I never thought I would have an opportunity to visit Dubai, a city I had only glimpsed on the Travel Channel or in the pages of glossy magazines. Mark had business there and suggested that I accompany him in celebration of our 26th wedding anniversary, which is Thursday (huzzah!). I loved the idea and now that I am downloading my pictures back in Paris, I can hardly believe I was there.
Although only a 6 hour flight and 2 hour time difference, Dubai certainly felt a world away from Paris. Dubai is a city of superlatives. That city makes Texas look downright humble, modest, and even self-deprecating. Dubai was lights and mirrors and shiny, reflective surfaces. Each building seemed to have been designed to be more original than its neighbor. I was reminded of a cityscape made of Legos, with interesting angles and curves, hollow spaces and textures.
I had one full day on my own, and I chose to buy a ticket on a “hop on, hop off” tour bus that covered the entire Dubai area. It was an ideal way to use my time, as Dubai is not a walkable city, and so much time would have been spent in taxis had I chosen to select just a few sites. Many of the bus stops were at sprawling city malls, which were entirely overwhelming once inside. I went in a few and recognized almost all of the stores from home. Pottery Barn, Gap, West Elm, California Pizza Kitchen- all the American mall regulars were there. Prices seemed comparable on the few items I checked. Dubai has no sales tax, so I was hoping I might find great deals, but didn’t.
I knew I had to go inside The Mall of the Emirates, because I had heard about Ski Dubai, a “ski resort” located inside the mall. I didn’t enter the resort, but there are large picture windows from which one can see the winter fun going on at this mall in the desert. The park is as large as 3 football fields and contains 5 ski runs, a chair lift, a snowboarding zone, and tobogganing runs. This place pretty much encapsulates the spirit of Dubai, which was crazy over-the-top if you build it will they come? Apparently they will!
The bus tour dropped me at a traditional market, called a “souk”. It reminded me of the market in Istanbul, where the shop owners stand in the doorways and maintain a constant monologue with passing visitors, attempting to lure them into their stalls.
The souk was located right next to the water taxis, which shuttle people across the big creek that runs through the city. It looked fun, but I played it safe and let the bus take me through the tunnel to get to the other side.
The bus also took me along the beach of Dubai. I got out and put my feet in the sand here, with a great view of the famous Burj Al Arab hotel , the world’s only 7 star hotel. You may recall that Tiger Woods, Roger Federer, and Andre Agassi have all practiced their sport on the helipad atop this sail-shaped building.
I also rode the length of The Palm Jumeirah, an island created in the shape of a giant palm tree. Lined with expensive apartment buildings, town homes, and luxury hotels, I felt like I was in a California resort. At the end of the island is the amazing Atlantis hotel and water park.
On Friday Mark and I were fortunate to be taken to dinner in the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa. We first went to the observation deck for an incredible panoramic view, and then went down a floor to the gorgeous restaurant, where we dined above the twinkling lights of the city.
The next night we ate dinner overlooking the world’s largest dancing fountain. It was similar to those at Bellagio in Las Vegas, but much larger. This fountain shoots up to 500 feet in the air, is lit and set to music. The performances change and start every 15 minutes.
The fountains are located on a 30 acre lake built around the Dubai City Mall, which is, you guessed it, the world’s largest mall (currently under expansion).
Our hotel, the Marriott Marquis, was very nice. I was told it was the world’ tallest hotel, although I did not verify that factoid. I loved the lit images behind the desks in the lobby.
We had a little time to enjoy the pool, which was a rare treat for us.
The construction frenzy continues in Dubai. These two buildings next to our hotel were being built and the work continued day and night. I think that was the only negative about our hotel experience. We listened to clanging metal and the sound of hammering at all hours.
One afternoon we took a taxi to the wharf area of Dubai. It was small but charming.
Such a fun trip, and so different from any other place we have visited.
I returned to Paris last night, where my brother-in-law and sister-in-law from Houston were waiting for me in my kitchen, eager to hear about my trip. They will be here all week, so get ready for lots of posts about food! I just made reservations in four restaurants that we haven’t tried yet. I hope that’s not a no-no, like trying new recipes on guests. I guess we shall find out.
Stay tuned, mes amis!