Imagine an escalator....
The hand rails of an escalator are about as tall as your waist so you can easily rest your hand on the rails and it is about so wide that two people can just about stand side by side. Also, the ceiling that you see, as you come down the escalator, is the floor you just got down from and it may not be more than about three meters high. Pretty simple stuff, right?
Now imagine that the hand rail of the same escalator to be as high as your neck. And the width is not two but about four people wide. And as you come down the escalator, imagine that the ceiling is not three, but about three hundred meters high. And you would really need to strain your neck backwards to see the ceiling, which seems so far away.
In such a scenario, you will get a feeling of being completely dwarfed by the enormity of such a gigantic structure.
Imagine that feeling of being just a puny speck within the grander gigantic enormity of things.
This is the same feeling you get when you’re in Dubai.
Dubai will stun you, wow you, overwhelm you. It’s like somebody gave the Dubai Sheikh a list of things that simply cannot be done and he merely took that list, turned around and said, “Watch me”!
And what he created is simply remarkable. The most astounding thing about Dubai is that all those wondrous mega structures that baffle you are actually man-made. Sure I’ve heard people getting spell bounded by the Niagara Falls or the Grand Canyon; but these are the handiwork of God. What’s amazing about the Dubai is that those colossal structures are all manmade. And even more amazing is the fact that they even created land where there was none. And all this because of the vision of the Dubai Sheikh.
The Sheikh’s vision is astounding: he realized that Dubai is not as oil rich like its neighbors and so he figured something else had to be done to bring attention to Dubai. And he simply decided to make Dubai the center of the modern living world. And that’s exactly what he set out to do. Unlike other tourist states which are naturally blessed with tourist attractions, Dubai has only got deserts. So what did the Sheikh do? Well, he simply went ahead and created the tourist attractions. Some brilliant pieces of his vision are:
- “If people want to see the seven wonders, they would need to travel to seven different places across the globe - why not recreate all the seven wonders in one place - Dubai?” And the Sheikh set out to build all the seven wonders of the world at one place called the Falcon City (so called as the city was to look like a falcon when seen aerially!!!). Already most of us are aware of the Palms and the World (both of which are supposedly visible from the moon). Also, a version of the famous Bellagio fountains was recreated at the never ending Dubai Mall, their biggest mall.
- The Dubai World Central (DLC) – OK, this idea is simply phenomenal – the DLC was a world first and truly one of a kind project to build the world's first logistics platform with all transport modes, built over an area that is two times the size of Hong Kong island!! The idea is to build a city that would house the world’s largest passenger and cargo hub, with supporting residential, commercial, sports and leisure facilities, restaurants, shops and service to capitalize on Dubai’s geographical location to make it a regional hub for logistics (“at the heart of the world”).
- Another “center of the world” initiative is this - If you look at the world map, at the west side of the world, you have the main financial centers of New York and London. On the east side, there’s Hong Kong, Singapore and Tokyo. You’ll realize that there really aren’t many financial centers in the middle part of the world - so the Dubai Sheikh decided that this vacuum be occupied by Dubai and set about to make Dubai the financial capital of the middle part of the earth.
- Since the emirate is home to many Europeans, the Sheikh’s vision was that if you want the Europeans to feel like home in an Arab country, then you have to bring Europe to Dubai. So the Sheikh built the town Jumeirah using mainly European architecture and styling. Today, Jumeirah is one of the most exclusive spots of Dubai and the word ‘Jumeirah’ has now become a brand in itself, which signifies exclusivity. And as you drive through Jumeirah, it feels exactly like you’re in some European city.
Of course, sadly the grand vision found a mighty setback due to the recession and they say only 25% of the King’s vision was fulfilled. A lot of projects simply got stalled leaving incomplete bridges and buildings. Some people say that had 100% of the King’s dreams been achieved, then Dubai would have been the powerhouse destination of the world becoming a global leader in tourism, logistics and finance. However the astounding rate of growth before the recession has dried the coffers of the Sheikh and things have pretty much slowed down of late.
Of course, in spite of the slowdown, Dubai still remains a place where luxury simply has no limits. Indians with net worths of over 1000Crs are not uncommon in Dubai. Individuals who live in Dubai pay no tax on income, property, or capital gains. As expected, petrol is cheap (1 liter equals ~ Rs 17!!); in fact, water is often more expensive than gasoline. Glitz, glitter and glamour is pretty much every where all around – each successive car on the road is bigger than the last and mercs, audis and bmw’s are actually common place in Dubai – in fact, nobody even gives them a second look! The roads are extremely ordered with well made colossal bridges having ornate designs on them. A typical feature of Dubai construction is that normal traffic will not be affected by any such construction – this is pretty remarkable considering Dubai has enormous construction activity at almost any instant in time.
