Dubai is a city that is literally being built overnight. People are working furiously to construct highways, public transit systems, and some of the worlds' tallest buildings around the clock as highway signs point to destinations that have not even been built yet. Even taxi drivers are still learning where everything is located.
I began my journey in Dubai at the Madinat Jumeirah Resort. In need of a cocktail after the 14-hour long-haul flight from Atlanta, the hotel feels more like a mini-city than a place to rest your head. The concierge and valet run around feverishly to illustrate their level of efficiency and hospitality as I enter the property. The resort is the definition of opulence as I see man-made waterways transporting guests to various parts of the Arabian-styled "super-hotel." Complete with two boutique hotels, grand courtyard summerhouses, a traditional souk, and a wealth of restaurants and nightclubs, it's spread as far as your eyes can see.
Intent on exploring Sheikh Zayed Road, the famous street is actually a 7-lane highway that cuts directly through newly constructed downtown Dubai. Some of the tallest and most uniquely designed buildings in the world line can be found here, along with an incomplete high-speed monorail hovering 40-50 feet above the super highway. Eventually, it will provide public transportation to all of Dubai and neighboring cities, an ambitious yet essential task to ease the ever-worsening traffic that is quickly becoming a staple of the city.
I enter the Four Points Sheridan, which is a 45-story colossal building that actually seems petite in comparison to its neighbor, the 170-story Burj Dubai (the tallest building in the world). The roof deck is the most amazing part of this hotel, with a never-ending infinity pool and a Caribbean inspired bar that has pina coladas and margaritas down to a science.
Yearning for a taste of traditional Middle eastern culture, I decided to drive to the Eastern shore of UAE, which is bordered by the Sea of Oman. Once you are 15-20 minutes outside of Dubai, you quickly see how under-developed this the city-state was just 10-15 years ago. There is nothing but desert on all sides and the only sign of civilization is the occasional carpet dealer on the side of the highway.
After 2.5 hours, I reached the town of Dibby, which has only 2 hotels. The rest of the town is a mix of fish markets and falafel restaurants with a population of approximately 1,500. The main attraction is the public beach, a vast swath of sand are cluttered with abandoned cars, washed up artifacts and unique photo opportunities. I took a camera and a journal with me and was able to spend the entire day without the least bit of boredom.
If you decide to take a trip to Dubai, I strongly recommend seeing many of the amazing sights that have become symbols of this modern metropolis. However, a small day-trip outside the city has the possibility of opening your mind to the unpredictability and the simplicity of this once quiet coastal sheikdom.