Dubai. In the western world, it is arguably the most famous of the seven emirates within the Arabian Peninsula. It is a country and city known for its exhibition of opulent wealth. Its shopping districts easily rival those of Paris, Milan, and Beverly Hills. And although Dubai is a wealthy nation within the middle east, its wealth does not stem from petroleum or natural gas, which constitute less than 6% of its economy. Dubai’s resources come from real estate, construction, and the utilization of its great city as a hub for global business. Dubai is especially tolerant of western culture and other religions, allowing for houses of worship of all faiths including Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism. When visiting Dubai, there are a number of sites one should see. Here are just a few of them.
Burj Al Arab
Quite possibly the most iconic building in Dubai, the Burj Al Arab, at 1050 feet high, is the second tallest building in the world to be solely used as a hotel. The absolute tallest in the world is the Rose Tower, also in Dubai, which stands at 1090 feet. The Burj Al Arab stands on one of Dubai’s man made island and is known most for its unusual shape, which purposefully resembles the sail of a boat. Prices start at $1000 a night.
The Dubai Mall
This is it, the world’s largest shopping mall. Dare we say an American’s dream? Now, some may argue that there are larger malls out there, such as the South China Mall, and the SM Mall of Asia. This is, in a way, true. There are other malls out there that provide a larger area of space. So, why is the Dubai mall considered the largest? Because it contains the most amount of stores, 1200 to be precise. Volume-wise, the mall is about the same size as the West-Edmonton Mall, the largest mall in North America. When the Dubai Mall opened in late 2008, six-hundred retailers were already open for business, making it also the largest mall opening in history. The mall features an aquarium with the largest viewing panel in the world, as well as a full, Olympic-sized ice skating rink.
This is, quite simply, the tallest man-made structure ever in the history of mankind. It is currently in its completion stage and should be finished by the end of 2009. Total price tag for the project is somewhere in the vicinity of $4.1 billion, almost a bargain compared to the price of the man made islands Dubai has been creating. The building measures in at 2,684 feet high. Historically, this building will mark the first time the world’s tallest, free-standing, man-made structure has been located in the middle east since the Great Pyramid of Giza was surpassed in 1311.
This is the first of three palm shaped artificial islands Dubai plans on creating. The island’s palm shape has created an additional 40 miles of coastal real estate for the country. This effectively doubled the length of Dubai’s coastline. Construction of the island began in June of 2001, with the first residents moving to the island in 2006. The island was created by dredging seven million tons of sand and rock. A Dutch company, who are experts in land reclamation, oversaw the project. The cost of creating the island was $12.3 billion, but that does not include maintenance. Suffice to say, it is currently the largest man-made island in the world and will soon be teeming with luxury hotels and resorts.
If a man made island with 40 miles of coastline is not impressive then perhaps “The World” will be. This man made archipelago consists of over 300 islands. It is called “The World” because the islands have been designed to form a rough map of the entire world. There is an island in the shape of England, another in the shape of Greece, etc.. The idea here, of course, is status as one can claim they own “England” by purchasing the corresponding man made island. The entire archipelago covers an area of 3.7 by 5.6 miles. Islands typically sell for between $15 to $50 million dollars, which should eventually cover the full development cost of $14 billion. The project is currently on hold due to the world economic crisis.
When one thinks of Arabia, let alone Dubai, one likely pictures an arid desert of heat and sun. One does not think of snow skiing. Yet, that is what one can do at Ski Dubai, arguably the largest indoor ski resort in the world. The resort features 22,500 square meters of ski area. The heavily insulated building is kept at 30.2 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and 21.2 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the night, which is when the snow is generated. The resort features five ski runs and is open year round.
Sheikh Zayed Road
It might seem strange to have a highway on a list of sites one must see while in Dubai, but bear with us. Sheik Zayed Road is part of the “E 11” highway, which is the longest road in the United Arab Emirates. When it passes through Dubai, it is known as “Sheik Zayed Road”. So why is it on this list of must see sites? Because it is along this highway that most of Dubai’s skyscrapers are built. If one is visiting Dubai then must drive down this stretch of road, especially at night. It was one of the most beautiful views in the city.
Whether it be snow skiing in the middle of the Arabian desert, man made islands, or just all out displays of extravagant wealth, Dubai is a region teeming with luxury. Its nightlife is second to none, with the New York Times listing it as one of the greatest party cities in not just the Middle East, but the world. If opulence is what one seeks then one will not fail if they travel to Dubai.
Photo credit: 7_70