My family and I spent last Christmas and New Year in Dubai (2008). We chose the sumptuous JW Marriott Hotel which is in Deira. The day after we arrived, we decided to look around this strange environment. I say strange as I have to remind myself (or even pinch myself) that all that lay before me was once upon a time a desert. Thanks to the vision of the current ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, who was responsible for single handedly converting this expanse of land into an opulent oasis. The malls were beautiful, and I mean all of them; although transport at the time was a problem (I understand now, there is an over ground rail) there were loads of taxi that was always available at the click of a finger; the ice rink and the ski ramp (Snow Park), the water park (Wild Wadi) the kids went to these on a daily basis.
As I said before the hotel we stayed was beautiful but where we had Xmas meal, in one of the restaurants in Burg Al –Arab Hotel, the 7 star hotel, was simply out of this world. Whether it was the glass you drank from or the lift that took you to the top floor or the way you were handled at reception, it was all just simply exquisite. The meal we had was a seven course meal, and we thoroughly enjoyed it. To see in the New Year we went to Bab Al Shams Hotel. Again, another extravagant hotel that was in the desert. I read in Time Out Dubai that they were one of many hotels to hold a ‘party’. We hired a taxi and it took over an hour to get there, and it was scary as there was a desert storm on and the driver drove at 5 miles an hour as he couldn’t see anything! But finally we got there and ate and danced ourselves silly to RnB/Arabic music. It was great!
I write this now as Dubai seems to be in the storm these days about how the desert dream has turned into a nightmare. That the vision of the current ruler was way too ambitious and the banks were too keen to arrange the billion dollar loans. But having been there myself, I have to wonder if it’s conceivable that shoppers would visit the malls – especially the ones that sell only designer labels – on a day to day basis and buy these goods; whether the many restaurants would have constant patrons; whether the stars that are flown in to attend one function or the other would have fans to justify the amounts paid to these celebrities for being there. Having read the Dubai English papers, the Dubais are angry at the criticisms and feel that outsiders are ‘jealous’ at them for even daring to dream such a dream. Although I enjoyed my time there and wouldn’t mind visiting the place again, I do pity Dubai and pray that they will get support to take them out of this predicament.