Looking Like Minature Skyscrapers
A view frm the Burj Khalifa

Well our friends Paul and Eileen have headed for the airport today (Jan 12th) and despite spending ten days exploring our new hometown and its surrounds I am still bemused by where we’ve landed. It really is a surreal city. Where else can you be whisked up 124 floors in a few seconds and look down on a mass of sky scrapers appearing like minature Lego towers at your feet? Where else can claim so many records for the biggest, the only, the tallest, the grandest etc etc? Big and brash, this wonderland is one crazy place to be. Only in Dubai would four Irish comedians perform their more than slightly risque (judged by the mores of the locals) acts outdoors under a band of steel-blue lights rising up an empty 30-40 storey block across from the garden we were in. The lights courtesy of one of the audience who apparently was the project manager responsible for the building and having attended the night before thought it a suitablely grand gesture for the finale of the Irish comedy festival at McGettigans bar. 

Four By Four Adventures

Yet go out in the desert and you can find yourself a place where there is no noise; no aircon humming, no traffic and no planes overhead, just you, the wind and the birds! A village arrayed around a huge empty square tucked away in the sand dunes with just a dirt track for access to the 21st century. Nearby fenced compounds clustered around a few trees held camels or protected green crops, and a small troop of donkeys wandered across the stoney scrub at the foot of the mountains. Mountains of limestone etched by the wind with huge dunes of red sand reaching alomst to their summit on the windward side, a couple of four by fours perched high up.

Birmingham on Sea?

Speaking of remoteness, back in the city you can find a beach that is almost deserted, ten minutes by car from our apartment in the Jumierah area, north of the Burj Al Arab. It is a place where clear blue seas lap gently at golden sand, completely lacking in any amenities except somewhere to park your car and a rubbish bin, it is overlooked only by a row of suburban villas a few hundred metres back. Have a quiet picnic, a gentle swim, lie in the sun enjoying the peace or wander along the shore to collect a few more exotic seashells. A complete contrast to touristy JBR further south with its Walk and Plaza full of trendy shops and cafes. I laughed when a friend called JBR “Birmingham on Sea” due to the rows tower blocks which crowd together just back from the sand. To me, from the sea, they look lined up as if about to attack some unknown giant invader, the silver “caterpillar” containing a ski slope that rears up over the Mall of the Emirates maybe?

Desert Donkeys

We spent a morning in the hustle and bustle of a souk; gold, textile or spice where the sound of Arabic, Punjabi and other tongues together with traffic and horns compete with the smells of nutmeg, cinnamon and coriander while at every turn another alley reveals new sights leaving your senses battered and overwhelmed. Old Dubai with it’s abra’s (water taxis), trading dhows and souks is in total contrast to New Dubai yet simply adds to the feeling of being in Dreamland. A world plotted and planned orginally back in the 1950’s in a small, plain council chamber down by the creek, not much bigger than the average lounge. Later that day, on searching for the ladies loo after a late lunch in a slightly tacky pizza restaurant, our hunt revealed us to be in a classy four star hotel with glamorous facilities! The Arabian Courtyard is in central Dubai opposite the excellent underground museum and proves that it pays to look beneath the dusty outer shell as sometimes as not everything is as scruffy as it seems!

Burj Khalifa viewed from underneath