The Tallest Building in the World
Coming back from spending two weeks in India, I was flying out of Dubai a new city in United Arab Emirates (UAE). I decided to spend two days on a layover to explore this wealthy Arab country on the gulf.
It was quite a shock after spending two weeks with my church group where we interacted with orphans, widows and untouchable villagers where many have nothing but the clothes on their back to the 9th richest country in the world. Talk about a culture shock. Speaking of culture shock, when I landed in India, this was in the airport.
Yes, Christmas decor in a country that ranks #10 in the world for persecuting Christians. A bit of a disconnect?
Who hasn’t heard of Dubai? The images I held in my minds’ eye were of mystery, international business and wealth. Though, going to the tallest building in the world and seeing Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible featuring it was a motivating factor. Over 2700 feet tall, 155 stories, this engineering marvel is over 1/2 mile high.
I elected to stay in the Sheraton on Jumeriah Beach after hearing about how cool the stroll can be on the beach boardwalk with shops and restaurants. Plus I had to test the ocean water in the Persian Gulf.
One thing that quickly came to my attention is that all the shops, servers, taxi drivers, and workers were NOT from UAE, but everywhere else. Born to an citizen of UAE? You are automatically middle class or higher and have privilege.
I found this on one travel site: It is a truism among the Western ex-pat I knew that "It is good to be an Emirati." If you have any encounter with the police and an Emirati - say a fender-bender in a parking lot - it never the Emiratis fault. When I complained to my building's supervisor that a family on my floor was extremely noisy, especially in the middle if the night, I was informed that there was nothing they could do because the family was Emirati.
For those foreigners who are workers there (89% of the population), every two years they have to undergo an extensive medical exam and if anything is amiss, they are deported (including any crimes, even minor ones). But this is also one reason why UAE is so safe.
Despite being Muslims, they are also quite tolerant of Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, and other religions. 2019 is the Year of Tolerance. The men still wear traditional dress, but few women wear burkas. Much more freedom than most Arab nations.
I wanted to get to the Burj Khalifa in downtown Dubai, I had my tour guide show me other sites.
We started by going to the Burj (burj means tower) Al Arab Jumeirah a landmark hotel which costs 600 a night . Little out of my budget.
From there he took me to the Al Farooq Omar Bin Al Khattab Mosque , otherwise known as the Blue Mosque. No tourists and it was gorgeous. One reason to have a guide besides all the history and insights, is the ability to go to unique spots that the tourist buses miss.
After that we drove 90 minutes to Abu Dhabi located in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi (over 3 million people in the Emirate, 1.5 in the city, but it has 80% of the UAE land). It is the largest and by richest of all the seven Emirates (states), and because of their traditional power and size, provides the King for the UAE.
Abu Dhabi has the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, a newer mosque paid the UAE government, costing over 544 million US $. One of the largest mosques in the world. In a simple word? STUNNING.
Marble is everywhere similar to the Taj Mahal with cut stone inlays and Arabic writing. Gold, jewels, just incredible. They put carpets down Monday thru Saturday so the 40,000 tourists who come here daily don’t have to remove their shoes. That would be an adventure…..finding your shoes among the thousands.
From there it was back to Dubai (Dubai Emirate), population of over 3 million in the city to go to the Mall of the Emirates. One of the world’s largest malls, it has over 650 stores that includes the only world’s indoor ski area. With 3 lifts, including a 4 person chair and 400 meters long, it was a weird sight.
The shops were beyond anything I had seen including in Manhatten. The floors of the mall is all marble. Spendy this. 15 miles from there is the Burj Khalifa.
Going to the top isn’t an option as the top 10 floors are private. But they charge $132 to go the 145th floor and $105 to the 124th floor. I paid the extra. The view felt like I was in a helicopter or something. Unlike anything I’ve experienced being so high up.
I flew home on Emirates Air on the largest passenger airplane in the world, the Airbus 380 I guess it was a trip of extremes: tallest building, largest plane, huge mall, some of the richest and in India, some of the poorest people. That is why I love traveling. It pushes your boundaries, deepens your understanding and makes you appreciate HOME.
Want to see more? Here is a short video of some of my favorite images.