Dubai: First Impressions

The airport is modern – but not as modern as I expected.  I would say it’s a generation behind Kuala Lumpur’s International Airport.  For some reason they must not have enough chairs in the place… first thought was the terminal area looked like a refugee camp.  Picture 747-loads of people sprawled on the floor or attempting to sit anywhere that had a ledge.

The drive into the city reminds me of Las Vegas.  The buildings ahead gleam lights, and when you’re in the middle of it there is a bizarre artificial manufactured feeling.  Every building is a skyscraper, even the residential apartments.  They blow away anything Singapore has in terms of height.  The world’s tallest building, the Burj Dubai, stands above them all.  I’m not sure if it’s operating yet (2009 opening?) but its lights are on.

The Raffles Hotel in Dubai is shaped like a pyramid.  Of course this makes me think of Egypt and then makes me wonder why they chose that shape for Dubai.  Perhaps there are pyramid-like structures in this country as well.

According to my taxi driver (who was from Kerala, India – I may have spelled that wrong), 72% of people in Dubai are not from the UAE.  Interesting to be a native and be the minority.

It’s hot.  That is a stunningly obvious statement but it’s hard to fathom until you’re in the thick of it.  Even late at night it’s 33 degrees outside and feels even hotter.  When I inhale it’s like drinking warm watery soup… right into the lungs.  Let’s see what the daytime heat will be like.  Perhaps I will get a tan.  Or perhaps I will die.

Everything about this city screams money.  Every billboard, sign, and banner touts luxury.  Invest. Build. Luxury.

If you want to go to the Burj Al Arab (supposedly the world’s only 7 star hotel), it costs 200 AED to enter (USD 55).  Otherwise you are restricted to taking photos of it from 1 km away.

Dubai restricts internet sites.  Flickr and Twitter are inaccessible.  Youtube shows all videos as being unavailable.  For the world’s “fastest growing city” and place for foreigners to do business, this would be a huge reason (for me) to not live here.

Many American fast food chains and restaurants are here.  Mcdonalds, Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Subway, Applebees, etc.  In fact I saw a KFC 1 block away from another KFC.  Hmm, maybe they have Taco Bell!

This place really feels like Las Vegas.

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