To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries
- Aldous Huxley

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Dubai - Day 2 & 4 (Malls, Malls, everywhere!)


Dubai is bat-shit crazy. And I mean this in the nicest way possible.

Today we took a tour of the city. I mentioned in my previous entry that I hadn’t seen the “rich” part of Dubai, but now I have and wowzers they sure love to splurge.
The buildings are huge, opulent, and probably worth more than the entire suburb of South Morang put together (minus Walking Jesus). It is an architect’s wet dream. They have literally built a community in the desert and the emirates are treated like kings. Forget what you may think about Muslim countries because I am pretty sure Dubai said we’ll take the good stuff from our religion but still build a place for man, woman and child, foreign or not.

Kinda like this

Emirate nationals are given land, they don’t pay for it, they are given it. Given! Foreigners cannot purchase land, they lease properties for a maximum of 99 years. Tiger Woods, Michael Schumaker, etc are a couple of many famous people who have leases on houses here and live in it. Though I am guessing they do not frequent very often during summer.
If an Emirate man is to wed an Emirate woman, the government gives them 70,000AED towards the wedding, although weddings usually cost around $80,000 US.
If you have an old car, you are actually required to purchase a new one, or you get a fine. Cars are cheap though, you can buy a 6-month old Toyota Camry for around $4000 US. We could buy 5 of those for the price of one in Australia.
Their medical system is free (for nationals), paid for by the government and they have a driver-less train system that runs better than Metro could ever dream about.

I do say this, all of the above applies to citizens of the Emirates, which accounts for about 13% of the total population.

But the best part is, they do not pay any tax at all. They pay no income tax, they don’t pay tax on goods. Gold is cheap. Cars are cheap, it is actually more expensive to own a camel than a car. But the cost of living is high, though not higher than Australia.

The United Arab Emirates is the seventh richest country in the world. Qatar is the richest due to their natural gas and the ability to undermine FIFA in bidding for the World Cup. Dubai makes their money on oil. However Dubai only has enough oil for the next 10  -15 years so they are doing what no Western government has ever done. They are future proofing. They are building all these buildings, creating these water parks to attract tourism and keep Dubai thriving.

I learned all this on our tour. The tour took us to the height of decadence, the Burj Al-Arab, the world’s only 7-star hotel who have a menu where guests can choose their pillows (because apparently there are 70 different types and you know, if you can afford to stay there you are probably picky enough to have a specific pillow in mind).

Like everything else in Dubai, this lake is man-made.

Unfortunately we did not go in and afterwards we moved on to the Jumeriah Mosque where we also did not go inside (sensing a theme here?) but it is an amazing looking building.
The tour moved onto the Dubai Museum where, like all other Museums it showed the history of Dubai from early human findings to foundation. It was interesting but nothing memorable.

The Jumeriah Mosque

Next we took a boat across the river to a souk (market) where we got to browse stall after stall of Middle Eastern spices and stall after stall of people really wanting to sell me their spices (that isn’t innuendo) and a few others transporting me back to Thailand where we could buy “authentic” handbags, watches, t-shirts etc in a secret back room more likely to hold bacon than anything authentic.

After we went to the Dubai City of Gold where they import gold from Australia and South Africa yet it is cheaper in Dubai than it is in Australia (Seriously). Aside from the same people trying to sell me authentic handbags, watches etc, they have a large number of stores with gold (legit) and watches (also legit) for ridiculously low prices and you can haggle to get even lower prices.

I couldn't haggle this down past 300 million.

DAY 4 – Abu Dhabi

So today we took a looooong tour in hellish conditions to Abu Dhabi. Apparently Dubai and Abu Dhabi have a dick-measuring contest to see who could outdo each other in the most ridiculously huge city in the world.
After a 2-hour drive and a 15-minute wait for a rude couple who decided that everyone could wait for them to finish breakfast we arrived at our first destination, the Abu Dhabi Mosque.
The Abu Dhabi Mosque is the biggest Mosque in the UAE with the world’s biggest chandelier, the world’s biggest dome (indoor and out) and the world’s biggest carpet (that took 2 years and many bloody fingers to weave). I’m not a Muslim, and I’m definitely not big on architecture but the Mosque is amazing. Naturally it is massive, it has something like 100 domes and lots of gold built into the columns.  It can hold 41,000 praying Muslims at once. The inside is a marvel, including the carpet, it has amazing designs etched into the columns and walls.
The Mosque was actually built by the Sheik using his own personal funds which is a pretty amazing gesture.

Almost had another convert

Next on the tour was a museum of something, I didn’t even go inside and after that was another Museum, this one was about the Sheik lotsanames (the one who united the country). The guy, while seemingly gun happy, seemed like a genuinely good guy.

The world's largest Chandelier. Not pictured: Me swinging off it. 

Afterwards we went to the Marina Mall (which has nothing on the Dubai or Emirates Mall) to get lunch, which is pretty pointless during Ramadan since nothing is open and you can’t eat in public. But we were able to grab some things from the supermarket and eat on the bus (since that is allowed) and we moved on to a view of the Crown Prince’s old palace and currently being built, new palace and then headed home.

We all need a house this big

We hit the hay pretty early since we have to get up at 4am to get to the airport. Next stop  (and hopefully colder) is Israel

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