My mom and I went to Dubai for two days to go on the Big Bus Tour that they have there. Now, I think I can understand why everyone thinks Dubai in the capital of the U.A.E. and most people haven't heard of Abu Dhabi.
We were planning on going to Dubai with my wife and kids but when I considered the prospect of dragging a 4 and 5 year old on a two day bus tour, we figured that leaving them home was the best thing for everyone. It would've been nice to have my wife along, but we still can't trust the kids to get ready for school and make their own dinner on their own yet so she had to stay in Abu Dhabi to watch them. My wife was kind enough to book a hotel and research how to get to the start of the tour for me. While I can't say that the 15 pages of maps that she printed out were entirely necessary, they did have the indirect effect of worrying me enough to pay attention when she was explaining how to get places.
First on the itinerary was to go to the Burj Khalifa to reserve our spot for a ride to the top of the observation deck in the tallest building in the world. I would've booked the tickets online, but they haven't set up the system to be able to do that yet. Fortunately, we were able to go in on Monday morning and book for Tuesday afternoon. By reserving a time, we could go up to the top for 100 dirhams each ($27) whereas if we paid to go up immediately, the cost is 400 dirhams each ($108).
From there, we went to the start of the tour. It's the same tour group as the one we used for our trip to Abu Dhabi and was really well run. In Dubai, there are a couple of different routes you can go. There were a few things that we wanted to see so we decided to spread it out over two days. We saw a few mosques and a lot of traditional shopping streets recreated in expensive malls, but I have to say that my favorite were the amazingly over-the-top buildings. It seems that you can't throw a palm date without hitting a building with an aquarium in it.
Just to name a few places that I saw: Dubai Mall with its aquarium, underwater zoo, indoor amusement park, ice-skating rink, and the tallest building in the world. There was the Mall of the Emirates with an aquarium, and largest indoor ski-slope in the Middle East. While there were dozens of five star hotels on the palm tree shaped island that Dubai built, The Atlantis Hotel is the stand-out hotel with its aquarium with a dolphin pool and a water park. With all of the new buildings going up, it's easy to forget about the formerly iconographic Burj Al Arab that was the world's first seven star hotel and may even have an aquarium inside.
I do have to say with all honesty, that the most impressive building in Dubai was the Burj Khalifa. The building dwarfs all the others around it. Looking at the skyline, it's at least twice as high as anything else in sight. That's keeping in mind that there are some pretty tall buildings around it. If you click here, you get a good comparison to other tall buildings. You can see that it blows away its closest rival by over 150 meters. I give the planners credit. They wanted to break the record and they broke it big.
It was known as the Burj Dubai until five minutes before it was opened. The leader of Dubai kindly named it after the leader of Abu Dhabi who bailed out cash-strapped Dubai so it didn't have to default on its loans. I think that situation sums up my feelings about Dubai: Wow, what an incredible place to visit. There are some amazing things to see and crazy things to do like go skiing in the desert. However, it's not sustainable and it doesn't seem livable. I'll admit that I was on a tour bus so probably didn't get a great idea of what it's like to live there, but hardly saw any green space. Sure, the Palm Jumeirah probably had more five star hotels on it than in all of Abu Dhabi, but what use is that to me, especially if they're only half-full? There was tons of flash, but I would imagine that you don't even see it after a few weeks.
I do have to say that I'm glad I live an hour and a half away and am excited for the next time I go. I just don't need to live there.