Dubai is certainly a place full of contrasts. The old and new, the latter being the most prominent aspect that greets you everywhere you go. The coolness of the air conditioned interiors and the oven hot summer heat that bakes you the moment you go outside. Although I was brought up in the Middle East nothing really conditions you to the extreme hot temperatures that are the norm in the gulf region. It's never been below 42% in the daytime whilst we have been here. It's true to say...only mad tourists go out in it...the locals know better.
I have visited Dubai on a few occasions over the last twenty odd years with the band and watched with awe, wonder and a certain amount of trepidation as the area has developed out of all recognition to what it used to be. I remember it took a 20 minute drive from the city centre across open desert to reach the oasis that was the Emirates Golf Club. Now that same club is surrounded by acres and acres of high rise development. The long open and empty Jumeirah Beach now has vast stretches of 5 star hotel and tourists resort accommodation snaking along the sea front. Then there are the Palm developments that spill into the gulf from which thrust up even more impressive tower blocks, and communitys of high end residential homes.There are far more expats living in Dubai than there are locals, but whether a demand for all this residential building can be sustained remains to be seen.
Everywhere you go In Dubai you see the continued work going on to improve the infa-structure of the roads with an ever increasing amount of multi-level junctions and fly-overs to try and accommodate the massive amount of traffic now flowing through the Emirate. Although they incorporate superb and wide pavements in the road designs it's certainly not a pedestrian user friendly place. It would be a nightmare to try and walk anywhere. If the heat didn't get you the road works and motorway barriers would. So everyone travels by car. This may change a little as they are about to open the largest unmanned metro system in the Middle East which runs the length of the main Shaikh Zaid Road, which is the one with all the impressive high rise sky scrapers that are proliferating along it's length on either side.This is the road that runs east west and takes you from the old creek quarter to the tourist beaches 15 miles to the west. This is another area which has changed in a massive way insomuch as it now resembles Manhattan By The Sea with added glitz and wow factor! Now a vast conglomeration of tower blocks and hotels have sprung up along side man made water-ways incorporating innumerable shops, cafes, marinas etc. The template seems to be even bigger, even better, even more lavish as is demonstrated by such places as the Burj Al Arab, Atlantis Hotel on The first Palm structure and the soon to come Trump Tower.It's true to say some of the worlds most prestigious hotels are to be found here.
Having no desire for a "beach" holiday (due to the heat) we opted to stay in a hotel halfway between the Tourist sea front area and the old city centre on the Creek. Sight-seeing was the order of the day. We found a great hotel in an area set back from the Main Sheihk Zaid road. It's position was close to the Burj Dubai, the tallest building in the world, sitiuated in a water-wayed development built in the traditional Arabian style architechture. http://www.southernsunme.com/almanzil/index.htmThe whole district is built in keeping with this style..and although called "Old Town" is brand new but very atmospheric. It was a wise move both finacially,and practical as it was never too far to go when venturing out away from the poolside. Luckily there was always plenty of courtesy transport to choose from, and even taxis proved to be quite cheap. So one day would see us visiting the Burj Al Arab 7 star hotel for high tea, the next day we'd be down at the creek side visiting the Museum, then crossing the creek on the old water taxis for 20p to check out the traditional souks and finally buying a meal for 15 drs. (less than 3 quid for the two of us!) O.K. we got hot and sticky with the heat but you've got to be a bit intrepid sometimes.You takes your choice!!
It's self evident that Dubai is on a course to become one of the most attractive holiday resort areas in the world and is pushing like mad to provide everything one could want.At the same time it keeps coming up with world beating exhibits such as the Worlds Tallest Building. The worlds Largest Shopping Mall, Largest indoor ski slope etc. The shopping Malls are indeed worth a visit, however you get the impression that once you've seen one you've seen the lot. Staying near the newest and largest (Dubai Mall) meant we only had to cross the road (no mean feat) to pay a visit.Having no duty to pay the preconceived opinion is that you can buy branded named goods much cheaper than back home, however we found that not to be the case with regard to most of the goods we looked at. You might find the odd bargain down by the creek in the old centre of Dubai..but not in the new plush Malls. The cost of eating and drinking is high here too! Nevertheless, the Malls are so vast that you can spend hours inside keeping out of the heat and it seems every retail outlet from around the globe can be found inside from the most exclusive coiture to Topman, and when you've done shopping you can eat at any one of hundreds of recognised food outlets that take your fancy. We had cocktails at noon in the Emirates Mall whilst watching skiers come down the slope, meanwhile the temperature outside was 44% with 80% hummidity!! How bizarre is that!!? Only in Dubai.
O.K. In about 100 years the oil will eventually run out and they are relying on tourism to maintain their standard of life. However I feel they have to be careful not to over do things. I hear that they have plans to make a huge theme park three times the size of any of the American Disney Parks. Inside they will have exact full size replicas of the Eiffel Tower, The Pyramids, St. Marks Square, Venice etc . I think this is a step too far. I say go to the countries that have the originals. I think the idea unworthy of Dubai and a bit tacky. Let Dubai make something special of it's own....maybe a new hanging gardens to outshine the Babylon ones of legend. One aspect of a high profile holiday destination is missing here. There are no casinos. I suspect that gambling doesn't sit well with the Islamic ethic otherwise, being the money spnners they are, you'd expect the place would be over run with them. I'm glad that is the case as it prevents Dubai becomng too gouche a la Las Vegas. What's left of the charm of the N.E. Arabian Peninsular would become further erroded.
On another front they are really pushing the boat out too. Sports is going to be a big factor in encouraging people to keep investing and visiting the area. Golf, Rugby, Horse Racing are amongst many professional sports fields that Dubai are involved in sponsoring and developing. Dubai sponsors and offers massive sums in prize money for international competitions which they are keen to establish in the Emirates. They just got the Americas Cup, the jewel in the crown for boat racing. I believe that even the English cricket board has moved it's head quarters to Dubai such is the prominence and influence now in place here. Naturally, building the stadia and facilities seems no problem to the developers. Dubai it seems has been an investors playground over the last few decades with housing estates blossoming all over. Work has already started on a massive off-shore develoment to the East of The Creek that will dwarf the Palm structures. I also hear there are plans to add much more off-shore reclamation in the shape of the" Universe" to go alongside The World Project. This will include the sun,the planets and the spiral arm of our galaxy! I fear that all this will be overkill and they''ll end up spoiling what was a very inviting and natural coastline.
One thing you can't find fault with in the Emirates is the excellent food,both in choice and quality. Another thing that is five star (apart from most of the hotels) is the service. Absolutely superb with everyone pleased to help and not a surly face in sight. The hard line low tollerance attitude to law breaking ensures that crime is almost non existant. No anti social behaviour, no grafitti, no litter and no lager louts. Dubai remains one of the safest places on the planet and I'd be quite happy to wander around the place late at night in the knowledge that no harm would befall me. All liberal do gooders take note. Like Singapore,Dubai has the answer.
Despite it's rapid growth they tell us that the recession has had quite an impact in The Emirates and many engineering and building projects have been put on hold. As you drive about it's true, you can see many tall structures standing like skeletons surrounded by idle cranes, but it'll only be a matter of time until the work gets completed. That's my over riding impression of Dubai as it stands today. It's a fast growing city, still full of vitality especially in the continued development of infra structures for business, tourism, and sports and you have to be impressed by the speed and audacity. Great forward thinking and awesome architecture abounds everywhere, as do the road works...As I write I can hear a pneumatic drill blasting away outside! It's a truly remarkable and impressive place.....and it'll be fantastic when it's finished. I believe I already said that about 15 years ago! Blessings be upon you all.