Dubai’s Malls: Where Money Can Buy Happiness, Or At Least A Walk In Air-Conditioning

Dubai is famous for its malls.  There are over 60 of them and they are immense.

While I didn’t see much in the stores themselves that surprised me and couldn’t find in New York City, the experience was amazing.  People in Dubai don’t go to the malls just to shop, they go escape the sweltering weather, socialize, eat and entertain themselves.

To lure credit cards, malls provide surreal attractions.

The Souk Madinat at the Hotel Jumeriah has artificial waterway that reminds me of The Venetian in Las Vegas.  Since it’s in Dubai, of course it’s bigger.

Go ahead. Shop like a winner.

The Dubai Mall has about 1200 stores.  There are towns a few miles from where he grew up with fewer people.  It has an Olympic-size ice-skating rink!  Hockey anyone?   If that isn’t enough to draw you in, it also has a four-story waterfall, a huge aquarium, indoor theme parks, and a fashion catwalk.   The aquarium is enormous and breath-taking with lots of fish that include stingrays and sharks.  It holds the Guinness World Record for the largest acrylic piece used in an aquarium.

The Wafi Mall has a glass pyramid, kind of like the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas.

I visited the Mall of the Emirates because I had to see its indoor ski slope with real snow.  When I first heard about this, I couldn’t believe that someone would think to build an indoor ski resort.  For me, part of the fun of skiing is being outside.

Ski Dubai features five indoor ski runs, of varying altitude, incline and difficulty.  I didn’t give it a go because I figured the skiing wouldn’t be better than in Switzerland, but regret not doing it.  They rent you everything you need, parkas, boots, skis and snowboards… I’m not sure if they rent helmets, but wouldn’t doubt it.

It was fun watching kids running around, playing in the snow.  The Magic Planet, a two-story arcade, was lousy with kids fresh out of school and high on sugar.  I had to play.

Another reason I went to the Mall of the Emirates was that I’d heard you can get outstanding coffee drinks at the Armani Coffee Bar.  It did not disappoint.  My coffee drink was amazing and unlike anything I’d ever had.  It was like a super-refined latte milkshake.  The interior lights continually change colors and the Armani interior was elegant.  No surprise there.

As I was leaving, I saw something that fascinated me, a donation machine.  It allows you to give toward food, the disabled, orphans, treatment, house appliances (?), zakat, alms, constant alms and penance.  Does it mean that you can, literally, pay for your sins?

Kicking Up Some Sand Dune Bashing In The Desert

I couldn’t visit Dubai without making a quick trip to see the desert.  On the way out, we passed a camel racing track.  Camel racing is huge in Dubai.  The season runs from late October to early April so we weren’t able to catch any races.

Dubai received bad publicity for the abduction/enslavement of boys for use as jockeys in camel races (the lawsuit was dismissed). To avoid using child jockeys, at least in part because of the inherent danger of the jockeying, Dubai now uses robot jockeys.  They look pretty sweet.

A visit to the desert isn’t as peaceful as you’d think. The desolate Sahara this is not.  We dove out the busy highway connecting Dubai to Abu Dhabi.  It is also a dangerous road; driver’s have to watch out for high-end sports car’s flying down the road.  I heard that you have to constantly be on the lookout for them coming up behind you and they expecting you to get over.  You also have to be on the lookout for camels.  As all camels in the United Arab Emirates are privately owned, hitting one, even if by accident, exposes the driver to massive fines, restitution and jail time!

In the distance you can see a bedouin village. They now pitch their tents and sit on rugs inside air-conditioned buildings.

What I did out there, dune bashing, wasn’t exactly peaceful.  It was exhilarating and tons of fun.

We followed a caravan of Toyota Land Cruisers out to the Arabian Desert.  Our guide told us these were the best vehicles for desert driving, although they continue to test new ones every year.  You might catch a glimpse of the test vehicle in some of the photos.  Once we were sufficiently far out and had deflated our tires for the desert driving, our guide pressed play in the CD player and gunned it.  I loved being thrown around the sand with the music blaring.

The sand differs in each Emirate. The redder sand blew in from another Emirate.

It was great fun and I was even able to sneak a glimpse at the sun setting over the stunning sand dunes…when sand wasn’t splashing on the windows.

After a couple of stops to take in the beautiful scenery, aka photo ops, we piled back into the Land Cruiser and headed toward our “Arabian campsite” for a sunset dinner.