We went to Dubai over the National Day break and I’ve basically decided that Dubai is the Middle East’s answer to Vegas. Except for the gambling. I’d also say except for the sex, but compared to the rest of this area, Dubai is a bastion of sexuality. Many men and women walk around in Western clothing — i.e., shorts, short skirts, tank tops, shirts that show cleavage, muscle shirts — as opposed to most other local places in which both men and women are covered from head to toe. Couples (heterosexual) also engage in minor PDA; men hold hands here as they do in Oman.
So what else makes Dubai so Vegas-like? In a word, it’s the opulence. More specifically, it’s a surreal city built in the middle of a desert that just reeks of money. Here’s what we did in a day there. First, we took the Metro to what we thought was the biggest shopping center (more on that later). At the station, we saw these amazing jellyfish lights:
When we reached the Mall of the Emirates, we took in all that is capitalism. Most of the stores here are upper echelon – designers that I have vaguely heard about, could never afford, proudly displaying their merchandise for thousands of shoppers. It was like Caesar’s Palace, only fancier.
OK, so no big deal. A fancy mall. One with a small amusement park complete with merry-go-round, bumper cars, and a mini-boardwalk (Circus Circus anyone?). And a bowling alley. Yawn, you say – I saw the likes at the Mall of America over a decade ago. Oh, did I happen to mention that this mall has an indoor ski slope, complete with chair lift? Yup. It’s true.
Having exhausted ourselves at the mall gawking at everything, we took the Metro back downtown to grab a drink. Like Muscat, alcohol is basically only served at the hotels; unlike Oman, there are hundreds of them so there is no lack of choice. But before we found a happy hour, we found ourselves at yet ANOTHER mall – this one had an enormous aquarium inside, just like the Mirage on the Vegas Strip.
Fighting our way out of the shopping and into the night, we stumbled upon a fountain show set to music, ala’ the Bellagio. Only difference was, this fountain show changed every 30 minutes so it was worth sticking around for several. We then strained our necks and gazed at the world’s tallest building; everything is done to the extreme.
FINALLY, we settled on a place to grab over-priced beverages ($23 martinis and vespers – ack! At least the complimentary snacks were some delightful mixed nuts and olives – no stale popcorn here). Although the drinks were indeed good, what we were really paying for was this view. Look how the tallest building dwarfs the other skyscrapers. And check out the fountain show:
After we each indulged in two spendy drinks, it was time to head back. In the hotel lobby, we did some window shopping.
We made our way outside, where the palm trees that lined the streets were lit up. In about ten minutes, we saw four Rolls Royces, a couple of Ferraris, and a Lamborghini. It’s not even worth it to mention the Porches and Mercedes.
We drove out of the city and into the desert the next day. But first, we took a bridge to a man-made island, complete with more fancy (and pink!) hotels. Not sure what hotel in Vegas this reminds me of, but it does remind me of Vegas.
It was time to go home. With the city skyline only 30 kilometers behind us, the terrain returned to desert and isolation.
We were headed back to a reality I understand (sort of weird to say that). Even though I consider myself a city girl, I did not feel alive here. To me, Dubai is no city: it’s a fantasy land where people can gaze at spectacles and flaunt their wealth. What happens in Dubai certainly stays in Dubai; there’s no other place where it would fit.