Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Dubai, Dubai, Doo

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If our trip to Morocco was a step into the past – our visit to Dubai was a headlong dive into the future. The above pic is part of a fountain in the Dubai Mall (the largest in the world.)  Everything about Dubai is all about being the biggest, the most expensive, extreme cutting edge architecture providing the backdrop for a bustling busy city founded on the commerce of pearls, then gold and now oil.

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The tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa, looms to our right as we drive into the city with our hosts John and Dianne. Pictures that I have seen of the thing had led me to believe it to be a spindly almost fragile structure like a dying witch’s finger pointing skyward. The thing is much more substantial in person. Standing at it’s base and looking up the building is literally breathtaking. In fact just about any of the buildings that pack the skyline could serve as a centerpiece in most US cities, but here they line up like avant garde bowling pins.

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We get into the city just as afternoon prayers are starting around 12:30 so the souks are battening down their doors. We decide to hop a boat across the Khor Dubai – otherwise known as The Creek. The juxtaposition of the old wooden vessels chugging along, coughing and choking puffs of exhaust with the sleek skyline as a backdrop highlights the duality of this city.

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Back in 1970 the city had a population of just about 100,000 – today more than 1.2 million Emirates  reside in the metropolis.

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Above, an Emirate who obviously rates a bit more than most. We crammed about thirty people onto one of these abras, the ferries that shuttle folks across the creek, but he and his wife are the sole passengers of boat number 57. Fortunately for me our boats were headed in opposite directions since he wasn’t too happy with me snapping his pic and gave me the stink eye as our two vessels moved away from each other.

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Even though the vast majority of shops in the souks were closed for Friday prayers there were still enterprising capitalists willing to risk heavenly retribution in order to make a Dirham or two.  The young fellow to our left here has rolled out a blanket full of ersatz designer watches. As we walk through the streets we are constantly serenaded with  “Rolex, Rolex, Rolex – DVD, DVD, DVD, iPhone, iPhone, iPhone.”

We wander around the souks a bit and then hop back into a ferry and grab our car to go visit the wonder that is the twelve million square foot Dubai Mall. Retractable roofs, an aquarium, dancing fountains, an Olympic sized ice rink, a food court the size of most  US malls, a retail workforce of over 13,000 folks, live entertainment ranging from mimes, to Greek dancers, to sopranos singing arias from the phantom of the opera make the experience of visiting here one of head shaking astonishment.

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Here Sara and Dianne are learning from the guide inside the tunnel in the mall’s aquarium that the sharks in the tank do not eat the other fish because they are so well fed.

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Here’s a pic I snapped of a shark eating one of the other fish in the tank simultaneously as Sara and Dianne were speaking with the gentleman above. Somehow, wherever we went I never felt like we were getting the whole story about whatever was going on – this serves as an apropos metaphor.

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After our visit to the aquarium we grabbed a bit to eat at a Chicago style pizza joint then caught the dancing fountain show outside of the Mall in the shadow of the Burj Khalifa.

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Extra special thanks to our hosts for the week Dianne and John ex-pat buckeyes who carted our butts all over, shared their semi-psychotic cat and never once locked us out of their house.

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