Sunday, September 10, 2006

A weekend in Dubai, shining city of gold...

It was a culture shock coming to modern, glitzy, fast-growing Dubai in the United Arab Emirates after two weeks in historic Amman. Historically, Dubai was a small port city, surrounded by desert, in an area primarily inhabited by nomadic Bedouin tribes. Not so long ago, the city was little more than flat desert land and many of the locals were camel-herders.

Today it is the Middle East's answer to both fast-growing Las Vegas and New York, known for its skyscrapers of iridescent glass. The city has boomed in the past 20 years and is still growing at an exponential rate. 20 percent of the cranes in the world are in Dubai, according to one local (another claimed it is 80% of the world's cranes!) and buildings are going up everywhere you look.

Some of the new plans for Dubai include the Dubai Waterfront, a business, residential and entertainment mini-city, planned to be 2.5 times the size of Washington, DC and 7 times the size of the island of Manhattan. The world's tallest building, the Burj Dubai, is currently under construction here, scheduled for completion in 2008, although the final height remains a closely guarded secret.

Life is tax-free in Dubai, and the free zones mean that industry is flocking here, but the cost of living here is high. Some locals I met who live in the Dubai Marina told me they pay 130,000 durhams per year (that's about 35,000 US dollars) for their two-bedroom apartment in a building that is only three months old...

It is not a pedestrian city. You take taxis everywhere. This is in part due to the way the city has been built, around highways, and in part due to the fact that the weather here is sweltering, and everyone lives inside in the AC.

The temperature this evening, for example, is a cool 91 degrees, Fahrenheit (33 Celsius) with 69% humidity and haze. Mind you, it's 7 p.m. and the sun has already set... Temperatures this week are expected to be in the 102 to 104 degree range (39 to 40 degrees Celsius) and we're in September already... Whew!

What this means is that you break into a sweat the minute you walk outside and your glasses or camera lens fogs up right away - it's that humid.

More on Dubai tomorrow, including stories of my desert safari adventures tonight - I am right now at the Dubai airport, getting ready to board a flight to Istanbul - I could not resist the call of this magical city after all... I am off for a week in Turkey, then another week in Greece! Wheee!

For more on Dubai, check here:

© Lisa Powell Graham 2006


joycechupka said...

What a wonderous adventure. I am delighted to watch your spirit take flight. Where else but the Holy Land? It sounds magical, haunting, and moving beyond words. Enjoy, radiate, touch the face of the Creator. Grow in knowing the holy kiss of beauty.

Love, Joyce

Lisasita said...

Love you too Joyce and miss you - Can't wait to share more stories in person when I am home.