Continuing from yesterday's post:
On our second day in Dubai, I awoke to the sound of super cars racing up and down the street outside our hotel. Believe it or not, in the land of wealth and excess, there are rare and exotic super cars are on every street corner. I rolled out of bed and walked over to the window and nearly forgot that his was our view:
After a few moments of awe, I cleaned up, got dressed, and thought I'd roam around our hotel and see what all it had to offer while Shelby got ready. Our hotel, The Al Manzil, was connected to a small Souk that included a florist, various gift shops, a sports bar, a little grocery store, and a Starbucks (which I didn't find until just before we left for Kenya).
For those that don't know a Souk is traditionally an open air market or commercial area in the middle east. Dubai is famous for it's gold, spice, and textile souks, and today we were going to take a couple of them in along with the Burj Khalifa!
So once Shelby had put her face and her respectful U.A.E. clothing on, we grabbed a cab and headed to the Gold Souk. Now I didn't take too many pictures around the souks because it was full of guys constantly walking up to you and trying to sell you various handbags, watches, silks, etc. Think of Chinatown times ten, or maybe even a hundred. Shelby and I were bombarded non stop and I wasn't too secure with pulling my big camera out and taking shots. But I did get a few:
It's said that at any given time the Gold Souk has an estimated 10 tons of gold for sale with in it. I totally believe that.
I'm going to go a little out of order here because we had to leave midway through our Gold Souk adventure to make our appointment for the Burj Khalifa, but I want to continue with when we returned to the Souks after our appointment.
We had the cab driver drop us off at the entrance to the Spice and Textile Souks so we could gander through them on our way back to the Gold Souk. The chaos over here wasn't anywhere near as bad, only the shop keepers pushed their goods on us. The air was full of thousands of smells and aromas, it was quite difficult to make out one scent before another one smacked you around and entered your nostrils.
This was where I was quickly introduced to the world of Iranian Saffron and how much of a crazy market it is. At times I felt like I was trying to by an illegal drug from the different shop keepers. Some kept it locked up, some kept it out but sealed, others kept it completely hidden, but always within reach was a nice scale and sealable plastic containers for when you were ready to make a deal. I left with about 20 grams, and felt like I had just scored some heroin from a local street thug. Saffron was almost treated better then gold.
The Burj Khalifa
So in the middle of our little Souk adventures we had to leave and head back downtown for our tour in the Burj Khalifa. We had purchased our tickets the evening before for 3:00pm because we really didn't think the Souks would take that long. Boy were we wrong.
I could go on and on with stats about the Burj Khalifa, but isn't that pretty much what Wikipedia is for? What I will say is this; Nothing can prepare you for it's height. The building is surrounded by other average size buildings, buildings that are the same height as those in the D/FW downtown areas, and they are all dwarfed by the Burj. It truly is awe inspiring.
I've been geeking out on The Burj Khalifa every since they broke ground on it in 2004. The concept, the design, and the majesty of it has blown my mind. I've watched countless documentaries about the design and construction of the building, and I've drooled over the chance other photographers have had when shooting photos from the very top of it's spire. In fact, just a few weeks before Shelby and I headed for Dubai one of my favorite photographers, Joe McNally, had a chance to to climb to the top and shoot from the absolute highest point of the Khalifa. I was extremely envious.
The tower is amazing, and is just another piece of Dubai that pictures and words do not do justice to. But here is my attempt at trying to pull it off.
I never really thought I'd have a chance to come to Dubai, life schedules being the way they are and such, but being at the top of the Burj Khalifa....well I got to check something off my bucket list. And that wouldn't be the only thing this trip....
After our visits to the Souks and the Khalifa, we made our way down to the other Burj, the Burj Al Arab.
The Burj Al Arab is the forth tallest hotel in the world, although some in Dubai will dispute that fact and say it is the tallest. They will also dispute it's mysterious "7 star rating" when the official hotel rating system only reaches 5 stars. No matter what, the size and mass of the building is pretty impressive, especially with it sitting on an artificial island.
You aren't allowed to go in or cross over to the hotel's island unless you have a room or restaurant booking. And since we didn't feel like shelling out $18,000 for a suite, we just hung out on the beach across from it and enjoyed the sunset, which was spectacular. We also dipped our feet into the Persian Gulf, which felt like a nice and inviting warm bath.
At some point around sunset Shelby and I realized that we hadn't eaten all day. That's what happens when you have two like minded people that just want to go go go all day long. We returned back to our hotel and partook in the courtyard restaurant and hookah lounge, and the food was fantastic.
After dinner we returned to our room where I spent a little more time shooting the Burj Khalifa before getting my bags packed and ready for our flight to Nairobi.
The next day was mostly last minute souvenir shopping and packing. Not a lot of pictures were taken with my big camera, but the iPhone was at the ready.
A few things about Dubai:
The one thing I'm asked constantly is, did you ever feel unsafe? I never ever felt that I was in danger or that something might happen to Shelby and I. I believe that the people of Dubai, for the most part, don't share the same radical beliefs as some of their counterparts in the region. Now I'm not naive enough to think there weren't some areas in the city where there might be some prejudice against us, but everywhere we were was fine.
This city is all about tourism and grand experience. It's a giant playground in the sand, like Vegas on steroids but without the casinos, at least I never saw any. Everyone I met was extremely friendly and nice, but its a culture of people that don't believe in small talk or idol chit chat. Get to the point of the conversation so they can go on about their business.
If golf, shopping, or architecture is your thing, then this is the place to come. I wish we would of had more time to really explore the main drag of buildings and shoot more of the architecture, but that's what another trip is for.
I really wish we could have taken a desert safari so we could do some dune bashing, but once again that's what another trip is for.
In all, Dubai is a beautiful city with a ton of stuff to see and do and I can't wait to make a trip back.
Tomorrow Part 3: Nairobi and the Wedding