Laced with zealous expectations, three women landed in Dubai to kick-start their adventurous vacation in the United Arab Emirates, last month. All set for a three nights and four day tour to the city, had us all sizzling with joy to immediately pop-out and start our ambitious travel. Organised, clean and perfectly in-place like dominos is the thought which hits you when you gape at the skyscrapers in Dubai. High-rises scaling the sky, green patches with neat flower beds lined with date trees and water bodies are an unexpected delight which catch your attention in this terrain which essentially is a desert.
We headed out to our hotel-cum-apartment at Mankool road. Taxi and cab services were superbly active from the airport and across Dubai. You tell your cab driver the location once you get in and the meter starts to roll (a relief from the haggling one has to undergo in India with taxis or auto-rickshaws). Every single cab driver we encountered had during our tour spoke Hindi or Punjabi (they belonged to mostly Pakistan, with few exceptions from Bangladesh, Nepal as well as India). An overtly ecstatic cab driver from Kerala (who had an instant desi-connect with us) said that the population of the locals was around 17 per cent while Indians occupied nearly 50 per cent of Dubai's population.
I thought the figure was a bit stretched but then we (Indians) were actually to be seen everywhere. From labourers at construction sites, staff at the airport (including the duty free area), attendants at shops and food counters in the malls, hotel staff and every other possible place, you could hear murmurs of Hindi.
On day one, we kept our luggage at the hotel and headed out to shop (something we indulged in actively till the last day). We met some friends of ours who worked in Dubai in the hotel industry, at City Center Mall, where we shopped at the megamart – Carry Four and then headed to Hyatt Hotel for dinner. The next day we went to Dubai Mall, and the sheer enormity in terms of area stunned us. It is literally a huge mall, when you might shop, walk or eat the entire day but still the mall doesn’t seem to end. The over 13 million square foot mall includes attractions like the aquarium and underwater zoo, ice-skating rink (who saw a glimpse of that in Shahrukh Khan’s latest ‘Happy New Year’, a Gold souk and more than 1,200 shops. Interestingly the malls open early by 11 and shut by midnight, the last day of our trip we stayed on till it shut to commence our shopping spree.
The most attractive segment at the mall is outside the Dubai Fountain which is simply exquisite. This is the world's largest choreographed fountain system set on the 30-acre man-made Burj Khalifa Lake. Perched right outside Burj Khalifa (the tallest man-made structure in the world) the fountain has been designed by WET Design, California-based company which has also designed the fountains at the Bellagio Hotel Lake in Las Vegas. The dancing water effect is simply amazing. Lasting nearly 8-10 minutes one is awestruck by the lake which at the time of the performance is illuminated by 6,600 lights and 25 coloured projectors. The lake is 275 m (902 ft) long and shoots water up to 500 ft (152.4 m) into the air accompanied by a range of classical to contemporary Arabic and world music.
We also visited Madinat Jumeirah – the Arabian Resort – Dubai which is a luxurious resort spread across over 40 hectares of landscapes and gardens. It resembles a traditional Arabian town. Highly overpriced but we somehow managed to have dinner in one of the Chinese restaurants there. At each of the eateries in Dubai we faced a continuous major problem of purchasing water everywhere. Water seemed like a luxury there. It was a relief to be back in India and have it free. The resort which has over 40 restaurants and bars, overlooks, Burj Al Arab which is a luxury hotel and has been labelled “The world's only 7 star Hotel” and is the third tallest hotel in the world. Standing on an artificial island 280 m (920 ft) from Jumeirah beach and is connected to the mainland by a private curving bridge. The shape of the structure is designed resembling the sail of a ship.
The next day we went to the Dubai Gold Souk (traditional market place) where we mostly indulged in extensive window shopping, and minimal actual shopping. The souk is located in the heart of Dubai's commercial business district in Deira, with over 300 shops that exhibit varied designs of gold jewellery. After this in the afternoon we head out to Desert Safari with our pick-up cab waiting at Spinneys (again a hypermart).
The gold souk features some of the latest and stunning designs in gold jewellery. In fact in each of the shops gold jewellery was displayed and being sold in a way vegetables and fruits are sold in India. After being picked up we were taken to the ‘desert safari’ experience which seemed promising with dune-bashing, belly dance, camel ride and other grand attractions on its list. Honestly it was disappointing. Highly overpriced and lame experience for us. I have been to Jaisalmer and done dune bashing and camel rides at a cheaper rate and it was a thrilling experience, at Dubai it was plain boring. The only high-point was Belly dance. The desi audience went berserk with Bollywood numbers being performed by the dancer. But our thumkas are way better than hers. Awful food and a complete waste of time. So advisably if you plan a trip to Dubai please avoid the much hyped desert safari experience.
To compensate this awful experience the next day we indulged in extensive retail therapy accompanied with a trip to the Burj Khalifa. There are two tickets available for this, we opted for (the cheaper one) which took us up to tht124th floor of the 200 floor building. The view from the 124th floor was simply exquisite. It is the tallest man-made structure in the world, standing at 829.8 m (2,722 ft). One immediately remembers Tom Cruise’s thrilling sequence in Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol on the surface of the building. We visited the outdoor observation deck, named At the Top, on the 124th floor. At 452 m (1,483 ft), it was the highest observation deck in the world when it was initially opened although now it has been surpassed.
The best thing to do in Dubai is to see the exquisitely luxurious malls, encash on the exuberance of their hypermarkets, appreciating the ‘perfect’ high-rises and uber clean environment, a must-visit to Burj Khalifa but essentially the focus would be on retail therapy at any time of the day.