Table of contents for Dubai
A longing for a foreign trip was the primary motivator for planning the trip to Dubai. Though Dubai only made it very late to the list of candidates but having a close friend at Dubai and the comfort of rich hospitality sort of makes it easier. Also the fact that its not too far from Delhi and would involve least hassle in terms of Visas, helped us to seal the deal. We played frugal and decided to spend only 3 days, hoping that it would be enough.
Dubai is a State with-in UAE (United Arab Emirates). UAE was established in 1971 as a federation of seven emirates viz. Abu Dhabi (its capital), Dubai, Sharjah, Ras al-Khaimah, Ajman, Umm al-Qaiwain and Fujairah. HH Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Ruler of Abu Dhabi, has been President since beginning, and HH Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai, has been Vice President (also concurrently Prime Minister) since 1990. Its located in Persian Gulf, middle-east Asia. Off late Dubai has come up as a busy center of tourists courtesy massive development by Maktoum. It is said that Maktoum is the builder of Dubai who had made possible creating a fortune out of nothing. He had the vision to convert Dubai from a small desert city to a oasis of splurge and luxury. Dubai shopping festival attracts millions of people from Europe and elsewhere. A country which has just 7% of locals, is run by expats, mostly Asians viz. Indians, Pakistanis and Filipinos. There are sun starved Europeans and probably natives of the some of the other nations. Dubai would be the most cosmopolitan country in the world.
Unlike some of the other States Dubai doesn’t have any Oil and all of its economy is driven by tourism and business. Its not very surprising to know that there is no ‘Income Tax’ in Dubai, or for that matter any ‘government Tax’. As my host said that one thing which Maktoum is doing very well is marketing the whole thing correctly. Its really inspiring to know that a country which had no money (no Oil), no natural resources, not a highly skilled work-force and a not-so-tender weather, has been able to create a amazingly rich center of business. Great work HH Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum sir.
So lets start from the Radio Taxi, Easycabs, which dropped us in-time. We were flying Emirates (23K odd per person return includes Visa and Insurance) since that meant that you get Visa easily. Also, with a small kid you tend to get a little more protective. There are other flights which would come out a little more economical and it can come down to as low as 15K per person return. Since its a short-haul, I would think that one should actively explore these other options and save some moolah for a good Himalayan-break after you are back from Dubai.
There was a little hassle while check-in and emigration since the Visa was just a piece of paper having some codes. There was no Visa Stamp on the passport. Emigration folks wanted Emirates to vet the travel (Ready to Board kind of stamp) and this confusion let me do at least three rounds between the Emigration counter and the Check-in counter. The flight was on time. It was a Boeing, a really long Boeing, the in-flight entertainment was superb with everyone having their own screens, a large collections of TV Series and Movies, good food and we realized that we would be touching down in a while.
As I looked down, I saw only sand and yellow color (and I missed green very badly for next three days). My memories of Jaisalmer paled in comparison to what I saw from up. As long as one could see, it was all yellow sand with occasional black tar strips. Dubai Airport is not one of those big airports like Changi or Heathrow or JFK and we were out after customary checks. As we stepped out, the new Dubai was all over. Wide shiny roads with its own selection of best of cars gleaming past, clean and organized spaces and most importantly, tall towers. We were to stay at Dubai Marina, an upmarket sub-urb sort of Dubai which is gradually turning into one of the busiest business and housing complexes.
If you have been to any big US city then try to imagine the traffic and roads which you have seen there, those long wide fast roads with only cars and no other kind of vehicle, each zooming past in excess of 100 KMPH. Its a left hand drive and it was interesting to see our local desi cars there viz. Swift, City, SX4 among Hummers, Landrovers and what not. If you take a deep breadth and try to brood over, you might realize that this place has just been done-up last night. As I looked around, it seemed to me that this town didn’t exist the previous weekend. It was all new, all modern. Not a very great feeling to have.
By late afternoon, we were very nicely tucked in our friend’s centrally air conditioned rented residence at Hotel Harbor, Dubai Marina overlooking almost all of Dubai from 42nd floor. Every time you find your self in the elevator, you get a little dizzy. We timed that it was doing one floor per second. Crazy feeling. My apartment elevator is 4 times slower. And its not crazy.
Here are some more shots from the balcony. Later a friend in saadi Delhi commented that she always thought that these kind of photos were taken from a plane or something like that.
If you would notice then you see a haze. This photo was taken under a very bright sun so there was enough light. The haze is because of the all the dust owing to massive construction happening all around.
In the evening, we got out and went to ‘Mall of Emirates’. MoE is one of the largest malls in Dubai which look exceptionally similar to ‘Great India Place Mall’ in Noida, UP. There are usual stores like ‘Home Town’, ‘Jumbo Electronics’, ‘Carrefour’ and so on. The highlight of the mall is this Ski centre. You can do ski-ing right in Dubai within this mall.Ski Dubai started in December 2005 and is the world’s third largest indoor ski slope, measuring 400 meters and using 6000 tons of snow. Dubai skiing resort is the first Dubai indoor ski slope to open. I do not have any pics but you can check out more at their website. It didn’t seem like a real big place, more like a large banquet hall which has ski slopes where one can do things which you would do in a ski slope. We didn’t venture in though.
One other thing which we noticed was the presence of Indians everywhere, almost all the worker class is from here. Almost every driver, every watch man, every guard, every counter-boy is from here. You can survive in this city if you know Hindi.
We were back and by then the weather was a little less demanding. In the night those large towers look exceptionally bright and here are some final pics.
As we crashed on the spring bed donning a shiny white sheet and large fluffy cushions, I was thinking that wont one feel a little claustrophobic with all the cement around and not a green fig. Also, if it matters, then it was those Navaratri weeks and the ‘water of life’ was missing. I reminded myself to compensate the loss by having more whenever I get next opportunity.
Hang on for more fun as I write on Dubai Desert Safari and the ‘City Tour’.