Visiting Tall Buildings and Massive Malls in Dubai During Ramadan
Visiting Dubai in the UAE was quite an experience. One word that comes to mind for me is bizarre. For most of the time there I was just pretty fascinated by the city.
City of Epic Tourist Sites
Dubai is a modern city in the middle of the desert. There’s also tons of construction going on. It has epic tourist sites and massive buildings and malls. In Dubai, it seems to me that they want to have the biggest of everything.
They have the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa. And it seems they are building another tallest building outpace themselves.
They have the largest mall in the world. (Or so I thought, maybe it’s the second largest, but it is still massive.)
They have the largest picture frame building in the world. The Dubai Frame is a structure where you can take an elevator up, and see a nice view of the skyline — it was especially cool to see at night. And as you walk across parts of the floor are made from smart glass, which means initially it looks like a solid floor, and then it looks like transparent glass and you can see below. It really kinda spooked me even as little kids ran across it. It also had some interesting interactive art/video as well.
If there is something here, they do know how to create an interesting tourist attraction.
There is a recipe for tourist attractions wherever you go and that is to make it big and make it weird, and Dubai seems to know that.
They also have the largest natural flower garden in the world, the Dubai Miracle Garden. It’s a massive garden, and they have flower structures of elephants and cats and Disney characters, and my favorite… an Emirates airplane. Of course.
Ramadan in Dubai
It was extremely hot outside, really too hot to walk around, so it didn’t seem that many people were walking around.
To add on to that, it was also Ramadan, so most people were fasting during the entire day, so that made it even quieter.
Additionally, during Ramadan, you can’t eat food or drink out in public, whether or not you are Muslim. This means you can only eat and drink in special enclosed areas, so many restaurants throughout the day that were open were covered up with curtains even though you could go inside. I was surprised at how strictly this was enforced. I also didn’t realize how commonly I would eat and drink as I walk between places until it was prohibited.
Iftar is the meal that breaks the Ramadan fast, it seems there are many of these with free food. Also, along the lines of Ramadan, so many of the restaurants that I went to served the food with a special of a side of dates.
Mega-malls in the desert
Dubai has an indoor snow-ski mountain in a mall. Yup. It’s a hundred degrees outside and yet it’s thirty degrees in Ski Dubai. Another example of an epic tourist site: it’s big and weird. You get a ticket and they give you ski boots, ski’s and a jacket and snowpants, which feels strange because I was sweating and it was 100 degrees outside. Then you walk in and it is like you are in a mini snow globe (though it’s not snowing), but there are chairlifts and skiers. I talked a good bit with a Russian father and daughter who happened to be on the same lifts as me several times. It only takes about a minute to ski down, but even so, this is inside a mall.
And on the topic of indoor snow skiing, it sounds like there is another indoor snow ski development in progress.
Since it’s so hot outside, people are inside. You walk into the Dubai Mall and it is bustling with people. The stores are large, they are fancy, there are mostly major American brands. It feels like it’s a full city going on in the mall.
It was so big I got lost multiple times just trying to find my way around. There’s a zoo in the mall, next to a huge aquarium in the mall. It seems like going to the mall was a real activity, but not just for teenagers like it may be in the US.
Wandering a Dubai Mall is like wandering a Las Vegas casino. The lights are always on, it’s huge and they just want to keep you there all the time. It’s so big it’s hard to get out.
Dubai — Middle Eastern Melting Pot
It seemed to me very few people I met were “from” Dubai and UAE. It felt like Dubai had a sort of melting pot of countries in the region, and was a tourist destination. Just looking now up on Wikipedia, it seems the stats confirmed what I sensed while I was there. Emiratis are 20% of the population, which means UAE has one of the highest percentage of immigrants ( https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Expatriates_in_the_United_Arab_Emirates). This is another instance where Dubai surprised me.
It seems by being a relatively liberal location in the middle east it is a desirable spot to live, and it does have many people living there from other Western countries.
It seems that the jobs and economy were one thing attracting people to come from other countries to Dubai. It seems the investments in infrastructure and development have created an economic virtuous cycle for the area.
Historically, it seems the decision to build a large port in Dubai helped to create a global business hub, and initially oil revenue helped jumpstart what is now a more diversified economy ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dubai#Establishment_of_modern_Dubai).
But Dubai is quite a contrast to other Middle Eastern countries — -it has a modern and massive skyline. It’s cleaner. It’s Muslim for sure but seems they are pretty open to outsiders.
I had to make one other stop while I was visiting the UAE, driving down to Abu Dhabi to see Masdar City. I had heard about this years ago, somewhere on the internet, as some future “green city” in the middle of the desert. It wasn’t clear if the project really got off the ground, but it was very delayed. It seemed from researching online you could visit, so I went there. But there was really no one there. They do have these mini self-driving cars, that look like pod shuttles, and they are operating on every day and you can ride them except unfortunately the day that I visited. So this was a mini-let-down because I was curious to try that.
I think it’s a really cool idea, but it seems it is struggling so far. The marketing video and many of the marketing photos around it were much cooler than what was actually there.
So overall, I’m glad I went to Dubai. Many people I had met had told me they weren’t that into Dubai because it was just shopping and malls. They weren’t necessarily wrong, but I think it’s an interesting spot to visit.