Friday, 30 January 2015

Aquaventure, Burj Khalifa and the rest of Dubai... (Video)

How do you describe Dubai to someone that's never been to Dubai?

That is the question I simply cannot answer.... yet I'll try and convey some sort of semblance from my visit here.

Take everything you know and inject a healthy dose of steroids in to it. Actually that's it, I've just nailed it! Everything on steroids. Shoppings centres, motorways, cars, leisure activities, night clubs... the lot. 

The city boasts a myriad of Guiness World Records as its accolades. Most of which are easily viewable, including the worlds largest airport that we flew in to. The Worlds Largest Shopping Mall sits in the middle of town. The Dubai Mall was on our list of must visits. It's the largest mall in terms of floorspace, and is host to absolutely every shop and fashion label you can think of. But it was the other attractions that really caught my attention. For instance this huge dinosaur skeleton was just mooching about in one of the many vaulted atriums. In another was an equally big cascading waterfall with stainless steal sculptures diving downward.

However the most bizarre thing about the Mall is most evident from the outside. A large tubular shape sticks straight out of the mall, reaching skyward at an angle. Initially I didn't have a clue what it was until I remembered that here, in the middle of a desert, was a 1312 foot long indoor ski slope!

After meandering around the American Eagle store for some pants and numerous big label sports shops for some running shoes for my Sister we headed to the bottom of the slope for dinner in the Cheesecake Factory. 

After spending so much time in the Alps snowboarding, and not in an indoor ski slope in the desert, it was very amusing to see Arabs gliding expertly down the slope. It was funny seeing their classic arabic dress, the Thawb, trailing behind them like some sort of superman cape. I was itching to have a go and warm up for the coming winter season, but running a little lean on dough decided I'd save it for a more affluent time.

Drinking in Dubai is somewhat of a complex affair. It's illegal to drink, or be under the influence of alcohol on the street. Non-Muslim, foreign nationals can obtain a 'license to drink' (Not sure if this is only for Martinis, shaken and not stirred) which they must carry and then enables them to drink in specially licensed places, normally hotels, restaurants etc.

This rule applies to everyone, including tourists, however it's not strictly enforced. The hotels do not sell licenses, neither does the airport, but there have been stories where the police have been called to a kerfuffel in a hotel bar and then used this lack of 'license to drink' to book foreign tourists. So the advice is to not be openly drunk on the street and to avoid any interaction with police if you are.

So we set out to Barasti Beach bar after a few warm up drinks in the hotel. It is located at the end of the palm just as the trunk meets the shore, on the south side. A perimeter fence welcomes you as the bouncers check your credentials and either lets you in or not. Inside is a fairly upmarket far, restaurant, dance floor arrangement. There was a band playing on a small stage, disco lights and some comfy leather sofas and pouffes dotted around which we plotted on after getting a Belgian beer at the bar.

The spectacular backdrop of the Dubai skyline and the large stage on the beach really set this venue off. The high rise buildings are magically perched meters away from the sea, Barasti beach bar nestled in between. After a nice meal the music started down on the beach.

The beach was devoid of anyone dancing so I made it my mission to get it started! My Sister, Ellie, joined me and after a while so did a few other patrons. I was prancing about like the usual vaguely drunk Adam dancing to music.

I asked one girl where she was from. "Russia!" she replied, throwing her hands up and mimicking my silly British dancing. Throughout the night we'd have a little boogy and shout "Mother Russia!" while laughing hystericaly, I don't think she knew any much more English. I made weird connections where guys would ask me to get such and such a girl up to dance so they could hit on them. I obliged, pulling sullen looking ladies off of the leather pouffes and getting a macarana circle going. It was absolutely brilliant.

Until a big hefty bouncer came over and tapped me on the shoulder. Within an instant my Dad appeared at my side, he'd been dancing on the side lines but was suddenly in the thick of it. I went to the edge of the dance floor where the bouncer had been standing before coming in to the foray. He moved his head next to mine and half whispered, half shouted over the music... "When the next drop comes can you drag me in as well?!" It was so funny. I grabbed his big bulk and got him trying slut drops, on a beach, in Dubai. The whole evening was brilliant.

Some of the more conservative blokes didn't like my antics, but all I had to do was turn around and give a thumbs up to Mr Lithuania (as I'd nicknamed him) who was the biggest guy in the party. He returned the thumb and carried on dancing with his new lady.

So for a place regarded as strict on drinking, I managed four very hungover mornings after very good nights.

The Aquaventure waterpark was attached to the hotel we were staying in. It was really well put together with a lazy river circumnavigating it like a mini highway. Some of the rides were pretty daunting, including some very long straight chutes, one in particular that shot you through a tunnel surrounded with sharks!

The best by far was Poseidons Revenge. I'm not very good at heights and hate suspense so this was a real challenge for me. You basically climbed in to a perspex capsule that shut around you and waited patiently for the floor to literally drop away from you, sending you plunging to an unknown watery fate. I mastered it the first time but each time after that was just as scary as the apprehension of when the floor was going to disappear was a bigger scare than then actual water slide!

Next stop was the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa, sitting next to the Dubai mall and with some impressive fountains in a man made lake at its base. Over 800 metres high it is pretty massive. It even contrasts hugely against all of the other high rise buildings spread generously over Dubai.

Dubai is a mad mad place. It's a lot more Westernised than Jeddah, and consequently can feel a little less raw and more touristy, but its sheer opulence and extravagances are something to be experienced. The mix of all cultures remind me of a shipping terminal from a Star Wars film. If diversity isn't your thing you'll hate this place. But I love change, difference and try to be as open as I can about most things so I absolutely loved it!

Checkout the video I produced from my trip to the Middle East here

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