Tag Archives: Burj Khalifa

Reflections on Dubai

I’m at 35,000 feet with a beer in my hand and another seven under my belt, on my way to the Democratic Republic of South Africa. It’s there that my journey will truly begin – not only will I be wrestling rhinos and gulping malaria tablets so that I don’t die, but I’ll also be tracking down the mysterious Prince Imotep Bobongi of Nigeria, who has promised me a large sum of money. None of the movers and sheikhers I met in Dubai had ever heard of him, but I’m not letting that put me off.

Dubai was certainly an interesting place to visit, but it should be obvious from my earlier blogulas that I wasn’t enraptured by it. That’s not surprising – I’m backpacking around, looking for hills to climb and ruins to explore and bars to get smashed in, and Dubai is aimed squarely at families and rich pricks who want to sit by the pool all day. I’m not the target market, so my opinions shouldn’t turn off those who are. In saying that, the UAE isn’t for the adventurous, and isn’t meant to be.

Being Australian and not being a fat cunt, I like to walk everywhere and see what I find, but that doesn’t really work in the Emirates. I clocked up 62.37km of walking over three days (I’m not even making that up – and Mum, I did it all in thongs. Sorry) but I didn’t see as many interesting things as I would in a five kilometre stroll in Riga or San Francisco. It’s all very new and functional.

In saying that, there’s plenty to see and do if you’re planning to stop there for a few days and are willing to travel around. Burj Khalifa was every bit as impressive as I’d hoped it would be, and it stands proudly beside (well, more like stands over) the world’s greatest buildings, such as the Eiffel Tower, Oriental Pearl Tower, and Gosford City Council Building Block B. I’d wanted to see this stunning structure with my own eyes ever since it was announced, and it didn’t disappoint. The beaches, epic shopping centres and massive developments are also worth checking out if you’re into that sorta thing.

It’s a city without a distinct personality, and in many ways it reminds me of Las Vegas. Both are hot, dusty metropolises that have no real reason to exist where they are exept for a major commodity, and both are incredibly superficial. I guess the main difference is that I was able to get so smashed in Las Vegas I kissed Boy Meets World star Ben Savage, and Dubai is the most sober city I’ve ever encountered. I find it hard to trust a city I haven’t passed out in.

For me, it was the old town that was most interesting. It has all the good things about India (the food, happy men with moustaches who like to talk about cricket) without the bad (insane crime levels and five billion people on ever street corner). Alright, so it’s missing the Taj Mahal, the jungles of Southern India and a million other things, but you get my point.

The food in the old town is exceptional, and was a definite highlight for me. Curries, kebabs, pizzas and other awesome stuff are readily available and as cheap as my ex-girlfriend. I almost had to ask them to roll me home after dinner a few times. Dubai is home to heaps of 12-star restaurants and apparently that Gordon Ramsey knob-gobbler owns a place, but the street food is where it’s at.

Is Dubai a place I’d recommend for a holiday? Fuck no, but it’s a decent place for a few days break on the way home from a more interesting destination. That’s it for the stopover, now it’s time to explore the cradle of humanity, an ancient land with millions of years of history. They don’t have a ban on alcohol in Africa, either, so I’m hoping to spend tonight getting shitfaced and hooking up with sheilas who sound like they have speech impediments. Bye bye.

Sheikh, Rattle and Roll

Yesterday I took on Dubai’s ancient streets, and today I explored the newer side of things. The symbol of this rapidly-evolving desert metropolis is the Burj Khalifa, an 828m-tall skyscraper that is the tallest structure on the planet. It really is an incredible building, and standing at the bottom and looking up at it left me feeling queasy at its immensity – even though I flew my paraglider at three times that height two weeks ago. Is that the sound of your panties dropping, ladies?

