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Impressions of Dubai February 8, 2010

Posted by fetzthechemist in Uncategorized.

I arrived back to California last week from a weeklong stay in Dubai. Although I have been to the United Arab Emirates three previous times in the past sixteen months, I have been in the capital city of Abu Dhabi. I only flew in and out of the Dubai airport. So I saw this modern tourist draw up close for the first time.

The city is all tourist oriented. Lots of stores and malls and amusements. A gigantic new version of Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39 areas of San Francisco kept coming to my mind. Some mentioned a bigger version of Waikiki. I’ve only heard of that area, but the comparison seems apt.

The Burj (tower) is tall. But being from San Francisco, itr was a similar shape to the Transamerica building, albeit seemingly ten times taller. It was the Transam on steroids – I was moderately impressed, but I’ve never been one to be highly impressed by tall buildings. I found it interesting that a last-minute naming has it the Khalifa Burj rather than Dubai burj. Khalifa is the ruler of oil-rich Abu Dhabi emirate. I think this reflects my predicted outcome for Dubai’s newsmaking loan issues, the neighbor made good one some concessions from the banks which also hold billions in Abu Dhabi’s oil earnings.

I was more impressed by the artificial islands in the Gulf that look like trees – a trunk with island fronds. There is also a huge stylistic Arabian sailing vessel, a dhow, that I think must be a desalination plant with fresh water storage – my guess or some cryptic memory resurfacing.

I was disappointed at the urban sprawl. I had a side trip into another emirate, Sharjah, and it was just like here. There is no discernable difference between Oakland and Berkeley or San Francisco and Brisbane or Burlingame. The old picturesque enirates that once were the mystical places of my stamp-collecting youth are long gone – I’d guess the other four emirates of Ajman, Umm al Qawain, Fujeira, and Ras al Khaima, are also just part of a coastal string of towns merged together. I liked Abu Dhabi as a bustling city more, it is activity around the city and not because of the others touristing there for a vacation.

It was nice being warm, 70s and 80s F, but that might spoil me for my trip this week to frigid Washington DC.



1. The Chemist - February 8, 2010

You managed to sum my own feelings vis-a-vis Abu Dhabi vs. Dubai quite succinctly. Unfortunately Abu Dhabi has been trying very hard to become another Dubai. Perhaps Dubai’s current troubles will make Abu Dhabi’s somewhat hapless bureaucracy reverse some of its plans for the city.

Still, if you want old style Arabia, go to Sanaa, Yemen. It’s perhaps the most untouched large city in the region. Sadly, it’s not all that safe these days with the current civil war- even if the war in question is being fought well into the rural and desert areas rather than the city itself.

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