


… to an ornamental pool …


… with even more fountains.


So how much does it cost to stay in ‘the most luxurious hotel in the world’? According to TripAdvisor a single bedroom suite will set you back £1200 per night but the presidential suite which is reserved for heads of state and royalty is more like £2000.


However the hotel must make a nice little side line by letting tourists pop and and have a drink in one of the bars as the combined cost of the outing to the ‘two burjs’ wasn’t cheap.


It was lovely to see Margaret lighting up the room.


We left about 2300 finding that the hotel and the causeway leading to it was illuminated in purple.


That more or less covers our time in Dubai, however we still had a couple of days left in UAE during which we would visit the Emirates of Sharaja and Ajman, go on a desert safari where the 4×4 nearly rolled down a big sand dune and travelled to Oman to catch a dhow to the Straits of Hormuz. That will be the subject of the next post.

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