“Welcome to the city of contrasts, sandy dunes and skyscrapers, camels and fast cars, museums and shopping centers, welcome to Dubai”, says one of the guide books I bought in the city. However, the first impression are by far tall buildings and shopping malls and ever prevailing yellowish and grayish colors. At least in August.
Unbearable heat, beige sky
Dominant colors of the city during summer are by far gray and beige because of the heat and high humidity, along with the desert the city is located in. Even the sky is somewhat “beige-ish” (not blue). One cannot see the Sun clearly (although, you can surely feel it), and the gaze at the horizon always finishes off in some kind of mist with tall buildings peaking from within. The wide six-lane road (per direction) that stretches along the city, and streets around it – they are all gray, while buildings are made of glass and concrete in grayish or beige tones.
When the Sun peaks up and the temperature goes higher than 40-45 degrees Celsius – and your clothes sticks to your body moist and soggy in an instant – there are no people on the streets. They all escape to chilled spaces or they have gone to “more adequate areas” long before the summer has started.
From time to time the city gets hit by sandstorm. Then you see “the whole package” and the city goes ghostly empty. It so happened that I could not go out, sandy wind was blowing from all directions, only few cars were to be seen on the road, being white or black, and it has all disappeared in gray and beige tones once again. If you open the window, it’s like putting your head in an oven. Moreover, if the wind blows – add a fan to that oven, facing your eyes directly. And it gives you the creeps…
Magnificent city, despite all
The city was built by Emirates’ authority in a place that few could even think of – in a desert along the cost of the Gulf – and why not, if they have enough funds to support it. But one cannot help but think of SF scene… What will this city be like in couple of dozens, hundreds of years, when fossil resources go dry, when its “era” has passed? It did happen to great cities throughout history after all. Especially if they have sprung up in the midst of hostile environments… Just imagine, once “the biggest”, “the tallest”, “the most expensive” buildings would just peak from the sand?
Still, Dubai might surprise us once again and (regarding technology developments, investments, hiring experts from around the Globe), it might even alter the climate in this area. Why not? Because, after all, Dubai wants us to believe that miracles do come true, at least here they might.
Skyscrapers which rip the sky open and do not fit into camera lenses, modern buildings, impeccable subway… Small New York or Singapore, one could say, but on the other hand – in the middle of the desert on some corner of the Arab Peninsula. That is why one has to respect the effort. We get reminded that a human being is capable of great things and ideas, even in seemingly unbearable conditions.
Summer vacation in winter
Nevertheless, if you cannot wait for those couple of weeks of holiday and keep catching yourself daydreaming about sandy beaches, blues skies and the sea, even though it is still April – forget about Dubai! The city has it all of course: sandy beaches and the sea, bars and restaurants, palm trees and some sparse vegetation, but it is all utterly impractical during the summer (May to November). The level of heat and humidity is so high that no one wants to get stuck outside longer than 10 minutes.
If you thought that the sea might cool you down, think again. The sea is even hotter that it is outside on the beach. Shallow waters stretch for dozens of meters from the shore. It is more like a kettle filled with boiling soup than a warm bath. Due to the heat and evaporation or some other reason, but the sea is also too salty. Just try to dive your face in and open your eyes. Bars and restaurants which have their own terraces are useless during summer months, they either do not work or function indoors with air conditioning.
On the other hand, if you are among those who like to escape from Serbia or any part of Europe during winter, away from all that snow and minuses, Dubai is a great choice. Temperatures are more than pleasant, about 25 degrees Celsius, there will be some breeze, the humidity disappears from the air, the sea cools down, and the whole city goes down to the seaside, to gardens and parks which turn green and to those bars’ balconies that burst with all the variety of nations and languages echoing the city for decades.
However, there is one reason go to Dubai at any season. You have guessed it, it’s shopping. As soon as you land at the airport, you will notice that everything is subordinated to a consumer. Not only that those tax-free prices are advertised everywhere, being lower than anywhere in Europe after all, but also the problem of the uncomfortable climate is somewhat overcome. Taxis can be stopped in front of every hotel or you can just speed up to the nearest metro station, and you will be driven right to mall entrances. If you go by metro, have in mind that every train station is connected to shopping malls by well chilled air conditioned tunnel-bridges. You almost don’t get to feel the heat outside.
Shopping malls are totally adjusted to visitors and they include restaurants, ATM machines, supermarkets, amusement parks, bars… Everything you need during those hot months you will be able to find in shopping malls, or at least you’ll be led to go through them. Pretty clever having in mind that one’s eye gets easily caught up by various discounts. And perhaps, we were just walking through in order to see the tallest tower in the world on the other side of the mall. Well, perhaps.
(Published in September, 2014 in Serbian web portal BalkanMagazin)