From the moment you begin your descent into Dubai, the first thing you notice is the city is so lavishly lit up; the suburbs look like fields of gold from the view 7,000 feet up. The airport terminal, with its Rolex wall clocks and marble flooring, is extravagant, while the Duty Free shops have Bentleys and Porsches displayed in their windows to serve as a subtle reminder that you have just arrived in one of the richest lands in the world.
You can literally smell the wealth. Even the air you breathe feels expensive. The waterfront part of the city boasts daring architecture, while most structures on the outskirts of the city are low rise, consisting of 1-2 storey buildings seemingly made up entirely of car yards and boutique car dealerships. All marques are represented like embassies – proudly displaying their finest merchandise in the glass windows, which are visible from the roadside. BMW, Porsche, Lamborghini, Ferrari, Masserati, Rolls Royce are just some that catch your eye. X5s are used like CRVs are here. They are common transport for these folk.
Majestic structures dominate the skyline and are all designed with a sense of ostentation and a hint of arrogance that sum up the overall personality of the most progressive city on the planet.
The Burj Al Arab Hotel is the finest example of such senseless flamboyancy. Standing 321 meters tall, on a man made island, the hotel boasts the tallest atrium on earth as well as an underwater seafood restaurant, a two-story aquarium, a hanging restaurant, and a $9,000 USD a night 760sqm royal suite. My personal suite (a standard room) had 8 telephones and a grand staircase finished in pure 22 carat gold. Staring up from the lobby, a labyrinth of colors burns your eyes much in the same way as when you stare directly into the sun. And you can be sure, too, that all that glitters is real gold.
Designed by a British architect, legend has it that it was his dream to have a Christian influence in a Muslim country. It may just be small talk by the hotel staff, but if you look at the hotel which is shaped like a giant sailboat, you will notice that the hanging restaurant intersects and casts a shadow of the crucifix onto the ocean. Legend? Who knows? But it makes for a great conversation piece. The hotel took five years to build; two of those years were spent building an island for the hotel to rest on. Each room has a private butler and the hotel has a staff of over two thousand.
Not to be outdone, the Palm development is a project that is currently undergoing construction and will soon be known as the eighth wonder of the world. The task is to build the world’s largest man made island. It will take five years to complete using over one hundred million cubic meters of rock and sand. Once fulfilled, the island will boast 100 hotels, 2,500 villas, 2,000 shoreline apartments, several shopping centers, a monorail, a water park with dolphins and killer whales and will add another 120 kilometers of shoreline to Dubai. The island is massive; it is said to be visible from the moon with the naked eye.
English is fluent among the locals but if you’re hard pressed, you can almost get by on Tagalog (Filipino). Regardless of what nationality though, the service is something out of this world. Rarely is there a request that cannot be fulfilled. Alcohol is legal in Dubai and there are no restrictions on your lifestyle except for gambling. I even heard that there was a strip club in town that would give our local bars a run for their money.
To be able to understand Dubai first you must remove logic and the word budget. Each development is set to out-do the next – all in an attempt to lure the crème de la crème from around the world to use the Middle East as their playground. Or, better yet, home. Residence certificates are automatically granted to those that purchase a condo on the magnificent Palm development. Prices start at just over half a million USD.
From camels to duty free gold; deserts to pristine blue oceans; magnificent hotels to man made islands, Dubai has a little bit of magic for everyone. Just when I thought I had seen it all, I realized I just haven’t been opening my eyes wide enough. After all, as they like to say out here in the Emirates: “When was the last time you did something for the first time?”