Impressions from My Week-Long Visit to Dubai, Pt 1

Take Singapore and Shanghai, sprinkle in Hong Kong and Manhattan, add a touch of Taipei. Then, put that mixture on a course of steroids. Afterwards, pour it into the desert by the beach, and lo and behold, you’ll get Dubai.

Dubai is clean, safe, and speaks Arabic and English. It’s hard to say that Dubai is beautiful because, at least in the 45ºC (113ºF) heat and humidity of August, it’s sandy and dusty. Nevertheless, in the sand, they created a lot of green here. Not synthetic green, natural green! What can be said about Dubai is that it is remarkable, exciting, extraordinary, astounding and definitely very, very impressive. It oozes power. The architecture here gives expression to unbelievable originality. The buildings are beautiful and magnificent. Dubai is super-modern. The highways are wide-ranging. On Dubai’s main drag, Sheikh Zayed Road, there are 7 lanes in each direction. The interchanges are large and complicated and if you miss a turn, you have to travel about 20 minutes further until the next interchange.

There is nothing that cannot be found in Dubai. Even snow! Even in 45 degrees heat. The beaches are clean with bright white sand. Attractions from here to forever. Want to play golf in the middle of the night? No problem. You can. Want to race a go-kart on a professional track? Can do too. Hover in the air on the longest zipline in the world or the fastest in the world or the highest in the world? You can do all three. And of course – shopping. There is no chain of stores of any kind that cannot be found here. There are huge malls that cannot be completed in a full day of wandering. The Dubai Mall is the largest in the world. 1,240,000 square meters. The Burj Khalifa is the tallest building in the world. Rising to 160 floors. 828 meters high. And since Saudi Arabia is planning a 1,000-meter building, Dubai already has a project in the works that will surpass that as well. There is no end in sight. Sheikh Muhammad bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai and the Prime Minister of the UAE, intends that Dubai will be the first and best in everything possible. And he really, really means it. In his book “My Vision” he asks, “Does anyone know who the second person was to climb Everest?” Dubai will not be second in anything. That’s the vision.

Dubai lives on tourism. Some 16 million tourists came in 2019. Were it not for COVID-19, Dubai would have had 20 million visitors in 2020 and even more in 2021. Since EXPO 2020-2021 has been postponed for a year due to COVID-19, and 2021 will also be the jubilee year of the UAE’s independence, it is not hard to guess that they will achieve – and exceed – that goal.

In 2019, there were 544 hotels in Dubai with 100,744 rooms and with an occupancy rate of 86%. That is, means that in 2019 there was an occupancy of 31,623,542 hotel rooms. Stop and think about it. And this is just Dubai. Excluding Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Ajman and the rest of the Emirates. And there is still time to add more hotels before EXPO.

Hotels here are available at all levels, from 2 stars in not the best areas to the deluxe palaces on the shores of the Persian Gulf, or as it is called here, the Arabian Gulf. In addition to hotels of every possible chain in the world, there are also local chains, some owned by the ruler’s family, or owned by Emirates Airlines, which is also owned by the ruler’s family. There is a hotel owned by Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri Jr., and one owned by the Yemeni prime minister and other properties owned by various other international and political dignitaries.

Future shock is alive and well and living in Dubai. There are endless attractions waiting for foreign visitors, and sometimes they are even all in the same building. For example, the Dubai Mall has an aquarium, karting races, a virtual reality experience, an opera house, cinemas, a horror show house, dinosaurs, a night fountain show, and an entire children-size city, and of course the entrance to the top Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. The Emirates Mall offer a mountain of snow for skiing, penguins to entertain the children, snow slides and ski lifts and also the coldest zipline in the world. There is a trampoline park, a theater, and climbing walls, a space experience park, and on the outside, also a water park – one of many in Dubai.

Oh, and by the way, you can also go shopping in the malls. And buy kosher ice cream

About the Author
Born in Jaffa, Rabbi Menahem Fogel’s wide ranging career has spanned nineteen countries and includes both the public and private sectors. He has been a pulpit rabbi in South Africa and Canada, a Museum Information Systems Designer for renowned museums on three continents, produced a TV series for Dutch Television, a hotel manager in the Middle East and continues to be an in-demand tour guide throughout the Far East, Africa, Latin America, the Pacific Northwest and the UAE.
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