A thousand and one nights in Dubai

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Along the shores of the Persian Gulf in the Arabian Peninsula stands a city where Berber tradition meets modernity in all its futuristic splendor. Dubai welcomes visitors with a warm embrace and, as usual, with a date palm fruit symbol of friendship and hospitality.

Of the seven United Arab Emirates, Dubai is the second largest after Abu Dhabi. The first written records in which the city was mentioned date back to 1799. The oldest building is the Al Fahidi Fort, built in 1787 it hosted the Al Abu Falasa family of the Banu Yas tribe in the 18th century and is currently the home of the museum of Dubai.

Compared to their neighbors, the emirs of Dubai encouraged trade, so it was that the city and its port attracted a large number of businessmen, especially Indians, who settled in the emirate and, until the thirties of the twentieth century , the city was known for its pearl exports.

Panoramic view of the city

Dubai can be divided into six large areas: Deira or the historic heart of the city with simple but charming neighborhoods; Bur Dubai where the Dubai Museum and the souk on the waterfront are located; Jumeirah north-east with the most beautiful mosque in the whole city, Madinat Jumeirah and surroundings where the symbol of Dubai hotel is located, that is the great sail better known as Burj Al-Arab; Sheikh Zayed Road six-lane road that runs through the commercial heart of the city where glittering skyscrapers rise and finally New Dubai where the so-called Palma or Palm Jumeirah residential complex is located.

In three days and with continuous taxi journeys, I managed to visit only the newly built areas, namely Jumeirah north-east, Madinat Jumeirah and New Dubai. What surprises of the city are not only the immense palaces in the desert built with an opulence and magnificence that goes beyond any imagination, but also the combination of the ancient rigor of the Arab tradition that marries Western tastes, creating a cosmopolitan environment and almost utopian.

free beach overlooking the Burj al-Arab

In August, the hot humid climate doesn’t allow you to enjoy the external environment except for a few hours in which human adaptability is put to the test, and for this reason all journeys take place by car or in the elevated subway whose stations are located armadillo shape.

The inhabitants of Dubai spend their days in the buildings constantly refrigerated by air conditioning, since there is no other way to cope with the torrid heat that is also around 47 °. I don’t know if it was for the irresistible desire to look for some refreshment but on the first day of vacation I had the reckless idea of trying to go to the beach.

At 10 in the morning and with 40 ° in the shade, I took the hotel shuttle bus which took me to a free beach from which you could admire the profile of the Burj Al-Arab Sail. The driver, between one recommendation and another on the risks of sunstroke, would come back at two in the afternoon to take me back to the hotel. As soon as I got off the bus, I realized that it would be difficult to resist under the sun: there were no umbrellas, sunbeds or anything that could have sheltered me from the sun for at least three hours.

The beach was a limbo of hot sand surrounded by the blue of the sky and the sea. The water had splendid reflections even though it was not crystal clear, but what impressed me most was its temperature: it was very hot. Barded with a hat, constantly wet to avoid hallucinations, I spent the beauty of two hours sprinkling myself with 50 protection cream and invoking the arrival of at least one cloud to obscure the sun to give me 5 minutes of respite from the heat.

I resisted by living on the shore, where a light breeze blew and before reaching the roasting I took refuge under the canopy of a bus stop until the hotel bus took me back. It was worth it if only to understand that it is better to visit the beaches from November to December when the heat is less suffocating.

The second stop on my pilgrimage was the Walk at Jumeirah Beach Residence, an outdoor shopping and dining center that includes over 300 shops and clubs. It runs parallel to the beach and skyscrapers and is a tourist destination. The walk is very pleasant because full of fountains and close to a green and well-kept promenade.

Despite the pleasantness of the place, the increasingly high temperatures forced me to migrate to a refrigerated refuge full of attractions: the Dubai Mall. To get there I traveled by taxi the vast Sheikh Zayed Road: six lanes populated by Maserati, Ferrai, Lamborghini and many other Japanese cars. The immense street is flanked by skyscrapers, headquarters of the most important multinationals that find their home here because Dubai is a real crossroads between the markets of the east and the west.

Sheikh Zayed Road

The testimony of the thriving local economy is the Dubai Mall, the largest shopping center in the world with over 1200 shops and 160 restaurants. Grandiose and sumptuous, this giant of commerce offers, in addition to the possibility of shopping in the best shops in the world, also breathtaking attractions such as the three-storey aquarium with over 33 thousand sea creatures including 400 sharks and rays visible through the submerged tunnel of 48 meters with 270 ° view, the Underwater zoo composed of the perfect reconstruction of three world ecozones with lots of typical flora and fauna, and the Dubai Fountain an artificial lake at the foot of the highest skyscraper on earth the Burj Khalifa which comes alive with jets of 150 meters high water that dance to the rhythm of Arabic songs, arousing amazement and admiration among visitors.

Obviously I got lost in the network of shops and restaurants that form a luxury labyrinth populated by elegant sheikhs and their brides. The visit took several hours just to see the first floor of the shopping center so I also returned the next day to try to visit the second and third.

Before getting lost again in the Dubai Mall, I also admired the attractions of the Mall Of Emirates, the second mega structure dedicated to shopping which houses a ski slope with a constant temperature of -4 ° where the emirs can enjoy the thrill of go sledging on the snow.

Ski slope in Mall of Emirates

The days were spent discovering the main pastimes of the locals: luxury shopping, the pleasure of enjoying the best dishes of the world kitchens and the passion for adrenaline sports such as racing with sports cars on the track (and on the road) , rides with camels and horses, rides with SUVs on the desert dunes.

All without forgetting the religious aspect: in fact at every hour in the numerous mosques in the city and also in the major places of public interest the calls to prayers were raised to heaven. The journey ended by observing from the plane the sparkle of this new city where I lived my “Thousand and One Nights”.

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