DUBAI, UAE, March 28 – 31 – Here we are in Dubai … one of seven Emirate states that all united in 1971 to form the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as we know the region today. Dubai led the way in enticing great interest of the western world. A most extraordinary brand new towering glittery ostentatious city built right up out of the windswept Arabian desert sands. This is an awesome place of ‘OTT’ extravagant development that in its own right is a modern wonder of our world. All about ‘black gold’ … oil. Dubai’s population of over 2million is only 20% Emirati people, 80% expatriate workers from all parts of the world. Here is a place where water is more expensive than petrol. Dubai’s meteoric development raced forward since finding oil in the late 70s. Recently Dubai bankrupted from over development and world financial crisis, it’s oil was running out too, but it was immediately ‘bailed out’ by good neighbor Abu Dhabi (massively wealthy with oil and natural gas). This entire place seems unreal, unimaginable. Towering brand new sky scraper buildings all over the city represent other buildings from major cities around the world. The Emirati housing sub-divisions are very large homes within gated communities.
We are residing in the new uber-modern Armani Dubai hotel which is within one of the new city-center development areas (there are several of these around Dubai). Our hotel is within the world’s tallest building, the sky towering glass Burj Khalifa. We have moved from Rambagh’s historic rambling elegance to Armani Dubai more unusual mod-chic opulence. Alongside our hotel is the world’s largest new shopping mall, the Dubai Mall. It is all staggering. Outside our hotel are the largest most impressive dancing fountains of our world. The restaurants are excellent, vast indoor & outdoor venues.
Our first exciting venture is to be whisked up in the fastest elevators in the world … up to the 148th ‘sky deck’ viewing lounge and outdoor platform (tallest in the world). We are above the clouds!! The skyscrapers around us look rather short and small. It is an immediate ‘bird’s eye’ view of this surreal place in the desert.
Our day in Dubai together brings us to a cultural heritage center in the very heart of “old Dubai”, all restored to be brand new of course. It’s a fairly interesting overview discussion with a young lady from Dubai – Dalia – who is definitely amusing and interesting while rather ‘glossy’ in her information. Dalia definitely shows us that the young Muslim of today are making change to their centuries old very traditional religion. How amazing that their iPhones not only have the ‘App’ that shows them the correct direction of Mecca (for prayer), but also alarms to remind them of their 5 prayer times during each day. From here we head across the Dubai Creek (man made of course) in the old style Arab boats, little dhows, and we are across to the ‘Souk City’ – the Spices, Textiles, and Gold souks of Dubai.
In the afternoon we head out into the Arabian desert in large comfortable 4×4 Toyota Land cruisers (the ‘Japanese camels’). Once away from the city and well out into the desert it is a most spectacular and exciting desert sand dune experience. The rolling ‘red’ sand dunes of the desert undulate away as far as the eye can see … our desert drivers are professionals at driving up and down and over and along the dunes, stopping at various places to regain our breath and take photos. We come to sunset reception with Persian carpets, red roses on cocktail tables, chilled Moët et Chandon, and an excellent talk and display of falconry. After enough champagne, there’s also the opportunity to ride camels in the dusk. A short drive further and we come to a Moorish looking castle in the sands … our Lakani ‘Arabian Nights’ dinner venue under the stars, with lavish Arabian fusion dinner and complete with an entertaining show of local Arab music and dance. It’s been a long day and the drive home across the desert soon brings us back into glittering Dubai where the night life is just getting underway.
Our second day …
Some head out on the Emirates Road highway. We’re headed east over to nearby neighboring Emirate called Sharjah. Sharjah is the third largest Emirate after Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Sharjah maintains a more purest Emirate cultural and deeper more pure Muslim faith and Islamic approach. Many people that work in Dubai live in Sharjah and commute from there. We drove through impressive ‘university city’ where a cluster of international universities reside. At the new Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization we find an impressive building with gold dome, housing more than 5000 Islamic artifacts from all over the Islamic world, incl art, religious and scientific manuscripts, ceramics and glass, arms and armory, woodwork, textiles and jewelry. The fascinating and long story of Islam is better understood here, as well as the 5 peaceful pillars of Islam. We also enjoyed a quick stop at Sharjah’s small Blue Souk market.
Others, the majority of our group, enjoy a boat cruise from the Dubai Marina around the fascinating and fabulous development of Palm Island (some know it as 8th wonder of the world). A large man-made island made in the shape of a gigantic Palm Tree, this place houses fine international hotels as well as private homes to the wealthiest international investors.
We all meet together for an incredible luncheon atop the iconic Burg Al Arab Hotel at the beach. The hotel’s vast sail design towers along the white sandy coastline. We’re dining at the hotel’s fine dining Al Muntaha up on the 27th floor with panoramic views all across the man-made islands and along the coastline. Delicious carpaccio salads, entrees of fresh sea bass or Angus steak, and delicious desserts are enjoyed along with memorable views.
From the fast track lifestyle of Dubai … we’re headed on to one of Europe’s lesser known yet most idyllic quieter seaside settings. The historic small town of Biarritz on the southwestern coast of France, on the Atlantic, just a ‘stones throw’ away from Spain. Here we’ll stay at an Empress’s summer palace. We have much to explore and enjoy in this picturesque area. Our weather will be cool springtime. In the meantime – from Dubai – our trusty silver ‘sky bird’ home-away-from-home is elegantly transporting us in sweet style and comfort. Our crew is looking after us ‘royally’ as usual … and as usual we are ‘happy campers’ enroute to our next cultural connection adventures …
Check out photos from our stay Dubai. Click any photo to enlarge.
Click here to follow us to our final destination, Biarritz, France.