Travel to U.A.E. Dubai: Dubai
It's hard to know where old Dubai meets the new, especially since the old is frequently a reconstruction, while the new attempts to echo the old.
Begin with the sureties.
The sand once continued to the sea, but here the old juxtaposition is replaced by the manmade waterway of the West Side Marina and a fury of residential construction. The view is west, toward Jebel Ali Port.
Looking inland from the same highrise vantage point toward the (no kidding) Emirates Hills neighborhood.
Looking east toward the trompe l'oeil tower of the Hard Rock Cafe, which fools the eye into seeing a much taller building than actually exists. On the right, the Emirates Golf Club.
Looking to the eastern horizon, with the Sheikh Zayed highway on the right and in the distant left, the iconic Burj Al Arab. Dubai proper is 15 minutes down the road, assuming you avoid the long rush hour.
Commissioned by the ruler of Dubai and designed by Tom Wright of W.S. Atkins, the Burj Al Arab is a commanding structure, even if you deplore the hype. The floor plan is a V, with rooms along the arms and with a concrete spine at the base, facing the water. On the landside, a teflon and fiberglass sail encloses the V and creates a 600-foot-high atrium. The upper-level circular platforms are a restaurant on the water side and a helipad on the land; one critic has compared them to votive offerings, presumably to Mammon.
The lighting at night changes color a couple of times a minute. The structure rests on 250 piers sunk 150 feet in nothing more than sand.
West of the Burj, landfill creates Palm Island, where thousands of yet-to-be-built apartments had already been sold by 2004.
Dubai Is Shopping. (What else is there when it's scorching hot outside, you don't need to watch your sheep, and you can't gamble?) Here, the Deira City Centre Mall, which has an adjoining hotel and is very close to the airport.
A little tailoring of products to local tastes.
What's the underlying esthetic or logic in the choice of model and her oh-so-unAmerican gaze--not only sensual but hurt and respectful? Somebody in an ad agency somewhere knows!
Tired of malls? What about this? Rub your eyes. Wonder if the photo somehow got misfiled? But stroll a bit.
Are we in Italy? If so, why all the contrived lighting?
Anything fishy about the middle building?
Yes, yes, it's the Rialto Bridge. "Many a time and oft in the Rialto you have rated me...."
You've figured it out? Of course: it's a mall--the Mercato--designed by a real Italian (Daniele Morelli). It's in Jumeirah, described by Lorimer a century ago as "45 date branch huts... inhabited by... mixed tribes who are all fishermen and own among them 5 camels, 60 donkeys, 45 cattle and 200 sheep and goats."
It has 247,000 square feet of GLA. Oops, that's shop talk for gross leasable area. The project was financed by or through (who knows?) Abdul Rahim Al Zarooni, a local property developer.
The mall axis.
The supermarket here beats yours. Count on it. Among the choices: haram products for the many, many, many non-Muslims in Dubai.
The Mercato by day; the tower has been lifted from the one Giotto designed for the duomo in Florence. One of these days they'll import the original.
From the outside, the project occupies a superblock. The Italian facade is maintained on all sides. All in all, it's the kind of center Walt Disney might have enjoyed.
Across the street, a most peculiar housing development.
Scores of identical single-family houses.
The inspiration seems to have been powerhouses from the 1920s.
A bit less cutting edge: the beach is only a couple of hundred yards away.
Zipping along Sheikh Zayed street. What's missing?
Landscaping, silly. Presto!
Closer to the city: serious highrises along Sheikh Zayed.
"Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!"
Talk about cultural appropriation. If you're tired of Mercato-style pseudo-Italiana, how about this Thai-owned hotel? Sawassdee.
What have we here? On reflection, you'll see that it's an architectural model.
But what about this? Real or model? OK: it's the real thing,
Behold the front side of Mina A' Salam, the "boutique hotel" (that's what they say) that constitutes the first stage of Madinat Jumeirah, a project of (surprised, are we?) H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
Hostile as you may want to be toward a project that says its "concept is one of 'old Arabia' in a totally luxurious context," you can't really knock the staircases.
A new souk takes shape next door. Call it a pseudo-souk. You'l certainly be disappointed if you go shopping here for the sheep guts that you'd find--all white, wet, and twisty--in a real souk.
Behind the hotel, the Mina a Salam itself, the "harbor of peace" with its own well-behaved dhow.
Keeping an eye out from next door.
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