Dubai: City where water dances

Casmir Igbokwe

Are you surprised that water could dance? Or that a hotel could be built on top of a sea? Or that a building could have up to 160 storeys?

Welcome to Dubai. This amazing city is one of the seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates. The other emirates are Abu Dhabi (the capital), Ajman, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm al-Qaiwan. Four-fifths of this federation, formally established on December 2, 1971, is desert. It has one of the most developed economies in Western Asia.

Right from the Emirates Airport, you begin to see beautiful architectural designs. Some buildings look like fish. Some look like a ship. The roads and bridges are not just smooth, they are a showcase for engineering wonders. There is a particular road said to have been constructed under a river. On top of that road is a rail track. You won’t see any water as you drive on. But your guide will remind you that you are driving below the sea level.

As you move on to the Dubai Mall, you begin to appreciate how responsible leaders turned desert into gold. In the mall are over 200 gold and jewellery retailers, over 70 global fashion stores and many others. The opening page of a booklet listing the things on offer in the mall says, “There is nothing else on earth quite like The Dubai Mall. Much more than one of the most spectacular malls on earth, it is a shopping, dining, leisure and entertainment experience like no other. With more than 1,200 retail outlets and an unmatched range of world-class attractions, it will delight, amaze and thrill you time after time.”

Oh yes! It’s thrilling, what with the world’s largest aquarium. This aquarium has the largest viewing panel on earth and  over 33, 000 aquatic animals.

Just by the mall is what these Arabian people call the world’s most spectacular fountain. Or dancing water, if you like. It performs at intervals of about 15 minutes. With soft music wafting across the landscape, it displays different acrobatics, suffused with the extravaganza of light and colours. This spray of water covers over 150 metres in the air.

Overlooking the mall is the tallest building in the world called Burj Khalifa. Opened on January 4, 2010, it is over 828 metres (2,717 feet) and over 160 storeys.

Some smart Chinese have cashed in on the craze by many people to take pictures beside the building. They will come and ask you to pose for photographs. Afterwards, you cough up 65 dirham (about N2,795),for one normal-sized picture while a slightly bigger one is 85 dirham (N3,655).

Despite the crises in most Arab countries, the UAE is quite peaceful and crime-free. At any of the tourist sites in the emirates, you find a large crowd of Chinese, Indians, Africans, Arabs, Europeans mingling freely without any fear of any attack, or even pick pockets.

Unlike some other Muslim countries, the emirates is tolerant of other religions. For instance, Christians practise their religion, but rather than Sundays, they worship on Fridays. Some Nigerians even distribute handbills for one crusade or the other.

However, alcohol is highly prohibited. If you must drink it, it has to be secretly. Woe betide you if you are caught. In case you see some cans of Holsten beer imported from France on the shelves of any supermarket, don’t be deceived. Look very well and you will see “non-alcoholic beer” written on it.

What you lack in beer, you gain in food. There are African restaurants run by Nigerians in many hotels in Dubai. And these foods are relatively cheap. A plate of semovita, wheat, garri, or amala, with egusi, ogbono, okra, bitterleaf, or even ewedu soup is 10 dirham (about N430). This comes with two big pieces of chicken, fish or beef (depending on what you want). Except you are terribly hungry, you will likely not finish the food.

Dubai is the destination point for many Nigerian businessmen and women. In Deira area are shops where you can buy things ranging from shoes, men and women wear, vehicle spare parts, computers and many others.

This is why the Nigerian community is rapidly expanding in this city. Many of our people there are agents who help in procuring visa, hotel accommodation and even container shipment and air cargo for their trusted friends and customers in Nigeria.

Those who wish to come and do the business themselves share hotel rooms to make it cheaper for them. There are hotels everywhere in Dubai. There are some affordable ones in Deira  that go for between N8000 and N12,000 per night.

For the super rich and politicians with mega bucks, there are many five-star hotels around. There is an outstanding one called Burj Al Arab. Some, arguably, call it the world’s most luxurious seven-star hotel. At 321 metres tall, it is designed like a billowing sail of a yacht and said to be the world’s tallest hotel. It has 28 storeys overlooking the Jumeirah Beach. Of course, some Nigerians come there to relax, the expensive rate notwithstanding.

Are you already salivating? Don’t worry. You too can visit there if you wish. Obtaining a visa won’t be much of a problem. There is no visa interview, for the UAE has no embassy in Nigeria. All you need do is to contact an agent there who will process the visa for you for about $200. The visa will likely expire after two weeks. Travel agencies can help here if you don’t know any agent in Dubai.

When you succeed in your travel plans, remember to take pictures beside the dancing water; remember to acknowledge that you got the inspiration here. And remember too that Nigeria can be better than Dubai if well managed.

Surely, Abraham’s blessings must be ours!         

Crowd watching dancing water

1 Comment »

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