Dubai has a far more impressive skyline than Wyong

I would’ve liked to go to the top of the tower, but it costs 50 bucks to go halfway and I’m too povvo to pay that. I’ll just get some photos off Google and show them to people if they ask. That’s what I do with dick pics. The Dubai Fountain sits in Khalifa’s shadow, and I watched on, entranced, as the monumental water jets danced in time to some beautiful music. Dubai often feels fake, but it really is astonishing that they’ve been able to turn desert into an aquatic oasis.

Go go dancing fountain!

The Dubai Mall is next to that, and it’s the biggest in the world. Inside the mall are heaps of shops, so if you’re after a new hat or some a whoopee cushion then it’s the place for you. I brushed all that crap, though, and headed to SEGA Republic. With the disappointment of Nagasaki SEGA World fresh in my mind (it totally bombed), I was hoping for the best. It was as disappointing as that crap all-fat-chicks Ghostbusters movie, though, because all the rides were closed and the bloke in the Sonic outfit got shirty when I tried to take a photo of me humping him.

He’s behind you!

I thought it was strange that a massive shopping centre full of sheikhs didn’t have a single shop selling those funny white sheets and towels they wear. What happens if they run out of clean sheets and have a big date to go out on? Do they just grab a doona cover, wrap it atound themselves, and head out for a nice night of dancing?

“We can’t both wear white, it makes us look like we’re part of a softball team”

As someone who hates shopping centres, the Dubai Mall really started to get on my nerves after a while. It’s loud, there are people everywhere, and it takes an hour to walk from one side to the other. Making things a bit more tolerable is the gigantic fish tank in the middle of the place. Sharks, stingrays and octopuses swim past exclusive clothes shops and fast food restaurants, giving some idea what the world will look like when climate change causes the oceans to rise 500 metres and we all drown. It’s really impressive, but I’d hate to be the person who has to clean it. Shit, my tank at home is only a metre long and it’s filthier than a Kings Cross hooker.

Other Arab countries prefer showing off slightly less relaxing tanks

I’m a poor bastard and so I’m staying in a cheap hotel where running water isn’t seen as a necessity, but all the rich picks who come to Dubai stay out at the famous Palm Jumeirah, where rooms run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars a night. I was curious to see what my life would’ve been like had I decided to become a corrupt politician, so I rolled on over there and took the monorail out to the man-made island, which is indeed in the shape of a huge palm. It’s an interesting ride, with luxurious houses, apartments and hotels growing from each of the palm’s gargantuan fronds. I felt poorer the further I went.

Want your palm read?

The Atlantis Resort at the end of the palm is really lovely, but all the beaches are private and there’s not a whole lot for a poor ol’ backpacker to do. I was standing beside a pie truck, looking sadly at a menu full of food I couldn’t afford, when one of those blokes in a sheet beckoned me over to his table. I was a little reluctant to join him, but took a seat next to the fella anyway.

“You look hungry,” he said in a kind voice. “Please, allow me to buy you a pie.”
I was going to put up a facade of arguing, but figured he was rich as shit and so ordered the most expensive roast chicken pie on the menu.
“My name is Sheikh Abdul el Waleed Aly,” he told me as the food arrived. He then went on to tell me how rich he is, how many cars he owns, how beautiful his wife is. I was torn between sucking up to the Sheikh in the hope he’d buy me a car, and telling him to shut the fuck up because he was boring me. I got stuck into the food, and as I was finishing it, Abdul gave me a slimy smile.

Enjoying my complimentary dog’s eye

“It is so easy to buy the time and affection of the poor,” he told me. “I just have to wave a free meal in front of your stupid face, and you sit there like an obediant dog. And what is the price of a meal to a man of wealth such as myself? Nothing. Nothing!”
I let him carry on like that for a few minutes because I was too busy stuffing my face with the pie he’d bought me, and eventually he stood up and swept himself away across the street, laughing. Just then, a truck sped by and splashed mud all over his stunning robes, causing the Sheikh to scream at the heavens. I just swaggered ver to him, licking tomato sauce from my fingers, and said, “Thanks for the food. You can find some clean sheets at the nearest Spotlight, dickhead.” And with that, I made my way back into the city.