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Desert, Sun, Sea and Security - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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How many times have you visited Dubai? ”It’s my first visit!” A smile from the questioner insinuates that my visit came a little late and that I am not in touch with the development of such a thriving country that God has blessed. Dubai’s populace is made up of intelligent people whose blood throbs with knowledge and wisdom and who strive for the expansion of the country”s projects in order to place their nation within the higher rankings of the world’s most important tourist attractions and economically developed countries in the world, making it the center of attention for tourists all over seeking to enjoy its high international level services.

Dubai has been blessed with desert, sun, sea and security. These characteristics made it a rich shopping valley. Today, for every tourist in search of safety,

peace, fun, entertainment and shopping, Dubai should be the first place that comes to mind. One can move from the serene silence of the desert to the market hustle where all sorts of activities are available for Dubai”s visitors especially during the shopping month that starts on January 12th and lasts until February12th. It is interesting that this country presents tourists with a variety of ranging aspects, each different from the other, that all are guaranteed to satisfy all needs and desires that a tourist would wish for. Among these include spectacular views of the desert with its golden sand dunes, rugged mountains and luxuriant gardens. One can also experience diversity of living from the simple village life to luxurious compounds and from old traditional homes to the most splendid shopping malls in the world. This inconsistency decorates Dubai with a unique and characteristic beauty and with a flavor that represents a modern civilized look which is constantly changing thanks to the modern crystal skyscrapers and other development programs.

One of the things I liked most in Dubai was respect for the traditions and creeds of both visitors and local people. Women face no discrimination in their treatment and in fact, they fill most important positions in employment, surely a healthy sign on the road to social development and improvement.

When I stepped onto the grounds of Dubai’s outstanding international airport, I happily observed a beautiful green valley of palm trees filling the place with desert warmth on a pleasant landscape of colors and engravings of sand dunes.

This desert theme distinguishes the airport from any other confirming the description made by my companion Rob Wagner, an American journalist who believes it to be the most beautiful airport in the world. It is capable of hosting 14 million travelers a year and officials are working on increasing this capacity to 70 million a year. Two buildings at the sides of the airport provide services such as car rental, hotel bookings and money exchange services in addition to a free market at both the arrival and departure halls.

Adding to the enjoyment of my first visit was the Dubai shopping festival and the Bairum feast. I also benefited assisting in the organization of this festival and enjoyed watching the planning of the festival by those in charge who throb with vitality of youth and a passion for work, all resulting in the success of the 10th festival. There are many activities to partake in during the Dubai shopping festival, the most important of which are:

The International Village which consists of 17.2 square feet of land on which

46 countries, 54 restaurants and hundreds of companies stand. The International Village brings to mind the famous description of Dubai as the city of the world. One can find at every corner the main representations of each country, such as food, crafts and folklore songs. The area dedicated to India is the largest on the Village probably due to the large number of Indian inhabitants in Emirates. This area presents a range of products such as jewelry, carpets, incense, and home masterpieces.

One should assign at least one day to visit the Village in order to wander through its different parts and enjoy all the activities it offers for example comical theater and shopping. The different suites present the cultural and artistic activities that express its unique character and reflect the nature and environment of its people. Competition is obviously extensive through the designs and innovations reflecting the identity of each country.

The Village is extremely popular among its audience as 1.3 million tourists visited it during the first three days of the feast. Before visiting the village, I imagined the scene of a fun fair for the city but this perception was immediately changed when I saw the highly professional work, the outstanding designs and cultural importance that the city implies beyond being an entertainment village attracting tourists. Dubai was chosen to permanently host the attraction due to its easy accessibility from other emirates such as Abu Dhabi and Sharjah. The village opens its doors to visitors from Saturday to Wednesday from 4.p.m until mid-night and Thursday to Friday from 4.p.m till 1.a.m.

The Village of Antiquities.

It is interesting how the rulers and the people of the Emirates pay so much attention and interest towards their heritage, its preservation and showing it to others. One special archeological and tourist venue is the house of Sheikh Said Ali the entrance of the Gulf where the development of Dubai is projected. The house was built in 1896 and was considered the main office of local government. In addition to this, it was also main residence place for Sheikh Said Al Maktoom who was the father of Sheikh Rashed, the main engineer of modern Dubai. The house also includes an exhibition of a number of old copies of the Qur’an, pictures, drawings, hand made objects and paintings.

Marine trip

From the house of Sheikh Said you can take “al’abra” which are small wooden ships that take you between the banks of the River Khur, which divides Dubai into two sides. We recommend taking it to the material and clothes market at the area of Deira and A-sseif Street at the banks of Dubai. During the journey one can see a restaurant in a small building that used to be the first and only shopping mall in the area.

The journey is short but enjoyable. It provides the opportunity to experience the history of Dubai and the fusion of old buildings and the arts of modern engineering. The prices are as little as 10 cents per trip.

-Desert trip

This trip is very special. In the provided 4X4 one will enjoy various choices of programs issued by companies which specialize in this kind of tourism.

