Dubai was going to become cutting-edge version of Singapore or Hong Kong. At that moment it was nothing more than a giant construction site. Skyscrapers were growing like mushrooms. New candle buildings stood on the sites that was deserted only six months ago. Of 10 buildings standing close to each other, only houses showed signs of life with a rare light from the windows. Another 4 buildings are at the final stage of construction, cranes still hang over 5 buildings on the left. Bentleys, Ferraris and Lamborghinis maneuver between the red and white barriers, standing in stark contrast to the construction site.
38 years ago there was no country like the United Arab Emirates. There were scattered Emirates, at war with each other and part of the quasi-state called "Trucial Oman" under British protectorate. There was a desert on the site of modern cities, where Sheikhs roamed on camels with their families. The largest emirate was (and still remains) the emirate of Abu Dhabi. While oil had already been found in the country, about 85% of it was in Abu Dhabi. The Emirates was run by a very conservative Sheikh who hid all his petrodollars in his bedroom. Then the ruling family replaced him with Sheikh Zayed. This is perhaps one of the most illustrative examples of the importance of an individual in history.
Sheikh Zayed proposed to the rest of the 6 Emirates to unite as one country. The most important factor was that Sheikh Zaid urged others not to hide the wealth they acquired from oil but to share it with the people and put it towards the country's development. Today, the UAE is one of the most socially protected countries. For example, if a local resident cannot provide housing for himself, his country offers him help. Usually it is a typical villa with a 2 car garage and a small house for servants. By the way, the servants - driver, gardener, housekeeper and nanny - are also paid by the state. Here is an example of social housing:
Less than 20% of locals live in the country. The rest are the newcomers. Arabs do not work - the servants are from other countries. Therefore, the second official language in the UAE is English. Our guide lived in Dubai for 14 years but didn't manage to learn Arabic. Everybody speaks English.
Dubai is Luxury, Scope and Records. Sheikh Mohammed - the ruler of Dubai - decided to turn the desert into a garden city. To do this, 40 million date palms were planted in Dubai. During summer the temperature rises to 122 degrees Fahrenheit (50 degrees Celsius). For palm trees to survive they are watered daily. The water is taken from the sea and distilled. Watering each palm costs the state $2000 a year. Multiply that by 40 million trees, and you will reach the astronomical sum of $80 billion a year for irrigation of palm trees...The Sheikh had a dream and resources...
Most palm trees are also wrapped with fairy lights and illuminated at night:
Construction is often carried out without taking into account the economic feasibility. Everything has to be the biggest, the tallest and the most luxurious. Funds are spared for this. The speed with which the city is built is quite impressive. Wherever you look, there is construction:
Only six months ago this scene was a wasteland with no buildings:
All construction site supervisors are equipped with laptops (you can see that in the right bottom corner of the photo):
In the evening, after the working day, lines of workers make their way home:
A huge number of construction machinery is concentrated in Dubai. The number of cranes at each site makes me thinking that they are playing a game of "Who will be faster" in architecture:
But that's enough generalities. After we got back from a cruise around South America and Antarctica, our youngest son was upset with us because we did not take him, so we decided to take him out to sea in the beginning of March. We had to choose between visiting Bali, the Seychelles and Dubai. We chose Dubai. We stayed in two hotels, the first was Le Royal Meridian:
Later we stayed in the most expensive and luxurious hotel in the world, as well as one of the wonders of the world, the symbol of Dubai - the
This street is very similar to Florida. Most shops are open until 10 pm. There are many cafes and restaurants. It's very crowded on Friday nights and during the week the area is calmer. Locals do not walk here but there are many who come to visit. Not all of them abide by the austerity in clothes and you often see local resdients in caps by Gucci or D&G:
Mens wear is called Gandurah.First men put on their Taqiyah - a knitted hat, carefully made by their mother or grandmother, and on top goes the Ghutrah- the iconic red and white kerchief. From the top it is pressed by an Agal - a black cord with a tassel. Previously, the nomads tied the camels' forelegs with an Agal, so they were not run away from the camp and during their travels they wore it on their heads:
Previously men's clothing was only white. New fashion was introduced by an advanced Sheikh of Dubai. One day he appeared at a reception with a dark blue Gandurahand shocked his guests. Now white, dark blue, beige and olive colors are allowed. White clothes get dirty quickly so they are usually changed twice a day. Several times I saw Gandurahwith cufflinks by Dolce & Gabbana.
Women's clothing is available only in black and is called Abaya. The head scarf is called Sheila. Girls sometimes are very advanced, wearing jewelry and jeans under their Abaya. They also carry their mobile phones in handbags by leading Italian designers:
In the background of these pictures is a former hotel. Now it is being broken down and something new will be built.
This is the end of my introductory story of Dubai. In the following series you can read about the tallest building in the world, the largest indoor ski resort and about the Palm Jumeirahand Atlantis Hotel which houses a huge aquarium - home to the world's largest whale shark. You can also read about old Dubai, the Sheikh's residence, the safari in the desert and the most luxurious hotel in the world - Burj Al Arab.