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Paul David Pruitt
When my Lady friend returned from the ITB International Tourism Show in Berlin all she could talk about was Dubai. Their exhibit at the world’s largest trade show for the travel industry blew her away. All I knew about this member of the United Arab Emirates was what I had seen on the History Channel’s “Modern Marvels”. Dubai is famous for its stunning architecture and the center piece is the Burj Al Arab, often referred to as the “Sailboat Hotel”. I agreed Dubai would be a great trip for Valentine’s Day so we checked our passports and made our plans.
When arriving after the thirteen-hour flight, it was comforting to see all the signs in both English and Arabic. The British have a long involvement in Dubai and Europeans make up a large segment of the thriving tourist trade. The futuristic skyline is more than Walt Disney could ever have imagined. The whole nation is a tribute to man’s engineering capabilities. Arriving late in the evening, we stayed close to the airport at the Intercontinental in Dubai’s Festival City. This is a five star hotel and the food, service and amenities were impeccable. Even though it was after midnight local and we were a little woozy from the flight, we had to check out the world famous nightlife. The concierge directed us to “Persuasions” night club as downtown’s hottest venue. The club kept a steady techno beat and the crowd was very cosmopolitan. You would never be aware of an economic downturn in this affluent nation. Money flowed as freely as the drinks from the bar. As we were leaving the club I spotted a huge billboard showing the Emir with his son and nephew beside him. The son and nephew had politely answered out touristy questions and even posed for pictures with my girlfriend. They had just moored their yacht and engaged us in conversation while we were waiting for our car outside the Intercontinental. Nice way to enter the country and thank you to both these royal gentlemen.
The second day we made our way to Jumeirah beach on the Arabian Gulf, where on a man made island sets the Sailboat hotel. The beach is named after the Jumeirah group who manages some of the world’s most fabulous hotels. Burj Al Arab is the world’s only seven star accommodations. Until that point, I was totally unaware a seven star rating even existed. We were greeted by hosts in the lobby and coddled with exotic coffees and date candies. Another couple was checking in at the same time, a beautiful Finnish woman and her companion who owns a chain of nightclubs in India. Not exactly a Wal-Mart crowd. For lunch we were advised to try Al Muntaha or “The Ultimate” and yes it was. Over six-hundred feet above the Gulf with floor to ceiling glass walls the view is stunning. Our genuine French maitre’d was most gracious in explaining the menu and I enjoyed a wonderful rack of lamb and finished with the best crème bru le I’ve ever tasted.
Diversity is all around as peoples from all over the world come here to enjoy the peaceful lifestyle and thriving economy. Construction is everywhere. It is believed that seventy percent of the earth’s construction cranes are in Dubai. It’s as though they are building multiple cities at one time. The Mall of the Emirates rivals Rodeo Drive has a hot shopping location. But this mall boasts a thirty-story indoor snow skiing park. A winter wonderland in the desert, this is a must see family friendly attraction. During my mandatory instruction I found out that skiing is not like riding a bike. I hadn’t skied since my tour of Alaska in the early 1980’s and did my best Wiley Coyote impression to the amusement of my date and our half-dozen fellow students.
Everywhere we went in Dubai we were surrounded by smiling faces. There is no obvious police or security presence but it doesn’t seem to be needed here. Dubai has recently stepped up to be the first Arab nation to commit to normalizing relations with post war Iraq. This is a courageous move by a courageous people and a vital step to stabilizing a volatile region of the Middle East. In my short week there I saw a vibrant nation with a clear vision. Dubai is truly a “melting pot” and very accepting of other cultures. They deliberately work to keep a favorable US dollar exchange rate and embrace the many American businesses located there. This ancient culture seems poised to guide the modern world into the future. And the future looks very bright.
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