…. but a destination. Sounds like a slogan, right? When I decided in early December to travel from winter to summer, of course I got the funny comments, are you going to Dubai?! In Hungary, there was a huge scandal of women, who went to Dubai to earning easy money. Not surprisingly this automatic image was associated in many people’s minds when someone traveled to Dubai at that time, especially if the person is a woman. I have to disappoint everyone. I have not encountered the Dubai phenomenon, and my article is really just about Dubai. In recent years, Dubai’s popularity and perception have changed a lot. Year after year, the number of visitors hit records.
With annual tourist traffic of 16 million, it is the 4th most visited city in the world, including 37,000 Hungarian who travelled here in 2017. Since 2013, Wizzair has already had a direct low-cost flight to the United Arab Emirates for a very reasonable price. So the summer is only by a few hours’ flights far from us. In Dubai, as the local tourist office says: anything is possible – Discover all that’s possible – and that’s really no exaggeration. I wondered how a city that literally grew out of nowhere has evolved into one of the largest metropolises in the world in a few decades thanks to oil revenues. I was wondering what a city that man built can offer someone like me, who loves nature so much.
After arriving in the city, I immediately had the feeling I’m in New York. No coincidence, there are huge skyscrapers next to the 2×5-lane Bin Zayed highway, that cuts the city in half. After Hong Kong and New York in the world, Dubai has the most skyscrapers, at 187 in number. During my stay, I saw the company inscriptions in several tall buildings. I thought were the headquarters of that company. Then I was informed that the branding does not indicate which company’s employees work there, but to which real estate development company the tower belongs (e.g. Emaar, Damac). In the United Arab Emirates, especially in Dubai, wealth must be expressed in as much away as possible, and megalomania is manifested not only in architecture but in all aspects of life.
Dubai has the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa. It is 828m high and can go up to 555m. I ventured to the 124th floor, which was “only” 452m, but I was shocked as I have strong fear of heights. But I couldn’t miss it out and stepped out of my comfort zone. If anyone is not satisfied with Burj Khalifa for them I have good news. The next big tower, the Dubai Creek Tower, is coming and planned to be built for the 2020 World Expo. To avoid being overtaken by anyone in the world, the Emaar Group didn’t confirm the exact height of the tower, but it’s likely to be between 928 and 1400m. The Creek Tower model can be seen in the Dubai Mall so that in the meantime you can imagine how grandiose it will look like. Very airborne and rocket-like.
But back to the tallest building. In Burj Khalifa there are mainly private apartments, which were sold after 8 hours the sale started. If you want to sleep in Burj Khalifa, you can do it at the Armani Hotel, starting from $150,000 per room to a suite for £1,000. Prices are for one night. Also in Dubai, you can find the world’s only one 7-star hotel, the Burj Al Arab, which, with its sailboat shape, grows out of the sea on an artificial peninsula. You can’t just have a look at the hotel without reservation (I tried), but you can have an afternoon tea (well booked in advance) there if you are willing to pay more than 30,000 Ft. Yes, Dubai isn’t famous for being cheap.
The city, with its heavily air-conditioned luxury shopping malls, is a paradise for shopaholics. If someone in Dubai can’t buy something, then this article doesn’t exist. Apart from joking here everything is available. Dubai has the world’s largest marine aquarium with 140 different types of marine life, including over 300! sharks and sands. I didn’t go in because I prefer to see animals in their natural environment, and luckily I can do that as a diver. But it’s a great program and you can’t miss whatever it takes (10.000 Ft, per person). If you’re looking for a colder program, you should go to the Mall of Emirates. You can find there only one indoor ski resort in the Middle East and the third-largest indoor ski resort in the world. If you are a winter fan, you can enjoy snow in Dubai by gliding over a 400m long slope. If you’re lucky, you might as well meet penguins there, and that’s no joke!
If you want to see additional attractions in Dubai beyond the previous ones, I recommend the following things to your attention. Palm Jumeirah (Palm Island) was a bit of a disappointment to me. Since we took the railway, we saw nothing from the shape of the legendary island. Skydiving or tandem jumping is not an option because of my height fears. But I saw Palm Island from above encrusted with mosaics, where, as everywhere in the city, the legendary ruler Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan is watching us.
Thanks to him, in 1971 the seven separate emirates were united, and he established today’s the United Arab Emirates. On the branches of the palm tree, there are apartment buildings owned by celebrities such as David Beckham and Giorgio Armani, but are sealed off from prying eyes. Nevertheless, it is an interesting program, especially if I visit the 5* Atlantis hotel at the end of Palm Island, which is a masterpiece of classic Arab architecture. The Atlantis Hotel has its own marine aquarium for tourists, but we watched rather the sunset here.
Starting from Budapest, I didn’t think a fountain could be so spectacular until I saw the fountain next to the Dubai Mall. The free show, which starts every half an hour, leaps into the sounds of the most famous hits, according to carefully composed choreography. We saw the James Bond: Skyfall theme and it was quite impressive. Just some figures to illustrate the extent of the fountain: the jets of water can rise up to 275 m (the equivalent of a 50-story building) and can be seen in clear weather from a distance of up to 30 km. I have to say, the United Arab Emirates is really good at architecture and astoundment, especially in Dubai, and I haven’t talked about sky bars. Not in a store, but you can legally buy alcohol in the country at bars. We were at our Sheraton Skybar, on a 43-story rooftop, and the panoramic view of the city was amazing from here. Many sky bars can be found in Dubai Marina, the city’s most modern quarter. Dubai Marina offers a free beach, a range of luxury shops and a well-built infrastructure (JBR Walk) for tourists looking for a beach. Personally, I preferred Al Mamzar Beach, which is more visited by locals and definitely worth a look if anyone is not just curious about the sparkling face of Dubai. Because Dubai has a very different face, which we could only see because our accommodation was in the Deira district. True, we booked there by accident.
I had to admit, I was a little scared as I heard bad things about this district beforehand. Still, I’m very glad we had our hotel here because we saw directly 85% of the city’s population. These are those people who come to the country in search of a better life, largely from India, Pakistan and the Philippines. You won’t find any Ferraris and luxury shops in the Deira district. But you will see people living in infinitely kind and very modest circumstances, who work every day, often risking their own lives, to build Dubai’s glittering future.