The first thing that attracted my attention after the four and a half hour flight from Istanbul was the “Women’s Waiting Area”. The city is very ethnically and religiously diverse but we are in a Muslim country. This I remember.
We board a taxi to reach our hotel. Because gasoline is cheap here, Taxis are reasonably inexpensive compared to other tourist cities of the world. The Metro is a good choice after arriving at the city center. With two lines, the Dubai Metro is very practical as it serves the airport and most of the popular sights. However, when you exit the Metro you must walk a bit to reach them.
Until about 50-60 years ago, Dubai was centered on the banks of the estuary in Deira where people were living in what could be considered primitive condition. Today Dubai has become one of the world’s richest cities. The multitude of luxury cars in the streets is just one piece of evidence of this wealth.
I have had two chances to visit this city with a four year break in-between, and like on my first visit it again impresses me. I feel as if I have discovered a new city because some of Dubai’s most popular tourist attractions, such as the Khalifa Tower and Dubai Mall, have recently been built and have changed the face of the city.
One of the things interesting to me about Dubai is the diversity of it’s people. Emirate or “locals” make up only about one-sixth of the population. Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Filipinos, Sri Lankans, Americans, Europeans … you can come across people from every nation in Dubai. Different ethnic identities, clothing, food and cultures are are preserved here. For example, when riding the metro you may see a Western woman in shorts, an Indian aunt wearing a traditional “Sari” being given a seat by a young Pakistani man, a local youth with a school back-pack wearing loose white robes, and a veiled Arab woman with a local tourist map in her hands all at the same time. One can go to Dubai just to watch this parade of nations.
The Burj Al Arab Hotel (Tower of the Arabs Hotel) was the first symbol of Dubai. Situated on an artificial islet near Jumeirah Beach; the hotel’s sailboat-shaped design is remarkable. Completed in 1999, this famous 70-story building also has the reputation of being the world’s first 7-star hotel.
The new symbol of Dubai is Burj Khalifa (Khalifa Tower). Completed in 2010, it holds the title of the “world’s tallest skyscraper”. It is impossible to not be affected looking down from from Khalifa Tower, which rises into the clouds. This 828 meter tall, 160-story skyscraper holds many world records: the tallest building ever constructed, the highest rising elevator, the worlds fastest elevator, the world’s highest elevated mosque, the highest elevated restaurant, the highest elevated night club, and so on. Above the 150th floor the construction is steel aggregated with concrete, the first building in the world of this type.
You can get a bird’s eye view of Dubai from the observation deck “At the Top”. Be warned! If you don’t obtain your tickets a few days in advance, your odds of finding a spot are quite low. If you can find a place, you may have to pay up to 4 times the normal price.
Between the Khalifa Tower and Dubai Mall and set on an artificial lake is the Dubai Fountain which provides a spectacular water show synchronized to music. There are several cafes next to the lake and if you sit at one of them you can take in the water show as well as magnificent views of the Khalifa Tower while sipping coffee. A very enjoyable way to spend time. The shows are repeated every half hour. I had seen similar shows in Las Vegas and several other cities, but this was the most impressive water show I have ever seen. The music and choreography change with every show. The water shoots very high and you really feel as if it is dancing. If you go during the day you should stay until evening. The daytime and evening shows are different and you can view the pine tree shaped Khalifa Tower beautifully illuminated at night. There are restaurants across the bridge and you can eat your dinner at one of them.
Right next to the Khalifa Tower is the Dubai Mall, the world’s largest and most visited shopping center. There are more than 1200 shops, an aquarium and underwater zoo, and an ice rink inside to attract visitors. One portion is believably extravagant and luxurious with beautiful local carpets and chandeliers on the ceiling. I am guessing that, besides shopping, a lot of the 65 million annual visitors come to see this extravagance and luxury.
One of Dubai’s popular shopping centers is the Emirates Mall. The only quirky thing for me is the indoor ski slope. After going to the Dubai Mall, you don’t really need to go to the Emirates Mall. There are countless shopping centers in the city after all. The traditional Arab style shopping area Souk Madinat Jumeirah provides another choice. Although Dubai is seen as a shopping paradise, especially for electronic equipment, the prices are almost the same as those in Turkey. I bought a camera in Dubai and when I returned to Turkey I realized the the same camera was being sold on promotion at a more affordable price. For this reason it is useful to research prices beforehand.
Palm Island (Palm Jumeirah) is also one of the important places to visit in Dubai. From a bird’s eye view this artificial island resembles a Palm Tree and the most remarkable structure on it is the Atlantis Hotel. Set on the very tip of Palm Island, this hotel was designed as the “Key to the City”. 17 Hectacres (170,000 m2) are set aside for water activities. You can go just to drink a coffee or use the water park facilities. On the “branches” of Palm Island are luxurious homes designed in Arab architectural style. Honestly, I didn’t find it very aesthetic but to observe the lifestyle of the rich and see the magnificent automobiles was interesting.
On one side of the estuary known as “Dubai Creek” is Deira, and on the other side is the Bur Dubai district. You can also include Old Dubai in your tour plans. Just remember that you shouldn’t have high expectations as this is not a very old city.
You can take a short water taxi (called Abra) tour along the creek and visit the traditional souk markets (gold, spices, textiles, etc.) The Bastakiye area in this district is famous for it’s wind towers, a traditional air-conditioning method that uses wind to cool the inside of courtyard homes.
A desert safari is one of the classic things to do in Dubai. You hit the sands in 4×4 Jeeps and programs can include sand skiing, a visit to a camel farm, ATV and/or camel riding, and dinner in a Bedouin tent.
I leave Dubai “A City Rewriting Destiny” satisfied once again. Because I am curious about the changes this city will undergo by my next visit, I know this will not be my last trip here.