Since March, I’ve been on a few fantastic adventures that I’m looking forward to sharing. Let’s start in the east, shall we?
Ah, Dubai. World’s biggest mall. World’s tallest building. Among the world’s most expensive hotels. This city takes luxurious to a whole new level. Obviously, I didn’t have thousands of dollars to spend living like the ultra-rich, but I did splurge on an experience that I could only have in Dubai: skydiving over the palm. Take a look at my next post for more on that.
The Burj Khalifa
Piercing the hazy desert sky at 829 meters high, the Burj Khalifa is Dubai’s most impressive record-breaking structure. Both the world’s tallest building and free-standing structure, the view from the top is certainly something to boast about.
Guests have the option of visiting the 124th (425m) or newly opened 148th (555m) floor viewing deck. I opted for the former as I imagined the view would be fairly similar and it was significantly cheaper. While it’s unfortunate that the landscape is basically desert as far as the eye can see, it’s still a powerful feeling to be looking down upon a city in which you always find yourself craning your neck to admire the architectural feats that define it.
Surprisingly, my most jaw-dropping moment didn’t result from the view at all. Standing there on the deck, I spotted a couple huddled around a cell phone and I figured they might want a photo together.
“Actually, yeah, a photo would be great.”
He handed me his phone. I fiddled with the lighting as they set up for the shot. It took me a second to realize that I wasn’t just snapping cliché top-of-the-tower photos. I peeled my eyes off the screen as soon as I noticed him draw the velvet box from his pocket.
No. Way. He’s going to propose. OH MY GOD THIS IS ACTUALLY HAPPENING.
Within seconds, my duty went from polite tourist to full-blown paparazzi. Dude couldn’t have picked a better place to ask her to spend the rest of her life with him. I caught the crying, laughing, kissing, hugging and desert in a plethora of angles, so I can only hope they were happy with how the spontaneous photoshoot turned out. I felt incredibly privileged to have captured their special moment, even if it was only by happenstance. Life lesson: practise friendliness! You never know what kind of memories might come as a result.
The Dubai Mall
When it comes to major shopping centres, there’s big, there’s huge, there’s massive, and then there’s Dubai Mall. If Dubai Mall is an igloo, West Edmonton Mall is an anthill.
I spent probably a solid two days here checking out every store imaginable. Plain and simple, it’s a shopper’s paradise. There’s an entire district dedicated to shoes. How could I resist?
There’s even an aquarium where you can visit the world’s largest (obviously) crocodile, King Croc!
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
About an hour and a half out of Dubai lies Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates. Its most impressive feature: the Grand Mosque. Completed in 2007, the building commemorates late president His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.
My time in Europe has demonstrated to me the incredibly painstaking attention to detail that goes into places of worship. Handcrafted, done to perfection. Most of those that I’ve visited were built centuries ago, so it was neat to see a newer one which upheld that high standard. Also, I absolutely adore marble, so the Grand Mosque was a dream. Regardless of religion or lack thereof, it’s impossible not to appreciate the craftsmanship of such a structure.
My brother mentioned that some people gripe about how nothing in the city looks “real”: imitations, exaggerations, excessiveness. It’s true that Dubai is extravagant in every sense of the word, but there’s no doubt that the city’s growth is impressive. Half a century ago, Dubai was sand and dust. Today, it is a metropolis. Obviously, there is a dark side to Dubai’s success. You may never see it as a tourist, but behind the marble and gold is a world of suffering experienced by the people who made the city what it is. While visiting my brother and getting a taste of what Dubai has to offer was exciting, I may rethink any future visits.
A closing thought: There are plenty of places you can visit on a tight budget. Dubai isn’t one of them. Just don’t do it. Treat yo self.