Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Man made marvels

My admiration for Dubai grows. Growing up in Bombay we were used to hearing a lot of strange, bizarre and probably partly fictitious stories of the exploits of `Arabs’ in Bombay. How they love the rain, how wild their behaviour is and so on and so forth. We also heard how just yesterday the man was a Bedouin riding a camel and how today he owns a Mercedes which he can barely drive. We heard about rags to riches stories of men who went as cooks and returned as restaurant owners or something of the sort. Basically, Arabs were the source of amusement. Let me assure you the joke is on us. We have been left dead in the water. Dubai is truly amazing.

Yes I know the cynics among you will say, well this is all man made with money power driving poor Indian labour. Yes you are correct. But hey? What about the monuments we have in India, our beloved Taj Mahal, the Qutub Minar several palaces in Rajasthan. Was that not poor Indian labour driven by sheer money power at the whim and fancy of an Emperor? What about all the temples carved out of rock in South India? The workers there were not treated to a Starbuck coffee, post work massage and a manicure to soften the fingers. It’s all the same. One happened 500 years ago one happened 5 years ago. If you look at it from another perspective, all monuments are manmade, what really is the difference between the Eiffel Tower or the Pyramids or Empire State Building. We visit them all and marvel at the beauty. We must have seen the documentary of the construction of the Hudson Dam and the Three Gorges Dam in China. What really is the difference? It’s all man-made.

The development of this tiny kingdom is something that boggles my mind. The audacity of constructing the Palms Islands, the grandeur of the Burj Al Arab Hotel and coining the term Seven Star, the megalomania of the Burl Khalifa and its attendant Mall, Fountains and Aquarium have filled me with awe and deep respect. Every single one of these and the hundreds of buildings and miles of roads have been constructed with labour from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and other Asian countries. Yes none of these countries could use that very same labour and construct even a tenth of what has been done here. No our people are not bad, they can construct the finest buildings, just give them a chance. The thousands of smiling waiters, taxi drivers, toilet cleaners are really working hard in a seemingly bribe free, hassle free environment. Yes they may live like dogs, as we are so often told, but would they have been better off in India? Everyone I spoke to said it was just not possible for them to save and send money home if they were working in India. Yes life is tough. Yes we are privileged and I am always thankful for that. But that is not my point. My point goes back to what I so often write. We have no, repeat, no leaders in any category. Just media hyped personalities who we think are leaders or role models. Rahul Gandhi? A typical spoilt brat, lives at home with his mom, has no job and dabbles in the family business. Fine role model. And our ministers who say I will die for Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. This is what we have as role models. How can we ever get better?

I did drive past the Burl Al Arab - the Seven Star Hotel. The shape of the building in now recognisable anywhere. It’s as much in our minds as the Sydney Opera House, Eiffel Tower and other distinctive structures. All this built on reclaimed land. Really a dramatic building.

The building behind the Burj Al Arab is the wave shaped Jumeirah Beach Resort

The Atlantis Hotel on the Palms

Water skiing off the Palms

No Pan Parag, no Frito Lays no beer bottles no kachra on the rocks
View from the Palms of the buildings on Jumeirah Beach Road

The one building which we really wanted to see is the magnificent Burj Khalifa. This is the world tallest building, and it’s the tallest by a long way. The sheer size of the building is staggering. It towers over everything around it and over every other tall building in the world. The entire downtown Dubai area has been dramatically transformed by this one building. The building contains the world’s largest shopping mall. This is a split personality mall. Parts of it are Heera Panna and parts of it are super luxury, luckily they are separated. In the mall is a massive Kinokunya bookstore. One of the largest and most well stocked bookstore I have seen in these internet Kindle times. Spent quite some time there.

Inside the mall you have a massive Aquarium. We just did not have the heart to enter it. There were so many hyper excited school children and prams that it was testing our patience. The next time we will definitely go. The Building has a large water body in which they have installed a fabulous water fountain show. The show runs for 3 odd minutes at 1 pm, 1.30 pm and 2 pm. Then its runs every half hour from 6 pm. We could not go at night on this trip, but I can imagine it will be beautifully lit. The show in the afternoon was awe inspiring in itself. Really moving when paired with the music, and, the grace of the water fountains brought a tear to my eye. More beautiful than any dance I have seen.      

And the Burj Khalifa? No words can describe it. Please see the photos. Just a few facts which you may find useful if you want to visit it. An entry ticket costs AED 100 [INR 1500]. With this ticket you have to choose the time slot you want to visit. You can book this online, which is what we did before leaving for Dubai. It makes sense to book in advance as there are days when all time slots are sold out. If you are impatient you can pay AED 400 and get in immediately. You do have to make one decision. Go during the day or go at sunset. The queues get long, quite long for the evening slot with a 45 minute wait for the elevator, so if you want to blow about 2 hours on this go at in the evening. We went at 11 am and were in and out by 11.30. The lift that takes you up 124, yes 124 floors takes 1 minute and is super smooth. Your ears will pop gently while going up and down. Take the telescope viewing option. It costs AED 25 extra. You get to use an electronic telescope on the top. Please do have a look at the view as of now and what it was before construction. The views from up there are unbelievable. And sound does not travel to the 124th floor. It was quiet.

You get a sense of how tall this is when you see other building in comparison

The pool with the water fountains taken from the 124 floor

Have a look at the roads. Arrow straight and masses of junctions and exits.

A gold ATM. Put your credit card in a draw out Gold!!

The Fountains 

The sleepy Gold Souk

Next time you are in Dubai, keep a day or two for yourself. Go to the Burj Khalifa, see the fountains and if you like kids go to the aquarium. If you have more time go to Al Maha. If you have still more time visit the Museum, I believe it’s quite good. The Gold Souk is perhaps overrated but still worth a stroll. The malls are impressive. I believe the beaches are very good but we haven’t had a chance to visit on this trip. And if you are a foodie, there is every imaginable cuisine on offer in Dubai at various price points. Dubai is more, much more than just shopping and gold and Russian prostitutes. It a vibrant, throbbing exciting dynamic metropolis wanting to become the world’s coolest city. It may well become one, except its damn hot.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting read as always, I fully agree that the joke is on us. The Arab states have used the oil money to better the lot of citizens (doubt whether there are any poor arabs). Just imagine what our politicians (refuse to call them leaders)would have done if oil was found in India.Actually we know, just have to look at what happened with coal and other minerals.