Dubai, beyond the mirage
Innovation is its flag and wants to be a first-line tourist destination. This urban explosion in the middle of the desert, capital of one of the seven United Arab Emirates, is reaffirmed through a young and multicultural population that explores new artistic paths. Everything seems possible in the place where luxury is lived without complexes.
Land of dreams without limits. Strategic Enclave Bridge between the Arab and Western world. Paradise of the architectural extremes. Before traveling to Dubai I read a lot (maybe too much) about this unlikely city, flooded with dazzling skyscrapers They stand insolently in the middle of the Arabian desert, where the police drive Lexus RC F and Bugatti Veyron. And I wonder if I will be able to meet her without prejudice.
“Be responsible with what you write about her”Lantian Xie, a 28-year-old Dubaiti artist who, he explains, belongs to the creative movement which begins to give its own voice to this place. “Give Dubai time. It's taking off, you have to wait and see what it becomes, ”he adds.
At first, it seems almost impossible to resist the energy transmitted by the capital of the homonymous Arab emirate, where everyone seems to have a story to tell. Most of them, though, do not go back a long time ago - it would be almost impossible in a city that began to conform as such at the beginning of the 19th century- and usually deal with how it ended up being part of this corner of the Persian Gulf.
The natural reserve of Ras Al Khor © Álex del Río
The Emirati make up approximately 15% of the population and the expats, who were not born here, speak enthusiastically of Outdoor life, opportunities, cleanliness and safety. Here, they say, it is possible to leave an iPhone 6 on a bar table and have someone come to your house hours later to return it to you.
Tell tales few can tell (Tell stories that only a few can tell), says a sign in the Dubai Mall, a huge shopping center with incense aroma full of luxury stores which includes, among other things, an aquarium, some Galeries Lafayette and the Level Shoe District, More than 8,900 square meters dedicated only to shoes. Under this slogan the image of the Burj Khalifa, the tallest residential building in the world (828 meters high), at whose tip the attractive crown prince of Dubai was perched in style, Your Highness Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, aka Fazza, to celebrate that the city will host the World Expo 2020. Here, the princes perform these and other feats, and Fazza, who is a rider, diver and paratrooper, picks them up on his Instagram for his 2.9 million followers.
And is that Dubai It could well have been invented by a child's mind. In this gigantic amusement park They don't seem to be discouraged by anything. Is the beach sand not thin and white enough? It brings another. No islands at hand? They are built (the Palm and The World artificial archipelagos deserve a separate report).
Olga wears embroidered jumpsuit by Zuhair Murad and jewelry by Anton Heunis © Álex del Río
Countless works, authentic architectural wonders, are made day and night; the streets are transformed with open eyes, almost always with gleaming mirrors on the facades, which reinforce the underlying idea that everything here is a reflection of something. The last straw? Definitely, Falconcity of Wonders, a megaproject of more than 371,000 square meters which, in theory, will come alive in a couple of years and that will house replicas of the Egyptian pyramids, the Eiffel Tower, he Taj Mahal wave tower of Pisa, in addition to shopping centers, sports facilities and more than 5,500 residential units.
Another fantasy worthy of an overflowing imagination, the Burj 2020, will take shape in a few years as a district with seven towers and a built area that covers almost the double the size of the Rockefeller Center from New York. Is such hyperdevelopment reasonable? Is it even viable? As punctual visitors, it is not up to us to value it. And, why fool ourselves, it is much more fun to get carried away by collective enthusiasm.
From our car we can see the Dubai Marriott Hotel Al Jaddaf, a luxury hotel that, we commented, seems to be in the middle of nowhere. Our driver, Rafeek, a native of Kerala (India), contradicts our impressions. "It's a good location, one of the best in nothing." In the background a new urban provocation is drawn: the Frame, a museum on the history of the city in the form of a framework through which visitors can walk through a glass floor 150 meters high.
The Burj Khalifa was built to break records. © Álex del Río
Dubai has grown superlatively in the last 15 years and expects to receive 20 million annual visitors to the Expo, to be held under the motto Connecting Minds, Creating the Future (Connecting minds, creating the future).
“It's not just about having a vision. Here they have had it and they are implementing it, ”he emphasizes Ricardo Fisas, President of the Spanish Business Council, an organization aimed at strengthening business and cultural ties between Spain and the United Arab Emirates, and CEO of Natura Bissé in the Middle East. He explains that, recently, they told him in an interview with Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Governor of Dubai, who should be proud of what he is creating, as his children and grandchildren would see him. He replied: "Make no mistake, I want to see it".
