Follow contributing editor Ed Perkins as he embarks on a round-the-world "Joan Trip." (What's a Joan Trip? Find out in Take That Special Trip ... While You Still Can.) According to Perkins, "neither frequent-flyer miles nor people improve with age," so he's working off a bundle of miles seeing the world, combining places he missed over the years with some old favorites. Read the rest of Perkins' round-the-world-trip posts.
Welcome to Dubai—sort of; that's the way I felt on arrival. After the usual endless trek through airport corridors, my fellow arriving passengers and I were treated to a wait of more than an hour in the line for customs and immigration. Given that Dubai officials are interested in attracting more visitors, this sort of hassle is appalling. Dubai, of course, isn't the only culprit; the good old U. S. of A. often greets visitors this way. I'll have more to say on this topic later.
Once you get past the airport unpleasantness, everything works out pretty smoothly. My hotel's shuttle arrived as promised, and my accommodations in a so-called "budget" airport hotel were all that I could possibly want.
I enjoyed Dubai more than I expected. The idea of Arabs as mainly anti-American fanatics couldn't be more off the mark, at least in Dubai. The locals I encountered were uniformly friendly and they went out of their way to be helpful to anyone who looked the least bit confused.
After China, Dubai almost feels like home. All public signs are in English as well as Arabic, and just about everyone you meet has at least some knowledge of English. In fact, English is a de facto second language in Dubai, where many international corporations do business.
My overpowering impressions of Dubai are: hot and buildings. Mid-day temperatures are in the mid-90s during the current temperate season, and there are little or no breezes. Fortunately, the folks here know their climate, and everything is air-conditioned. Even the Metro station platforms are enclosed and cooled.
The skyline looks like a compilation of entrants in an architectural competition—including both the winners and the losers. High-rise office and apartment towers stretch for miles along the main thoroughfare, and many seem to have been designed to a "because we can" standard rather than for efficiency. Of course, there's that half-mile-high tower along the way, and it dwarfs what would, in other locations, be some pretty tall buildings.
Have you been to Dubai? Share your experiences in the comments.
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