Asia and Africa 2004-2005 travel blog

City of Gold

Dubai Baubles

Face Off

Dubai Creek

Sun over Dubai


Copyright 2005

David Rich 750 Words

D U B A I: C I T Y O F G O L D

Where's the best place to shop no matter what you're looking for? Some would opt for New York or London, Rome or Paris, but these are pricey choices no matter what you're looking for. More practical types might choose or But when shopping for cameras and computers, designer fashions and luxury cars, for diamonds and gold, forget the vagaries of internet bidding and ultra expensive European and American hotsy-totsy stores. Instead, if you're in the neighborhood, stop by the ultra-modern monument to raw capitalism where east meets west, where duty free emporiums for anything your heart could desire stretch forever with no need to bid and wait for shipping. Then recuperate from shopping until you drop while pampered by the world's most opulent hotel, the only seven star hostelry on the planet, the obscenely opulent Burj al Arab. The Burj rises like a spinnaker from the turquoise Arabian Sea in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, the shopping capitol of the Middle East, the City of Gold.

The multi-thousand dollar a night Burj hosts Russian oligarchs with bodyguards and slinky wives, coteries of Arabian sheiks and the best-heeled Westerners who appreciate solid marble with real gold trim and fountains to put Versailles to shame. Guests are whisked from the airport (among the world's ten busiest) in a white Rolls Royce to their two floor suites decorated in shades of sienna, Persian blue and yellow cream. Each suite opens into two giant reception rooms attended by a butler and concierge. But if you don't have a spare multi-grand a night, visit during the annual shopping festival from January 15 to February 15 when Dubai's normally expensive hotels can be had for something approaching reasonable, from $35 and naturally quite a bit up. It'd be cheaper to live there.

The city offers more expensive housing you can see from the moon. The two Palm Projects, homes for movie stars and famous athletes (sold out), are shaped like gigantic palm trees stretching five kilometers offshore into the crystalline Arabian Sea, adding 120 kilometers to Dubai's coastline. I didn't come to stay though I could have. Dubai offers freehold property and perpetual visas for retirees and investors, plus every modern convenience required by civilization, though alcohol isn't easy to come by. But I did without beer or wine or gin and tonics because I'd came to find the latest in laptops and digital cameras. Boy was I in luck. Merchants offer wares from 92 countries with over 2000 famous names, from Nikon and Sony to Gucci and Laurent, anchors for the dozens of upscale shopping skyscapers that litter Dubai. But for computers and cameras there's special streets with single-story stores stretching to infinity. It took me two days of just looking to sample a few dozen, leaving hundreds unseen and complete satiation with shopping.

There's plenty left to do when the shopping's done, from dhow races and desert rallies to free camel races Wednesdays through Fridays and indoor skiing at Souk al Nakheel, world class golf courses with greens fees to match plus the most extravagant gold souk and spice souk anywhere, fascinating for the casual tourist. I particularly liked the little ferry-dhows called abras for shuttling across the busy river for $.15 a ride. River sights range from fancy skyscrapers to ancient Arab wind-towers, their answer for the sweltering desert summers.

If you drop by Dubai: Dubai is a modern metropolis of almost two million people a seven hour flight from London and eight hours from Hong Kong. Many airlines offering specials fares to the Emirates.

The tiny United Arab Emirates unified in 1971 with nine percent of the world's oil, producing two billion barrels a day. The economy is bolstered further by a centuries-old tradition of world trade from Africa to Asia and Europe. The Emirates enjoy among the world's highest per capita income, over $20,000 a year, with an annual growth rate exceeding 13% a year with a fifty-fold expansion since its creation, a great place to invest and a better place to shop. For the annual shopping festival see The official currency, the Dirham, is pegged at 3.67 to the dollar which, with the dollars precipitous fall in the last few years, makes Dubai an even greater shopping bargain. Generally for Dubai shopping see,, and For 300 photos of the incredible Burj Al Arab Hotel see, amazingly,

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