There are two things that will hit you once you get out of the airport – the unbelievable heat and the innumerable mallus. J Dubai is like a better version of Kerala with mallus all around the place. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised when I called the popular phone company for activating my phone and found out that one of the three choices of languages was Mallu. J And Mallus are quite respected in Dubai as they played a big part in the development of Dubai over the last three decades. In addition to Indians, Dubai is home and hope to various nationalities that collectively sculpt its cosmopolitan culture.
Another thing about Dubai is the amazing food. I probably had the best Mallu food, the best Chinese and the best kebabs I’ve ever had in my life, in Dubai. A crazy thing we did is drive all the way to Sharjah just to eat authentic shawarma (totally worth it and totally recommended!!) but the food at Dubai simply rocks!!! One dish which is not very publicized but extremely yummy is this Yemeni non-veg dish called ‘Maanthi’ – it’s basically rice and meat with spices and water which is slowly cooked in a deep hole in the ground that remains covered and is cooked until the meat becomes very tender and soft. Also, you eat it in a pretty strange way – you and your friends are given an individual cabin and everybody sits on the floor, cross legged and everybody eats from one huge plate with bare hands.
So for the tourists out there, the places and things recommended to do are – Dune Bashing (a solid experience of speed, fear, anxiety, adrenaline, exhilaration and plain crazzzy fun!), the water park at Atlantis (every bachelor guy’s dream and one helluva best kept secret! Don’t miss it!! ;)), the Jumeira stretch (wow!), the tallest tower Burj Khalifa (book online for the 5:30PM slot so that you can see Dubai both before and after sunset- simply beautiful!!), the breakfast at Burj Al Arab tour, the Palm Islands, pub stops (WoW to the diversity of babes!) and mall hopping (again of the many, many malls, I’d only suggest Dubai Mall (don’t forget the aquarium here), the Mall of Emirates, the Jumeirah Mercata mall, the Ibn Battuta mall, Ikea and the Dragon Mart). One thing that is pretty overrated is the Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi – my take is that it’s a waste of effort, money, and a total waste of a whole day! Totally, totally avoidable! Spend that time at the Dubai mall – it’s so bloody huge – I’ve literally spent two whole days there and still couldn’t cover it completely; and if you forgot where you’ve parked your car, well……. God save u! J
Finally, I’ll end with a few conspiracy theories in Dubai:
- The Cross of the Burj Al Arab - The Burj al Arab was designed by a British architect and we all know that it was built to resemble a sail. However, a sizable chunk of people claim that the architect designed it to represent a cross after he had a dream to have a Christian influence in a Muslim country. And what further fuels this theory is that the cross faces the holy city of Mecca! Rumors claim that Saudi Arabia was bent on outright demolition of the tower. An interesting story that did the rounds was that any cars registered in Dubai, that had one of the older license plates which had an image of the Burj Al Arab on them, weren’t allowed to drive into Saudi Arabia. (Of course, I must add here that this blog is pretty secular in its outlook and the only religion I follow passionately is human stupidity and mine.J)
- The Abu Dhabi Influence – Dubai, due to its unrelenting drive of development, pretty much used up most of its sources of money, so much that work almost stopped on the Burj Khalifa. Since the tower was then considered as the pride of Dubai, rumor is that the ruler of Abu Dhabi funded the remainder of the construction. In fact, the tallest tower in the world was initially named the 'Burj Dubai' and was changed at the last minute to the 'Burj Khalifa' to honor Sheikh Khalifa of Abu Dhabi. Some people say that Abu Dhabi had initially demanded Dubai's flagship airline, the profitable and one of the world's fastest growing carriers , the Emirates. Some others claim that most of Dubai today is already owned by Abu Dhabi, including Emirates.
Ultimately, Dubai is an amazing place – a foreign destination that will truly amaze you. Moreover, it is testimony to the fact that with vision, drive and ambition, Man can truly beat the elements and can consistently erect stunning mega structures out of an arid desert-land – think of it – once, Dubai’s biggest mega structure was the Palms, then came the Burj Al Arab, then Atlantis and now the Burj Khalifa. Only time will tell what’s next.
Salute to one of the globe’s greatest cities and to the world’s finest erection.
That dream called Dubai.
Salut à Dubaï!
Thank you Sandeep for the awesome title photograph taken from "the top of the world" and for most of the source of the above information.
other pics courtesy: google
btw, erection is defined as "something erected as in a building or construction"... what did you have in mind? J