From Sand dunes to skyscrapers…if ever there were an ode to progress, Dubai would be it.
Dubai, one of the seven states making up the United Arab Emirates, is located in the Middle East, at the crossroads of Asia, Europe and Africa.
A tax-free haven for shoppers, with very low crime rates, this city has certainly established itself as a tourist magnet. Imagine a skyline with a staggering number of skyscrapers…a sophisticated network of highways with a multitude of the finest cars zipping about…the world’s first and only seven-star hotel, gorgeous shopping malls…tax-free sales… and theme parks that could rival Disneyland. The entire city of Dubai is arguably the eight wonder of the world.
The moment I landed in Dubai, I headed, with my friend Ritesh and my five-year-old nephew, Anand, to the Deira Gold Souk (market) along the bustling Dubai Creek. The shops at the Souk were unlike anything I had ever seen before. From gold tiaras, to ingots; any and every conceivable type and form of gold was up for sale! Best yet, the prices were a real bargain too. I ended up purchasing 12 gold coins and a beautful necklace and earring set.
The Gold Souk also contains a plethora of carpet shops. I entered one and was immediately offered a seat while the salesman dramatically unrolled carpet after carpet in a stack in front of me, each shimmering with its own unique silk design. After much admiration, I picked up one for my new house in Singapore.
After hauling my newly purchased carpets and gold into Ritesh's car, we headed to Lemongrass Thai restaurant for prehaps the best lunch I've ever had. After that gastronomical feast, we crossed the road to go to Lamcy Plaza for some more shopping. The shopping in Dubai is phenomenal, especially in January, which marks the start of the Dubai Shopping Festival/ There are innumerable shopping centers and malls around town to keep any shopper happy!
In the late evening, I headed to the famous seven-star Burj Al Arab hotel to have a look around. The hotel is an extraordinary 321-metre sculptural sail-shaped building, which sits on its own island just off shore. The building's external lighting scheme can vary from white to multicolored, changing every half an hour. After oogling at the hotels magnificent lobby, we headed to hip and trendy Forno Saj for dinner and drinks.
I woke up early the next morning, to have breakfast, with an old school friend, Vania, at Shakespeare Cafe located along Sheik Zayed Road, a quaint looking restaurant which served the most diabolical chocolate pancakes.
After my heavy breakfast, Vania and I headed to Ski Dubai, to lob a few snowballs and do some sledding. Located at the Dubai Emirates Mall, also along Sheikh Zayed Road, the ski is the world's third largest indoor slope, measuring 400 meters and using 6000 tons of snow. Equipment is available for hire, however do bring along warm clothes as the temperatures hove around sub zero. A two hour package typically costs about 140 Dharams *refer to side bar.
At night, we drove around the Marina, the city's latest development. I also got a chance to check out Dubai Internet city and Dubai Media city, before stopping off for dinner at Delhi Darbar, located in Deira for some good Indian food.
I and my 17-year-old cousin, Shyair, embarked on a half-day desert dune safari, after lunch, on my third day is this fascinating city. I hung on to my cousin for dear life as our four-wheel-drive jeep took us on an Arabian roller coaster ride up and down the sand dunes.
After over an hour of nerve-wracking dune bashing, we finally reached the camp-site, where we joined the rest of the safari group for refreshment and entertainment.
At the entrance to the camp, we were greeted by a convoy of camels led by an Arab. With brightly coloured blankets thrown across their humps, the muzzled camels walked restlessly on the sand, waiting for one of us to go for a ride. Against my better judgement I decided to climb one of these majestic animals for a short and unbelievably bumpy ride!
The rest of the evening was spent gathered around the camp-fire for a desert feast of gastronomical Arabic and Indian dishes. Henna art, Arabic music, hookah (hubble-bubble pipes) and belly dancing added to the ambience. As the sun set a brilliant red, I lounged on the soft sand, smoking hookah until the stars came out. The desert safari, though a little pricy, was definitely the highlight of my trip. It was amazing to see how the sophistication of the 21st century can walk hand in hand with the mysticism of a bygone era.
I didn’t do much on day 4, as I felt a bit tired after yesterdays mission. I spent most of the day lazing around on the white sands of the Jumeira beach before heading to 360, located at the roof deck of the marina restaurant to chill out. Set out in the middle of the Gulf, the 360, as it's name suggests offers an iconic view of Dubai. Depending on where you sit, you can see the coast line, sprawling architecture, the Al Burj and The Jumeira Beach hotel.
On my last day there, I got to relive my childhood again at the worlds most advanced and innovative water theme park, Wild Wadi Water Park This aquatic playground provides all kinds of spills and thrills for everyone from adrenalin junkies to leisure lovers.
At about seven in the evening, I left for the airport. I felt a pang of sadness to leave the beautiful city and my old friends. There was so much to do in Dubai…five days passed too quickly.