Thursday, February 15, 2007

Dubai: Part II of III

One of my readers has recently left a comment or rather a request to write about memorable things that happened to me while travelling. I hope this part of Dubai story will cover that.

I went to Dubai after having travelled nearly all over Europe and USA and not expecting to be very much surprised. Well, I was wrong: I was astonished, amazed and surprised by Dubai every step during my visit.

It started at the arrival gate of the Dubai International Airport. I had a greeting service booked for me: this is a kind of VIP service that is probably available in most of the airports but just for VERY important people. In Dubai you can easily book it for yourself for just 21 USD and it it highly recommended for first time visitors, elderly, passengers with kids - They meet you at the aircraft door, take you to the customs in a nice little car, you don't wait in line for visa clearance (and lines there are enormous!! it looks like an endless sea of people! - that was my only negative impression of Dubai) then they wait with you for your luggage as long as it takes and make sure that you get everything and in proper order and finally deliver you to the trustworthy hands of your hotel representative in the Arrival hall. And all the way they are nice, smiling and courteous which makes you feel that you are the most important person in the world.

My second surprise was waiting for me in my hotel room. I stayed in a regular 4 star hotel in the business district, nothing special, not like those amazing ones that Dubai has along the seashore, but still... When I entered my STANDARD room I was amazed to see that it is 3 times bigger than the regular room: first it had a regular bed, 2 night stands, an armchair a table and then you already expect to see the wall with a window - not at all! Right after that I had.... a castle! I assume it was a place for kids if I came with a family! The castle was as high as the room itself, had 4 walls and windows and a door and inside it had 2 beds, storage space and "gaming" place!
And after the castle I also had a sofa and a coffee table and THEN I had the wall and the window!

The thrid surprise was waiting for me on the street: there is virtually no system of public transport. Most people drive their own cars and only poor workers usually take buses and may be occasional tourists because taxis in Dubai are very cheap and this is the best means of transportation around the city excpet if you want to go to a major shopping mall in the rush hour: to get back you will have to wait in line for a taxi for 30 minutes at the mall..

All major siteseeing places will amaze you too. Definitely start with the Dubai National Museum to learn the story about this wonderufl city (much more than than I told you in my Post I about Dubai) :

Then go see the famous Burj Al Arab (known as the Sail) - the most expensive hotel in the world. They have excursions inside and you can also visit their skyview bar on the top or "aquarium" style restaurant at the bottom (it is below the sea level) The only luxury of similar sort I saw in Versaille Palace, France but even there the rooms are so much smaller :-))

A lot of modern wonders you see in Dubai are considered to be the most technologically advanced in the world: try Wild Wadi water park to understand what I mean

Definitely go outside Dubai for a desert safari with dune rides, arabian BBQ, henna painting and belly dancing It will be like a "time machine" experience: from the ultra moredern to the good old days in arabian desert.

My final surprise was waiting for me at Dubai International Airport. I did expect a great duty free shopping but what I saw really exceeded my expectations: a huge golden palm tree in the middle of the hall which made the roof of an enormous gold jewlry store! People buy gold here not by item but by weight and this is how they are priced: you can only see the price of a gram of gold and then you ask a shop assistant to weigh whatever little masterpiece you've chosen.

To sum up, Dubai really NEVER stops surprising you and due to the fact that it is constantly developing, evolving and modernising, every time you go new wonders will be waiting for you on every corner.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Dubai: Part I of III

In my blog I haven’t yet written about the Middle East and today I want to share one of my stories about this region.

Dubai is one of the most fascinating places in the world I have been to. And I am usually most amazed by the ability of certain countries to grow from nearly nothing to incredible heights (and for that matter the inability of others in the region to do the same). The rise of South Korea or Mauritius (about which I already wrote in my blog) is very similar to the rise of Dubai though the latter took it a very much advanced level.

Even in the middle of the 20th century Dubai (which is a part of United Arab Emirates) was still a small fishing port which had 2 main possessions: the sands and the sea. How many small ports around the world can you name that have never developed into something as magnificent as Dubai? Probably dozens. But Dubai did. And its main secret is not oil: there is practically no oil in this part of UAE; the secret is the smart heads of the state that ruled this territory in the 20th century. They were able to see something that many other country rulers in the region still don’t see in the 21st century. They saw that freedom, international trade, good climate for investment and later tourism are key for the prosperity of the region. And just in about 40 years they achieved their dream!

Nowadays Dubai is one of the most modern cities I have ever seen. You drive to the outskirts of the city and there is only desert and… the best highway in the world. In the city itself the construction never stops, not even at night and Dubai is now constantly producing the architectural marvels never seen before: the most luxurious hotel in the world (the “Sail”), the Palm Island and the Burj Dubai that is currently built, which will become the highest building in the world. Dubai also has one of the fastest growing airports and international airlines that strive to be the best in global aviation industry and, frankly, they are not too far from their goal.
But most importantly this is one of the few states in the Middle East that gave equal rights to women. You will probably be surprised to know that the majority of students at UAE University and the Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT) are women. Besides the traditional fields of education and health, there are many women graduates working in various disciplines such as engineering, science, media and communications, computer technology, law, commerce, and the oil industry. There is even a women's corps within the Armed Forces.

If you want to learn more about this fascinating place, please, visit and also wait for my 2nd post about Dubai where I will share particular interesting stories and impressions from my visit there. The post with photos will follow too.