Dubai 1
By FD of Arabia
Thursday 05 Jul 2012 22:36:00
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1. Dubai

Once again I entrusted my holiday arrangements to the Cricket Tour Company, and once again Brian Corcoran and Martin Denyer passed the test with flying colours. An outstanding trip. They couldn’t be blamed for the cricket, after all.

We arrived in Dubai a couple of days before the First Test, time for a look around and to get acclimatised. We were not to know, then, that we would have time on our hands at the end of the week, too.

I have very mixed impressions of Dubai. Clearly it is an ‘interesting’ place, with history was well as the modern development. Its rise to importance began, we were told, when the ruler of the day dredged the Creek. Ships began to call and a market (souk) sprung up. We visited the Spice Souk and the Gold Souk, and they were …. well, they were a load of shops, yawn, yawn.

The creek was also a landing point for the mighty flying boats of the 1930s, a stopover on the 7-day trip from England to Australia. We crossed the creek on a sort of motorised raft, and that was great. Wonderful photo opportunity. I could have spent hours there, and I got the chance later, after the cricket fiasco.

Modern, showcase Dubai is also visually exciting. The most impressive building is the 829-metre Burj Khalifa, and the area around it is a miracle of modern design, beautifully proportioned buildings and an attractive water-feature ‘lagoon’. There is a huge shopping mall – yes, more shops – which has a 30-foot tall aquarium with sharks and rays swimming in it. Brilliant! Naturally there is a myriad of restaurants – we ate Lebanese, very good – and in the evening a display of dancing fountains.

We stayed south west of the centre, the Sofitel on Jameirah Beach, overlooking the Dubai Marina and not far from the artificial island Palm Tree development. Again, buildings are impressive, varied and beautiful but, significantly, many are unfinished. Those that are complete are unoccupied in many cases, with billboard adverts offering a free Ferrari with each luxury apartment. Just like home!

Linking the best bits of Dubai is the Mitsubishi-built Metro. I found its architecture exciting, and the trains are driverless. So far, so good.

Unfortunately, the overall impression of Dubai is of one gigantic building site. Or, more accurately, a site where building has ground to a halt. I would say there is a strip, perhaps 10 miles long by 5 miles wide, where everything is ugly, with heaps of rubble and unfinished housing developments; where pylons march across the landscape in battalions; where roads start and peter out into nothingness.

And in all this ugliness, nothing is growing, nothing is green. It’s desert, but dirty and polluted desert.

To see clean, red desert, you have to drive inland for many miles, and this we did, to enjoy a ride over the dunes in a fleet of 4x4s. I loved the shapes and subtle hues of the desert, especially in the evening light. The 4x4 experience was some way short of white knuckle, but it was pleasant enough, good fun, and the sunset was superb.

This apart, motorised travel was a nightmare, with traffic jams everywhere in the City. The area round our hotel was particularly bad, pretty well round the clock. Supercars abounded, but a bicycle would have been faster.

Dubai is in the northern hemisphere, so January is winter there, with sunrise as late as 7 am. Our first day was pleasantly warm, about on a par with an English August and I enjoyed a good swim in the sea, but winds increased as the week went by, and the two ‘free’ days at the end more resembled Scarborough in late September. No rain, of course, but warm it was not.

It reaches 45C in summer, we were told.

There are places in the world where I wouldn’t mind living. Dubai is not one of them.



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