For my last day in Dubai I was determined to pack in as much sightseeing as possible. I bought a ticket for the Big Bus City Tour which seemed a good way to see Dubai. There are two routes coloured red and blue and and they cross over at one point at the Wafi shopping mall. I got on the bus at the Burjuman stop on the red route without a clear plan for the day. I decided to let things develop as I travelled round. The bus had many jumping on and off opportunities. It had been a while since I had travelled on one of these open top tourist buses. You get a headset which gives you information about what you are passing and where you are stopping. The headset offered ten different languages. After only 3 stops the bus had reached a stop on Dubai Creek which gave an opportunity to take advantage of an hour long Dhow cruise along the creek. The boat tour was part of the ticket price and luckily the bus arrived at the stop just as the hour long cruise was about to leave. Dubai Creek is a saltwater creek which divides the city into the two areas of Bur Dubai and Deira. The creek was the first harbour in Dubai and to this day cpntains harbour facilities for Dhow boats and water taxis are also used to cross the creek. The Dhow cruise allowed good views of a number of high rise towers and moored boats.
After the Dhow cruise came to an end I got back on the bus to complete the rest of the red route. I stayed on the bus for the next hour and a half as we passed such landmarks as Dubai Museum, and the Gold and Spice Souks.
After reaching the cross over point for the buses at Wafi it was around 2pm so I used this as an opportunity to have lunch. The Wafi mall is part of the Wafi City development which also includes a hotel, restaurants and a nightclub. It opened in 2001 and the “city” is themed after Ancient Egypt. I lunched in a cafe situated at the top of a multicoloured glass dome. The Wafi mall is incredibly plush with lots of top end retailers. At this time of day is was very very quiet.
With energy levels replenished after lunch I boarded the blue bus. The blue route heads towards the seafront and offers some great photo opportunities. I got off the bus twice to take some photos.
The first photo stop at Jumeirah public beach offered great views of the Burj Al Arab hotel. The Burj Al Arab is a luxury hotel constructed on an artificial island and the design of the building mimics the sail of a ship. The hotel is often described as having a 7* rating but this is disputed. The buses are 20 minutes apart so I only had a short wait after taking some snaps.
My next stop was at the Atlantis on the Palm Hotel which is the signature building on the Palm Jumeirah Island. The island, in the shape of a palm tree, was constructed between 2001 and 2006 using staggering quantities of sand and rock. The Palm Jumeirah contains luxury hotels, villas and leisure facilities. There is another palm shaped Island, the Palm Jebel Ali, which is to be bigger than the Palm Jumeirah. However construction of that Island stopped in 2008 due to the financial crisis. The construction took place despite massive environmental concerns. Environmental organisations have attacked the impact of the Palm Islands construction on marine life, coral reefs, oyster fields and subterranean fields of sea grass. They have also stated that the normally crystalline waters of the Gulf of Dubai have become clouded with silt and that beaches are eroding due to the disruption of natural currents.
Getting back on the next bus I finally left the tour at the Mall of the Emirates. I was hoping to visit a branch of a cosmetics business that a friend of mine from the UK has out here. They have a franchise in Bloomingdales but there was no Bloomingdales to be found here. The buses had stopped running, it was around 6pm, so I decided to take the Metro to the Dubai Mall. The Dubai Metro is an impressive, almost space age, transport system with driverless trains. The walk from the Metro to the mall was along long air conditioned corridors with moving walkways like at an airport. The Dubai Mall is by area the worlds largest shopping mall. I was hungry again and was keen to eat but I also wanted to see the Burj Khalifa. This is, at 163 floors, the worlds tallest building. It took me some time to work out how to exit the mall to see it. On the way I saw within the mall a huge underwater aquarium and an artificial waterfall. Eventually I found an outside viewing area with water in front and to the right the majestic Burj Khalifa. It was now dark and the view was amazing. I did feel like I had become a character in a science fiction film having just walked out of the worlds biggest shopping mall to see the worlds tallest building. There were lots of people outside obviously waiting for something. Soon a fountain show took place in the water in front of me.
I satisfied my hunger with a lovely chicken Pad Thai in the food court which brought back memories of food I had enjoyed in Thailand.
I also found the Bloomingdales here and my friend Julian’s Illamasqua franchise. As it turned out they have two outlets within the Dubai Mall. I visited both and met and chatted to counter staff – Girlie from The Phillipines and Sally from Egypt.
Time was marching on and I had been on the go for nearly 10 hours. I took the Metro back to Burjuman and walked back to the hotel.
So what do I think of Dubai? Well it’s quite incredible to be honest. I can’t really get my head round how it’s transformed from a small pearl fishing village to this incredibly modern and rich shopping, residential and leisure metropolis. Clearly the money from oil in the 1970’s has been incredibly well invested in infrastructure and the tax free environment attracts businesses and the rich and famous. The growth seems to be endless. There have been difficulties caused by the financial crisis but from what I hear Dubai is coming through this. There were examples of a thriving city such as the airport and the number of people at the Dubai Mall. In 2012 the Dubai Mall was the worlds most visited shopping and leisure destination attracting 65 million visitors. That’s more than New York! The environmental impact of the construction of projects such as the Palm Islands is a real worry. I also can’t help thinking that at some point the growth may not be sustainable and some parts of Dubai may struggle. It’s a very clean city and I felt very safe and secure. So a number of different thoughts and feelings really. There is lots to do there and two days is not long enough.
My time in Dubai and my amazing trip had come to an end. Tomorrow I would fly home to the UK.
I will do a summary of my overall trip in my final blog post.