Wow. Dubai is certainly the land of excess… we know right away because the Emirates fleet is mostly Airbus A380s… with 6,000 square feet they could sardine in 850 passengers. But of course this is the land of oil entitlements, so the upper deck is reserved for first class, only $16,000 for our family of four… guess I’m a sardine. It takes 20 minutes for the bus to transport us from the plane to the massive immigration hall; all goes smoothly and into the cavernous international terminal we go. Taxis whisk us through the smog and among the downtown skyscrapers, and the boys begin their car game: you get 5 minutes and one irreversible pick of a car you spot on the road. At home we’re happy to land a Porsche or Mustang; here’s it’s Lambos, Aston Martins and if you’re lucky, a McLaren.
Our 20th floor Wyndham hotel room is just too big – about 1200 square
feet and sparsely furnished. But it’s relatively cheap and well located at the southwestern edge of the Dubai Marina between the Marina Walk and the beach. After taking in the views we wander down to the beach, which is a family-friendly collection of empty and overpriced diversions… $50 to play foot snooker on a giant pool table, $60 to use the floating obstacle course. But looking is free, so we enjoy the stroll and people watching here in the secular sector. Hungry from our flight, Sue follows her nose to a the “Operation Falafel” restaurant where we grab some shawarmas to eat on the beach – delicious. Soon enough our lovely walk turns into a soulless stroll along oversized sidewalks bounding oversized roads flanked by oversized empty buildings… we consider the Metro but opt for a taxi to see the Atlantis on the Palms Jumeirah. You’ve seen it before… the massive man-made island shaped like a palm tree? Of course it houses the largest waterslide in Arabia… over the top.
Once there we can’t get into the Atlantis and the rest is just more shopping, so we taxi back to the room to make up for lost sleep. The boys lure me down to the pool for some afternoon play – the winter climate here has pleasant 75 degree highs, and of course the pool is heated. But the winter sun sets early here behind smog and skyscrapers, so soon we’re back up at the room ready to emerge for dinner.
The Marina Walk is pedestrian-friendly but getting there isn’t. Eventually we find Pier 7
but it’s a bust – empty, elegant and expensive, so we return to our earlier informal family favorite Operation Falafel for a reasonably priced dinner and great car watching. After Gelato we stroll back over to the beach and let the Turkish Ice Cream vendor make good fun of me before exploring the high-end beach side crafts. Ben’s taken with their sand art; Max and I play on the outdoor exercise equipment. It’s a pleasant, family-friendly vibe, with shisha pipes replacing beers, and
brown-robed Omanis, white-robed Saudis and burka-obscured wives mixing easily with jeaned Emiratis and westerners.
But we don’t see much of the ethnic service class on the beach. My impression is that there’s so much oil money flying around here that Dubai must import service workers. The Pakistanis run the taxi’s; Filipino’s run the lodging; Indians are merchants. And Dubai may earn bragging rights for carbon emissions per capita: despite its breezy seaside location, a permanent haze surrounds the town, likely from both auto and power plant emissions for the ridiculous building excess. Recycling? Fuhgeddaboudit. Maybe hosting the 2020 World Expo will force dubious Dubai to clean up its act.