I had a refuelling stop in Dubai back in 1973, travelling between London and Melbourne. The magnitude of growth since then is astronomical. Dubai airport is now massive and shiny – a great first impression. We were to learn over the next few days that everything is Dubai has -est attached to it.
In need of a long walk, we trekked down to the Dubai Creek and explored its edges. Being Friday afternoon, after prayers and at the beginning of the Arab weekend, the creekside was full of people, tourists and locals alike.
Dhows of all shapes and sizes ploughed up and down the creek, but we were particularly taken by the water taxi Abras and the numerous seagulls that followed them.
We were lucky enough to visit the Old Dubai Souk (market) in the late afternoon but before many of the stalls opened. The light was spectacular so Bruce got his camera out. Check out moustache.com.au for his photos.
Leg worn the next day, we opted for the Big Bus Tour, which runs two bus routes – Blue along the seafront and Red in the city. It was only after 5 hours on the bus did we realise what a huge city Dubai is, spread over miles and contained within “cities” – Sports City, Motor City, Internet City, Media City, Knowledge City, Health City,… with construction happening at a massive rate, including a new Dubailand.
We also learned about the tallest, the fastest, the longest, the biggest and many other “-est”. Dubai is competing with the whole world in magnitudes that make our Australian cities look slow and backward, especially when we can’t even build a decent transport link to Melbourne Airport.
The old Dubai sits on both sides of the creek, now a formidable amount of water dredged to 5 meters to allow the many trading dhows in. These flimsy looking wooden boats ply their trade as far afield and India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh to the east and Somalia to the south. They are stacked with all kinds of stuff – food, textiles, machinery, cars and electronic goods.
The bus tour took us past all the major sites – Jumeirah Resort, Burj Al Arab (like a sail), Atlantis on the Palm, Emirates Mall/Ski Dubai, Dubai Mall/Burj Khalifa (tallest building), Wafi Mall /Pyramids, stopping at each shopping mall, encouraging us to get out and buy.
Dubai is a city of amazing architecture, buildings appear to lean, float, fly and dance by their very shape and colour. And at night they are a blaze of coloured lights.
We joined the Dhow trip up and down the Dubai Creek to watch life on the creek. We explored the Souks and conquered the Metro.
The brand new, driverless Metro connects many of the cities and emerges from underground in the older part of town to above ground and above the roads along the famous Sheikh Zayed Road (E11) that connects all the Emirate states.
In the evening we retuned to Dubai Mall/Burj Khalifa to see the dancing waters, a magnificent fountain display set to music and based on Fountains of Bellagio in Las Vegas. The water danced to rock, oriental, Arabic and classical music, putting on a show every half hour. Since it was a weekend, crowds packed the edge of the lake for the best view.
Sunday is a work day in the Arab states, so tourist attractions were less busy. We visited the Dubai Museum in the Old Fort, which used life size models to explain the life, culture and history of what was once a modest fishing and pearl diving port.
Our planned desert safari was cancelled after a sand storm hit town. The air was hazy and heavy so to stay indoors, we visited the Aquarium at the Dubai Mall instead – biggest perspex aquarium panel ever. The massive tank teamed with all varieties of fish – sharks, rays, tuna,… There was also a “water zoo” with a variety of marine creatures and some creepy crawlies for added measure.
We have only touched the surface of Dubai, but it is evident that the growth in the last 50 years has been amazing. Can it continue to grow at this rate?