It was never my intention to write a piece on our 12 hour stop off in the city of Dubai. It was only supposed to be a rest from what otherwise would’ve been an insanely long flight, and a chance for the Dubai customs officers to rifle through our belongings and us to make as few social faux pas as we could. But the city was so drastically different to anything Cheshire or South Yorkshire (as you might have guessed, I aint a well travelled chap) had to offer, I figured I’d give the boys at the Dubai tourist centre a favour and spread the word about their pokey little city.
As I have suggested, I am useless when it comes to all things foreign and anything which can’t be bought from Tesco’s or Weatherspoons. I was genuinely excited by the prospect of flying out of Gatwick, as if it would offer something different to my usual aeronautical haunt of Manchester. Our twelve hours in Dubai started with us swanning through customs with the same sort of arrogance as a seasoned bingo gal struts into Mecca Bingo, we then proceeded to get lost in the airport, before getting confused by their notourisly simple and easy to use tram system. (Driverless, as a security guard was delighted to point out). The city itself was an incredible testament to what a blank chequebook and some boozed up English architects can achieve. Every building was stunning in both design and scale, tearing up out of the Arabian desert as if in some utopian sci-fi film. We visited two of the most jaw-dropping of these monster buildings, firstly, the Dubai Mall, the largest in the world (again, according to the security guard, who had a lot to say for himself), and containing an ice rink, a waterfall, a full sized aquarium and something called an Underwater Zoo. (we never discovered how an Underwater Zoo differed from a aquarium, suggestions included snorkelling elephants and drowning monkeys were never confirmed). After the Mall, we were going to drag our homeless tourist asses back to the airport, this was Dubai, alone and bed less in a British city would have inevitably resulted in a 8 pint session at a local pub, a shouting match with locals and a subsequent trip to some sort of late night eatery. Alas, this was Dubai, and thus, at least two of the above would have not been welcome. But as we left the Mall we came across, without doubt, the most outrageous, unnecessary building in the city, the region, and quite possibly the world. The Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, the entire emirate dedicated its economy and workforce to its construction. Over one hundred floors of gold-plated decadence, a the grand opening of the building earlier this year cost well in excess of £100million. It looked like a space-age rocket, the lights flickering and dancing up and down its huge exterior. We saw it, we liked it, we decided to go and have a drink in it. I have never felt more out of place at a bar than in the Armani Hotel Lounge (yeah, it aint a bar, its a freakin’ lounge). I have never been forced to put three drinks onto my credit card, because i don’t have enough cash to get a round in, (I had in excess of £30, no dice). As we sat and drank our solitary drink discussing the economics of the Emirates in the worlds biggest building, I’m not gonna lie, I felt pretty bloody cool.
Time seems to stand still (or at the very least get oddly subverted) when dealing with planes, I just can’t get my head round time zones or the time difference. So come 3 o’clock in the morning in Dubai Airport, we’d pitched up outside Burger King, we were all wide awake and watching various sheikhs and businesspeople waltz around the vast expanse of marble and stone which made up the airport. This was odd, as earlier that morning (about quarter past ten), I had cracked through a couple of beers on the plane, because drinking that early on the plane doesn’t make you an alcoholic, it makes you a sociable traveller.
I’m going to leave you with a piece of travel advice; between the three of us we only managed to bring two DVD’s for the entirety of our four month stay. One of these was the aforementioned Blood Diamond, which will be perfect for those long evenings alone in secluded, rural Afrika. The other was Four Lions, a comedy about four would-be suicide bombers who for two hours make a series of malfunctioning bombs and Jihadist videos. A hilarious film, though quite why we decided to watch it in the middle of Dubai airport I’m not sure, I couldn’t imagine a more inappropriate film to watch in the airport than one about suicide bombers, but I suppose we couldn’t leave the city without making one massive faux pas. So, would-be Livingstone’s and Stanley’s, remember, take films appropriate to where you are going, maybe a Rom-Com, or some sort of Ben Stiller flick, but not a film about Afrikan civil war and another making fun of Islamic fundamentalism.