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4.42 

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Dubai- Land of Dates, Dunes & Development
Jun 01, 2008 04:35 PM 9091 Views
(Updated Jun 02, 2008 12:36 PM)

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Dubai has become a " must see" place on the wish list of any self


respecting Indian traveler and well, I am just back from the famed


golden land. The city is a modern day megalopolis but its evident at


first glance that its an Asian urban miracle. There are towering malls


and offices but at the bottom of it all are South Asian laborers


galore freely walking across the city as also huge spaces dug up to


accommodate the metro and the flyover construction.


Dubai is a big construction site these days and the Metro is expected


to roll out by Sep 2009(thats 9/9). Till then there are honking cards


and disgruntled  cab drivers. Taxis are hard to flag down and even then


it may take a long time to reach your destination due to traffic


snarls.


Besides this, what does Dubai have to offer to an average tourist.


Besides the over hyped Duty Free shopping bonanza taking place every


Jan-Feb what happens here in the remaining 10 months. There are some


places for sure, to visit but sadly my impression was one of limited


choices. Yes there are malls, and then there are malls, and then there


are some more malls. Ranging from an architectural delight like the


Wafi city mall to the ubiquitous  corner malls , this place is crammed


full of them selling all kinds of mind boggling merchandise. NO doubt


for the commercial minded and the richly laden, there is no dearth of


shopping opportunities.


Its a nicely planned city with landscaping along most major roads but in the end Dubai remains a Concrete jungle with just a colection of builidings.


I want to list the places I zeroed in during my stay in Dubai. I would


say 3-4 days here are sufficient to traverse the range of activities


offered. We started with a trip to the largest mall here, The Ibn


Batuta Mall. This one was splendid as the entire humongous mall is


divided and done up in 6 national architectural styles viz: India,


China, Egypt, Andulasia etc. The interiors are worth spending time


gazing at. I visited many malls after that but this one surely made me


return to it again. The shops are a combination. Another notable mall


is the Mall of the Emirates  that impresses due to its size and sheer


luxury. Dont miss the Wafi city mall thats a take off on the Egyptian


pyramids and houses the Jashanmal and Selaam stores.


Dubai gets hordes of tourists especially from the western world who


need their space to practice their adventurous manouvres so there is the


newly opened Ski Dubai that has ski slopes all year round. While its


blistering outside one can ski or just gaze at the icy cool environs of


this great place. To beat the heat there is also the incomparable Water


sports park called Wadi right close to the Al Burj , the famous and


perhaps the only 7 star hotel in the world.he rides are many and


organized well so an entire late afternoon or morning can be spent here


frolicking with the kids. Adults will love it too for the thrilling


rides.


The highlight of the trip for me had to be the Desert Safari. Its a


contemporary thing so sadly there were no long camel rides trudging in


the lovely sands. Instead there is a 4X4 land cruiser thats takes you


around on this trip that takes about 5 hours. There are many travel


agencies that book the desert safari with prices ranging from


160-200Dirhams/person  so just go with the one you are comfortable with


since the items in the agenda are identical. The cruiser will pick you


from the hotel(generally, please check with front office) and take you


out of the city for about 40 minutes right in the middle of the desert.


Then they do an interesting thing, deflate the tyres since after this


the ride become one thrill ride with the passengers securely fastened


in the seat belts(each vehicle sits 7 adults) and the skillful driver


gliding the vehicle across high sand dunes. This is called Dune Bashing


and its a combination of peaks and troughs by the vehicle over the


dunes. Its amazingly original and fun. I enjoyed it thoroughly and


would recommend  strongly since this was one item that really made me


feel I am in the sand, in the dunes, in the middle east.


The ride culminates in a Arabian setting camp complete with Barbeque,


unlimited drinks, sheesha(akin to a hookah) and some gorgeous belly


dancing.


For the history lovers, there is but scanty entertainment, apart from


Jumeirah Mosque and the Dubai Museum housed in the Al Fahidi Fort. Both


are nice but nothing spectacular. The mosque has guided trips on


certain mornings and the details can be checked from the website.


To round off this glamorous city, an interesting sojourn is to the Gold


Souq. There are neatly 150 shops, big and small with a comprehensive


range of gold jewelery ranging from 18-22 carat.  There are Arabian,


Bahraini, Indian and Italian designs and also shops offering peals and


diamonds but I found these shops empty. The daily gold rate is flashed


outside at the gate and the making is at places negotiable but not too


much. I did shop from there since its one thing Dubai is famous for:-)


but otherwise the gold prices compared to India were absolutely the


same.


IN close proximity is the Spice Souq that is a haven for your olfactory


senses. It smells divine and its really fascinating to stroll in the


labyrinthine mazes and look at the spices and the incense and perhaps


pick up an exotic perfume.


Food is no problem at all. THere are swanky restaurants catering to international cuisines, many Indian restaurants(including exclusively vegetarian) and numerous roadside joints ofeering quick coffee & burgers for the people on the go.


Dubai is an interesting mix of east and west. I sighted more westerners


and Indians than the local sheikhs and the city has ample entertainment


for a few days for the family or the lone traveler. Its truly a melting


pot of cultures. Its also a bustling modern commercial capital the the


rapidly expanding skyline and FDIs poring in are testimony to the


growing power of this "Pearl of the Middle East".


P.S. Some pics of this interesting holiday spot can be found in  my album..


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