Thursday, December 17, 2009

The travelin' blues take a detour

Well, that didn't work out so well.

I completed the 90-minute trip to Dubai early this morning just in time to learn my son got bumped from his flight again, this time in New York. So he's getting an extra day in the big city, and I spent five hours checking out Dubai. I don't think I could describe my first impressions of the place in one word, but two will do: chaotic playground.

Abu Dhabi had been described to me as Dubai's somewhat dowdy older sister, and now I know what that means. Abu Dhabi has its share of glitz and glamour, but compared to Dubai, it's practically a spinster aunt.

It's as if someone decided to build a cross between L.A. and New York, and do it all in 10 years. And they're not quite done yet. Dubai is a jumble of the most incredible buildings you've ever seen, many of them half finished. It's also the home of the tallest building in the world, which is truly beyond description. I've attached a photo of the Burj Dubai so you can see for yourself. Keep in mind that those buildings around it are high-rises in their own right, and this photo is several months old, before the Burj was topped out at 165 stories.

Dubai is the most pedestrian-unfriendly place I've ever seen. You just can't get from here to there on foot. Sidewalks disappear into constructions zones; your only choices are to turn back or walk in a street filled with lorries and cement trucks.

But the harbor area looks promising, and the Jumeirah Beach Walk is a world-class cobblestoned stretch of shops, cafes and residence towers alongside a sparkling shoreline. I saw more westerners in five hours today than I have in four months in Abu Dhabi, for what that's worth. And not many of them seemed to be working too hard.

I'll definitely be back when I can stay for a while and learn my way around. In the meantime, I'm back in Dowdy Abu Dhabi (how's that for a chamber of commerce tagline?), grateful for the relative peace and quiet. I must be getting old ...

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