πŸ‡¦πŸ‡ͺ Dubai, the Golden City of Hybris

Diary Entry

It’s that time again. A big trip with our little son is coming up. The impressions of our long journey with little Leon through South America have already faded in our memories. Exactly a year ago we came back to Europe from Colombia. Today we are flying away again, back east. Our destination is Sri Lanka!

Before we get to the beautiful island in South Asia we have to make a stop. Most flights pass through a city in the Arab Emirates. We decide to spend a night in Dubai, relax during the flight and take the chance to see the famous city.

As with our trip to South America, there are some pitfalls waiting for us. Airport staff are on strike again, rail staff are also on strike and the streets are full.

Then the problem turns out that Leon’s children’s passport is only valid for 5 1/2 months instead of 6 months.

The Emirates employee wants to turn us away, but urgent and reassuring words help to get her superior involved, who even calls Colombo on our behalf and finds out that this formality is most likely not of interest. We can fly!

Our trip here almost failed because of a child’s passport

On the plane we meet another family who are just leaving for three months of parental leave in Australia. We are happy for them and take a few photos together.

When we enter Dubai we even receive SIM cards that provide us with free mobile internet for 24 hours.

Our hotel is within sight of our terminal. Only one street separates us from the accommodation. And yet we have to wait half an hour for a bus to come, which has to drive around twenty minutes before it can drop us off in front of the hotel. The city was built for cars.

Dubai was built for cars

It’s late and we urgently need to eat something. But because of the time difference and the excitement of getting to know a new country, we grab a taxi and go downtown again. If there is no heavy traffic you can be in the center in twenty minutes.

Of course, we have already seen many pictures of Dubai beforehand. At night this city is a sensation. We drive to the Museum of the Future – a large, illuminated donut to see this impressive building up close. Unfortunately it is already closed.

We admire the city briefly at night and take a taxi straight back to our hotel at the airport.

The next morning, after a sumptuous breakfast with a large selection from European, Middle Eastern and Indian cuisines, we set off back into the city.

We store your luggage at the airport.

Although Dubai’s airport is one of the most modern in the world, the luggage storage there seems like a makeshift storage facility organized by people who are interns or serving a sentence. I will be happy when I get our luggage back from there safe and sound.

People either have a shuttle to their hotel or a Ferrari to their apartment.

A train line runs from the airport to the sights in the center of the city. Luckily, because the city streets are mercilessly overcrowded during working hours.

At almost 53 kilometers, the Red Line is the longest route traveled by an unmanned train!

Few people take the metro from the airport into the city. People either have a shuttle to their hotel or a Ferrari to their apartment.

The train fills up anyway, with the cheap labor from abroad on which Dubai depends. A few stops behind the airport, the metro is already mercilessly full. We didn’t expect that. In the center we have to push ourselves out of the car. Nevertheless, the journey was cheap and faster than taking a taxi.

At the top of our list is a visit to the tallest building in the world (as of 2024), the Burj Khalifa. However, we don’t go directly there, but opposite. The Sky Vies Observatories are housed in a building near the tall tower. For a small, expensive fee we can see the Burj Khalifa at eye level, walk across glass floors and slide down a glass slide. For very special enthusiasts who are not afraid of heights, there is the option of taking photos outside without windows, secured with ropes.

The glass floor of the viewing platform in particular causes great difficulty for many visitors. It’s funny to watch people squeeze themselves to the edge and try to only put their feet on places that are guaranteed to be supported by steel.

Unfortunately, Leon misses the view of the Burj Khalifa. He fell asleep on the train and is fast asleep.

The metro station is advertised as “Dubai Mall“, so we walk along a long tunnel to see this huge shopping center with our own eyes. However, no sign said that we were walking through these tunnels for two kilometers. It takes twenty minutes until we finally arrive at the Dubai Mall via tunnels and corridors, bridges and shafts.

Ultimately, it takes so much time to get to the mall that we don’t have time to really look at it. We’re just looking for diapers that we can’t find and have to go back again. All the tunnels back to the metro, the train to the airport and hopefully finding our luggage that still exists. That takes time.

There are many people who are enthusiastic about Dubai. I’ve already met a few people who came here to work. I never understood the fascination. My visit to Doha gave me a glimpse of life in Arab cities in the Persian Gulf and I found it appalling. Dubai was way down on my bucket list. But many times in my life I have traveled to a country with my prejudices and left it surprised and full of opposite experiences.

But not Dubai. The country is hot and there are few opportunities to do anything outside. As a Muslim country, alcohol, partying and loose clothing in public are prohibited. Bars can only be found in hotels. The country derives a large part of its wealth from oil, but squanders it on senseless projects, such as several “Palm” or “The World Islands” and of course superlatives such as the Burj Khalifa, in competition with Abu Dhabi and other emirates.

Rich people, influencers and conspiracists emigrate to Dubai because they are looking for tax exemption and an escape from the system in their own country. They find an absolutist monarchy that welcomes them with open arms and makes them sign that they will never write anything negative about the royal family.

Whether women’s rights, freedom of expression, freedom of the press, climate protection: Dubai and the Emirates are still mentally in the Middle Ages and feign modernity by building modern buildings. A hundred years ago the city itself was nothing more than a small settlement in the middle of the sand. The West’s greed for oil has left the emirate so flush with money that the sheikh hardly knows what to do with the money.

The country thrives on the exploitation of cheap labor from Africa and Southeast Asia. Everyone needs a car to get from one place to another.

The money from the oil and the money from the exploited low-wage workers then ends up in the pockets of those who accept the tempting offer of a high-paying job in Dubai.

And they spend the money back in the country. Every activity costs a lot of money, be it indoor ski halls, aquariums, shopping centers or visiting man-made oases in the desert. Unfortunately, my observations in Dubai confirm my prejudices. I don’t need to visit this country again.

Leon, Sara and I are taking the plane to Sri Lanka, where we will spend a whole month.

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