Arriving in Dubai felt like arriving in an Indian city, albeit a clean one where everything works. Coming from ancient, storied, closed and rundown Iran the contrast could not be more striking. I had planned for half a day but due to a bird strike my plane was delayed which left me only a few hours.
Of the seven emirates I arrived into Sharjah, a small emirate just North of Dubai. The main emirate of Abu Dhabi has the oil, is the capital and owns the national airline (which isn’t Emirates!). During the 2008 crisis Abu Dhabi had to step in to bailout Dubai and so the tallest building in the world Burj Khalifa is named after the Emir of Abu Dhabi. I suppose Abu Dhabi is like the older sensible brother and Dubai the spendthrift flashy younger one who gets all the attention.
The tower itself at over 800m tall is a wonder and the LED lighting show nothing if not over the top.
At the base is a fountain show and the Mall of the Emirates rounds out the top three sights on Tripadvisor! I did read somewhere that Dubai is an emirate inside a mall rather than the other way around.
In some ways the main attraction about Dubai is to marvel that it exists at all. Literally a vision of the leader built on sand, and in such a short time, it seems something of a conjuring trick.
From the few people I talked to it is certainly a vision bought into by an army of millions of workers from the subcontinent, the Philippines and a sprinkling of westerners – at least temporarily. Even my taxi driver couldn’t see himself living here long-term even though he had been resident for 15 years!