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Saturday, 9 February 2013

DUBAI, The Frankensteins Monster

Right now, i'm waiting on a delayed train from New York to Buffalo, after the famous 'pretend blizzard' here. I'm constantly amazed at how those who rule in America they're in the habit of simply lying about everything to the extent that the public services close the damn airport and delay/cancel trains, when in fact there was no blizzard, just a flurry of snow of about 6 inches late last night (which is beautiful on this lovely sunny day) They must be up to no good, if the inane distraction tactics have got this low...

Shock horror, small amount of slush in winter! Close the airports! Cancel all trains! Emergency! Martial Law! (I kid you not)! Ban all guns just in case!!

Anyway, so now is a good time to think about the sun, and tell you about how i spent Hogmany (New Years Eve to non-Scots)...

So I was woken up this morning, the 1st January 2013 at 5.45am here in Sharjah, a funny little place with no alcohol, just north of Dubai, by the wailing of the mosques, calling the faithful to prayer, so I got up and took a walk. It was a lovely and bright, if cool morning, to be honest, and the birds were singing and all seemed well with the world. Which kind of made me wonder if I was indeed in a parallel universe, populated by little brown wiry men with moustaches, or if I was simply dreaming after watching ‘life of Pi.’

But no, dear friends, as I strolled down by the docks and watched the old working Dhow boats, it wasn’t a dream, I’m basically stuck here in a kind of ‘groundhog day’ en route to spend new year in Saigon, It seems that the people who issue visas for Vietnam have either all died or have closed up shop. Which leaves me stuck here on my tod, en route to my destination, in the city with the most expensive hotels in the world. After I found this out, I quickly checked hotwire,, lastminute, all the usual suspects,  only to find the cheapest room was about $500 a night for new years eve, so I randomly found a nice little place in the next town, to while away my visit, and avoid the crassness of Dubai and Russians on holiday…

I did go to Dubai yesterday (and will probably end up there tonight out of boredom here) So rather than tell you about the dull commerical indian/arab neighbourhood of Sharjah that I’m living in, I’ll tell you about the wonders of being in Dubai…(by the way there are regular cheap air conditioned buses from Sharjah bus station to Dubai, to Union Square Metro Station, it can take 1-3 hours depending on the traffic)

Of course the first things you’ll notice when you’re here are the people. They can be pretty much categorized into six groups.

1.     Washed up and sketchy looking goatee bearded, slick backed haired ex-timeshare salesmen in their late forties, probably from Torquay, looking like they’re on some kind of last chance scam before they end up in the death spiral in Bangkok, but more likely quite legit., since Dubai isn’t really a place for dodgy business.
2.     Similarly desperate, looking and well past their best, mid thirties Dyed blond haired English girls called Gemma, digging for Arab gold, on that last roll of the dice to hitch some (any) rich local arab guy, before their looks go forever.
3.     Stroppy and rude Russians, who live up to stereotypes by being either prostitutes, gangsters, or really loud tourists.
4.     The people who do all the work, namely Indians (builders, hotel guys, taxi drivers) and Filipinos (maids and if work dries up, prossies)
5.     Locals, dressed in their white robes, who drive around and shop, blissfully ignoring all four of the above.
6.     Totally normal white families, looking really out of place who plainly live in a completely different world from the 5 above.

But that notwithstanding, Dubai does have a lot going for it. Like a half built Las Vegas without the casinos, the city (if you can call it that) is jam packed full of upmarket hotels, restaurants, and erm…shopping malls. And that’s about it.
There are of course a few nods towards things like museums and galleries but the truth is that the city traditionally doesn’t really have much of a culture beyond being originally a rather squalid little arab fishing village.

As a brain-free tourist though, there are plenty of things to do. Here are my top 5…

1.     Burj Kalifa
2.     Burj Al Arab
3.     Bastakia Quarter
4.     Crazy shopping Malls
5.     The Palm

It’s also worth doing a tour if possible, check out the marina (you could take in all of above too) and some of the desert if you fancy (it’s just like any other desert, really)

But, despite the naysayers, despite the weird people living there, and despite the fact that they created this monster with the mantra ‘if we build it, they will come’, despite having indoor ski arenas and the worlds biggest carbon footprint…

Somehow, strangely enough, this city actually almost works. The rudiments of a 'downtown' are actually beginning to come about, around the rather tall Burj Kalifa, and it will perhaps be only a matter of time before you can walk to places in the city or get some public transport, instead of insane traffic jams and overpacked and under supplied Metro stops (including one called Al Quieda! I wonder if this was the original inspiration for the CIA's Al Queida invention?).. If they can put on 3 times as many metro trains, extend the system 3 times more including into the suburbs, if they can install at least SOME kind of planning system into the city instead of building towers housing 20,000 people wherever and wherever some shiek yerbouti dictates, and if a tsunami came and wiped out all the really horrible shallow bleach haired people living there, then dear friends, THEN Dubai, the man made, artificial, frankenstein city will be a place to really be proud of.

ps photos will follow!


  1. Aren't at least the first 2 in your top 5 list hotels? What is there to do there other than eat and sleep?

  2. The Burj Kalifa is the tallest building in the world. You can go to the top (although there are often enormous queues)

    The Burj Arab is a hotel, but its quite unique, as you probably know, with its underwater restaurant, weird over the top opulence etc etc. A Russian oligarch's dream!