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Dubai, The Desert City

"It is 'the Vegas of the Middle East' or 'the Venice of the Middle East' or 'the Disney World of the Middle East', if Disney World were the size of San Francisco and out in a desert." ~ George Saunders

sunny 37 °C


My first day in Dubai, I walk from the hotel to the train station. My first experience of the Dubai sun left a white line on my shoulder of where my handbag strap was. A perfect white line, surrounded by red itchiness, reminds me: You're in the desert now.

Everything in Dubai is bigger and better. Even the sun is hotter here. Dubai is always growing, always improving and expanding. If you can build it, Dubai will build it bigger and much better. Landing in Dubai, the heat gets to you immediately. It is early in the morning and still dark outside, but a temperature of well in the 30s is already burning down on the desert city.

The United Arab Emirates, consists of 7 different emirates. The earliest mention of Dubai is in 1095 AD, but the earliest recorded settlement was only in 1799. By 1833, the Sheikhdom of Dubai was established when Sheikh Maktoum in Butti A-Maktoum took 800 of his tribesmen to the Dubai Creek. The area around the Creek was where Dubai really started growing. The area around here is the older part of Dubai and dusty streets and older mosques can be observed in this neighbourhood. Most of the 53% of the Indian population of Dubai, also seem to reside here and exploring this part of Dubai, makes you feel like you just stepped straight into India.

1. The old neighbourhood of Dubai


Dubai built their economy on oil, after it was discovered there in 1966. Dubai is a global city with such a diverse population. Local Arab Emirati’s only make up about 17% of the population, which means that they do get first pick when it comes to jobs. The rest of the population consists of about 53% Indians, 16% Pakistani, 9% Bangladesh and 3% Filipinos.

Indians and Pakistani’s all seem to be taxi drivers or construction workers. Shop workers, cashiers and waiters all seem to be Filipinos. It is my guess, that the very rich children of the Emirati are not going to work as a cashier or shop girl, as they don’t need to. As most local Emirati seem to hold the wealth in Dubai, who will do these jobs for them? The thousands of foreigners, of course.

Today Dubai has moved away from being an oil economy, as the quantities of oil found in Dubai would not have been efficient to establish this city. It has moved to a Western type economy and gets its wealth from tourism, real estate and financial services. It is also famous for its skyline with some of the highest buildings in the world.

2. Difference between Dubai today and in 1990

With just 20 years of development, Dubai has change into a massive cosmopolitan city. With the main road of Dubai being just a single road a few years back, it is now a wide highway, with no signs of a desert in sight.


3. The Burj Khalifa

Burj means tower in Arabic, so The Burj Khalifa is thus the Khalifa Tower. Khalifa was the name of the president who bailed the tower out in the time of economic crisis. At 829,8m (2,722 ft), the Burj Khalifa really towers out over the Dubai skyline. It can almost be seen from everywhere in the city. This massive beacon of Dubai engineering, with 163 floors, dominates your view every day. The Burj Khalifa is the tallest man-made structure in the world. The Burj includes residential space, office space, restaurants, bars, clubs and the world’s second highest swimming pool which is located on the 76th floor.


4. The Dubai Lake Musical Fountain

Right outside the Dubai Mall, which is the world’s largest mall, is the Dubai Musical Fountain. The Musical Fountain is also situated at the bottom of the Burj Khalifa. It is the world’s largest choreographed fountain system. It is set inside the manmade Burj Khalifa lake. 6,600 lights are used with water that can shoot up 275m. It is accompanied by a range of music. Performance times are 1pm and 1:30pm, and then every 30 minutes from 6pm until 10pm, and on weekends from 6pm until 11pm. Each show is different and lasts about 3 minutes.


5. JW Marriot Marquis Hotel

The tallest hotel in the world, is the magnificent JW Marriot Marquis Hotel in Dubai. The hotel is a 77 storey twin tower, skyscraper complex. It features a magnitude of restaurants, bars, business centers, conference halls, as well as massive 3,700 m2 spa and health club. The hotel is 355 meters high.


