First Thoughts on Dubai

Dubai Skyline from my hotel room
Dubai Skyline from my hotel room

Other than higher than normal amounts of turbulence, my flight from Bangkok was pretty uneventful. I few on Etihad Airlines, the official airlines of the UAE. I had never heard of it before until I booked the flight. It was good flight. The flight attendants had a very unique uniform which is probably the most elegant I’ve ever seen on flight attendants. It was a light white scarf which had half of it tucked under their 60’s pillbox like hat.

I flew into Abu Dhabi not Dubai, so I had to take a bus between the cities. The road between Abu Dhabi was the best road I’ve been on since my trip started. 10 lanes, good condition, and new construction everywhere along the road. New construction is a theme which will pop up again.

Here are my first impressions of Dubai and the UAE:

  • The city it reminds me most of is Las Vegas. A brand new city in the desert. Not as glitzy as Vegas, however. More like a cross between Vegas and an office park on the edge of town.
  • Everything here is under construction. The city has a very unfinished feel to it. Even buildings not under construction will have sand where there you think there ought to be landscaping.
  • The buildings here are not just buildings. Every high rise building seems to have some flair to it that would make it the architectural high point in a smaller city.
  • Outside of immigration and customs officials at the airport, every person I’ve had contact with has been either Indian or Filipino. I walked down the street and I would have thought I was in India. Saw a game a sandlot cricket, which I don’t think is really a popular Arab sport.
  • There is a giant firewall that filters all the internet traffic in the UAE. Flickr is blocked from Dubai. I tried to use Hotspot Shield as a VPN to stream video from, and it was blocked.
  • I get two contradictory impressions of Dubai: 1) This is a giant construction bubble which will all collapse because so much money is being spent on useless projects. 2) Dubai is wisely investing in non-oil related industries and positioning itself for a day when they will not have to rely on oil, and making itself the leading economic center of the Middle East. I think both of them may be true.
  • I have read that 25% of all the construction cranes in the world are in Dubai. I don’t know if that’s true, but there are a lot of them. Throw in Abu Dhabi, and I might believe it. Looking out the window where I’m writing this I counted 25 cranes. Construction has to be the biggest industry in the UAE.

I’m sure I’ll have more to say in the upcoming days as I explore the area more. So put it mildly, there is probably no place quite like Dubai on Earth.