About two months ago I realised that I was weeks away from finishing my degree. And I panicked. Scared of the world of adulthood that I’d soon be faced with, I quickly booked a trip to Dubai as an escape.
The first thing I noticed as my taxi navigated through the early hours of the morning is that Dubai is tall. Actually, that’s a lie. The first thing I noticed was that you take your life into your own hands on the roads of Dubai. You’d think at four in the morning the roads would be calm and quiet, however traffic never ceases in Dubai. Car horns blare from either side of you, and you find yourself gripping the edge of your seat as your taxi driver weaves himself in between gaps between cars so narrow that you grip your eyes shut and pray for the best. This isn’t helped when he tells you he’s been working for twelve hours non stop. Yet taxis seem to be the most popular mode of transport for those living in Dubai, an almost subconscious act of respect because someone has to drive these streets and people would much prefer it not to be them.
However, back to Dubai’s towering presence. Which shouldn’t have come as a surprise seeing as Dubai is home to the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa. Yet as I dived back and forth between the back windows of my taxi I couldn’t quite strain my neck far back enough to see right to the top of most of these buildings, some reaching forty or fifty floors high. Dubai looked like it could have been the setting for some futuristic science fictions film, it didn’t feel real. Here was a city where apartment blocks and business skyscrapers weren’t an ugly necessity to a beautiful landscape, as once the sun sets each and every tower in the city lights up like a christmas tree. I’d been in Dubai for fifteen minutes and I already had neck ache. It is the buildings that make Dubai such a stunningly photographic city.
‘Welcome to the desert’, a phrase you’ll hear commonly once the inhabitants of Dubai find out it’s your first time visiting their city. Like the humidity and the dry air will let you forget exactly where you are. Drive half an hour out of the city and you’ll soon be leaving behind the towering skyscrapers and be greeted with the rolling expanses of hot sand and curving dunes. Drive another twenty minutes and its easy to trick yourself into thinking you’re hundreds of miles away from civilisation with not a building or road in sight. It’s amazing to know that this quiet, peaceful landscape exists in a place as restless as Dubai.
No trip to Dubai would be complete without a visit to the Burj Khalifa, a visit I left until my last day. Standing at the bottom staring right up to the top has a dizzying effect that makes you sway back and forth. In that moment every other towering building that I’d seen over the previous ten days seemed so small in comparison. It’s a monument that cannot be believed until it has been seen.
It’s underwhelming to say Dubai is a beautiful place. Dubai is a powerful place, that leaves you wanting more. Dubai is a city where for once, I didn’t mind being a tourist. I’d somehow found my escape in this hectic and chaotic city.