Sunday, November 25, 2012

United Arab Emirates Part II - The Burj Khalifa, Dubai

Burj Khalifa, Dubai (it's the tall spindly building to the right)
The Burj Khalifa, otherwise known as the world's tallest building, is pretty freaking amazing.

According to Wikipedia (my foremost resource in all things), it stands at 2,722 feet. That's pretty damn impressive.

To go to the observation deck, you must...absolutely tickets ahead of time. And to book sunset tickets, it's advised you get on that about two weeks in advance. You can book online, which is advised, and it's 100 dirhams (about $27). But it's 400 dirhams ($108) at the gate if you don't book in advance. 

The entrance to the Burj is actually in the Dubai Mall. You're going to want to get there about 10-15 minutes before your allotted enter time, because you're going to stand in line and (of course) go through security. But - don't worry - they have built this added waiting time into your scheduled tour time. In fact, it will take you about 30 minutes to get from the entrance to the observation deck but this time can be considerably shorter if you get there on the early side so you don't have to wait in the massive line.

They do give you nice things to look at while you're waiting in line, such as this beautiful sculpture thingy.

You're going to wait in line for awhile, and there will be tons of signs with interesting facts about the construction of the world's tallest building. In fact, you may start to feel as though the building is selling itself to you, even though you've already paid $27 (or $108 if you failed to plan accordingly, shame on you, world traveler!) to wait in line to take the world's fastest elevator to the observation deck. You will learn how many individuals helped to build this building (approximately a baquillion), how much money it cost (the weight of Saturn), and what a great architectural feat the whole thing was (I've got nothing...because it is).

So, you wait in line, then you crowd into an elevator that delights with dazzling lights and music and a super-smooth ride for about thirty seconds. And then you're there - on the observation deck of the tallest building in the world, and your first sight when you step out onto the open-air deck is....

The Dubai mall, from which you've just come! 

And the slightly sobering knowledge that you are not, in fact, at the top of the world's tallest building, but merely the public observation deck. I felt slightly jilted. I WANTED TO GO TO THE TOP.

Still, the view is pretty spectacular....

Mah feet.

The World Archipelago islands, Dubai


The Gentleman and myself, enjoying the view
It's interesting to note that there is, actually, a gold ATM located on the observation deck floor, for all of your gold needs. I'm not kidding - you put in some money, and out comes a little gold charm. I was disappointed. Had there been gold bars disbursed, I might have bought one. Or - oooh! - gold coins! I could collect them and then I could pile them up and swim in them like Scrooge McDuck. RICHES!

The Burj was definitely a touristy experience worth doing. The view is beautiful, but it's really only of Dubai proper because what's outside of it is, well, nothing but desert. And while the heat is tolerable and the light delightful at sunset, don't expect to see a fantastically striated sky. The mix of humidity from the Persian Gulf and dust from the desert creates a near-constant haze that will mute any semblance of a true sunset. If you get lucky on a perfectly clear day, I'm told (by The Canadian Lebanese) that it's incredible, but those days are rare.

And then, when they finish building the Tower of the Sun in Ecuador, you can go visit that and say HA, Burj Khalifa, you're NO LONGER THE TALLEST! If you were so inclined.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The United Arab Emirates, Part I

I got back from the UAE 10 days ago. Epic fail on the blogging.

But, lemme tell you, it's taken me this long to recover.

First off, because I had to go back to work and do all those real-world things that up and smack you in the face post-vacation. HERE IS YOUR REAL LIFE, PAY ATTENTION TO ME NOW!

How rude.

It's also taken me a bit to process things, because the UAE is a country unlike anywhere I've ever traveled. I had thought that our trip to Jordan last year might have prepped me, it being the in Middle East as well and all, but the fact of the matter is that Jordan and the UAE are as different as...well...a quaint historic New England village and Vegas.

That's an entirely accurate metaphor, by the way. Except that in this Vegas, alcohol is illegal, as is showing your cleavage. Imagine that.

After 30 hours of traveling (DC to Boston to Heathrow to Abu Dhabi), I arrived and within the hour my long-distance boyfriend and I found ourselves in the most romantic situation I could imagine after 30 hours of travel: on the couch watching Parks and Rec with duty-free wine and delivery sushi. Because when you travel (more than) halfway around the world to see your significant other, who happens to live 7,000 miles away, it's crucially important to maintain routines.

I have never in my life been as jet lagged as I was during this trip. I've traveled in and out of all different kinds of time zones, but this one was a whammy because it's an awkward 8-hour time difference coupled with the fact that Daylight Savings Time occurred back in the States while I was overseas. My body desperately wanted to go to bed at 4am and sleep until noon. Apparently, when you travel through 8-9 time zones, your body retros back to your college years.

So I spent most of the first five days of my ten day trip being alternatively hopped up on caffeine or completely out of it. It does help that it hasn't rained in the UAE in two years (TWO FREAKING YEARS) and so it was nice and bright and sunny. It didn't help that one of us was completely weirdly jetlagged and the other was not.

Yet another thing they don't tell you about extreme long-distance relationships: when you do finally have time to spend together, one of the two of you will be jet-lagged to all hell.

Long story short, I've got some pretty awesome pictures and stories to share with you. But it's also the day before Thanksgiving, so excuse me while I go and stuff my face and drink lovely things with family and friends for a couple'a days. Then, I PROMISE, I'll be back with you to share more.

Also - blog is undergoing construction again. Only this time, it's gonna be awesome. Totally.

Happy Hour snack at Jumeirah Towers - cabernet and a mezze platter by the Gulf.