Monday, October 29, 2007

Last Trip To Dubai

Now that we've gotten the embarrassment of The Gym Incident out of the way, I can relax and tell you about the trip itself.

Since this was to be our last visit to Dubai for the foreseeable future we wanted to do it in style, so booked two rooms at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel. This strikingly-original 5 star deluxe hotel is part of the large beach-front Jumeirah complex that also houses the 7 star Burj Al Arab hotel, the Wild Wadi, two more hotels, and the Madinat Jumeirah -- itself a complex of dozens of bars and restaurants all sited around an indoor/outdoor "souk" or market, and surrounded by a network of waterways, on which you can travel around the resort by powered gondola. The Jumeirah Beach is expensive at the best of times, and, being October half-term, this was the worst of times. The bank balance is still recovering but we had a ball.

The wave-like Jumeirah Beach Hotel from the Marina

The hotel building looks like a giant wave with its slanting walls and curved design. Our rooms were on the 17th floor out of 25, and every room has floor-to-ceiling windows with views of the beach, marina, and ocean.

Great for views like this:

Yes, this was taken through our hotel room window!

...but not so great when the window cleaners come to call!

I don't think they could see in... at least I hope not!

The room level we had also gave us access to The Executive Pool: an exclusive pool and beach area for the JB's favourite guests, and guests of the Burj Al Arab.

With that kind of exclusivity you'd expect to get a better class of sun worshipper wouldn't you? Not a bit of it. Every morning when we went down, most of the sun loungers had been "reserved" by guests coming down with their towels before breakfast, and they were English, not German! This kind of thing really annoys me. It never actually inconvenienced us because there were still other loungers "available", but a few times I saw large families swanning in late morning and getting annoyed because their "reserved" loungers had been taken by someone else. "Serves you right" say I. I hate this kind of selfishness. Then, to cap it all, we saw a woman come in with her own airbed, already inflated, and with the name and room number written on it in marker pen. I might as well be at Butlins (sorry if that doesn't mean anything to my non-English readers). All of these uncouth shenanigans were oddly contrasted by our surroundings, with the majestic Burj in the background, and high-rolling guests arriving and departing by helicopter throughout the day.

Another Helipad departure. Unfortunately it wasn't LiLo Woman.

Right, rant over now, and we did have a great time by the pool despite the "great unwashed" and their cheeky ways.

"Alright, who had baked beans for breakfast?"

Ibn Battuta Mall & Cinema
Dubai's two best-known shopping malls are The Mall Of The Emirates and Ibn Battuta Mall. MOTE is very close to the hotel and also home to Ski Dubai, an indoor ski resort with real snow. The mall is huge, and great but usually very busy, so for a change we got a ride further out of town to Ibn Battuta Mall. If you ever go to Dubai I recommend a visit here. The mall is (again) huge and has several sections or "courts", each one themed after different parts of Middle East and Asia.

Egypt Court

Starbucks in Persia Court

Can't Remember Court

There's China Court, India Court, Persia Court... you get the idea. This makes for a very pleasant shopping experience, as all the big name shops you want are there, but in a very pretty setting.

The cinema in China Court

While Karen and Abigail got their nails done Elliot and I finally saw The Kingdom -- the new action movie set in Riyadh and starring Jamie Foxx. Although a 15 certificate in UK, here it is an 18 Plus, so Elliot had to stand up straight and put on his deepest voice to get past the ticket counter.

I went in with very low expectations of this movie. I had read several reviews and they were all bad, but all in Middle Eastern papers. The other thing that had made me cynical was my knowledge that, set in Riyadh or not, there ain't no way any part of this film was actually shot in Saudi Arabia, the authorities would never allow it. Most of the city shots were actually of Abu Dhabi in the U.A.E., with the Kingdom Tower "Photoshopped in". Despite this I have to say I enjoyed the film a lot. They captured the compound atmosphere quite well, and some of the city shots were similar to Riyadh's nicer parts. The story was pretty far-fetched but action-packed, and overall the film had more integrity than I was expecting.

The Kingdom Trailer

On Monday night we went to see a live show called Stomp!, in the Madinat Theatre close to the hotel. Stomp! has been in London's West End and on Broadway too. It's basically a percussive dance show, with the eight performers dressed in scruffy overalls and beating out catchy rhythms in a combination of tap dancing, clapping, and drumming with a variety of things you might find in an alley: brooms, dustbins, old newspapers etc. A really good show with great performances, it had humour, audience participation, and made you want to stomp your feet. My only criticism was that -- at an hour and a half with no interval -- it was about 15 minutes too long, and towards the end I was starting to get a headache from the boom boom booms.

Abigail showing off her new phone and handbag at dinner.

Burj Al Arab
No visit to this part of Dubai is complete without a nosey around the inside of the Burj Al Arab: the world's only seven star hotel. Designed to look like a billowing sail, the Burj is over 320 metres tall and very luxurious. Every room is a duplex suite and the public areas are glamorously decorated, with really impressive dancing fountains, and gold everywhere. It's actually a little too brash and borders on the vulgar, but I guess it's OK in a "if you've got it (wealth), flaunt it" way. Here's a shot of the Burj at sunset, taken from the JB's Marina:

The sticky-out bit at the top (not the Helipad, the other bit) is the Sky Bar and Restaurant on the 27th floor.

As Jumeirah Beach Guests we were allowed into the hotel, which can only normally be accessed either by helicopter or private road with security checkpoint. We looked around the reception area and shops for a while, and then went up to the Sky Bar on the 27th floor to check out the view. We couldn't stay here for a drink because it's over-21's only, so we got a couple of photos and went back down to the Lobby Bar.

Our hotel from the Burj Sky Bar.
It doesn't look this high from the ground!

I didn't think I'd get away with ordering one Coke and four straws, so I splashed out on a drink each, but after one look at the prices on the menu I whipped it out of the childrens' hands and said, "Coke or Lemonade?". My Good Lady Wife, of course, could have whatever her heart desired (as long as it wasn't expensive).

So that's Goodbye to Dubai. An odd but interesting place: in many ways still Middle Eastern but in others just like Las Vegas. It's growing at a phenomenal rate and gets tackier as it gets bigger, but you won't find anywhere else like it.


Zhanna said...

Hi Chris,
I was enjoyed reading your blog.
You made me remember all that fascinating feelings, which I had during my holiday in Dubai.
I have been there only once, but it was enough to fell in love with this magic city, with Dubai property, its people, culture and traditions.
Thanks for the nice pictures, keep up the great work.

Ben said...

It looks great from what I see. Tourism has really gone up the roof for the past decade. Dubai hotels are a little expensive but it is definitely worth it.