Dubai: The Life Aquatic
29th Sep 2008
Some people may not know Dubai is located smack in the middle of the world, making it the perfect stopping off point if you are en route to somewhere from Europe, Africa, Asia or the Russian peninsula southwest.
That was never enough for this thumbtack on the map, so one day around 1989 some Emirati executives decided to make Dubai the economic capital of the entire region. Today, Dubai is the layover hub bar-none, featuring the best mall with the best prices on a Rolex this side of a Bangkok back alley. But its also a business heavyweight on its way to becoming the next New York, and its pretty much a lot of fun too. First, Fly Emirates! Throw in the great service, ability to face Mecca at appropriate times, and inflight TVs - and there really is no other way to arrive in Dubai.
Once your feet are on the ground, the best way into town is to hail an Emirates crew member and ask for the Emirates car service, or veer right at the big sign at baggage exit. You'll be glad for the power-pumped air conditioning as you peel your sticky self off the rich black leather seats at your final destination. The traffic here is fast and furious... don't bother with the mess - leave it to your mustachioed professional who knows the intricacies of ever changing one way streets. For hotels, let's just say that everyone is waiting to see what Mr. Armani creates up in the clouds (the upper reaches of the Burj Dubai) as one of the world's coolest and highest hotels when it opens at the end of the decade.
Until then we have three recommendations for the right mix between budget and opulence: try the Jumeirah Beach Hotel, or on the Shiek Zayed strip: Shangri-la Dubai, the Four Points Sheraton (great balconies) or the Dusit. The Burj Al Arab is oh so shiny and like Ivana Trump, more fun to look at than to live in.
Everyone thinks that this city's cultural life for the international high achiever (like you) is clustered in the futuristic parts that have made Dubai such a superstar. Places like Dubai Marina, the Madinat Jumeirah and Burj Al Arab sections, or the area between the new Palm and World developments all spring to mind. Like anywhere, the real pleasures can not be found in these soul-less locales, but since they have grass and air conditioning, you might want to hang out there anyway. You could actually reinvent your whole life clumped into these areas. Check out www.dubaiinternetcity.com and the upcoming Business Bay to get the skinny on tax-reduced corporate holding structures and other items to keep your new consultancy solvent in an era of Indian outsourcing. While there, you can always put a down payment on your new private island at The World, complete with submerged aqua houses and a giant mall the size of a small Vermont county.
The great thing about Dubai is that even though its all desert, its increasingly focused on water. Why not live the life aquatic with a place at the Palm Jebel Ali (www.palmsales.ca)? It really is incredible, a palm tree visible from space with luxurious island homes and landscaping, complete with various b-list movie stars for neighbors. If mainland living is more your style, flip some real estate and get in on the new Burj Dubai, the world's tallest and super seriously cool building of the international jetset moment. It's nearly complete and suprisingly suburban in feel.
Even though Dubai is now a huge city it still endures growing pains, which means that nightlife and restaurants are somewhat limited. But what there is can be great fun. For starters center your activities around the Jumeriah Beach Resort and the Burj Al Arab areas or Sheik Zayed Road at Teatro (Rotana Suites) or the Fairmont. The Jumeriah area has good places, but the best bar by far is Boudoir, which is next door at the Dubai Marine Beach Resort and Jumeriah Spa. The place thumps and you are just as likely to spot 50 Cent and T-Bone inside as you are to find a member of the Fahd family. DJs and music are legendary at Boudoir, and though its a great place for dinner, you really want to be there for the late night antics. Further afield, the Skyview Bar at the Burj Al Arab is fun for a look-see and some cocktails. Its better than the downstairs restaurant which is a bit Singapore-style tacky. But this place is high on the cocktail list.
For clubbing try Peppermint and Trilogy at Madinat Jumeriah, and 400, 360 and i2 in other parts of town. All close at 3am, are very beautiful, feature top DJs, and are surprisingly rocking. There are lots of standard things to do in Dubai, such as walking the malls, riding dune buggies, visiting the new souks, or getting in a round of golf while nice patient people hold the sun umbrella over your backswing. But stick to the golf - some of Dubai's attractions, which seem harmless, are actually not so hot: such as camel racing. (Another story).
Aside from the abuse of immigrant workers, the camel riding situation and that sinking feeling you get when your Range Rover bogs down in the desert, Dubai rocks. It is modern, fun, international, and increasingly... wet. Sure, you still have the occasional sandstorm and terrible traffic, and the calls to prayer and dust are a bit overwhelming, but this is a city for business, for living and for fun. We're going to ignore the fact they also opened the world's largest ski resort, which defies logic but demands a mention. Just remember: it's a dry heat, and girls, cover up.