Day 13: Istanbul, Turkey, to Dubai, United Arab Emirates

by Oliver Smith

Here’s a fun game. Google ‘Dubai world’s largest/biggest/tallest/longest/most expensive’ and see what you find. So far I’ve found: tallest building; biggest swimming pool; biggest Ferris wheel; biggest automated car parking facility; most expensive cocktail ($7,450); largest guitar (35 metres high); longest zipline; longest stollen cake…

Dubai is a place where superlatives go to retire. So far we’ve seen skyscrapers the height of Himalayan mountains; air conditioning powerful enough to give you frostbite; eight-star luxury hotels with names like the Excelsior-Millenium-Paradise-Eternity-Plaza, hung with chandeliers the size of wrecking balls. It’s a town so packed with designer boutiques and spangling surfaces, we were never entirely sure whether or not we’d left the arrivals hall at the airport.  

Which begs the question: why should I go there? Isn’t it all about money spent for money’s sake? On a taxi ride through town we passed the tallest building in the world – the Burj Khalifa. But, this being Dubai, one day soon there’ll likely be a taller skyscraper – just as there’ll be a bigger Ferris wheel to ride; a bigger guitar to twang. And you wonder if the old ones might then seem a bit of a pointless waste of money, much like an impulse buy that’s gone unloved: a set of golf clubs gathering dust in the attic, or a home gym never taken out of its box.

The trick is not to think about things like this too much. Dubai has to be seen to be believed. It is a place with a lightspeed pace of change quite unlike any in human history – a whole city conjured out of the desert like a magic trick in just a few years. And it’s still growing. You might blink and find a new skyscraper installed at the end of your back garden. And it’s a spirit of extravagance that’s addictive. Within five minutes of arriving at my hotel room, I’d already scoffed the complimentary peanuts and used all the bubble bath in one go.

The day in statistics

  • Airplane rides: 1

  • Times nearly run over by a Lamborghini: 1

  • Temperature outside: 39C



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