Dubai’s spurt of in­spi­ra­tion

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Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - TRAVEL2009 -

A COM­PE­TI­TION was re­cently held t o f i nd an i nspi­ra­tional name f or Dubai’s high-tech new foun­tain. This sur­pris­ingly im­pres­sive aquatic marvel – cost­ing £170 mil­lion (R2.2m) – is lo­cated in the lake bor­dered by the Burj Dubai tower and the Dubai Mall.

Pro­duced by the same com­pany re­spon­si­ble for the jets of wa­ter that “dance” to mu­sic out­side the Bel­la­gio Ho­tel in Las Ve­gas, the Dubai foun­tain takes the process to a more ad­vanced level with swirls and py­rotech­nic blasts of high-pres­sure wa­ter that rocket up­wards like fire­works.

Katherine Jenk­ins’s ver­sion of Time ToSay­Good­bye takes on an in­ter­est­ing new di­men­sion when played out as a wa­ter bal­let. About 4 000 peo­ple en­tered the com­pe­ti­tion to name the foun­tain. Af­ter care­ful de­lib­er­a­tion and much fan­fare, the winning en­try was re­vealed. The name for the Dubai foun­tain would be… Dubai Foun­tain.

In Dubai, it seems, the po­etry lies in the mod­ern won­ders them­selves rather than their names. And stand­ing on the bal­cony of The Ad­dress ho­tel, which has a grand­stand view of the foun­tain, you have rather a lot to say “wow” about. You could start with the heat. Re­cently, when day- time tem­per­a­tures reached 45ºC, ev­ery­body agreed it was prob­a­bly mild for the time of year.

“You should be here when it’s in the mid-50s,” said one lo­cal. “Now that’s hot.”

The newly opened Dubai Mall – the world’s largest shop­ping ar­cade – of­fers “wow” mo­ments of its own. The sheer scale of the place is mind­bog­gling, but for many the mall’s most at­trac­tive fea­ture is the ice-skat­ing rink – for the wel­come nip in the air. The big­gest wows, how­ever, must be re­served for the neigh­bour­ing Burj Dubai tower, the world’s tallest man-made struc­ture at 818m, and built at a cost of around £2.75bn (R36bn).

Each morn­ing at The Ad­dress ho­tel I would throw back the cur­tains and stand amazed at the tower, which filled the view from my bal­cony like a gi­ant rocket ready to blast off. The tower of­fi­cially opens in Septem­ber, which is set to be a month of achieve­ments in Dubai.

On Septem­ber 9, the Emi­rates’s £2.6bn (R34bn) new metro sys­tem will open and it is hoped, much needed re­lief to the ap­palling con­ges­tion which crip­ples Dubai’s roads. As you drive – very slowly, of course – through Dubai, you can see dozens of metro sta­tions hastily be­ing com­pleted amid a co­coon of scaf­fold­ing, looking like alien eggs about to hatch. The metro, in the­ory, is mar­vel­lous. In prac­tice no­body is sure how keen peo­ple will be to walk to their near­est sta­tion in ter­ri­fy­ing lev­els of heat – al­though I wouldn’t dis­count the pos­si­bil­ity of Dubai at­tempt­ing to air-con­di­tion its pave­ments; the lake­front walk out­side the Dubai Mall, for ex­am­ple, al­ready has stretches.

But for any­one keen to travel to Dubai over the next cou­ple of months, an­other “wow” is likely to be the bar­gain-base­ment prices on of­fer. Surf the in­ter­net and you will find five-star ho­tels of­fer­ing rooms from about £150 (R1 900) a night, and flights from Lon­don to Dubai ad­ver­tised from £199 re­turn. Much has been writ­ten about the sud­den down­turn in Dubai’s for­tunes, some gloat­ing that the eco­nomic pow­er­house of the Gulf has been dealt a heavy blow by the re­ces­sion. Re­dun­dant ex­ec­u­tives, it is re­ported, un­able to pay the loans on their Porsches, are dump­ing them at the air­port car park and head­ing home.

There is no doubt that Dubai has been af­fected by the re­ces­sion. And new ho­tels have been open­ing apace, even though busi­ness has slipped from last year, mean­ing that ho­tel oc­cu­pancy has de­clined. So it’s not sur­pris­ing there are plenty of bar­gains. If you don’t mind the heat, you can be sure of ex­cep­tion­ally good value. If it’s a fam­ily hol­i­day you want, check out the deals avail­able at the At­lantis on The Palm, which opened last year. – Daily Mail

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