Dubai Airport

March 19, 2011

I have seen some in my time but I think this one is a favourite. Airports that is. Not because it glitters (Changi does a better job of that) but because it is such a melting pot.  It gives true meaning to the word “exotic”. Two lads are trilling with excitement in the coffee shop where I am enjoying a latte. They are from India and are planning a canoe trip in Kazakhstan.  

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Abdulluh the Hutt – my Sudan Prebriefer

March 19, 2011

 The mood lighting has come on and I perceive through gritty eyes I have been asleep for about ten hours. That can’t be right. I fumble around and check the flight information and see we are only two hours out from Dubai. Though I also see the aircraft is located somewhere over Auckland, at 40,000 feet.  So apart from the occasional shift of butt to relieve numb buttocks, for which one barely surfaces, this trip has primarily been an unconscious one. It is one way to kill a 15 hour flight I guess. I was especially happy to discover this time lapse for Abdullah the Hutt is parked in beside me, overflowing onto my arm rest and shaking things up every time he wanted to shift his numb butt or go to the bathroom.

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Dubai Tarmac

May 16, 2008

dubai-tarmac290.jpgWhile the new airport is currently being built (a massive enterprise which we are all looking forward to seeing complete – the current airport crowds and bustle resemble the New Delhi railway station, not a first world air port) you can find yourself being shuttled to and from you aircraft by bus and walking to your aircraft. Which you might find inconvenient in 45 degree heat but which takes any plane spotters into seventh heaven as you are taken back to the smell of avgas, tire rubber, and the whine of turbines. All lost in the cocoon of modern airports

Dubai International Airport

August 31, 2007

This is something of a reunion and there is the air of the familiar as I transit through here. We landed at 5.30 am but time of arrival or departure seems to make little difference here since it is always crowded with transients. This is definitely a utilitarian hub, focused squarely on shifting people through. But in so doing we are all forced to walk though a quite remarkable duty free shopping centre. In actual fact shopping is probably the main reason for the existence of this hall. If you are ever looking for the definition of a melting pot, use this place as your template. Africans, many in their national dress, come in from the south. Those tall and elegant ones from the Horn of Africa seem to float through the shambles, regal in their bearing and not being reduced by the confusion. Groups of Russian men heading who knows where but all smoking their heads off (outside the smoking refuges) and slapping each other’s back in uproarious good humour. Arabs in all the variety of their dress, some completely covered, while others in Western hip hop fashion. A group of ten year old girls from Malaysia all asleep in a circle on the floor, their yellow T-shirts advertising their school. A very high number of workers from South Asia who are the most stoic of the lot, in small groups squatting with arms resting on their knees, watching through the forest of legs that drill past them. A squatting clutch of Korean men compare their visa applications. They look like construction or shipyard workers as well. And here too are the numerous Filipinos in transit to more prosperous times for their families, but via the hard graft of being exploited for their labour in this part of the world. Holidaying Brits and other Europeans make up a large part of the population, pasty skinned or fried and the duty free shops do a roaring trade with them. But it is the poorly dressed single men who clutch their papers, even (especially) as they sleep across the carpet and clutter up the walkways. Some of them snowy haired and aged. Many in simple attire, some in nothing more than rags. With sandals on their feet, rarely shoes. Some look lost, most have a resigned air about them. Where are they going? Where are their families? Are they leaving loved ones or heading home? How long are they away? (A porter in a hotel in Saudi once told me he gets home to see his wife and children in Sri Lanka once every six years!) What on earth do they make of the obscene wealth on display on the duty free floor below? What are their dreams? Do they have any dreams? Can you dream for something better when you have nothing? Or is that all you do? And that, after all, is what Dubai is about – dreams. Dreams of fabulous wealth for those who have nothing, and dreams of fabulous entertainment for those who have. And dreams of freehold real estate and more sunny days than rainy days per year for those who crave those things but who fall somewhere in the middle. This airport of course is only a mirror of what is being lived outside in the dusty 38 degree heat.

Dubai – Feet Vote it Better than Spain

January 29, 2007

If you copy and paste these coordinates (25° 5’22.98″N 55° 9’18.47″E) into Google Earth you will be slowly flown to a remarkable bit of coastline that, as the view sharpens up, reveals odd flowering appendages to the coast (hint: if you need to speed Google Earth up head to the general area of the Middle East and start the search from there). If you have a close look you will see these are an amazing collection of man made islands, designed in a couple of cases to look like stylised palms, while another, just becoming visible, is intended to look like a map of the world. From overhead at least.

These are in fact massive housing estates accommodating a huge collection of apartments and stand alone homes. The photo here shows the approaches to The Palm, taken from the beach in front of the Royal Mirage (I was only stopping there for an afternoon of Jazz, mixed by a backpacking Australian kid who will look back on this and realise he never had it so good!) which is a hotel story in itself. Just out of sight, to the left of this shot, massive ship borne dredges were pumping up sand from off the coast and pumping it in a long arc out onto the breakwaters, filling the building site as quickly as they could. Later as night fell the lights came on and thousands of flashing orange vehicle lights told us the project was a 24 hour operation. Dozens of cranes in operation, a constant stream of hundreds of cement mixers and other trucks. Teeming with workers from all over the world.

It is a bit hard to talk about Dubai without sounding like you are loading up your account with a load of hyperbole. But the fact of the matter is that this emirate is doing all it can to attract not only visitors but residents as well. Mind you the deals are so attractive that there are an enormous number of people from all around the world who purchase a residence in Dubai simply so they have somewhere to holiday – but in their own house. And while you might bump into Russians, Romanians, plenty of Saudis and the odd American or three, it seems that the Brits are the ones who are making this place their second home. Can hardly blame them when the year round climate hardly turns up a cloud – makes a big difference to being in Blighty. That and real beaches that knock Brighton right off. In fact, on one of my recent visits there, our trade commissioner noted that Dubai is now attracting as many, if not more English for their holidays than the number who travel to Spain. Not sure how true that is but when the local government allows you to buy freehold real estate for a fraction of what you pay at home it is pretty hard to resist.

As you head out of the airport towards the immigration folk there are numerous large advertisements pushing the attractiveness of buying up in Dubai. But if you prefer to do some homework first, before flying out there that is, this is a pretty good place to start. Dubailand