Middle East, United Arab Emirates

Downtown Dubai -The Centre of Now

Middle East United Arab Emirates

Dubai isn’t a place unheard of. In fact, you’d be hard challenged to find anyone who hasn’t heard of it. This is the place we’ve come to associate with money, expats and bucket-loads of oil.

But what is Dubai really like? I really had no clue before working there, for all I knew the streets were laced with gold and the kids played with football-shaped diamonds. Picking up and reading through a Lonely Planet book really couldn’t prepare me for what I was about to face, a fantasy world like no other. And if I were to have just one night back there, there is only one place that I’d spend it.

Downtown Dubai.

Anyone who’s ever visited before will know that when arriving to Dubai, one sight immediately captures your entire attention. It is he mighty Burj Khalifa, a bulging 848m high skyscraper (the highest structure the world). It completely dominates the skyline and marks the Downtown district.

It’s unfathomably large! I actually had to angle my camera for a good few minutes to even capture the whole building. In honesty, it’s probably the most symbolic image of the Emirates. It represents their eager tenacity to become world leaders and to pave the way for the future. Dubai is basically the biggest, most colorful peacocks showing its feathers to the world. Who doesn’t love a bit of flamboyance?

The Burj sits atop the Dubai Mall, and for any Brits reading, just picture the equivalent of the Trafford Centre on a high dose of steroids. I got lost at least 10 times and found myself with a lot of carrier bags and an empty bank account. Slight mistake. From here, I was lucky enough to visit ‘At The Top’, the highest observation platform in the world (not for the faint-hearted). After battling through tourists who had the total inability to queue, which as a British man, is probably my worst nightmare, I finally got through to the elevators.

Being Dubai, these aren’t your substandard mall elevators. These are the third fastest elevators in the world that whizz you up 124 floors in a modest 60 seconds. Shockingly enough, you don’t really feel yourself moving. There’s a quaint little light show and the silent beauty of about 20 peoples ears popping; truly magical. When I popped out at the top, I felt lightheaded immediately when looking down. I couldn’t actually process that I was standing at that height, it didn’t feel possible- although I was also slightly hungover so I could attribute it to that.

Once you’ve got over the dizziness, the sights are unbelievable, and I was thrilled to find an outdoor viewing platform to snap a few photos from. Don’t worry, the entirety is covered by glass walls. Having done this both at day and night, I’d choose night every time. The lighting of the buildings and highways is spellbinding. If you have ever seen New York from above at night, this gives it some serious competition.

Next on the list had to be the Dancing Fountains, perched in an outdoor area below the tower. These fountains are able to shoot 22,000 gallons of water in the air at any given time with heights reaching up to 140m. But as the name suggests, the spectacle is choreographed perfectly to a set of music. The way they move to the songs is truly captivating and with a different song being sequenced every 30 minutes (from 6-10pm), you could be watching them dance to anything from MJ’s Thriller to Celine Dion. (True story: I saw a grown man cry watching these fountains, so don’t underestimate them!).

There were plenty of restaurants for my friend and I to sit and watch them from, including a Five Guys. Don’t make the mistake of my friend and get giddy ordering a burger with bacon. You’re not going to find any pork in the Emirates, and instead will get a very disapproving look from the waiter.  You may also want to avoid the mistake I made in ordering a cocktail as whilst my Daquiri was refreshing and fruity, it had zero alcoholic content. Cocktail really does mean mocktail here, unless you’re at a hotel or specialized club/bar.

If you’re ill-fated enough to only get one night in Dubai, make sure you cross these tourist-bad boys off of your list, and if you’ve got longer, then thank goodness because just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, Dubai can’t be conquered in a day.

Contributed by Jay Mariti