What a place! I’ve been in the UAE for just about 2 weeks and I’m really enjoying the sheer spectacle of this place. Dubai reminds me of Shanghai, Las Vegas, Paris and Death Valley all rolled into one! Since Dubai has so much development going on right now it feels like I am living on a construction site. There are new skyscrapers going up all over the city, more cranes building these futuristic towers than you can imagine and the white sandy dust from the desert covering everything. In 10 years this city should be quite spectacular – it already is in many ways. An example is the Burj al Arab, which is not far from where I am living – it’s the spectacular ‘blade of the desert’ 7 star hotel that commands your attention on the horizon. And that’s just the beginning – the scale of what is happening here is astounding. There are constructions like an underwater hotel, more man made coastal palm islands, and another new Burj tower to out do the one that is nearing completion. Bigger, taller, and more mind blowing – that’s what the theme seems to be here.
The malls here are the places to see and be seen – shopping goes on at all hours and the busiest times seem to be later in the evening. I am staying right near the Mall of the Emirates which boasts Ski Dubai, an indoor ski attraction. It seemed really odd at first but I suppose getting into some cool air and snow when it’s 90 F outside is not such a bad idea. I haven’t done it yet but may try it before I leave. My favorite mall so far has got to be the Madinat Jumeirah, which is styled on a traditional souk or market. It’s got an amazing terrace with a man made lake and great outdoor dining and lounging. Locals hang out there smoking sheeshah – the fruit scented/flavored tobacco smoked out of big hooka pipes, which is actually very pleasant. One of the most unusual things I have seen here at the malls is the abeyya/burka fashion scene. (Abeyyas are the traditional black robes worn by Muslim women.) The plain black robe is not the ‘mode de rigueur’ anymore – these women do it with style, by wearing rhinestone, sequin, beaded and embroidered abeyyas that are absolutely exquisite! Bling, bling and more bling – definitely exotic and unexpected.
During my last 2 days off, my associates and I have taken some day trips across the UAE/Oman peninsula. We traveled to Hatta, which is a smaller rural town in the Dubai Emirate, about 1 & 1/2 hours from Dubai; there is an interesting cultural center there with local history and village life. Worth the trip.
We have also traveled to Fujairah and Khor Kalba, which are on the eastern coast of the peninsula. Khor Kalba has a wonderful beach and mangrove lagoon. The ocean there is bath tub warm and beautiful; the beaches are littered with gorgeous seashells – it’s a fisherman’s town and charming that way. I recommend the Al Meshwar restaurant in Fujairah for delicious Lebanese food and observing sheeshah smoking locals. Keep your eyes open for roaming camels and goats along the highway on your drive there.
The people here are friendly, courteous and hospitable. I feel fairly safe and welcome here; that’s a big difference from some perceived viewpoints I encountered in the US before I traveled here. And you really start to question your own awareness of your place in the world when you meet people who have never heard of New York City or Washington D.C, like some who I have met here! It’s been one delightful surprise after another. Old meets new, East meets West – it’s a world of extremes meeting and merging – no other place in the world quite like it.