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Dubai

I went to Dubai for 7 days for a project for IBM. Dubai is one of the 7 emirates in the United Arab Emirates, set on the eastern edge of the Arabian peninsula. Each Emirate has its own royal family and the Sheik of Dubai always sits as the Vice-President and Prime Minister of the U.A.E. federal government. Dubai is unique in the region in that its oil reserves are expected to only last for about 20 more years so they are working on a plan to move to a business- and tourism-based economy. The scale of construction here is more than I have ever seen in my life, including Beijing - the whole country is under construction, including nearly every road and literally hundreds and hundreds of office buildings, apartments, hotels and shopping centers.  The goal is to make Dubai the key shopping location in the Middle East, and perhaps Europe.  The money being spent on infrastructure is astounding and should put Dubai in great shape once their oil economy starts to scale down.

The royal family are quite forward- and Western-thinking, which is strongly enabling this opportunity. Most Emiratis wear traditional Arab dress for tradition and as a sign of status.  Many women still wear burkas, either with their face exposed or just an eye slit, yet have many opportunities for university education and employment in the workforce. The Brits had significant power in the area from the early 1800s to 1971 so most people speak English well which gives them additional opportunities for solid integration into the business world of the 21st century. The population is approximately 30% Emiratis and 70% foreigners, with a large number of construction workers coming from India, Pakistan, the rest of the Arab world and southeast Asia.. While it can be a very expensive place to live, workers can lead a comfortable life and save money to send back to their families. OK, on to the pictures.

On the left is the view from the IBM offices over the pond at the center of the Internet City. This is a cluster of buildings with offices of most major computer and software companies.  The next cluster over is called Media City which houses offices of most of the world's news, music and entertainment companies. On the right is another view from the building showing the staggering amount of construction underway.  Nearly every building you can see is under construction.

I took taxis and walked around different areas after work  Below is a picture of the creek that splits the old city. Water taxis called dhows are available for the 2 minute crossing, which costs roughly 12 cents. The dhows look very old; handmade wood boats retrofitted with a small diesel engine in the center.  During the crossing the driver bangs on a cigar box and people throw coins at him for the fare.

Many people have seen pictures of the Burj Al Arab hotel, the only 7 star hotel in the world.  Here is my picture from the street, followed by a picture I nabbed off the Internet showing the helipad converted to a tennis court in a publicity stunt for the ATP Tennis tournament in January 2005 - this is not a fake. There are many other pictures of this hotel around the net.

I found both of these pictures amusing.  The first is a night shot of an advertisement clearly aimed at people with too much money to notice they must be paying for the Jag somehow.  The second shows an interesting revenue-generation strategy for the world's biggest scumbag. I always knew there was something evil about HP... just kidding!

The Mall of the Emirates has, hovering over it, the world's largest indoor ski slope - the big silver structure is the shell containing the upper half of the slope. I went skiing there on my last day.  A 2-hour time slot costs about USD $30, including skis, boots, poles, ski pants and jacket.  You have to provide your own gloves and hat, but they conveniently (!) sell them in the ski shop, embroidered with a "Ski Dubai" logo, so I picked up a set.  Here is the structure from the outside. It's a not-quite-L shape as you can see from the inside views. Next is a view of the kid's sliding area as seen from the mall.

Next are views from the bottom of the slope looking over to the kid's play area, and looking up slope you can see to the mid-station.  It was nearly deserted on this Wednesday morning. I did meet two visiting Scots, a South African and a Canadian working locally in air traffic control. He said there is a 3-rink hockey league in Dubai and Abu Dhabi (the emirate just to the north) with players from Canada, the U.S., Scandanavia and 3 guys from Lebanon...

I'm now on the lift, approaching the mid-station. You can see the bend to the left, then the second shot as we approach the top.

This is the view down from the top. You can see that it's very flat, no bumps for fun, and while they make new powder each day it's very packed by the snowcats and has some small ruts and icy patches.

This left side of the run is gentler, while the right side is steeper with quite a drop at the mid-station.

The lift runs very slowly, taking about 5 minutes to get to the top.  You could stretch a leisurely run down to 2 minutes or do it as fast as 30 seconds if you wanted to.  I did about 18 runs in my two hour period, which was just about right, before it got boring.

The rest of the mall is impressive with very high-end stores, including the jewelry store where I saw this 214 carat emerald.  The clerk said he was asking USD $500,000 but would negotiate... It also had a great arcade with outstanding games including this fully hydraulic racing simulator with 3 LCD panels.

I enjoy middle-eastern food and did my best to eat as much as I could, but as you might expect you can find anything you like, including restaurants that are familiar to most westerners.  I took these pictures for friends back home who own franchises in Austin.