DUBAI: an unshakeable ambition to be "bigger & better"
I've just returned from a six-day, fun-fueled, Sex-in-the-City-type trip from Dubai, with five girlfriends. While we relished the happening club scene, the City had to offer—in recent years Dubai has come to be known as the party town of the Middle East—there are many other attractions that even the seasoned party goer shouldn't miss when out and about in Dubai.
Before I visited Dubai, I knew little about it except that its ruler, Sheikh Mohammed was known to be a visionary who was steering the economy towards tourism and trade ever since Dubai ran out of oil. Ergo: barely a week goes by when something from the UAE doesn't claim to be the world's tallest, fastest or most expensive. It's actually a smart way to get the country on the map. The Palm Jumeriah and the iconic Burj Khalifa are examples of developments that have come to symbolize Dubai.
At the heart of downtown Dubai, is the shimmering Burj Khalifa; the world's tallest tower points like a needle more than 800 mm skywards and counts an Armani hotel and the world's highest restaurant, Atmosphere, among its attractions. A visit to the top of the world's tallest building is a must. But, if you think, you can waltz in on any given day and get tickets; you're in for a disappointment. Luckily, for us, we were with seasoned Dubai travelers who warned us that tickets sell out week in advance. We pre-booked ours and rode the super fast elevator to the 124th floor's viewing deck for 360-degree views across Dubai.The experience? Breathtaking views yes, but not the heart-jumping-into-my-mouth kind of terror I was expecting. After all, it's a luxurious lounge and liveried waiters serving drinks that awaits you when you reach the top. Not quite the stomach-churning, dry-mouth experience comparable to the free fall at the Edge ride (At Great America parks) that I was anticipating. Nevertheless, it's a Dubai checklist essential!
Another must-see: The Palm Jumeriah. We were to stay at the Kempinski hotel at the Palm Jumeriah, so I was familiar with the name before I landed. Dubai's sheikhs have claimed it is "the 8th wonder of the world," and seen from space the tree-shaped sand and rock formation of the Palm Jumeriah looks exactly like that. Stretching several kilometers out to sea, The Palm, Dubai's original. mind-boggling manmade island, with it's countless luxury villas and apartments, and the Disney-esque Atlantis hotel as its crowing showpiece is a must for any itinerary.
David Beckham is rumored to have bought a mansion here, rubbing shoulders with Bollywood superstar Shahrukh Khan who was gifted a luxurious villa here by the developer in year 2007. Celebrity gazing aside, this manmade wonder is known for images taken from the sky where you see the shape of a palm tree. Given the hype and the unending construction, the royal family's gamble that Palm Jumeriah will keep the tourists coming (once complete, there will homes and hotel rooms for 65,000 people) looks likely to pay off!