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Larger than Life

Friday, April 13, 2018

A trip to Dubai will always turn up exciting new things to experience, says Deepika Mital

Only your imagination sets boundaries when on a visit to Dubai—it’s an exotic fondue bubbling over with different races and cultures, truly a world city that makes no excuses for the frenetic pace of life it pulsates with.

Migratory workers who comprise 80% of the population have left their mark on the city. Not only by building and populating most of the glitzy towers, but also by importing/ recreating a small part of their home countries to Dubai. There is not a corner of the globe that is unrepresented on the busy streets and malls of Dubai. it is a man-made miracle of overblown ambition, but it is also one of edgy grandeur and achievement—Tim Hortons from Canada, Dennys from the US, MTR from Bangalore, Yo China, Sarvana Bhavan, Sri Krishna Sweets from Chennai, Jaffer Bhai’s from amchi Mumbai-—the list could go on... quite apart from the usual global suspects. It is a journey of discovery around every corner for any foodie or shopaholic. As long-time resident Reenu Sahore puts it, ‘The best cycle of activity when in Dubai is—eat, shop and then repeat, interspersed with some sightseeing’.

There is, of course, rather a lot of sightseeing on the list, so it would be best to do your homework and plan for your personal favourites. Even so, there are definitely some must-sees. The Burj Khalifa is, but naturally, right up there at the top (pun intended). This magnificent building with the spiderlily design, coupled with the discovery that at its fastest, one floor was built every three days, is astounding. It manages to help the considerable other glitz around it to look even better, even as it towers above. If you plan well you could get lucky and view a special illumination or even fireworks showcasing the Burj. On your visit, even as you reel from the fastest lift ride in the world, keep your wits about you for the VR game which has you base jumping off the top with a parachute. This is so unnerving that we witnessed a sane, grounded German lady flatly refuse to go further with the game, forfeiting her 35 AED even though she knew that she was quite safe!

A visit to Bur Dubai and the gold and spice souks is also an eye-opener, albeit of a different kind. This recommendation is purely for the shock value—do not shop here! You will be better off buying your frankincense, nuts, dates, saffron and, not least, gold in a proper shop. The best supermarkets are Lulu’s or even Carrefour (only globalisation to blame here...). Past the spice souk, take the abra or water taxi for 1 AED across the creek to explore the gold souk and get the feel of living like a local. Do make time to tour the Bastakiya on your way back. An art quadrant that does not disappoint. Quaint shops, art galleries and cafes abound. Outdoor installations, graffitti and play areas make it something to visit with kids.

Given our nationality and given that this is Dubai, it is obvious that the crazily huge Dubai Mall or Mall of the Emirates will be on the must-see list. It is not just the shopping tangibles like clothes and electronics they purvey; both are renowned for their art installations and indoor (traditionally outdoor!) activities like ice skating and skiing, respectively. Other malls are not far behind, for instance, a yen for wind tunnel flying can be assuaged at iFly in Mirdif mall. You could easily spend all your time (and money) in just one of the malls, let alone all 70+ of them. Some advice—visit one and then resolutely stay away.

Even though it is admittedly a touristy thing to do, taking a desert safari is not just a nice contrast from mall crawling, it also gives insight into how much the city has changed life patterns for residents. However, even this back to roots experience is Dubai-ised with the hair-raising ‘dune bashing’ which involves a fancy four-wheel vehicle, think Hummer, driven at great speed and apparent recklessness over dunes. It is worth every stomach-clenching second, truly! As is the view of the sunset over the rolling dunes, quad biking and even the belly dancing. Trite though it may sound, it does introduce an element of tradition and nature into an otherwise singularly urban experience.

The best way to round off your visit would be to take in all of the splendour from either the sea or the air. The latter comes with the added attraction of being able to see the Palm and the World islands in their entirety, but at a hefty price tag. A boat trip from Dubai Marina is cheaper and no less spectacular, since you get a different perspective on the Atlantis Hotel and the Burj Al Arab. The Marina itself is quite magical with over seven kilometres of walkway built for the express purpose of admiring the fantastical shapes of buildings all around—the world’s tallest twisted building anyone...

I would be doing Dubai a disservice if I did not mention the many attractions built expressly for tourists. The Dubai Aquarium, IMotion, Frame, Miracle Garden, Bollywood theme park—the list is ever growing. Everything here is aimed at being larger, higher, grander than anywhere else in the world. Beating any and every world record is the name of the game, and they have succeeded beyond all imagination. A quick three-hour flight from Mumbai, Dubai can be reached and explored for a weekend just as well as a full week. Go see for yourself!

Short Takes

  • Dubai is just three hours away from Mumbai, so you can even spend just a weekend there.
  • The best cycle of activity when in Dubai is—eat, shop and then repeat, interspersed with some sightseeing’.

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