There are the afternoon safari trips that start a 3pm and take you for a journey across the intense sand dunes to Bedouin camps that prepare to host the guests for a one night stay in the open air of clear desert. In the early hours of

morning, a new journey starts through the camel hearths to the rocky areas where one will find valleys and lakes in which you can swim if the weather conditions permit it. After that, a meal is provided, cooked the Bedouin way before heading back to Dubai. For reservations, you can coordinate with hotels or tourist agencies such as:

Alfa Tours: 0097142949888 or

Desert Rangers Tours and Adventure Sports: 0097143402408

Dubai markets Dubai is considered the capital city for shopping in the Middle East. It includes a large number of huge shopping malls where you find all sorts of merchandise and international brand names at competitively low prices due to the absence of purchasing, export and import taxes. These shopping malls are:

-City Center: This is in the city of Deira. It includes 300 shops receiving 500 thousand shoppers daily. It is built on a 1.2 square feet area. Here on can find the most famous British brand names such as Debenhams and Woolworths as well as many other big names in the commercial sector. One would benefit more by visiting the centre during the shopping festival when shops cooperate with the festival committee. Customers are given coupons enabling them to enter a prize draw where one lucky winner could win elaborate prizes such as a Lexus car for example. These prizes are the largest in the history of Dubai Shopping Festival that allows consumers to win cars worth half a million Dirhams daily.

– Mercato: The name means “market” in Old Italian. The design is inspired by the European age of Renaissance in the Middle East. The shape of this mall is highly unique where one will imagine his or herself to be standing inside a museum of a charming Italian design. For those who dislike shopping, sitting on Mercato”s wide terrace offers a view of the sea where one can enjoy the warmth of Dubai at certain times of the year. This is in addition to the most important and expensive international shops and cafes which you may mistake for Florence or Pisa! The mall presents activities related to the festival for example musical shows, traditional games and other activities to suit every taste.

– The Night Souq: From the high standard shopping malls to night explorations in the streets of ”Al-Riqqa”, ”Al-Marqabat” and ”Al-Seif” where activities continue until midnight. You can also enjoy light meals at low prices and at the same time shop and have a nice time in the charming atmosphere of the festival. During the time of the festival, the Souq is open from 8.am to 3.am, Wednesday to Friday.

Note: Offering a lower price at shops is important and useful when shopping in Dubai. Whether at the Night Souq or at shopping malls, do not take the first price given. Negotiate with the seller until you get a price that suits the piece and your budget.

When heading to shopping malls or any other tourist area, check the city rush hours in order to avoid traffic jams that can get quite suffocating at certain points of the day, especially during the festival and the feast when many tourists and Arab visitors take their cars to Dubai.

Before leaving for Dubai check the weather conditions through television forecasts or by visiting www.weather.com to ensure that you have packed suitable clothing.

Dubai offers beautiful items such as carpets, gold, diamonds and all sorts of jewelry.

Places to Stay in Dubai

• The hotel sector in Dubai is internationally known for its outstanding hosting. Hotels and resorts enjoy incredible beauty relying on the unique modern architectural designs. Intense competition takes place in this sector to provide the best for dwellers through presentation and comfort in modern methods. The prices are suitable to different budgets. Some of the available hotels in Dubai are:

• Al-Bustan Rotana which is in the area of Al-Garhoud. It is made up of 275 rooms and 20 suites. It includes 7 restaurants, a swimming pool, a sports center as well as a service center for businessmen.

The hotel has a distinguished location next to the Dubai International Airport. It is an area of huge economic projects. Within close proximity are the

Yacht Club and Golf Clubs, which attract many businessmen to stay here.

For reservations please call 0097142820000

• Jumeira Beach which is located on the Beach Road in Dubai. It includes 551 rooms and 51 suites, a swimming pool, a sports center, and a service center for businessmen.

The hotel has a unique shape similar to that of a huge wave and is close to the huge Burj Al Arab hotel that is built in the shape of a sail. Together they represent the theme of the sea reflecting the color of the clear blue sky behind it. The palm trees add the final touch to this fascinating work of art, their shades falling on the old houses of Al-Jumeira city that combines the nobility of heritage with the view of the future.

The internal structure of the hotel depends on four pillars representing the elements of nature: air, fire, earth and water.

Despite the tranquility that the hotel secures for its visitors, it is still fit for family holidays with children as it is close to the Wild Wady center that is famous for its water games. If you are in search of absolute serenity you can reserve a villa facing the sea away from the noises of children at Al Jumeira Beach.

For reservations please call 009714348000

• Burj Al-Arab: as we mentioned before, the hotel is located in front of Jumeira Beach hotel and is considered a main symbol of tourism in Dubai. It is made up of 202 two-floor rooms, 8 restaurants, and a large number of reception lounges, a sports center, and a service center for businessmen.

The hotel is widely famous for its outstanding shape and its 7-star brand service. It is one of the most expensive hotels in Emirates. If the thought of the cost of spending the night here robs you of your sleep, one can still enjoy the experience as it is still possible to visit the hotel for a certain cost on order to enjoy its beautiful and unique design.

For reservations please call. 0097143017777

• Note: hotel room reservations in Dubai must be made well in advance before traveling to avoid the disappointment of unavailability as the hotel sector is 100% occupied.

Traveling and transportation in Dubai

It is very easy to drive in Dubai due to the new network of roads connecting it to the rest of the Emirates. If your stay is long, you can rent a car at car-rental agencies inside or outside the airport. There are directions on display boards in blue and green similar to those on the British roads guiding you to the main sites and areas of the city. Those carrying an international driver’s license can drive in Dubai. The cost of renting a car in Dubai ranges from 25 to 272 U.S dollars a day depending on the type of car.

If you do not wish to drive you can use cabs which work according to a Counter, are comfortable and relatively cheap. You can also use the local transportation buses, as there are more than 30 lines serving the main commercial and residential areas in Dubai. They work form 6 am to 11 pm.

Useful numbers:

Taxi cars: 0097142693344

Budget: 0097142823030

Thrifty: 0097142245404