The following is a guest post written by travel blogger, Joe Johnson. Visiting Dubai is high on my “bucket list” so it was my pleasure to read about his recent trip to the U.A.E.
Eager to banish the memory of an over-indulgent Christmas and escape the bitter chill of the air that usually descends over England at this time of year, I thought I’d take an impromptu trip to one of my favourite world cities, Dubai.
Having been a couple of times in the past, this was more a relaxing getaway and a chance to catch some rays, than a voyage of discovery. The thing I love most about this fascinating and, in relative terms, very new city is that there’s always something to discover.
It is generally accepted that Istanbul in Turkey is the gateway between east and west, but I’d argue that the rise of Dubai, and indeed surrounding superpowers like Qatar and Abu Dhabi, represent the true merging of eastern and western cultures.
Dubai itself is a true melting pot with ultra-modern, cutting-edge commercial areas fringed with more traditional markets and residential areas arranged around mosques.
Unsurprisingly, one of the most visually arresting aspects of Dubai is the skyline, in particular the Burj Khalifa, now the world’s tallest building (a title that was snatched in 2010 upon its completion).
Dubai is a city of contrasts. Venturing away from the downtown area reveals acres of desolation, certainly not ugly areas, just vast building sites populated by immigrant workers that allude to the unrelenting economic progress of the region.
Here is the Burj Khalifa at night, lit up in its full glory. Stats like the 800 meter height and the fact that it is indeed the world’s tallest building are impressive on paper, but, although it’s a cliché, it has to be seen to be believed.
Even craning your neck to catch a glimpse of the pinnacle of the tower from a mile away is uncomfortable. I don’t suffer from vertigo but my hands felt clammy just thinking about being at the top—imagine how Tom Cruise must have felt in Mission Impossible 4!
To give you some idea, this is the view from about 70% of the way up the Khalifa, an unbelievable view that dwarfs buildings that would be considered skyscrapers in other cities. The building lit up in green is the Dubai Mall, a cavernous shopping emporium that will delight anyone looking for a souvenir or twenty.
Visitors to the Kalifa, that is people that don’t live, stay or work there, must enter the building via the mall, where you’ll be able to scale this leviathan in a lift.
Just to the east of Central Dubai is the district of Sharjah, a slightly more laid-back, if still high-rise iteration of the city’s epicentre. There is a charming canal running through here that gives it a Venice-esque feel, but make no mistake, the place lacks a little bit of soul and culture compared to Dubai proper.
Having said that, Sharjah offers some respite from the hubbub of Dubai, the pace of life here is much slower, there are large pedestrianised areas, and even a mini fun fair for the kids. My friend has an apartment here which I stayed at for a couple of days, a perfect way to unwind at the end of my trip.
Dubai is constantly changing, I last came here before the Khalifa was finished, and the newly erected mega-structure gives a whole new dimension to the city. The place is ideal for anyone looking to combine a city break with a beach holiday, as well as soaking up a different culture.Joe is a travel blogger who specialises in the Middle East and north Africa, he highly recommends Dubai and Egypt, especially in the winter months when the temperatures are pleasant and manageable