Burj Dubai 2Somebody once told me that the best thing to do in Dubai is to rent a car at the airport, and drive to Muscat in Oman.  Although I disagree, I still find the city stunningly superficial, and borderline tacky.

Dubai is a story of rapid wealth inflow, and of extravagant structures attempting to compensate the lack of a past worth mentioning.

In a few decades, the place has grown from a a small seaport town to a 3m+ city with some of the most spectacular constructions of modern times. It has become a playground of architects and engineers, and a magnet for people looking a to show off spending a lot of money.

In the current heart of Dubai, the Business Area, is the world’s tallest structure – the Burj Dubai.  Adjacent to it is the Dubai Mall – a shopping mecca blown out of proportions. It’s the world’s largest mall, cost $20 billion to build, and has 1200 shops. Other attractions are an indoor aquarium, a waterfall and an ice rink.

Needless to say, all the famous and expensive fashion brands, such as Gucci, Versace, Dolce Gabbana, Dior, Armani, etc. have shops in the Fashion Catwalk atrium, and any electronic gadget you can’t find on the 2nd floor, probably doesn’t exist. If you’re in for an unretained shopping spree, look no further!

Between the Dubai Mall and Burj Dubai is an artificial lake with the world’s most expensive ($218m) fountain. Every night, it offers a spectacular sound, light and water show where the fountain “dances” to music. That show is probably the most unmissable thing about Dubai, and should be the #1 point on the to-see list of anyone passing through.

A bit further down the lakeside is the Palace Hotel, with its not-so-well-known Pool Bar. Centered around a swimming pool, the place offers each visitor a tent with a comfortable couch with huge cushions. The ideal place to go for cocktails a sheeshah.

Another landmark of Dubai is the Burj al Arab, in the Jumeirah area. The world’s first 7-star hotel is still one of the first things people associate with Dubai, but is already being overshadowed by some of the more recent developments.

The articificial, palm-shaped peninsula of Palm Jumeirah so far has little to offer except luxurious apartments and villas. At the end of the road is another 7-star hotel: The Atlantis.

The little historic heritage the Dubai has is excessively well-preserved, and refurbished to the point of looking articficial. The Cultural Heritage Village, Dubai’s old town is well worth a visit, though.  There are even some very nice restaurants there, offering traditional arab food and delicious fresh fruit juices.

The recently opened Dubai Metro is still not entirely finished, but is functional on some of the stations. Taxis are cheap in Dubai, but getting from one end of the city to the other takes at the very least 45 minutes, so the Metro is a useful alternative. Of course it’s more environment-friendly to take the metro, too, but considering the excessive amounts of energy that Dubai is already blowing away on tacky luxury stuff, it is probably the place on Earth where it matters the least.

The shopping, the fancy restaurants and the funky architecture are certainly enough to keep you busy for a long weekend.  Besides those things, Dubai doesn’t really have a lot to offer, though. The place is extremely superficial, and that can be fun to some extent. For anyone passing through on the way to somewhere else, it’s definintely worth a stopover, but not much more.

Dubai is nevertheless a great playground for anyone with a camera and an eye for good pictures. The cool architecture is an open invitation to any photographer, and cheap energy makes the city an impressive light show at night. If you didn’t bring an SLR and a tripod, you’ll be at the right place to buy them anyway, so don’t leave Dubai without a bunch of good pictures!

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