United Arab Emirates
In the morning, we arrive in Dubai. After breakfast, we turn in our room keys, pick up our passports, and disembark the ship to pass through immigration and board a bus for a city tour. The United Arab Emirates are made up of 7 Emirates that joined together in 1971. Before that, the area was a British Protectorate. (The country’s 51st birthday was yesterday!) Dubai is ruled by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum (Sheik Mohammed) and he also serves as the Vice-President of the UAE. (Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, is, in fact, the emir of Abu Dhabi, and the president of the UAE.) The country of UAE is only ~84,000 sq. Kilometers and its population is ~9.6 million with only 11% being native, and ~89% being Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshis, Iranian, and Philippine. The country’s economy does not run on oil, but runs instead on direct foreign investment. Dubai is made up on ~40 “investment cities” that each depend on one particular business: the Internet City, the Health City, etc. Most government jobs are reserved for native citizens, but the entire government is paperless. The government provides school, health, housing, and a marriage fund. Nearly all government employees and expats have servants. The city has an extensive monorail system and a series of spectacular architecturally wonderful buildings, (e.g., “The Frame” – a building that looks like a picture frame but is an observation deck with a glass floor; and the “Burj al Arab” – a sailboat-shaped hotel more than a 1,000 feet tall). We pass walled areas that are Royal Family Palaces before we head to the “Palm Island” or “Palm Jumeirah”, as it is called. This entire island looks like palms from the air and was artificially build into the sea. Over 100,000 people live here and the island host the “Atlantis Resort” – a near duplicate to the one in Nassau, Bahamas. The Palm Island #2 is under construction, but has no homes there, yet. Construction on the Palm Island #3 was stopped because of the recent downturn I the economy, and is planned to be re-branded as “Dubai island”. The islands are connected via tunnels – the longest of which is 750 meters in length. The city of Dubai is very “high tech”, and there are too many skyscrapers to count.
After, the quick bus tour, we exited and climbed aboard the monorail for a ride from the Palm Island entrance to Atlantis and enjoyed the view along the way. Then we traveled to Souk Madinat Jumeirah for lunch on our own and a great view of Burj Khalifa – the tallest building in the world. We ate salads at a restaurant called “Ushna – The Dancing Elephant” before shopping for souvenirs. We then rode the bus back to our hotel – “The Paramount” – whose entire theme is inspired by the rich history of the Paramount movie studio with Hollywood-themed rooms and modern California cuisine. Our room is very high tech with all electronic controls located at bedside, and the television located inside the mirror opposite the bed. The hotel is part of a 4-tower complex of residential condos, each 25 floors high, with a grocery store on site as well as 2 pools and spa and is located 10 miles from the airport.
Dinner that night was at a restaurant in the Souk Al Bahar where we enjoyed Lebanese food at “Abd El Wahab“, consisting of many small plates of appetizers and salads, followed with meats & BBQ, and then fruit and rice panna cotta desert. Every 30-minutes, the Dubai Mall fountains (which are between the Souk and the Mall) dance to music like a smaller version of the fountains at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. The area also offers boat rides in the fountain’s waters, as the fountain pool is 900 feet long with 6,600 lights and 50 color projectors. Water shoots up 150 feet to contemporary Arabic music, and the Burj al Khalifa in the background, (the world’s tallest building at a height of 2,722 feet – just over a half mile tall), is lit-up with dancing lights all along its side. After dinner, we returned by bus back to the Paramount Hotel.
The next morning, we enjoyed breakfast at the hotel before traveling by bus to the Burj Khalifa Tower. There is an underground walk to get to the entrance and the building’s security. The tower contains 154-floor with 9-floors dedicated strictly for infrastructure and building maintenance. The rest of the floors are offices, residences, restaurants, lobbies, and a hotel. There are 2 subterranean floors for parking and mechanical systems. Every 30 floors is a floor dedicated to building services. The tower has 57 elevators, is 829 meters (2722 feet) high – over twice the height of the Empire State Building. Its construction was began in 2004 and completed in 2009. The building opened in 2010. We rode the high-speed elevator to the 124 floor observation deck and then walked to 125th floor taking lots of pictures. There is a Sky-level bar and observation deck at the 148th floor which charges a hefty fee to enter. On a clear day at low tide you can see all the way to Iran, located 95 miles away. Unfortunately, today is not that clear. After completing our tour of the building, we have time to visit Dubai Mall where there are over 1200 shops, the Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo (33,000 aquatic animals), the Dancing Fountains, (which we saw the previous night), the Dubai Ice Rink, The Waterfall Wall, the Star Atrium, and Burg Khalifa, We explore nearly all of it before we head back to the hotel at ~4:00pm.
That night, we have dinner on our own, and since this will be our last night on the trip, we head out to the pool-deck bar afterwards to watch World Cup soccer live. We have great seats, a lite dinner and drinks in the cool evening air while enjoying the games taking place only a short distance away in Qatar. At 10:30pm we board a shuttle to the airport as our plane is scheduled to depart at 1:50am to Frankfurt, before we connect back to Washington, Dulles. A great trip!