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Notes on the Geography of The U.A.E. (Dubai): Dubai

First impressions of a city made for money.

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The U.A.E. (Dubai): Dubai picture 1

Begin with the sureties.

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The sand once continued to the sea, but here the old coast is improved by the artificial waterway of the West Side Marina and a fury of residential construction.  The view is west, toward Jebel Ali Port.

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Looking inland from the same highrise vantage point toward a sandy plain and what is euphemistically called the Emirates Hills neighborhood.

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Looking east toward the trompe l'oeil tower of the Hard Rock Cafe, whose windows fool the eye into seeing a much taller building than actually exists.  On the right, the Emirates Golf Club.

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Looking to the eastern horizon, with the Sheikh Zayed highway on the right and in the distant left the iconic Burj Al Arab.  Dubai proper is 15 minutes straight ahead along the higihway, assuming you avoid the long rush hour.

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Closer to the city: serious highrises along Sheikh Zayed.

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"Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!"

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Talk about cultural appropriation.  If you're tired of Mercato-style pseudo-Italiana, how about a Thai-owned hotel?  Sawassdee.

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Zipping along Sheikh Zayed street.  What's missing?

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Landscaping, silly.  Presto!

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Commissioned by the ruler of Dubai and designed by Tom Wright of W.S. Atkins, the Burj Al Arab is a commanding structure, even if you deplore the hype.  The floor plan is a V, with rooms along the arms and a concrete spine at the base, facing the water.  On the land side, a teflon and fiberglass sail closes the gap of the V and creates a 600-foot-high atrium.  The upper-level circular platforms are a restaurant on the water side and a helipad on the land; one critic has compared them to votive offerings, presumably to Mammon.

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The lighting at night changes color a couple of times a minute. The structure rests on 250 piers sunk 150 feet in sand.

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What have we here?  On reflection, you'll see that it's an architectural model of another hotel.

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But what about this? Real or model?  Hard to tell. (It's the real thing.)

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Behold the front side of Mina A' Salam, the "boutique hotel" (that's what they say) that constitutes the first stage of Madinat Jumeirah, a project of (surprised, are we?) H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

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Hostile as you may want to be toward a project that says its "concept is one of 'old Arabia' in a totally luxurious context," it's hard to knock the staircases.

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Behind the hotel, the Mina a Salam itself, the "harbor of peace" with its own well-behaved dhow.

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A new souk takes shape next door.  You'll be disappointed if you go looking here for the sheep guts that you'd find--all white, wet, and twisty--in a real souk.

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Anyway, what is there to do when it's scorching hot outside, you don't need to watch your sheep, and you can't gamble?  Here's the answer in the form of the Deira City Centre Mall, which has an adjoining hotel and is very close to the airport.

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Carrefour.

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You might be fooled if someone said you were in Singapore. For a minute, anyway.

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A nice reminder that you're not.

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What's the underlying attitude that equates feminine beauty with looking hurt and respectful?  Somebody in an ad agency knows!

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Tired of malls?  What about this?  Rub your eyes.  Wonder if the photo somehow got misfiled?  But stroll a bit.  

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Are we in Italy?  If so, why all the fancy lighting?

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Anything fishy about the middle building?

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Yes, yes. "Many a time and oft in the Rialto you have rated me...."

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You've figured it out?  Of course: it's the Mercato, designed by a bona fide Italian (Daniele Morelli).  It's in Jumeirah, described by Lorimer a century ago as "45 date branch huts... inhabited by... mixed tribes who are all fishermen and own among them 5 camels, 60 donkeys, 45 cattle and 200 sheep and goats."

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The mall has 247,000 square feet of GLA or gross leasable area.  The project was financed by or through (who knows?) Abdul Rahim Al Zarooni, a local property developer.

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The mall axis.

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Count on it: the supermarket here is better than yours.  Among the choices: haram products for the many, many, many non-Muslims in Dubai.

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The Mercato by day; the tower has been pinched from Giotto's duomo in Florence.

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From the outside, the project occupies a superblock.  The Italian facade is maintained on all four sides. 

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Across the street, a most peculiar housing development.

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Scores of identical single-family houses.

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The inspiration seems to have been powerhouses from the 1920s.

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A bit less cutting edge: the beach is only a couple of hundred yards away.

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By 2004, when the picture was taken, dredging had created Palm Island, where thousands of yet-to-be-built apartments had already been sold.

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Keeping an eye out from next door. 


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