Category Archives: UAE

Non-standard Dubai

Dubai is such an intense place with so much going on that in my mind I was certain – I would be surprised. I would find things that lie outside of the stereotypes of megalomania and shopping. I just had to keep my eyes open and they would come.

Probably the most unexpected find turned out to be an incredible richness and variety of contemporary art galleries. I’d read about at least two clusters of galleries – one in the industrial Al Quoz area close to Noor Bank metro stop; the other in the Dubai International Financial Center area (metro Emirates Towers).

I started in Al Quoz, from its most well known gallery called Courtyard. The eponymous courtyard is surrounded by a whole series of galleries. The main gallery and the passage to the courtyard:

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Standard Dubai

I decided to write two posts about Dubai: one post about the “standard Dubai”, the one which everybody imagines, and the other about the “non-standard Dubai”, the Dubai which we least expect.

Even though I am such an experienced traveller, strangely I’d never been to Dubai before. The obvious reason is that before spring of 2014 I needed a visa to enter Dubai which was expensive and bureaucratically difficult to obtain. I had a hunch that soon enough this would change and so it did.

Most tourists are drawn to Dubai for two major reasons: shopping and beaches. As for me, none of this was of any interest. Rather I wanted to experience for myself that paradoxical contemporary miracle, an urban mirage built in the middle of the desert. My expectations were pretty low: I imagined a society torn between the ultrarich locals and the slave-like migrant workers, between modernity and fundamentalism, a tasteless mix of extreme consumption.

Dubai exceeded my expectations. Yes indeed it’s a mirage willed into existence by the imagination and self-confidence of its rulers. The mirage that shook all the surrounding rulers and spurred them into copying it. Actually the emirate of Dubai is a rather small piece of land, the lion’s part of UAE being occupied by Abu Dhabi. The same goes for oil: Dubai has practically run out of it by now. And yet its emirs managed to get the most of out their small territory. Today it is an incredible futuristic ensemble that will leave no one unimpressed.

So let’s get it on. Standard Dubai! Burj Khalifa – the tallest building in the world. Simply dwarfing the surrounding skyscrapers:

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