Middle East: UAE: Dubai

What would a trip to the Middle East be without stopping in Dubai to see what all the hype is about. Without question Dubai lives up to every expectation I had heard in terms of what opulence money can buy and build. My husband, daughter and I flew Royal Jordanian Airlines from Amman across to the southeast tip of Saudi Arabia where the UAE nation juts out into a point, with the Persian Golf on one side and the Gulf of Oman on the other.

Dubai sits on the Persian Golf side. We arrived in a deep haze and it stayed that way for the two days we spent there. The moisture in the air was measurable. Standing still for five minutes, waiting for a taxi service, found us literally dripping wet. The famed shopping malls made up for the heat and humidity outdoors by cranking up the air-conditioning indoors. And of course you have the option of doing some indoor skiing to really get cooled off.

Opulence is defined by the words: lavish, ample, luxury, richness, magnificence. I would use the same words to describe Dubai. Our journey started out at our stay at the Atlantis Resort – Dubai, which sits at the top of the man-made Palm (shaped) Island, inclusive of one of the world’s largest water parks. The resort was fairly empty as it was low season (too hot), but the water park was doing a booming business.

The Atlantis Resort - Dubai

The Atlantis Resort – Dubai

Water slides at the water park at the Atlantis Resort - Dubai

Water slides at the water park at the Atlantis Resort – Dubai

Our trip into the heart of Dubai showcased a desert blooming with high-rise after high-rise, inclusive of the World’s Tallest Building – the Burj Khalifa. We were able to take an express elevator up to the observation deck on the 124th floor, allowing us to only look up at the remaining 40 stories above us – private residences that go for as much as $50 million. For one afraid of heights I was amazed at how smooth the ride up was and how secure I felt being 124 floors up in the air – looking down on high-rises that most cities would claim as their highest with 100 stories.

Burj Khalifa standing tall in the distance

Burj Khalifa standing tall in the distance

Looking up from the 124th floor of the Burj Khalifa

Looking up from the 124th floor of the Burj Khalifa

Looking down on other skyscrapers from the 124th story of the Burj Khalifa

Looking down on other skyscrapers from the 124th story of the Burj Khalifa

Within walking distance of the Burj Khalifa, even in this weather, was The Dubai Mall that houses the aforementioned indoor ski hill. What a sight to see: a chair lift transporting skiers up to the top of the two runs along either side of the lift; a mini luge track; sledding runs; inflated rolling balls you get inside of to go down the rimmed sled runs.

Ski Dubai in The Dubai Mall

Ski Dubai in The Dubai Mall

The Dubai Mall boasts the rights to being the only other place in the world to host locations of regionally favorite hotspots like: Ben’s Cookies (London); Magnolia Bakery (NYC); Tim Horton’s (Canada); Caribou Coffee (midwest). The mall is filled with women clad in full burqa’s – mainly black. But when I looked closely at them, it was hard to miss the bling on their fingers, the Louis Vuitton purses on one arm and a Dolce’ & Gabbana shopping bags on the other. My daughter and I wondered where they get to wear such high-end clothing if not out in public. We guessed they must be allowed to wear them around the house, or have dress-up parties with women from their expansive families.

The Magnolia Bakery in The Dubai Mall, based out of NYC

The Magnolia Bakery in The Dubai Mall, based out of NYC

As we exited the mall we came upon the most graphic sight of Dubai’s opulence. The valet parking circle was lined with brand new Rolls Royces, Bentleys, Lamborghinis, Ferraris….all sitting there, unattended, many with windows wide open. UAE has some of lowest crime rates in the world as the locals stick mainly to themselves and crimes or met with fairly sever punishments, like being thrown in jail for a month any for public signs of affection – such as kissing.

A brand new Royals Royce left sitting with the windows open in the Valet Parking lane of The Dubai Mall

A brand new Royals Royce left sitting with the windows open in the Valet Parking lane of The Dubai Mall

Amazing mindset, when you look around at a nation that is probably the leader in forward movement on architecture; building amazing from a desolate desert by incorporating engineering marvels not seen anywhere else in the world. The sail shaped building, Burj Al Arab, that sits out in the harbor of Dubai and the islands in the shape of the world are more examples of these feats. The haze was so bad during out visit in Dubai that I couldn’t even get a clear picture of this amazing hotel. But if you google the name, there are amazing pictures on the web of this unique architectural feat.

There is no lack of opulence in their hotels, touting the world’s only seven-star hotel, the aforementioned, Burj Al Arab, with room sizes starting at 1,800 sf inclusive of your own personal butler. Or the multitude of Michelin star connected restaurants all trying to outdo each other in the food experience, decor and views. Dubai is a city that mixes the opulence and fun of Miami, Disney World and Las Vegas all rolled into one, and then some. Is it a city I will make efforts to visit on a regular basis – no. But is it a city worth seeing at least once – yes. It may not rank up there with the seven “Wonder’s of the Worlds” – but it is certainly right at the top of that next tier.

Be sure to check out more great pictures from Dubai in the Global Gallery.

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