Wednesday 29 August 2012

From both sides now

Six ear-pops and 124 floors up from the ground, this is part of the view from the world's tallest building (currently - Saudi Arabia is closing in on that claim). The fountain pond is virtually the only splash (ha ha) of colour in the whole scene, everything else being concrete or sand. Well, there is a surprising amount of green too, especially since it's all planted and artificially irrigated - but mainly it's the expanses of empty sand, both within the city and all around it, that dominates the view. It's a pretty stunning demonstration of how busy they've been here making something out of nothing.

The whole place is artificial, and despite the miles of manicured gardens, trimmed hedges and avenues of date palms, life here takes place indoors for the most part - well, with summer temperatures of 50 degrees, how else would you live? The Emirates man we dined with tonight talked about the summer the way we do winter: "It seemed such a long summer this year, with the kids cooped up inside the house." He took us back to the Dubai Mall to eat at a restaurant nearby, in the block connected by the bridge in the photo to the mall on the left. It was all very pretty, floodlit and with fairy lights twined all around the palm trunks, reflecting in the ponds - and throughout the evening, at half-hour intervals, the fountains perform to music, swirling and shooting up high in a very entertaining manner. And of course, it was very, very warm, even in the dark.

Today we did shopping: or rather, saw what shopping could be done here, which is a major industry. There was a cliche Aladdin's Cave of a warehouse market with dimly-lit narrow aisles crammed with handicrafts not just from here but from 27 countries - life-sized wooden camels, pretty glass lanterns, Santa Claus carvings, jewellery boxes, pashminas, carpets and framed scorpions and bats. Oh, and a diver's helmet and a pair of giant wooden clogs. Bizarre. And at the other end of the scale, fabulously expensive and occasionally fabulous-looking embroidered wall-hangings with gold, silver and jewels, silk carpets, huge copper tea pots, inlaid marble table tops, furniture made from camel bone... Kind of interesting, but easy to resist, though apparently most people drool over the variety and the prices. Meh. I'd rather have spent the morning in the desert being shown how to fly a falcon. Yes, the actual bird. Next time?

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