December 13, 2007

Arabian Excursion Day 6: The Burj Experience

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I am picked up in the morning by Hans, my Syrian tour guide/driver, in a nice little H3. Our destination is Jebel Ali, the new port city that is being developed. We arrive at the Jebel Ali Resort Hotel and its adjoining golf course, and wait for the departure time of the seaplane to take me over the Dubai coastline.

Along the way to Jebel Ali, I finally have a chance to drive past the usual area frequented by tourists, and see a whole new city being built in the Marina area. EMAAR and Nakheel, the two most prominent developers and responsible for Burj Dubai and the Palms respectively, have massive projects everywhere in the city.

11am comes and I am led to the 8-seater Cessna Caravan 208, operated by Seawings. Our New Zealander pilot Travis goes through a few simple safety instructions, and we are off. The plane slowly gathers speed and we lift off the water. The new Palm Jebel Ali, still under construction, is immediately to our left and I see the palm fronds being formed. The port terminal is to our right. We soon fly past the Marina development by EMAAR, and suddenly the Palm Jumeirah is below us. Construction looks finished on most of the palm fronds for private houses, with lots of work still need to be done on the hotels/offices/malls located on the breakwater and the trunk. It’s nice to finally get an aerial view of the project.

Now we are next to the Burj Al Arab on our right. It’s an unusual view to see it from the sea, as most photographs are taken of the side with the sail. I see the platform where I was to have lunch later. Now we fly over the World, where a lot of work remains to be done as many islands have not even been formed. There is a single house that has been constructed on one of the islands - zoom in on the picture to see it but not sure which country it’s supposed to represent - and apparently it belongs to the Sheikh Mohammed’s daughter. Maybe the World would actually look like a map of the world when its finally done, but for now it’s just a collection of sandy atolls.

Unfortunately we don’t make it over the Palm Deira – not sure if construction has started – and we double back for a second look. I am shutter happy as I’ve missed some shots on the first pass. I zoom in on the Burj Dubai under construction, and the skyscrapers along Sheikh Zayed Road. Another pass over the Palm Jumeirah, and we make our final approach over the sandy fronds of the Palm Jebel Ali and touch down on the water. I’m overjoyed at having the chance to take this aerial look of Dubai.

Hans drives me to the Burj Al Arab for my lunch at Al Munhata, the restaurant at the top overlooking the Gulf. We stop at the “Welcome Center” – more like a security checkpoint to keep out the riff-raff – and I give the guard my reservation number. We are given passage, and drive over the bridge to reach the island on which the hotel sits. I thank Hans for the journey, get off the Hummer and enter through the front door.

Yes, the lobby shouts bling and kitsch at the top of its lungs. With lots of gold and all colors of the rainbow – from the reception desks and gigantic columns to the fountains and the balconies – it’s hard not to open one’s eyes in wonder. The two fountains – both in the lower and upper lobbies – are particularly nice as the technology and programming that went into making it happen was surely cutting edge when it was first installed.

I also look at the two aquariums on each side of the lower lobby, admiring the hundreds of tropical fish swimming inside each one. Overkill? For sure. But it does look nice. I snap a few more pictures before going up the glass express elevator to the top floor.

Lunch is surprisingly good and will be covered in its own review. As I return to the elevator lobby, I see a large sign on the other side of the lobby displaying “Taiwan Investment Forum”. This is interesting, as lately there has been a lot of attention given to Dubai within Taiwan. I think the Taiwanese finally realized that the UAE is now a rising economic power, with its oil dollars and its ability to attract foreign investments.

A few more snaps with the camera, and I enter the hotel boutique to look at what’s on offer. I promised my friend Chris to get him a crystal model of the hotel, since he didn’t get one when he actually stayed here on his visit. He quickly changed his mind, however, after I tell him the price over the phone. Of course one would expect that everything with the name Burj or its logo would demand a hefty premium. I settle for a couple of nice hand-drawn cards of the Burj (at around USD 10 each, and made in Ireland no less!) as well as a cute ceramic camel from a series designed by artists around the world.

As I was about to go through the front door on my way out, I catch a hotel staff walking around with a tray of dates. My eyes open wide as I see how huge the dates were – they were the largest I have ever seen. I quickly bite into one – absolutely delicious. As I had been looking all around Oman for dates to bring back to mom, I was definitely in luck. The staff obligingly provides me with details of the supplier – a shop in Sharjah – and tells me that they deliver to Dubai. This seems like a godsend as I had no plans to visit Sharjah. I leave the Burj feeling on top of the world.

Next stop is the Mall of the Emirates, famed for being the largest shopping mall in the Middle East as well as having its indoor ski slop – Ski Dubai. I had no real need to shop in Dubai, other than picking up a bottle of local perfume for a friend. I stroll around briefly until dinner time, then leave for the One & Only Royal Mirage for dinner at Tagine.

1 comment:

Putra said...

nice experience


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