24 hours in Dubai

I’d never really been interested in going to Dubai. The idea of a desert filled with ostentatious skyscrapers and blingy luxury hotels didn’t excite me. Then again, since we were passing through on our way from Sri Lanka back to Belgium we figured we may as well give it a look, if only to break the journey.

The most ostentatious of all the skyscrapers was clearly visible from our hotel room window.

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We were staying in a part of town where shiny futuristic towers alternated with patches of bare ground (presumably soon to be the sites of newer, even shinier and more futuristic towers).

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We did manage to locate an older, decidedly less shiny part of town: the souks next to the creek.

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But even in this area the modern monoliths dominated the skyline.

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I didn’t go into this shop.

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So there it is: the Burj Khalifa.

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Cleaning the windows is apparently a continuous job, and the cleaners are out every day except when high winds make it too dangerous.

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Which reminds me of that scene from Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.

In the exhibition prior to taking the lift you get to see various photos and videos of the construction, but the one that caught my eye was the one about Google Earth’s mapping of the entire complex. Check out the part where the woman has to dangle off the very top of the building. Nutter.

At the top people were taking the inevitable selfies, as well as using something I’d never seen before: real-life Instagram frames.

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Now I always used to love going to the top of tall buildings to see the view, but over the last few years I’ve started to get more nervous about it, and this time I wasn’t at all comfortable. I was ok in the elevator, but as soon as I stepped out I started hugging the wall and feeling jelly-legged. This was in fact only the lower of the two viewing points, on the 124th floor. There’s another, with luxury lounges, on the 148th. I didn’t go anywhere near the windows, and wouldn’t have gone out onto the open-air terrace if you’d paid me, so I took some shots through the windows with my zoom while keeping my back to the inner wall. Any of the shots here looking downwards were taken by my wife. In this one you can see the lake surrounding the tower. The dark patterns are the jets for the large fountain display which takes place every evening.

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In this one you can just about see our hotel, at right.

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Now it’s a perfectly fine view if you’re interested in looking at other, slightly shorter skyscrapers.

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Or at construction sites.

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Or at empty, flat desert which will probably some day be filled with more skyscrapers.

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But as views go it’s not the most fascinating in the world, in my opinion. The attraction is that it’s the tallest tower in the world, and I think that as soon as a newer, taller tower opens somewhere else the crowds will all go there instead.

Back on terra firma we looked around the large mall at the base of the Burj, which contained an aquarium in case you needed to rest your eyes on something soothing after a hard day’s shopping.

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And then we went outside to the lake surrounding the tower, as seen in that photo above.

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The aforementioned fountain display. The jets can reach 150 metres, which makes them the highest dancing fountains in the world. Obviously.

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So if you like tall, shiny things, Dubai is the place for you. There are other things to see besides skyscrapers, if you take the time to dig a little deeper, and I wouldn’t rule out spending another day or two here at some point, during a stopover on my way to the far east, but I still don’t think there’s enough here to distract me for a full holiday.