I had just moved from Russia where the tallest things around were the gold-coated domes of the cathedrals that shot up like mushrooms from the hustle and bustle of the Russian population below.
Image Assumption Cathedral, Yaroslavl, Russia. Andrey via Flickr.
When I first arrived in Dubai at the age of ten, I remember having to pause, look up, and take a deep breath. It was such a stark contrast to the life I had known in Russia. Not only was the humidity overwhelming, but I could scarcely grasp how massive, shiny, and elaborate the architectural buildings were around me. The hot Middle Eastern sun reflected off the buildings creating a sort of kaleidoscope of light playfully jumping around the city.
Image Burj Al Arab. Helicopter view of Sam valadi via Flickr.
My first experience inside one of these architectural masterpieces was at the age of fourteen when my friend from school rented a suite and had her birthday party/slumber party at a famous hotel. The inside of the Burj Al Arab is exquisite with synchronized water fountain shows, massive aquariums, high class dining, and two-story suites that are elegantly furnished.
Suites have a concierge on every floor and rooms are equipped with doorbells and intercom systems to ensure the safety and convenience of the guests. While I only spent a short time at the Burj Al Arab, I was enchanted by the architectural superiority this building possessed over anything my teen mind had seen before.
The Burj Al Arab is one of the most elegant, luxurious and popular hotels in the world. The cost of one suite could range anywhere from $1,000-$15,000 per night where the most expensive suite charges $28,000 per night. All of these suites are two-stories and have a winding staircase that allows travel between the living spaces on the first floor to the bedrooms on the second floor.
This exquisitely dreamy hotel is a visually stunning architectural gem masterpiece built on a man-made island resting in the waters of the Arabian Peninsula. The Burj Al Arab is marooned as it is as a way to escape the laws set in place that do not condone casinos on Islamic land.
The ruler of Abu Dhabi who is the “president” or head sheikh of the U.A.E. would not allow a casino in the hotel and so the large space is now a colorful and spacious ballroom. The Burj Al Arab also has an exclusive bar called the Skyview Bar, which sounds very James Bond, located on the 27th floor and a helicopter landing pad that not only hosts the helicopters of guests but has also accommodated world famous tennis players like Roger Federer and Andre Aggasi. A tennis court suspended high, high in the sky is fantasy stuff that is hard to top, literally.
Image Skyview Bar. (top) Paolo Rosa (bottom) Andrea Mann via Flickr.
The hotel guests can vary from a group of ladies visiting for tea or a celebrity stopping in Dubai on his/her world tour. The Burj Al Arab was built to mirror the look of a sail on a boat which complements another hotel a mile or so away called the Jumeirah Beach Hotel built in the shape of a wave.
Image Jumeirah Beach Hotel. David Jones via Flickr.
My second experienced with architectural splendor Dubai has to offer is the Burj Khalifa, a multi-use, commercial real estate development building. My most memorable experience here was last year when my entire senior class took an excursion to the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world.
We all dressed in white and gathered on the first floor of the building reading information on touch pad boards before shuffling off into groups and taking the elevator up 124 floors. We pulled out cameras and phones and took pictures with friends on the observation deck of the building while looking out at a miniature version of Dubai below.
It was a certainly was one of those indelible moments as I took time to reflect on our last year in high school before graduation while enjoying one of Dubai’s most impressive landmarks.
Image looking down at fountains at Burj Khalifa. Guilhem Vellut via Flickr.
The Burj Khalifa, not to be confused with the Burj Al Arab, is the tallest building in the world standing 2,716.5 feet tall. It is three times the size of the Eiffel Tower and is twice the size of the Empire State Building. The building is used for commercial office space, residential living spaces and also hosts the Armani Hotel. The Burj Khalifa takes the title of countless records, one of which is that it has the longest unobstructed elevator that goes up 140 floors. This awe inspiring structure was not erected easily as 22 million man-hours were put in with around 12,000 workers working on the building every day. The Burj Khalifa’s total cost was around a staggering $1.5 billion and was opened to the public after six years of work in 2010.
(Image Burj via Khalifa Wikipedia Creative Commons)
The third majestic creation I want to introduce is the Palm Island Jumeirah, which consists of man-made islands in the shape of a palm tree. My home was not near to the Palm Jumeirah and so I had never ventured out onto the islands until I met one of my closest friends who had a house on one of the palm fronds. This place holds special memories for me. Of waking up at her house one morning, walking a couple steps into her backyard and then finding myself standing in the water of the beach with sand between my toes. Seriously surreal and out of wordly. We sat in her backyard looking out into the beautiful water at the next frond across from us as we ate hummus and bread for breakfast. Sublime.
Image Wingsuit Flying over the Palm Islands Dubai. Richard Schneider Via Flickr.
The Burj Al Arab, the Burj Khalifa and the Palm Jumeirah are three of the many wonders Dubai has to offer. When I used to drive down the main highway in Dubai called Sheikh Zayed and into the Marina area, buildings of many shapes and sizes appear like giant mountains in the distance. It is miraculous to compare the Dubai of today to the Dubai twenty years ago that resembled a desert with a building or two rather than a growing metropolis emerging from the desert.
The Burj Al Arab, the Burj Khalida and the Palm Jumeirah are vital to the image of Dubai to the outside world as a nation that values ingenuity, creativity and advancement and are symbols of pride to the local Emirtis and foreigners alike who call Dubai and all it’s wonders, “home”.