Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Dubai: swapping sunshine for snowfall

Burj Khalifa, Dubai
The Burj Khalifa
From one city to another, I've been fortunate to see a lot more of the world this year. Never one to tire of travel, I jumped at the chance for a (very) spontaneous trip to Dubai. Save for a couple of meetings, the trip was purely for pleasure: sun, sand and er, skyscrapers. Yes, Dubai is a cosmopolitan city (or Emirate to be exact), but it's also a remarkably peaceful seaside resort. And - at least on the surface - it's pace is not all that hectic. Mind and body aside, I also enjoyed an online detox. As you may well know, this was not my intention. But, someone, somewhere (with the power to corrupt my laptop), seemed to believe it necessary. Not only did my eyes thank me for some screen down-time, I definitely felt more rested, benefitting from the vitamin-D fuelled Dubai sunshine instead of my hotel's air-conditioning. Of course, I still had my trusty phone for emails and the like; you can take a girl away from [her] city, but you can't take the city away from the girl.
Dubai architecture
Dubai was a novel travel experience to cross off my list, and a highly unique one at that. It is a place as rich with contrasts as it is with displays of opulence. Malls, skyscrapers and hotels bearing every amenity imaginable, share the city with gold souks, traditional dress and Bedouin folk music. Old and new, extreme wealth and poverty, treasured customs and development (yes, they're still building). For the tourist, Dubai is surreal, astonishing and fascinating. You imagine that you've been asked to enter a futuristic world, in which someone was given full reign to create their dream landscape from scratch. Beaches? Check. Some of the tallest, most architecturally stunning buildings in the world? Check. Excellent transport?(take a ride on the space shuttle-like Dubai metro) Check. International and tourist-friendly? Check.
Financial district, Dubai
Financial district
And still, Dubai is literally rising from the sand before your eyes. Pristine walkways are coupled with cranes and mounds of desert. Nevertheless, it's not particularly noisy and there is a truly unique beauty in the beach-side shimmering glass apartment blocks and Wall Street-esque panorama. As for the beaches, they are extremely beautiful, the sand exquisitely soft and the water warm and silky. Indeed, each of Dubai's separate parts are touristically pleasing. Together? Unusual and maybe not to everybody's taste, but I thoroughly enjoyed my visit. Dubai was nothing like anywhere I'd been before (not even on screen!) but it has certainly imprinted its distinctive identity in my memory. 

Dubai Highlights
Here are a couple of highlights from our trip. Speaking of contrasts, it's strange to imagine I was only there a few hours ago, now looking outside at London's falling snow.
  • The Dubai Mall - the name says it all. The ultimate Dubai shopping destination, featuring the world's biggest and best brands. Plus a familiar selection of high-street names: Topshop, Debenhams and Zara Home. What makes this (and other Dubai malls) such a must-see? Shopping is not the only attraction. How about the aquarium, the ice rink, or an art exhibition? Then, of course, you can return to one of the most seductive shopping line-ups (with cash to splash, of course): Hermès, Jimmy Choo, Alexander McQueen, Lanvin, Temperley London, Chanel, Chloé, Stella McCartney and more.

Lanvin window, Dubai
Dubai Mall Acquarium, Dubai
The Dubai Mall Acquarium
Atrium, Dubai Mall, Dubai
One of many atriums, The Dubai Mall

  • The Burj Khalifa (top photo) is the world's tallest man-made structure and is breathtaking. At 828m, construction began in September 2004. The exterior completed in October 2009, but the officially opening didn't take place until January 2010. A central feature to "Downtown Dubai" and nearby financial district, The Burj Khalifa houses an Armani hotel, private residential apartments and corporate offices. There has been much debate about the debt incurred from the build (as with Dubai generally), yet it remains a sensational sight for tourists and abode for those who stay/live there. There is an observation deck, but a wonderful view can be gained from Bistro Madeleine at The Dubai Mall (where the top photo was taken). Enjoy a cappuccino from 6pm-10pm on weekdays or 6pm-11pm on weekends and the beautifully choreographed Dubai Mall fountain display will dazzle you from your seats, in the man-made Burj Khalifa lake in front of you.
Dubai Mall fountain, Dubai
Both photos: Dubai Mall fountain

Dubai Mall fountain 'dance', Dubai

I'd love to hear your opinions of this fascinating city.

Images: all my own.


  1. enjoyed your photos so much! lucky you :)

  2. Wow I wanna go! Next time lets see if I can fit in your luggage lol ;) xoxo


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