Sunday, 3 October 2010

First Impressions



Dubai is big! Seven lane highways (that is 7 in each direction), veritable forests of skyscrapers and a huge aquarium complete with diving members of the public in the shopping mall. Dubai is either side of a creek, the airport is to the north but most of the modern city is to the south west of the creek along the beach.

Getting through immigration took over an hour, long slow moving queues but no issues for a UK citizen; cursory questions about why you are there and where you are staying, passport flicked through and stamped. Then it was off to meet Kevin's colleague Johan for a drive around. First to the Palm to visit another Norwegian and view his apartment. The trunk of the Palm is formed by two rows of  concrete apartment blocks with a major road through the middle. Villas make up the Palm fronds and a huge hotel complex stands at the apex. We were quite taken by the pools in the gardens below the apartment blocks, views of the islands and the direct access to the beach but it seems there are few everyday shops here and the only way off is by car.

Huge Acrylic Tank Wall
Next stop Dubai Marina, our first forest of skyscrapers; towers of glass clustered around canals and pontoons, building is still going on apace here. There is a yacht club here, however most of the boats we saw were of the large motor kind. Not so certain I'd want a view of another tower block directly across from my apartment nor the construction noise. We've also been warned that in the boom years wealthy property speculators bought up hundreds of flats which they now can not resell or rent out, and therefore don't pay their maintenance bills so some blocks are poorly maintained.

Just a little further on is the more mature Jumirah Beach Residence (JBR). This is Villamoura with tower blocks! Low level buildings in the Arabic style are home to shops and cafes just across the road from hotels lining the beach. Behind the shops are huge ochre blocks of high rise apartments. Lots of trees and bougainvillea make this area very attractive but the traffic along the single road parallel with the sea was one long crawl.

A few kilometres inland is Arabian Ranches, several thousand identikit villas arranged in huge loops each backing onto a canal. Johan and his wife showed us around their lovely home. It was larger than the Amwaj Floating City villas in Bharain but lacking in access to the water, no swimming or boating in the freshwater canals. A great place if you've got a family or want peace and quiet but few amenities beyond golf courses and communal pools. Though if you like riding it is close to the gorgeous, upmarket Polo Club where we had lunch. Back towards the sea but just inland from JBR is the Emirates housing area: Lakes, Springs, Meadows complete with golf course views and, except for Springs, huge price tags. This is where the millionaires have their villas. Springs is another extensive development of identical villas and made it onto my short list of potential places to live, the others are Dubai Marina and JBR. If we come here we'd had to choose with care to avoid construction, traffic jams and lack of amenities.
Divers Feeding

The hotel - well I'll take some pictures later this week and you can judge for yourself! Trendy but impractical is how I'd sum it up. In the evening Kevin took me to the Dubai Mall, not to see the shops but to view the beautiful fountain show and to eat in one of the restaurants in Souk Al Bahar next door. The acrylic aquarium wall (see picture above) is the largest single stretch of the material in the world, it holds back 10 million litres of water full of fish and sharks plus a few divers! We joined the crowds taking pictures. This is the area for world records, the mall it self, the aquarium wall and outside, the Burj Khalifa which at 828m is the worlds tallest building. At night on the other side of the lake to the Mall it is an amazing sight rising into the blackness of the sky. One or two stars twinkled seemingly just above its summit. But for oohs and ahhs then the half hourly evening fountain displays are a must not miss; music, lights and explosive jets of water swaying seductively in time to Sarah Brightmans voice and an ochestral accompaniment - breathtaking! (Pictures below - I stopped taking them to watch so you won't see the most spectactular parts unless you come in person!)

Circles of water...

...are joined by lines and lights

The water sways seductively

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