Several years ago, we were playing trivia on a cruise when the question was posed: Name the tallest building in the world. We were stumped. When we heard the answer, the Burj Khalifa, we wondered how anyone could have known that! Yet, here we are in Dubai, home to the tallest building in the world…2,722 feet tall, opened in 2010, and seen in the first photo. You can see it from many places in the city, and it is adjacent to the Dubai Mall, the largest mall in the world, which makes it convenient to see and visit. This is a city of many firsts and many largests.
Today we hired a taxi to drive us around for a few hours to see more of Dubai, as not all of it is accessible by the metro. In the heat, walking is out of the question, so any sort of organized tour was unthinkable. We drove by the Burj Al Arab Hotel, seen in the second photo, which is another landmark building in this very modern city. It is the fifth-tallest hotel in the world, with its architecture meant to resemble a sailing ship. Adjacent to it, seen in the next photo, is the Jumeirah Beach Hotel, whose exterior resembles a large descending staircase. Next up was the Nasser Rashed Lootah Masjid Mosque, or Grand Mosque, of Dubai. We couldn’t find a way in, so we only have an exterior shot. After the mosque is a photo of the beautiful white sand beach along the Persian Gulf. Speaking of the Gulf, the UAE is in a very interesting location in the Middle East. It is bounded on the west by its huge neighbor, Saudi Arabia. One hundred forty miles east across the Strait of Hormuz is Iran, and Afghanistan is just beyond that. To the south, across the Persian Gulf, are Pakistan and India, and a bit to the north is Iraq. Having heard news about these countries for our entire adult lives, it is most interesting to be within their cultural spheres and see what their landscapes, environments, and weather are like.
After that, things got very interesting, as we drove onto the artificial archipelago that everyone has seen in photos, the Palm Jumeirah, which extends into the Persian Gulf and resembles a palm tree (from the air). The Palm Jumeirah opened its first residential buildings in 2006, and today has a population of about 11,000 people. Each “frond” of the Palm tree gives businesses, residences, and hotels views of the Gulf and beach access, so it is highly desirable real estate in Dubai. Of course, driving on it, it is quite large, and all you really see are buildings. Our destination was the outermost edge, where the Atlantis The Palm Hotel/Restaurant Complex is located. As you get near to it, the road goes into an underground tunnel, under the Gulf, just like the Chunnel! It was pretty neat. Public transportation is available onto the archipelago via a very modern-looking monorail zooming overhead, although the locals call it the tram (to distinguish it from the metro/subway). There are a series of photos of the outside and inside of Atlantis, which follows the story of Atlantis but also contains Arabic themes. The main glass “tree” you see upon entering the hotel is made of Venetian Murano glass, also used in the lobby of the Bellagio Casino in Las Vegas. We have read that the largest suite in the Atlantis goes for $18,000 per night! After the Atlantis photo is one of the residential areas we passed on the archipelago, which resembles an Arab fortress.
Next up is the Dubai Marina, with a photo of the still-in-progress Ferris wheel that will be…you guessed it!….the LARGEST in the world when it is completed next year in time for the 2020 World Expo. The other photo is of some beach cabanas and beach lounging areas. We must note, however, that almost everywhere we traveled today…in all the outdoor tourist areas….there is almost nobody outside other than a few workers here and there. Air conditioning is the Middle East’s lifeblood in the summer. It is even almost as hot at night as it is during the day. It was 110 F again today, and it hard to be outdoors for more than 10 minutes, maximum. So nobody is currently enjoying the beach cabanas or beaches! All the hotels have doormen and parking/taxi attendants, all wearing suits and long-sleeved shirts. We have asked them how they can be outside dressed that way, but they all smile, shrug, and brush it off. We get it, it is their job and their uniform, but we have trouble in shorts and tank tops!
The last two photos are also from the Atlantis, in the luxury coffee shop. These desserts look unreal. The one on the extreme right in the next-to-last photo is labeled “Coffee Lemon,” but doesn’t it look like porcelain? They all cost 26 dirhams each, about $7. Aren’t they beautiful? And wouldn’t you hate to ruin the illusion and bite into any one of them????