26.11.2011 33 °C
Have you ever been let down by your imagination?? I have, on countless occasions, possible because my imagination can be somewhat over-active. For example, have you ever constructed a mental image of someone whom you only know by voice?? It could be from someone you have talked to over the phone, or heard on the radio etc. When you finally get to see them in person isn’t it always a bit of a surprise to see what they look like?? The reality often doesn’t match the mental image (I am much better looking in person for instance).
Why bring this up now?? Well I found myself disappointed today in a big way. So disappointed in fact, that I registered a strike against Dubai. Now I am a fair person and I give everywhere 3 strikes before I decide never to bother visiting them again. So far the only other city that has recorded a strike was Melbourne, Australia, and it got 2. At least it did until I realised that, as I am from New South Wales, I instinctively hate Victoria and everything about it. For there is still a decent rivalry between the states in Australia, and I finally understood that this was influencing my opinion of Melbourne. Once I realised this I had to, in all fairness, remove the strikes against this city. For Melbourne is in fact a lovely place, full of interest and history. It’s just a pity it’s also full of Victorians. Anyway what did Dubai do to deserve this?? Well I’m afraid it has no soul.
Firstly let’s go back to the start of the day. It all began with a rather pressing desire to get across the road, by any means possible that didn’t involve getting into, or possibly run over by if I could at all help it, a car. So I set off with a purpose in my stride and a plan. A jolly good plan to follow the road until I found a bridge, or crossing, or at the very least a hole in the fence I could squeeze through. I even eyed off a couple of those signs that span from one side to the other, usually advertising something simple whilst the speed cameras underneath collect money for the government (and they would be very busy in this part of the world). So after an hour and a couple of km’s or so I discovered a bridge, a beautiful bridge that allowed me to stroll safely beneath it. I was wrapped, and feeling very pleased with myself. It was, mind you, in the complete opposite direction to that which I had intended to travel, but it was there none the less. So, ticking that off my list of things to do that day (it was in fact the only item) I set about discovering what else was available. So I decided to find that pyramid, and strode purposefully off in its general direction.
The pyramid was in fact a hotel, and was decorated quite lavishly in large statues of Pharaohs and hieroglyphs. Quite stunning but also quite out of place, as the Egyptian empire at its most magnificent extent did not even come close to covering this part of the world. So I wandered in to have a look around and quickly wished I hadn’t. The interior was done in the same motif, and was a little too tacky for my taste. When I inquired at the front desk as to just why the hotel was decorated in such a manner and not in an Arabic style, the young lady stared at me for a short while before asking me who I was and what I was doing there. Non guests, it seems, are not really welcome to go strolling at will through the Raffles resort in Dubai. Nor, as it turns out, can you just look around in any of the more expensive places to stay. So it seems that this complex was decorated like this because they could. I should have seen the warning signs from this alone, but I was still in a jovial mood from conquering the road, and as such was keen to keep exploring. Las Vegas was beyond the reach of Ramses as well, and they have things decorated in the most extraordinary ways, so who am I to judge. I am sure some people like this kind of thing, but I can’t include myself in that category. So I wandered back outside, wondering what else I could accomplish that day, only to see a Big Red Bus come past.
The Raffles Hotel - Dubai
I have taken the Big Red Bus in London before and can honestly say there is no better or more startlingly expensive way to see a city in a short period. My routine is usually to do an entire circuit, note down the areas of interest and then get on and off on the next go around to explore at my leisure. So for me, in a new place, this seemed a magnificent idea. I approached the rather stressed looking people selling tickets, handed over the equivalent of a years salary for anyone working in the textile industry in China, and boarded a bus. There were two routes from which I could choose. The red route, which goes through the old part of town, and the blue route, which explores the new. Now I have to admit that I am a sucker for old buildings, I truly am. I just love them, and spend hours admiring them much to my lovely wifes continuing dismay. Superman has kryptonite, I have old buildings. You could drop me off somewhere like Prague or Rome, come back in 6 months and I would still ask for more time to explore. They are just fascinating to me, I enjoy everything about them. So naturally I opted for the red route. Eager in anticipation of what was to come I boarded the bus, camera and mental notebook at the ready, and set off to discover the old Dubai.
Would you like to hazard a guess as to how many places I wished to explore on the second circuit?? How many areas intrigued me so much as to make me want to leave an overcrowded bus and a seat that had the consistency of somewhere between ironbark and granite and the comfort to match?? None, absolutely none. In fact I was so despondent that I put my camera away half way around and didn’t once regret doing so. Old for Dubai, it seems, is anything made after 1970 that isn’t all glass. (I may be a little out on the dates here but not by much). In fact I got the nasty feeling that the Big Red Bus of Dubai is there merely to get tourists to different shopping areas. We saw the gold souk (there are hundreds of these in town by the way, this was just the biggest one), various shopping centres and the river. That was about it. The tour also went through what was supposed to be the old part of town; however I lost a lot of interest in this when I noticed air conditioning units on the roofs. I could not have been more thoroughly disappointed if I was told that everyone else on earth was going to get to live forever and have lots of sex, except for me. In fact I questioned going back out to explore at all.
Ancient cooling units and Gold Land in old Dubai
However after a little reflection I have decided to give Dubai another go. I realised that, much like the hottie on the phone who turns out to be a man with an effeminate voice, I had expected too much from Dubai. This was after all nothing more than a fishing village and international port city that decided to become something spectacular. And it is spectacular. It boasts the worlds biggest hotel, tallest building, indoor skiing, man-made islands in the shape of a palm tree and the world and more impressive and architecturally interesting modern skyscrapers than you can poke a stick at. Whilst these may not be my favourite things, they are Dubai and impressive none the less.
So I will venture out tomorrow and explore Dubai’s flash. This may not be the city I was hoping it would be, but it is Dubai, and nothing else can match that.