Kicking up sand into a cloud of dust with each step I take, I walk along the Jumeirah Beach. I gaze out upon the crystal blue waters of the Persian Gulf to my right, and then the call for prayer rings out from the mosque and my attention is drawn to my left. And sitting before me in its rich, magnificent splendor is the Burj Al Arab, a five-star hotel built on its own manmade island. It boasts the world’s most luxurious hotel experience, but it comes with a hefty price tag, $2,000 per night. In fact, they won’t let anybody onto the island without a reservation. So I settle for admiring from afar.
My exploration of Dubai takes me to another man-made wonder, the Palm Jumeirah. It is an island built to resemble a palm tree when looking at it from above, but on the ground, I didn’t realize I had walked onto it because its size is so enormous that it dwarfs any concept of what a group of people could create. The palm trunk houses a series of thirty 5-star hotels, the fronds hold hundreds of multi-million-dollar homes, and at the top of the tree sits the Atlantis Resort. To say that the United Arab Emirates has a penchant for expensive spectacles is a gross understatement. Even as I rode the monorail up the trunk of the palm tree island, I couldn’t believe what was below my feet. The Emiratis keep building, and the rich and fabulous come to them. The supply and demand sequence has been distorted here in a way that allows for some stunning visual treats.
That evening I made my way over to the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, for an elevator ride up into the clouds. The ride up was a thrill and the views spectacular. The Burj Khalifa is connected to The Dubai Mall, which is not at all unexpected in the consumerism capital of the world. Since Dubai is a desert, everyone takes refuge from the heat inside the city’s many malls, which seem to be open all day and night. The malls are enormous, and as I walked through one, I passed four separate Versace stores! The malls also house such ridiculous features as an indoor skating rink, an in-mall aquarium, and an indoor ski resort!
At every turn, Dubai was surprising and impressing me with its marvelous display of wealth. The Emiratis have earned their money and now they’re eager to show it off in every way possible and unexpected. Consequently, the city is incredibly friendly to tourists and westerners. Despite its being an all-Muslim society, it holds no preconceptions about visitors abiding by their religious and societal restrictions. In fact, you’ll feel spoiled like royalty when you visit…as long as you bring your credit cards!