Dubai was a really interesting holiday because it’s a really interesting place. I went with a friend in Summer 2011 after the recession had really started to take its toll. Dubai was a booming place – very rich with oil money and so they decided to invest in infrastructure and tourism. That’s pretty sensible really, since we all know oil won’t last forever. However, they took it a bit far and everybody went CRAZY building hotels and shops. Unfortunately for them, recession happened, people stopped visiting, people stopped wanting to build new sky-scraping hotels and 10 story shopping malls and foreign investors pulled the plug.
I guess the main thing about Dubai is the “fake” feeling about it. You have these CRAZY buildings, over the top extravagant shopping malls, jewelery stores, supercars everywhere. But at the same time, it all feels artificial and you know that the average person doesn’t live like this. And if you venture to some parts of the city, you see the “real” Dubai. Shells of empty, half-finished skyscrapers. When foreign investors pulled out, the workers simply put down their tools and left, leaving half-complete buildings sticking out of the desert. Dubai also feels fake, because all the infrastructure is not real. It isn’t based on demand and it hasn’t grown organically like a “real” city. Somewhere like Rome or Barcelona has evolved. You have main squares, then people build roads to them; and you have housing districts and roads leading to work. Whereas in Dubai they started with an empty sand pit and billions of dollars. They just built huge highways and an amazing metro/subway transportation system. Then problem is that several roads don’t go anywhere, and several subway stations exit into nothing but sand. They build infrastructure to places that people don’t even want to visit yet.
So I present to you a collection of photos – the touristy Dubai with malls, skyscrapers and fancy restaurants. But also the real Dubai – mosques, local shops, a busy shipping port, and a lot of empty scrapers and 4 lane highways which stop in the desert.
Dubai skyline through the haze. The enormous Burj Kahlifa is visible from almost everywhere in Dubai
It’s morning on the first day, and here is the morning paper delivered to our room. The service in the hotel (Movenpick Deira, near the airport) is excellent, and it wasn’t expensive to stay in a 5* suite, thanks to the recession!
Wafi mall has a daily light show. It wasn’t actually that good, and the mall itself was very quiet and a lot of empty store fronts. Probably best to not bother going here. We did hear that several people in Dubai superstitiously believe that Wafi mall is cursed somehow…?
Ultra-modern, ultra-empty subway system. Some stations have literally no people there. This is one of the main stations, and it’s hardly covent garden or knightsbridge!Dubai Mall contains the largest aquarium front in the world. That panel of acrylic holding the water back is a massive 32.88m x 8.3m (or 107ft by 27ft) .Another view shows just how huge it is. And this is inside a shopping mall (which also has an ice rink, bowling, several cinemas etc)Walking through the tunnel in the aquarium. Entry into here is about $USD10 if I remember correctly. They have a LOT of sharks inside of all shapes and sizes.The gold souk inside Dubai mall. This is where you find some really expensive shops!The second “Blancpain” watch is 1,045,550 Dirhams – which is an eye-wateringly expensive £181,000, or $280,000. Rolex, Cartier etc are like toys here.Beautiful roof in one of the open areas of the malliily coffee… mmmmBurj Kahlifa is basically attached onto Dubai Mall, and the best way to get to Kahlifa is through the mall. You can see it towering from everywhere, including through windows or skylights.And here we are, stepping out of the mall into the promenade. It’s hard to appreciate just how big this building is. It’s a massive 829.85m (2723ft) tall, though that number is hard to appreciate. When it opened, it simultaneously shattered 17 world records including highest building, highest restaurant, fastest elevator etc. To try and put it in perspective, just think that those three little buildings next to it are legitimate skyscrapers in their own right. Probably 30-40 stories each. Another way to put it – imagine the world trade center building in New York, then imagine the empire state building on top of it. That’s about how tall Burj Kahlifa is. It’s so big that the weather at the top of the tower is different to the weather at the ground level.
If you wonder about the name, Burj Kahlifa is named after the president of the UAE and Abu Dhabi, Khalifa bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. That’s because Dubai ran out of money to fund the project and were bailed out by Abu Dhabi, so named the building in his honour.As the sun sets and the sky gets dark, people gather waiting for the nightly showAnd here we go! The fountain and music display was designed by the same people who designed the Bellagio in Las Vegas – except of course Dubai is much larger, much more grand and much more expensive. And of course they don’t play Elvis or “God bless the USA” at this fountain! The crowd will get pretty wet as you can see all the water droplets on the lens!Back at the hotel. You see these arrows quite often on the ceiling of public buildings, hotel rooms etc. It is telling you the direction to Mecca, so you know which direction to face when prayer time comes. You’ll also notice that nothing in the room faces this direction, or faces directly away from it. For instance no doorways, or the bed would ever be positioned so that you turn your back to Mecca.More malls I’m afriad! This time it’s the Mall of the Emirates. It is larger than Dubai mall, but it’s totally exhausting and overwhelming to try and explore the whole thingFood court. PF Changs.. the height of class!Speaking of class – here is the self-proclaimed seven star Burj al Arab Hotel. It is built on an artificial island in the Persian Gulf and is the 4th tallest hotel in the world. Although of course, it’s the most expensive and extravagant. A room here costs between $1,000 to $27,000 per night. As the hotel is on an island, you need to go across a bridge to get in. Of course it’s private entry to keep the riff-raff out, so you need an appointment to get in. We went for afternoon tea, at a bargain price of only £90 ($140) for some cakes and coffee. Though at least we would be able to see the hotel lobby and restaurant. The hotel is designed to look like a ships’ sail, which gives a unique shape to the inside.Here you see the island that the hotel is built on. It is designed to be as low as possible, while still being safe so that the hotel feels like it is sitting IN the water. These hollowed out blocks are a special flood defense so that waves are broken up and can’t crash up to the front of the hotel.