Time (and almost everything else) is gold here, and much of the charm seems to reside in this bold lack of complexes. Fisas shares with us another anecdote: “A French companion told us that in Paris, for example, if you want to access the more exclusive luxury, it's hard to book it, they look you up and down ... This is not here at all. ”
High level, everywhere © Álex del Río
Agree, Living here is expensive. The rent of a one bedroom apartment in a more or less good area is around 7,000 dirhams per month (about 1,740 euros). And yet, there is a real brain drain from European and American countries in this direction. Maybe it's because of relatively easy to find work in a place where everything is to be done and everything is done in a big way. Not to mention that leisure time has signs of constant vacation.
The expats they are delivered every Friday with diligent hedonism to imported brunch ritual, a four-hour celebration in which (yes, yes) you drink alcohol, there is live music and delicacies like the umm ali, a traditional dessert that was formerly made with leftover bread from the previous day, milk, raisins and pistachio. “You can go out every day to a different place, without repeating”highlights Francy Torres, a Colombian hairdresser who has lived in California, but is left with the growing love of the Dubaites for the kitesurf and the organic coffees. Something of American spirit has the thing. He drives everywhere, although for those who do not enjoy the peculiar style of local driving (the opposite of the proverbial Emirati hospitality), there are two subway lines as bright and efficient as the rest of the services.
During the summer -from May to October-, thermometers can reach 48 degrees, and life is done indoors (and with a jersey, to resist the powerful air conditioners). “The ideal temperature is at seven in the morning. At that time you see a lot of people on the beach doing sports, ”says the Spanish Sandra Farrero, Director of Marketing and Communication at Madinat Jumeirah, the endless resort where we stayed. It consists of Al Qsar hotels, with a more elegant spirit; A'Salam Mine, perfect for families with children; Y Give Al Masyaf, formed by houses of two heights that hide an inner courtyard with a fountain. In this, the uncomplexed dubaiti luxury it translates into going barefoot in the morning from your room to the Beach or your private pool, with the certainty that a butler is taking care of everything. It is ideal to go unnoticed (which is an advantage if you are Michael Bublé, one of the illustrious clients), but with the opportunity to enjoy everything available in Madinat Jumeirah. For example, its own souk (souk), which you can reach in open (traditional boat) furrowing some artificial canals. The resort will add a fourth hotel in September 2016, Jumeirah Al Naseem.
Swimming pool at Dar Al Masyaf hotel © Álex del Río
In front of the private beach of Madinat Jumeirah stands the Burj Al Arab, one of the few hotels with 7 stars of the world, with its iconic candle shape. Its silhouette is hypnotic when it lights up at night and I admit that, although it gave me a first impression like cardboard, earns majesty over short distances. If you practice paddle surf, very fashionable here, you can see a turtle in its vicinity.
The sunset will bring you the picturesque evening image of Dubaitian couples chatting and pushing baby carriages, they sometimes chatting under the niqab and sporting sneakers. Another unforgettable postcard is the skyline seen from the nature reserve of Ras Al Khor, a wildlife sanctuary where they are grouped flamingos on an urban profile That looks like a mirage. At nightfall - suddenly, at half past five - it is worth going to stores for Box park, a succession of illuminated cubic constructions of colors and full of flirty cafes and shops frequented by Emirati. The eyes accustomed to traditional dress distinguish origin and social category through twins or necks on the kandura (male tunic) or ribbons on the gutra (handkerchief) while teenagers with skinny jeans and heels under the abaya browse garments of local designers, interspersed with the most trendy of the international scene in concept stores how Urbanist.
Entrance to Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum's Palace © Álex del Río
The same aesthetic and cultural combination can be enjoyed in international restaurants as the bistro Frioul, at Madinat Jumeirah Souk, where the evenings end in a peculiar tower of Babel: the impressive rooftop from Pacha Dubai, one of the best rooftops for a drink with people of all nationalities. Before, it is worth getting carried away while enjoying a fusion of Mediterranean and Arabic cuisine at dinner-show Ziya. The Chilean sea bass is impressive and the Show, which moves the Spanish totem concept to the codes of the Arab world, is inspired by the surrealism of the film The imaginary of Doctor Parnassus and on the trips of Ibn Battuta, a legendary explorer born in Tangier.
