Sunday, March 13

Sky high in Dubai

Garry and I have finally made it back to Dubai.  Our first visit to this Middle Eastern metropolis was Christmas 2007.  At the time the city was smothered by a forest of construction cranes.  We were curious to what how this building frenzy has transformed the landscape nine years later.

Our stop in Dubai was brief.  It literally a weekend transit as we made our way to Nuremberg for world’s largest Toy Fair.  When were last here the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa, was still under construction, the world’s largest Mall was still tangled mass of steel beams and the first metro rail line was still a year away from completion.

We flew to Dubai on the uber-comfortable Airbus A380 courtesy of Qantas. Garry and I love these giant planes.  Despite numerous flights over the years we still marvel at their effortless, whisper quiet take off.  However, despite the comfortable journey, our arrival shortly before 1:00am was a rather exhausting affair.  Thank goodness an airport transfer car was waiting for us when we finally exited the Arrival Hall.

We stayed at Sheraton Hotel on Dubai Creek, just a few hundred metres upstream from where we’d based ourselves on in 2007.  Dubai is a rather soulless place, filled with shiny glass towers that spring from rather drab dusty surroundings.  However, the old town and the creek that runs alongside it are rare exception.  This broad, curving waterway provides a wonderfully refreshing and tranquil vista both day and night. 

We filled our first afternoon in town with a visit to Burj Khalifa.  At 829.8 metres (2,722 ft) its height exceeds anything erected in all of human history.  For many years the CN Tower in Toronto was the world’s tallest free-standing structure, while Taipei 101 was the world’s tallest skyscraper.  However, Dubai was determined to beat them all – which it did in spectacular style. 

When it opened the Burj Khalifa broke every conceivable height record for a man made structure, surpassing even the most flimsy of guy-masted transmission towers scattered across the mid-western plains of the USA.  When it opened on January 4, 2010, it also boasted the world’s highest observation deck. This was our first destination of the day.

SKY level is located on the 148th floor, a mere 555 metres above the surrounding area.  Its curving wall of windows offer what can only be described as a truly bird’s eye view of Dubai and the Persian Gulf.  The observatory also offers a small outdoor deck where you can literally feel the wind whistle through your hair almost half a kilometre into the sky.

As is typical of so many things in Dubai; tickets to the 124th floor cost an eye-watering sum. However, the locals attempt to justify this with a few exclusive VIP touches. For example we skipped the painfully slow queues snaking their way to the ticket counter and on towards the elevators.  We were entertained with coffee and dates while our tickets were validated.  Then, when we finally arrived at the observatory, we were greeted by waiters welding trays of delicious canapés and flutes of champagne.

As for the view?  Well, you’re soaring so far above anything else that its honestly difficult to appreciate just how high you really are.  In fact, when you look up from the outdoor observation deck and see the building climb another 270 metres into the sky you could be forgiven for thinking you’re still on the ground.

In fact, the building height doesn’t become apparent until you descend to the lower observation deck, At the Top.  This larger observation platform is located a more modest 452 m (1,483 ft) above the ground.  However, you suddenly notice how much larger the same objects appear when you’re 100 metres closer to them.  Only then does the building’s incredible height start to unveil itself.

Having conquered the world’s tallest building, our next stop was the world’s largest mall, conveniently located at the base of Burj Khalifa.  This building is huge.  Four levels of stores work their way around the four sides of a square that literally take 15 minutes each to walk.  The building boasts two indoor waterfalls that soar three floors, an ice-skating rink and a full-scale walk through aquarium.

Garry and I spent most of our time shopping for comfortable shoes to get us through six days of wandering the exhibition halls in Nuremberg.  We eventually found our perfect footwear – only to discover we’d both picked up the same pair of shoes displayed at opposite ends of the store.  After a brief debate we decided that comfort was always going win the day over cheesy “twin dressing”.  We left the store with identical shoes.

Our final day in Dubai was spent largely working from our hotel room.  We had a lot of paperwork to catch up on before we headed to Germany. However, we did break from our routine to walk the Creek waterfront where a flotilla of traditional dhows are still loaded and unloaded each day by hand.

No comments: