From a barren desert to a grand megacity
Dubai is perhaps the biggest testimony on how humans can sometimes completely transform nature and build a megacity where there was nothing but barren and dry desert.
Feels nice to meet up with friends in a city where you land for the first time. We take a leisurely evening walk along the Dubai Marina chatting along as they talk about their experience living in Dubai and of course we chat about those good old memories.
There is something special about buildings in Dubai, that is missing in Manhattan or in Hong Kong. Its the shine, grandeur, elegance and style in which buildings are designed. There is a hint of islamic architecture and there is a unique shape and colour to each building.
So to explore more, we head to the Palm Jumeirah which is the iconic reclaimed land in the shape of a palm tree . The shot above is the drive through the trunk of the palm tree. Straight ahead at the end of the trunk is the Atlantis Hotel.
Dubai skyline as seen from one edge of the Palm Jumeirah. As the buildings bask in the evening sunlight, one can see the helix shaped building on the right and the worlds tallest residential tower right in the middle of the skyline.
We then head to the other edge of the Palm Jumeirah for a view of an iconic building of Dubai. This is Burj Al Arab (left) used to be Dubai's iconic building before the Burj Khalifa was built. Its one of he most luxurious hotels in the world. The small circular platform projecting from the top of the building to the right in this view has been the center of attention for many instances. It has seen a tennis match between Roger Federer and Andre Agassi, a formula one car spin by David Coulthard and Tiger Woods teeing off a golf shot ! The Burj Al Arab mimics the shape of the sail of a boat, while the building to the right adjacent to the Burj Al Arab is the Jumeirah Beach Hotel also known as “The Wave.”
Now to truly appreciate the wonder of Dubai - you absolutely need to see it from the top. So we head for a helicopter ride. And there it is..the Palm Jumeirah clearly showing the trunk of the palm and the branches projecting out from the trunk. The Palm is the lifestyle of the rich and famous - redefined. Generally, when we buy a home or an apartment , the real estate agent hands over the key and a bottle of champagne. In the Palm, if you purchase a beachside villa on one of the branches of the pam, you get two keys instead of one. You are "gifted" a Lamborghini which comes at a price of about US $450,000 ! So you can do that math to figure out how much you would have to shell out for the villa itself.
If the Palm was any indication of the height of lifestyle, wait till you see the "World" . These are hundreds of small artificial islands about four kilometers offshore from Dubai, built in the shape of the world. As you can see to the left , you see the continent of South America. You can also make out that construction is either moving slowly or has been completely halted. This was due to the economic crisis in 2008, and the project has had several start stops till today.
And now for most iconic building in the landscape of Dubai - The Burj Khalifa. At a height of 830m , this is the tallest building in the world. It would fit almost three Eiffel towers one of top of another !
As we fly over Dubai, we see the arterial roads leading into the city. The shinning golden structure to the right is the metro station again reminding us that nothing is "ordinary" in Dubai. We can also see desert landscape leading into the metropolis reminding us of what Dubai was , and what it is.
Another shot as our ride over Dubai comes to an end. The skyline of this amazing city with many iconic buildings and mega malls. There is a giant ski resort ( Yes you read that right ) and there are plans to construct another mega mall which is open air but temperatures are somehow maintained at a comfortable 24 degree C even as the scorching sun raises temperatures to 50 degree in the summer.
In front of Burj Khalifa in one of Dubai's largest malls - the Dubai Mall. The crowd awaits for the fountain show to begin as the Burj shines like a diamond in the background.
But Dubai is constantly evolving. Many more buildings are being constructed everyday and a sea of cranes can be seen in almost every part of Dubai, as seen here as we sail through the Dubai Creek.
And here are Dubai's immigrant workers working on one of its iconic buildings.
As we were still awestruck looking at the shining Burj Khalifa, we wondered - what's in store for the future for this amazing city. Dubai has played its cards very wisely in transforming itself from a desert to a global retail and financial hub. But what impact will plummeting oil prices have on the middle eastern economy and what will it bring to Dubai ? As we fly out of Dubai, sitting in my airplane seat, an article in the paper summarized my concluding thoughts...
"...The Stone Age came to an end, not because we had a lack of stones, and the oil age will come to an end not because we have a lack of oil.” - Sheikh Ahmed Zaki Yamani, former oil minister of Saudi Arabia
Dubai will have to rise to the challenge once more....