I blink and four days have gone by. I kept telling myself that I would get back to writing, but it has been a few long days and very little time to get my thoughts together. We have now left India and moved onto Dubai. It is the first time that we have been here and it is safe to say that we have avoided coming here in the past. Not because it isn’t an exciting place, but because there doesn’t seem like there is much to do except to shop and sunbathe. Well, if Mumbai was a huge traffic jam, then Dubai is a massive, fucking queue.
I’m British. We are fond of queueing when the result of the queue is worth it. Going to a gig, getting some food or catching a bus are all acceptable reasons to join a queue and they are generally well organised and routine. Not in Dubai. Here, there is a queue to enter buildings, to leave buildings, to get into elevators, to get out of elevators, to get into taxis, to get out….you get the gist. There are only 3 million people that live here, but it seems like they all are standing in front of me.
Our first impression as we reached the hotel is the sort of thing you vaguely remember from that George Clooney movie about tomorrowland. Incredibly flat and fast, as soon as get onto Sheik Zayed Road, the various skyscrapers and hotels pop into view as if you were driving on a car simulator in a service station. Slowly but surely, the tall isolated skyline is visible like an oasis in the middle of the desert. Well, it is an oasis in the middle of the desert. All of the grass is imported from Brazil and it is maintained by fountains – the water has to be imported because the climate is too dry to sustain plants.
You would think that this is unnecessary. However, this place is built for the preposterous grandiose. From gold Rolls Royce cars to the tallest building in the world, nothing is done by halves in this live-in amusement park – a haven for the über rich, a plaything to be moulded by the gold-plated Emirati. The 600,000 citizens here (no one is allowed citizenship anymore) are provided with free healthcare, education, housing, amenities and jobs, with the bill being paid by the millions of tourists that visit every year. That’s right, you. When you check into your hotel here, you have already paid your dues.
The sparkling attraction is the Burj Khalifa, named after the current president of the UAE. Standing at over 830m in the air, it is a spike in the every growing skyscape of the Dubai horizon. Taking over $1 billion dollars to build, it offers amazing views of the entire city as well as housing luxuries like the Armani hotel. God, I sound like a brochure. What they don’t tell you is that the £25 ticket includes a complimentary set of queues and checks totalling two hours. Before you have even got in the world’s fastest elevator (are you seeing the pattern here?) you are so tired and your feet feel like lead. Then you see the view and whilst stunning, it really doesn’t live up to its name. Oh and there is a queue back down too.
I forgot to mention the 45 minute walk through the Metro station, through the Dubai Mall that would make Marx turn in his grave. If there was ever a monument to capitalist consumerism, then this would be the high temple. I like a mall as much as the next person, but this place stands like a giant at an ant’s view – apparently it takes three visits (15 hours) to conquer the mall – we swiftly exited for the first time.
If this place is an oasis in the middle of the desert, then for me it stands as a mirage. Not a good start, we hope for a better (less expensive) day tomorrow.