Impressions of Dubai

The ski hill inside the Dubai Mall

I am catching up on blog posts. I visited Dubai last spring.

It was my first time to the global city of Dubai. The largest city of the United Arab Emirates marked country number 64 on my life list. I was here on business so only had 23 and 1/2 hours on the ground. The trip was special because I got the opportunity to fly business class on Emirates, rated by many, the best business class airline experience in the world. Being in education and having a large family, I usually fly economy so it was a nice change. Probably the best thing about it besides the obvious fully-reclining seat/bed and space is the lack of waiting in lines. Before my flight, I went to the business class lounge with the extra time I save with skipping the lines through immigration and at the gate. Who cares what section A-B-C-D is boarding when one can leisurely stroll through the first and business class entry and board the plane without worrying about people coming behind you. It is a bit of a different world. Of course in my opinion, not worth the amount extra one pays, but it is nice.

A typical daytime view in Dubai

Although I wasn’t in the country long, I did have most of the afternoon and evening to go to the famous Mall of the Emirates and Dubai Mall. People in the Gulf region love to shop and the malls were absolutely massive. It felt like the economy is booming here, with thousands of shoppers with lots of bags, tens of booths advertising investing in apartments, including one offer that gave free access to the Trump International Golf Course. I can’t get away from hearing that man’s name. Lots of ostentatious wealth displayed with Ferraris, BMW, etc. Walking around the hotel in the morning just after my arrival, I saw several very drunk or stoned people laughing and shouting coming out of the nightclub. This was at around 5:00 AM.

Civic life centers around the many shopping malls in the city

It truly is a global city with so many nationalities represented in the tourists and workers. I talked to Russians, Filipinos, Pakistanis, Moroccans, South Africans, Jordanians, etc. who were working retail in the stores, serving as tour guides or working at the hotels as chefs, porters, etc. The captain announced the pilots and flight attendants were from 9 different countries. The language of the city is English, which is a refreshing change from Japan. I was able to talk to people.

The Burj Khalifa is the tallest building in the world and so I decided to take the tour. I went to the 148th floor, over 800 meters high. It was a spectacular view, similar to experiences I’ve had at the Tokyo Tower, CN Tower Toronto and the Umeda Sky Building here in Osaka. Huge skyscrapers next to it looked tiny. It was quite crowded and I paid extra to avoid a 3-hour wait. I bought my ticket online in the morning and was disappointed to see the long wait times.

Shopping is King! This was in the luxury section of the Dubai Mall with a higher % of locals

General Observations

  • Dubai was much more modern and larger than Bahrain, the only other time I’ve been in the Gulf region. I saw more Western influence in Dubai, with lots of tourists and expatriates.
  • The contrast between women covered completely in black, Arab clothing to women walking around in tight shorts and tank tops is always striking. Japanese women generally carry themselves meekly and it was nice to see confident women strutting brashly around the mall.
  • The high during the day was 39 Celsius which is normal for spring here. Between the extremely high temperatures and lack of sidewalks or bike paths, you rarely see people walking.
  • A haze covered the blue skies and I was reading about Saudi Arabia having high levels of air pollution.
  • I think most Arab men have beards because they can. I noticed both Arab men and women are hirsute. If I tried growing a beard, it would be patchy for a long time, but Arab men have full, uniform facial hair.
The view from the top of the Burj Khalif

I always ask myself, could I live in the place that I visited? I really didn’t spend enough time here to give a definitive answer. Wilderness and nature are important to me and I would have to see if the  Arabian/Persian Gulf and the Red Sea and flat desert landscapes could satisfy me.

More people are active at night due to the daily heat. 

The amount of wealth that has come to the Arabian peninsula with the discovery of oil is astounding. You can see much of the consequences of this in a small area like Dubai. I wonder what the long-term consequences will be on the people of the Emirates.

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