Dubai, the experience and the showcase, a marvel in the middle of a vast desert, it is the place to travel to for wonder and amazement. Dubai has become the epitome of urbanization, a confluence of sectors and alignments that brought the political with the economic and the social with the cultural, a itinerary of development.
If it was affected by the reeling global recession that started at the end of the last decade, it doesn’t show it. The emirate displays great confidence and vitality across its many sectors ranging from the economic and commercial to trade, construction and finance. There is a continuing “feel good” factor as found in the many activities one can do on a great holiday.
There are many, many people who travel to Dubai, just to live the experience. In 2012, 57 million passengers came through its exquisitely impressive international airport, from all continents. This includes people working in Dubai, those on transit in this strategic area of the Gulf or just for a lay-back sojourn. In 2011, the number of guests who visited the country was 11 million people, and the number is forecast to grow to 15 million by 2015.
It is easy to see why, for the city has undergone great transformations. It is still considered as a major economic hub in the region, an immense place for leisure activities, desert sports, scuba diving, shopping to yachting, golf and many more.
The city has certainly undergone great changes in as many short years. Today, the environs is much more reflective for Dubai is much taller, taller than you would ever expect as measured by its buildings, apartment flats and business blocs, displaying a series of fantasy experiences.
In the last 10 years there was a complete revamping with more constructions, more buildings and more prestige. Because of, I suspect the weather, which in winter is very nice, there is now huge attractions in shopping malls, they have become more elegant, more superior and cater for different clientele of shoppers. The previous existing malls like the City Centre in Deira has undergone a transformation while Burjman in Bur Dubai is itself the subject of redevelopment. Now the cliché, is the bigger, the better.
This has resulted in new and more ostentatious shopping malls coming on the scene like the one stretching in the Dubai Mall, located off the new hip-pop flash business district at the start of Sheikh Zayed Road to the Emirates Mall where snow-skiing is the order of the day for anyone wanting to try his skates in a hot climate and have a menu-splash out after.
Seeing is in the believing. It is a glitzy feeling, becoming alive at night with its stylish cone-capped Transylvanian psychedelic structures and roving brand shops through long labyrinths of excitement. I take a rest every while to ease the pressure on my back. But there is a wonder of stimulation as me and my wife get lost in what is called “Fashion Alley” where top designer labels eye the rich and famous, and/or in watching the manmade cascading waterfall.
Our bearings are directed back as we enter the food court of myriads of restaurants, cafes and eateries for practically every taste. Mine is for books, and was told there is a very large bookshop that even has a collection of Japanese literature. In the end, I forego that experience and go for the good old British fish and chips.
Outside, we sit and gaze at the majestically-built Khalifa Tower, arguably the highest in the world starting with a relatively wide base that corrugates in style as it stretches upwards, zigzagging into a blue sky till it melts into a thin-like pipe. Somewhere up there is a hotel, a sort of apartments and a very expensive restaurant.
We were 100 meters afar. I was tempted to go up, to see the whole of Dubai and beyond, but instead settle for looking at this puffed up symbol of modernity breezing our surroundings, remembering what one acquaintance told me the previous day when I commented the Khalifa Tower didn’t at all look tall when we passed it on the highway.
“It’s an optical illusion, it may not look huge in length but you have to stand in front of it and look upwards to see how tall the building really is, and its tall,” he said.
In front of us, were we sat was a little creek and just over was an urban setting of structures that hark back to the past, and facing that, was a beefy hotel. From where we sat as well we saw the rolling horizons of skyscrapers dotted with what can only be called gigantic towers, adding a sense of the surreal to a land changing so fast. You immediately conjure the futuristic films occasionally seen on television and cinema.
We went on the Sheikh Zayed Road so many times. One side marooned to Abu Dhabi, and another lead to the extraordinary Jabal Ali Free Zone, an economic miracle of investments. One feels the billions and billions dollars festooned in the past decade, now producing a dazzling look of action.
One comment from a local expatriate engineer was stark. “These skyscrapers are architectural marvels, they glare at you and you wonder, Dubai is one of the few cities that encourages innovation and style in the way their towers are built, engineers and architects are given a free-hand, what matters in the end is the shape of the tower.”
And he may be right for it seem that the owners of these towers are at pain to stress they want their skyscrapers to be the best looking, certainly the most flamboyant in the region, which goes without saying, competing with major cities in the world.
I wasn’t particularly interested in the vast residential areas that spread-eagled different parts of the city, what was exciting for one was the Dubai Metro that stretched to different parts of the city, now that’s a major attraction. I took a ride just for the thrill of it, stepping on from Burjman to one of the station’s that lead to one of the malls. It was remembering a different country I used to live in, the train structure exactly the same yet more modern and clean.
This was a quick visit to Dubai that allowed me to reflect on a city that possess golden keys to the future. The crowning of the cake was Atlantis, a complex dilettante structure that glorifies the future. The Lamborghini’s, Rolls Royce’s and Maserati’s were in droves outside the park reception area handing their keys to valets so they can enjoy the huge aquarium of fish, shark and all the sea mammals you can think. Bon Voyage Dubai.