Although we had been planning to come here for years, I didn’t do a very good job of planning our accommodation. Since Wotif doesn’t operate in Dubai, and I didn’t really know where to stay, I put off organizing a hotel until the very last minute. In fact, we arrived at the airport not knowing whether we had a place to stay, or not. But thanks to the efforts of my good friend and SFU colleague Warren Gill, and his former student Robert Booth, and his assistant Sharon Andrews at Emaar, we soon found ourselves in an Admiral’s room at the Dhou Plaza, a new five star hotel in Bar Dubai.
It was a very impressive yet comfortable hotel, with numerous restaurants and lounges, and a wonderful rooftop pool and spa with a sauna and steam bath. I used the steam for a brief time in the hope that it might make it seem cooler outside. Fortunately the rate we paid was less than the rack rate of over 2000 aed (about $650). As both Warren and Robert cautioned me, hotels are expensive in Dubai.
There were also a few other surprises. I didn’t realize that Dubai is built around a creek, which serves as part of its port system. Old wooden barges or dhous transport a wide variety of goods to the Dubai and elsewhere in the Middle East. The goods are left on the dock, without being locked up, since anyone caught stealing faces very severe penalties. (Dubai is a very safe and crime fee city.) Visitors can take an afternoon cruise, as we did or a dinner cruise along the creek. They can also travel across it for a 1 d coin (about 30 cents). This is a great way to travel between the old souks or markets that are located around the city.Another surprise was the age of the place. Most of the people visiting Dubai are significantly older than most of the buildings! An excellent display in the Dubai Museum gives a good overview of the rapid growth of the place. Indeed, most of what one sees on the skyline was built since the mid 80’s, and the amount of development currently underway is unprecedented. In fact, it is claimed that between one half and two thirds of all the tower cranes in the world are currently in Dubai! And the rest seem to be in Beijing and Shanghai! While the city is very new, and quite artificial, it is a great place to visit.