Those who seek to enter the most real side of Dubai usually visit the restored historic district of Al Fahidi or Al Bastakiya, in the southern area of Dubai Creek, to often get a disappointment: its ultrahygienized appearance Remember a theme park. To overcome this feeling, you must cross Dubai Creek (the river) in Abra: it is one of the most pleasant and economical experiences (one dirham, 25 cents) provided by the city. On the other side, you can eat for 20 dirhams (4 euros) in authentic places of Pakistani, Arabic, Korean or Indian dishes.
One night at the Qbara restaurant © D.R.
The walk through the bustling spice souk He is obligated to understand today's Dubai and serves as a real-life reminder away from the bubble of luxury hotels and shopping centers. In a quick approach, the visitor confirms that the city is actually two cities: that of luxury and that of workers, who live here or even more outside the frame, in the mountains and the desert. The immigration It is the engine that is said to be 'the cleanest city in India'.
In the other souk, the gold one, we listen to the prayers of mosques and we see shoes piled up at his doors. Sellers ask for attention for their extravagant pieces of jewelry and the smell of oud is omnipresent. Although it is another, the coal and spices, which summarizes the identity of Dubai. This is what Tuomas Heikkinen, chef of Raffles Garden. In the kitchen of this urban oasis, to which the Emiratis approach to have privacy and smoke shisha in one of their individual stores, 15 different nationalities are mixed and prepared traditional arabic recipes: to share and more spicy what a chili. “It is a privilege to be part of a culinary scene that develops at high speed. A new concept lands every week - the Finn points out. Young, vibrant and international people give character to this city, where there is no fear of creating. ”
Lebanese food in the Khaymat Al Bahar of Madinat Jumeirah. © Álex del Río
In an attempt, they say, for ceasing to be considered a soulless shopping destination, Dubai Strong commitment to art and design. And, if projecting an image of success is the first step to achieve it, they do it like nobody else. Just visit any of its official websites, such as the one on Culture or that of Dubai Design District or D3 to verify it. Taking a look at the latter and reading how much written about its potential led us to think that everything was happening there.
We attended the launch of an online platform, Creatopia and, in truth, we run into a still ghost town that, they assure us, will be breaking molds in a few months. I wonder if it's possible (pre) make a neighborhood like this and get it cool. One of the participants in the event, Al Sharif, Managing Director of Dubai Media City and Dubai Studio City, answers me. A decade ago he was questioned about whether the city was ready for the two agencies in which it works. "Since then we have had about 8,000 requests to film and great productions such as the Fast & Furious saga".
Latian Xie, Dubaiti artist © D.R.
"We must be proud of our origins, no matter how fast the world changes", highlights Hessa Al Awadhi, a Dubaiti artist whose works are inspired by visual beauty and Emirati customs. The UAE government has always supported art and in recent years interesting initiatives have been launched like Art Dubai or The Sikka Art Fair.
Alserkal Avenue is a great destination for emerging talents. It is in this creative hub, located in the industrial area of Al Quoz, where we know to young Lantian Xie. Formed by about thirty galleries, it has just added 40 new spaces. Among its objectives is bring together collaborators from different disciplines, encourage open dialogue and facilitate a platform to develop ideas. In its epicenter, the A4 Space, there is a cinema screening room, a cafe and a coworking area.
I am aware of my prejudices when I am surprised at the series Earth-Love-Fire of the Egyptian artist Ghada Amer, exhibited at the headquarters of the New York Leila Heller Gallery. His theme, centered on women and their sexuality, and their pop air technique that replaces the line of the drawing with colored threads are not, I admit, what I expected to find here. “If you come to Dubai two days or a week, or five years, you will not understand this place at all. We are not interested in the expectations of others about us. It is exciting to think what this city means, without looking outside, ”concludes Lantian. Maybe Dubai is an incomprehensible city. Luckily, many things can be enjoyed without understanding them.
* This article has been published in the February 92 issue of Condé Nast Traveler magazine. Subscribe to the print edition (11 printed numbers and digital version for € 24.75, calling 902 53 55 57 or from our website) and enjoy free access to the digital version of Condé Nast Traveler for iPad. The February Condé Nast Traveler number is available in its digital version to enjoy on your preferred device.
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Luxury as a way of life © Álex del Río