6. Dubai Marina

The Dubai Marina is a district in Dubai which is situated along a 3km artificial canal. Along the canal, there are residential buildings and villas, as well as many restaurants and shops. This is a quiet neighbourhood with residents jogging along the canal, people dining and watching the water, and dinner cruises taking place on the canal with brightly coloured boats.


7. Dubai Bars and Clubs


As Dubai is an Islamic state, pubs and bars that you would normally see in a Western country is not the norm here. A bar or a club must be connected to a hotel to serve alcohol. Thus, the prices for drinks in Dubai are skyhigh, just like its famous skyline. Here are some of the nice bars I visited while in Dubai.

Connected to the Le Meridien Mina Seyahi Beach Resort, is the Barasti Beach Bar. A wooden deck extends onto the beach, which some soft beds located on the sand. The bar is very small though and drinks may take a while to order when it is very busy.

We also visited The Irish Village, a massive pub which is connected to the Tennis Stadium. It is located in the commercial area of Al Garhoud, a residential and commercial district. The Irish Village was built with Irish craftsmanship and with building materials shipped from Ireland. The venue is outdoors with live music creating a great vibe.

On my second last night, I went to the Armani Prive Club situated in the Burj Khalifa. The bottom 39 floors of the Burj Khalifa house the Armani hotel. The club is very expensive and to get in our names were put on the list by a friend. A lot of girls, and a lot of prostitutes are dancing around in small dresses. The music was really good and dancing the night away was fun here. The club only starts to get packed at about 1am, which is strange as it closes again at 3am.


8. Jumeirah Park Beach


Located in the Jumeirah district of Dubai, this white sand beach stretches along the south coast of Dubai. There are many resorts and hotels located along the beach. The Palm Jumeirah is also located along this stretch of sand. For everyday beach-goers you can go to Jumeirah Park, pay 5 dirhams, and walk onto the beach through there. Here you will find a small wooden deck built on the beach where you can buy take-away food including burgers, sandwiches and salads. There is also a juice bar. We rented a big umbrella and three deck chairs, all for the price of about 60 dirhams, which seems very cheap. The water is nice, with ’n big waves and you can swim comfortable. The water isn’t packed. There are signs up that ask beach-goers to please support customs and wear swimming clothes that cover more the thighs, for men, and a one piece swimsuit, for ladies. This is of course ignored as all the girls are in bikinis. The mix of the Middle Eastern and Western worlds in Dubai can be seen on the beach, with girls in bikinis providing a stark contrast to women fully clothed in their black abaya and burqa.


9. Dubai Records

Dubai is a record breaking place everything being higher, bigger and better than the rest of the world. This is remarkable if you take into account that a few years ago this was all mostly desert. A total of 110 Guinness World Records are held in the Emriates. Here are some of the records currently held by Dubai:

1. Burj Khalifa: This building, standing 829m high, holds a few records on its own, including Tallest Building in the World, Highest Residential Apartments, Most Floors in a Building and many more.
2. Largest Shopping Centre: The Dubai Mall spans 548 127 m² and can house about 1200 shops.
3. Longest Driverless Metro Line: The longest fully automated metro network at a length of 75km.
4. Tallest Residential Building: Princess Tower at 413.4 m high.
5. Tallest Hotel: The JW Marriot Marquis with its 77 floor twin buildings and at a height of 355m.
6. Largest Indoor Ski Resort: With a total area of 22,500 m² covered in 6000 tons of snow, Ski Dubai offers 5 ski runs, including 1 advanced run, and a 3000 m² Snow Park for tobogganing and sledding.
7. Largest Automated Parking Facility: This parking facility located at the Emirates Financial Towers spans over 27,606 m². It is completely automated and can support 360 cars/hr. at a maximum speed of 1.25 m/sec.
8. World's only 7 star Hotel: The Burj Al Arab, formerly also the world's tallest hotel. The cheapest rate for one night in this hotel is 1800 dollars.
9. Largest Artificial Island: The Palm Jumeirah is a group of artificial islands built of the coast of Dubai which houses hotels, condos and resorts.
10. Dubai Fountain: The biggest fountain that can shoot water the highest at a height of 275m.

