Four decades travelling for business does not prepare one for the experience of a place like Dubai. A population of some 2.2 Million, only 15% of whom are local and 85% are expatriate guest workers makes for an eclectic mix. It’s a population that has doubled in ten years! It’s a city-state based on trade, which, in some cases, continues just as it has for centuries. This scene from the spice market reminded me how branding sometimes ends up in the most surprising locations and businesses. Conrad Hilton would be proud.
The bulk of those expatriate workers are from a variety of Indian sub-Continent and other South-East Asian countries. The financial and business centre draws people from all major business groups and countries globally.
Our hotel, The Four Seasons Jumeirah Beach, is opulent, with wonderful Emirati design touches everywhere. You only retire once in your life, so these four days are no expense spared. Bread and dripping awaits in the UK.
But then Dubai is reputed to be second-only to Geneva in the cost of hotel and restaurant accommodation around the world. Nearly all food is imported, so any western foods or restaurants are costly, to say the least. Sydney prices look quite moderate in comparison. And that’s saying something.
Cranes are everywhere. Jumeirah 2, our location, is constructing yet another artificial island to further extend residential possibilities into the Arabian Gulf. The famous Palm is already one of the new wonders of the world. Dust of the finest and most penetrating kind permeates the super warm 40°C midday temperature. I am surprised by the 50% humidity. I am taken by surprise by how much extra water one needs to drink to stay comfortable and hydrated. But at 10.00am the Peroni will have to wait, even for an Australian. The beach in front of the hotel is carefully manicured between two massive earthwork projects adjacent. They work 24-hours a day. Nothing in Dubai is done slowly. The world’s tallest building, the celebrated Burj Khalifa, at 829M, took just 5.5 years from start to finish. Some European cathedrals took four or five centuries.
Dubai is one of seven of the Emirates in the combined UAE Federation, which is as recent as 1971. Oil, first flowing in 1966 makes it all work. Dubai airport is now the world’s No.1 international airport; Emirates flies the world’s largest fleet of Airbus A380’s. There is an insistence, it seems on being first, biggest, best, most etc…
Day One of a four day trip inevitably means recovery from a non-stop 14-hour plane journey. The hotel pool has all the deluxe touches. Service with a smile from one of the sixty-two nationalities employed here is friendly and welcoming, a value for which the Bedouin traders of generations ago were and still are renowned. Lawrence Raj, manager of the Four Seasons SUQ restaurant tells me that this 6-month old hotel started with 40% of the staff from other Four Seasons hotel properties around the world, to ensure a consistent and high standard. That’s so evident here.
It’s not often such hotels find themselves with guests carrying pro camera gear and tripods to shoot night scenes around the building. I am greeted by Luis the Customer Service Manager, from Marbella, a seaside resort in Southern Spain, – who does not bat an eyelid and personally escorts me to the roof bar to ensure I am given every opportunity to record his hotel in the best possible light.
The same sense of welcome was provided by the Orient Tours guide from India, booked through Qantas Tours, who narrated our afternoon bus journey in both English and German, through Jumeirah’s mosque, the Spice Markets, the Gold Market and on an old fume-belching diesel wooden ferry boat across Dubai Creek. “My dream was to be a wonderful host to my guests. Dubai has given me that opportunity,” he says.
Dubai is an extraordinary sensation of smells and sounds that words and pictures alone cannot evoke. Despite the thin film of construction and desert-borne fine dust on every external exposed surface, the passageways and alleys around town are all meticulously clean.
Dubai: a day of fleeting glimpses and experiences, already very impressed.
(Note: Am still finding my way around the technical challenges of sizing and colour spaces for images in WordPress, all of which are too small and lacking in punch RGB files in sRGB space no doubt. Over coming weeks I will update and improve.) All feedback and guidance from others more experienced is welcome.