I rarely travel with expectations; it generally only leads to dissappointment, but of course we wonder what the destination we are headed for might be like. Being a relatively new internationally occupied country I had visions of Dubai being rather like the pristine parts of Florida I had lived in; water sprinklers keeping expanses of lawn fresh, gated communities manicured and tended to by bowing and scraping Indians who work to provide for families back home, and a well heeled beach crowd dripping with sun oil, flaunting Versace swimsuits and Prada flip-flops.
It’s not quite like this, and even though this notion is far from my vision of utopia I honestly think I would have preferred it. That will teach me. Instead we were greeted (greet is used loosely) with a city that has not being granted any foresight from it’s creators. There has been no evolution of space here, just a landscape dominated by skyscrapers severely lacking in character, built in haste for profit and little else.
The view from Marina Quay West across the harbour bears a resemblance to Fritz Lang’s ‘Metropolis’ and when lit up at night it’s certainly a sight to behold. But I can’t help but think that place holds very little positivity for the world at large. It’s carbon footprint must be massive considering the amount of consumer activity that is an integral part of life in Dubai.
Massive billboards straddle the six lane superhighway promoting the benefits of spending; happiness equates more shopping and this happiness can be found in one of the many malls across the area, of which probably the most famous is The Mall of the Emirates where you can nip into Harvey Nicks, go skiing, grab a movie and dine out; all under one big daylight robbed ceiling; lovely.
Joe and I take a stroll to the beach the evening before our departure. We are struck once more by how soulless the area feels, few people smile and the boardwalk seems to be more for showing off the number of shopping bags acquired from yet another mall visit, than a place for strolling along and enjoying the surroundings.
But of course, that’s part of the problem here. When 35 storey buildings mark the edge of land, rather than the land itself, how can one escape the dominance of money? Only here would a group of off-shore islands called ‘The World’ be developed; it seems somewhat appropriate and yet frighteningly metaphorical, that they are sinking.
There is nothing small or humble about Dubai; from the ghastly pink Atlantis which guards the entrance to the other island creation ‘Logo Island’ to the 7 star Burj Al Arab, this city in the desert screams of shallowness and the obsession with status is prevalent at every turn.
As we head back the loud growl of a bright yellow ferrari punctures the sound of the waves breaking on the man made beach. It cruises around the car park on the edge of the boardwalk (another prime example of atrociously poor planning), it’s blacked out windows shielding a driver who is clearly showing what he is worth.
Joe and I look at one another and laugh.
“Come on,” Joe says to me, “let’s get out of here and get to India.”