Posted by Anja Fourie 09:08 Archived in United Arab Emirates Tagged beach subway sheikh dubai uae emirates heat burj_khalifa jumeirah jw_marriott burqa abaya emirati Comments (1)

Hi Seoul! ~ The Soul of Asia

First real visit to Seoul and my birthday in Itaewon

overcast 18 °C


It is still cold out, but not as drastic as two weeks ago. Spring is finally settling in and my hands are freezing less and less. Today is the day I make my very first trip to Seoul. My first time using public transport in Korea as well. Still without a phone, I have to rely on a little map of the subway I tore from a magazine. This does get me to Bupyeong station where I meet my friends. From here on, people who seem much more adapt in navigating things like subways, take over to get us to Seoul. We arrive in Myeongdong late afternoon and meet more of our friends there.

South Korea has an excellent metro system, the Seoul Metro. I live near Dongincheon station which is the first stop on the Rapid Line. This means that there are two trains leaving form Dongincheon station. One to your left and on to your right. The train on your left is the slow train and stops at every station on the way to Seoul. The train on your right is on the Rapid Line. This train only stops at every third or fourth station. It is called the Yongsan Rapid as the train does stop at Yongsan station. The Rapid train takes approximately 45minutes to Yongsan while the slow train will take about 60minutes. From Yongsan you can take a taxi for as little as 4000won to for example Itaewon if you do not feel like transferring to another train.

1. Tea in Myongdong, Seoul

2. Wandering the busy streets

3. Galbi dinner

4. Animals in Seoul ~ Very often you will see promotion people dressed up in animal suits.


5. Bosingak Bell Tower

While walking back from the restuarant to get a taxi, I spot a building in the background. The group is in a big rush as we are on our way to a club in Itaewon. I quickly pose for a picture. This is the Bosingak Bellfry. It was built in 1396 to notify the residents of Seoul of the opening and closing of the city gates. Every morning it would ring 33 times at 04:00am. The 33 signifies the 33 cheon (Heaven) of Buddhism. In the evening the bell rang at 7:00pm for 28 times for su (the stars). The building has been destroyed many times by fire, Japanese occupation and the Korean war. The actual bell is preserved in the National Museum. A replica was installed in 1985.

Today the bell is not rung daily anymore. There are New Years parties held here and every year at the strike of midnight, the bell will be rung 33 times. During this time, the area is so busy and so popular that the station closest to the bellfry is closed. The train simply passes it and does not stop for any passengers to get off.

We make our way to a taxi, get in and soon we arrive in Itaewon. The two areas are very close to each other. It is much more cheaper by train, but will take you a little while longer as the taxi is quick and direct. The club that we are visiting is called Helios. Entrance is paid for by one of the boys, we conveniently check our coats in at the entrance and we are ready to go. When the clock strikes twelve, I also celebrate my 23rd birthday in Seoul!

6. Birthday Time!

7. Awesome birthday cake from my co-teacher

In other news, a friend took me to traditional Korean dinner in that week. The food is so much that it feels like no one will ever be able to finish it. This is what an ultimate traditional Korean dinner looks like.

7. Traditional Korean Food

TOP TIP: Get a Seoul Metro App on your phone as soon as possible. If you do not have a smartphone or no phone at all, print out the metro system. This will come in very handy when navigating the subway as you will have to get off the trains and transfer many times.
I RECOMMEND: Metroid App for Android. Or, get the printable maps here.

Posted by Anja Fourie 22:21 Archived in South Korea Tagged south_korea seoul subway korea incheon bosingak seoul_metro itaewon myongdong galbi dongincheon yongsan express_train rapid_line Comments (1)

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