A Miracle in the Desert. Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Back in the 80s (during my visits), Dubai was just sand, dust storms and not much to talk about. Almost four decades later, this emirate of the United Arab Emirates has transformed into an ultramodern, expensive, super luxurious, clean and choreographed, much admired and visited city in the Middle East. From the 830m-tall Burj Khalifa to the artificial offshore water and animal park resort Atlantis The Palm, and of course amazing luxury shopping malls, high rises and architecture, this country holds so many surprises.
I am here to see Sir Elton John perform at the Autism Rocks Arena, a popular arena for many celebrity concerts, which filled with over 8,000 die-hard Elton John fans.
The Rocket Man took the stage in a sparkling green jacket, matching dark-glasses, and personality that was larger than life! He rocked the arena for an unforgettable 130 minutes with all-time favourites like ‘I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues’, ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’ ‘Rocket Man’ and ‘Tiny Dancer’.
He got standing ovations for hits like ‘Crocodile Rock’ and ‘I’m Still Standing’. And he got another roaring applause for his dedication of ‘Your Song’, to his late mother who had passed away just a few weeks before.
Last but not least, he returned on stage for an encore of his heartrending song, ‘Candle in the Wind’.
What an amazing night it was!
And, Dubai was proving to be more than what I expected from a desert city.
Located about 40 minutes from the city centre in Dubailand is the Miracle Garden, a very befitting name for this extraordinary place. Known as the world’s largest natural flower garden, over 110 million flowers are displayed in the most picturesque way in over 72,000sq meters of land. Massive sculptures are carefully laid out in the most precise and perfect flower arrangements. From giant butterflies, to enormous ants, huge hearts, pretty posies, and a massive, life-sized Airbus 380 Emirates airplane, which is an award-winning masterpiece.
In fact, it is the largest flower arrangement to be recognized by the Guinness World Record. Amazing!
We spend hours walking and walking amongst these colourful petunias, geraniums and others, each arrangement prettier, larger and more colourful than the last. FYI, the Miracle Garden is open from October to April and remains closed from May to September when the weather turns to 40C.
Right next door is the recently opened Dubai Butterfly Garden – world’s largest indoor butterfly garden and sanctuary for over 15,000 butterflies from 26 species. Another beautiful masterpiece.
Synonymous with Dubai is the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building. Soaring over the city at an impressive 2,716 feet (828 meters) and boasting 200 stories (160 habitable), the $1.5 billion Burj Khalifa is twice the height of New York’s Empire State Building and three times as tall as the Eiffel Tower in Paris. It breaks other world records too: tallest free-standing structure in the world, highest number of storeys, highest occupied floor, highest outdoor observation deck, elevator with the longest travel distance and the tallest service elevator.
Did you know that the Burj’s appearance is based on a flower called the Spider Lily (Hymenocallis), which is native to southern states of America, South America and Mexico.
Right next to the Burj Khalifa is the Dubai Mall, a veritable shopper’s paradise. It has over 1,200-plus shops and 150 restaurants, an indoor theme park, an ice rink, a huge indoor waterfall, a choreographed outdoor fountain and the giant Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo. OK then!
Come dinner time and we are sitting at the edge of the Dubai Fountain, located at the base of the Burj Khalifa. And then the world’s largest choreographed fountain begins to sing and dance for us. This popular dancing water show jets water streams as high as 150m in the air. Each colourful, illuminated jet sways and dances in time to various musical numbers from around the world, producing what has become the one of the most popular shows in Dubai. Two showings occur in the afternoon (1pm and 1:30pm), except on Fridays (1:30pm to 2pm) and evening displays begin at sundown and take place every 30 minutes until the final song plays at 11pm.
The Dubai of today is a far cry from that of the 80s. This metropolis is clean, sparkling clean in fact, luxurious, expensive, state-of-the-art, and abundantly green…quite a feat for an oasis in the desert. No wonder, it has become a destination on everyone’s bucket list.
For more exciting things to do in Dubai, check out this link.