|Dubai Yacht club|
Probably the most popular of the United Arab Emirates for visitors, Dubai pays homage to the God of Mammon and exhibits wealth, luxury and conspicuous consumption as an essential way of life. When we were there it was the festival of Eid Al Adha, the annual Islamic festival which coincides with Muslims’ annual pilgrimage to Makkah. Adha means sacrifice in Arabic and it signifies the sacrifice offered by Allah’s beloved Prophet Ebrahim. Sacrifice is big in Islam. But not in Dubai. The Eid holiday is being celebrated with extra fireworks “Instead of watching fireworks from your television set why not jet down to Jumeirah Beach and watch the real deal!” Gulf News urges. Eight shopping Malls are celebrating Eid by staying open around the clock 24/7 and there are extra dolphin shows (hope the dolphins don’t mind) and fighting zone sections have been set up for kids at the ice rink!?
|She loves only gold…|
We spent the evening in the gold souk perusing the window displays dripping with precious metal jewellery worth a small fortune. Gold is a big deal in the middle east, wealth needs to be displayed if it is to be valued. To be fair, gold is still a solid investment (pun intended) in a way that the stock market often isn’t and Dubai is a good place to buy both gold and diamonds. The price of gold is advertised in the street and if you tire of the yellow stuff you can always treat yourself to a fake Rolex or a designer handbag.
Next stop was Abu Dhabi, the largest of the Emirates and somewhere I’d never been before. Abu Dhabi is pretty much next door to Dubai and about a 45 minute drive away. Our taxi driver however, took us a very long way round via some sandy islands (Abu Dhabi has a lot of islands) but luckily we were wise to this and only paid the going rate. There’s a lot of oil and gas here and the ruling family are very rich indeed (1 trillion dollars or so). They bailed out Dubai a couple of years ago and the deputy prime minister Sheikh Mansour owns Manchester City Football club. He wiped out the club’s 305m debt with a flourish of his cheque book. There’s a Manchester City shop in the Abu Dhabi Mall incidentally. There wasn’t anyone in it though. We stayed in an amazing high rise hotel called the Grand Hyatt Capitalgate which towered into the sky and was like something out of a 1960’s James Bond movie inside.
|All the best spies stay here..|
It took most of the evening to work out the lighting system in the super stylish room and I never did get the coffee machine to work. The pool changing rooms offered you a choice of Tropical Rain, Polar Fog or Caribbean cloudburst for your showering options which was nice. At night it was lit up with a multicoloured lighting display of proportions I haven’t seen since the Blackpool Illuminations. If you’ve ever seen the movie Bladerunner, this hotel would have fitted in with that futuristic sci fi setting without difficulty. I’ve seen people take pictures of their food before (the Japanese are fond of doing this) but at Citygate one Indian family went a step further by videoing themselves having breakfast with a camera and tripod.. The concierge who showed us to our room explained “Everything in the room is free, except for the things we charge you for.” That’s capitalism for you. The taxi downtown had a dashboard computer which brought up the face of the Chief of Police to chastise the driver if the speed limit was exceeded, and helpfully told you his name and to buckle up when you got in.
The Emiratis are big on Malls here too. It’s odd setting off to walk along the corniche (path beside the beach) in 35 degree heat with your destination an air conditioned shopping Mall which has all the same shops as at home. Top Shop, the Gap, H&M, even BHS – a bit like the Metro Centre really. This seems to be what the locals like to do, cruise the Malls eating fast food and rapidly getting as obese as the rest of the Western World already is. Women have to cover up of course. You do wonder who is actually going to buy and wear all the fashion being sold in the malls when what women can wear here is so restricted. To a western woman it seems a bit like being given a particularly unattractive and inappropriate school uniform that you have to wear for the rest of your life. Even if you can wear six inch sparkly Kurt Geiger shoes under your niqab..
|Abu Dhabi Sunset|