After a brief week in London consisting of mother bonding, pet adoration and night shifts at MailOnline, I was off again – next stop, my first ever encounter with the Middle East.
Dubai – a cluster of gleaming skyscrapers seemingly airdropped into the Arabian desert – can be best described as a stonking great big theme park for grown-ups, which exists somewhere outside of the space-time continuum. It really does feel other worldly.
It’s very new. Obviously it’s been around for ages, once as a fishing village, then a key port, but Dubai in its current state is still in its infancy. That’s because they didn’t discover oil here until 1966.
After that, it all kicked off; and now it’s the most expensive city in the Middle East. It has the tallest building in the world, and also the largest shopping mall.
Hotels here cost more than anywhere else in the world, bar Geneva.
I’m staying at the Anantara, The Palm resort, which is basically one giant swimming pool sliced into a maze configuration and dotted with hotel rooms that look like temples. Wherever you are in the maze, your back door opens right into the vast-stretching, multi-channel pool.
Like most of the really serious hotels, it’s located on the Palm Jumeirah, which is a cluster of manmade islands off the coastline.
This landform was built from scratch using only sand and rocks in the early 2000’s after the Prince of Dubai announced, ‘Hey, I’ve got a great idea. Let’s build a 5km x 5km island in the shape of a palm tree.’
Concept-wise, Anantara has Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese and Turkish influences, as well as being in Dubai, obviously, so it’s a culture mash-up of the likes I’ve never really seen before.
The whole compound is eerily futuristic.
The walkways are obsessively clean and manicured. The abundant palm trees are wrapped in geometrically perfect layers of fairy lights. The staff are so glazed, ethereal and peaceful looking, you feel like you’re in the presence of angels – or maybe robots.
Guests in pairs – some blonde and scantily clad, others dressed in full Islamic robes – glide around, wordless, on noiseless golf carts.
The air is thick with that sort of lazy haze that lets you know, at all times, despite the architecture, that you are not in New York or Shanghai; you are in a desert.
In Dubai, technically, you’re not allowed to kiss in public, show too much skin, or consume alcohol.
Being gay is punishable by death (why are humans so completely bizarre with their rules?) – but none of this applies within the walls of hotels like Anantara; which I find to be Quite Interesting.
So first impressions over, what did I do today? I experienced my first Turkish Hammam, which you can read about in the next post.