Sunday, January 21, 2001
With Nathaniel at the wheel, we drove south to explore gold-plated Hotel Coast. The beaches just south of the main city are being rapidly (isn’t everything here rapid?) developed into super deluxe beach hotels. We stopped along the way to examine one of the centers where people keep the racing sailing dhows that we saw the other night. There were quite a few of them in a lot across the street from a small fishing harbor. Teak hulled and varnished, they make quite a sight. All those that compete carry numbers on the bow and the level of competition may be indicated by the fact that we saw three boats side-by-side numbered “76”. These are very old designs and the sails and rigging are decidedly low tech. We especially liked the heads. These marine sanitation devices are simply toilet seats with side rails that are suspended off the stern of each boat.
Shaped like a dhow, the Burj Al Arab Hotel, loomed over the scene at the fishing harbor. One of the newest hotels, it may be the most exclusive. We opted not to pay the steep cover charge to see the inside, but the outside is amazing. Rooms reportedly start at about 10,000 DHS (about US$2,300) per night. Judging from the windows, many have two story atriums and reportedly come with butlers. Not your average Motel 8!
More accessible was the Jumeirah Beach Hotel with a conference center next door. Shaped like a wave (there is lots of uniquely shaped architecture here), it sits next to the Burj Al Arab. It is a very tastefully done modern hotel with lots of glass and pleasing colors. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take the elevator to the top floor for an overview. Guest relations would have had to accompany us and no one was at the desk.
Next stop was the Royal Mirage Hotel. This one is very traditional in design with cool tan stucco and the appearance of being just one or two stories tall. It is beautiful, cool and shadowed inside with pleasing gardens and pools outside. Everything is understated elegance except for the full-sized, gilded camel rider statues in the entrance courtyard. We spent some time in their shops buying a few souvenirs and gifts.
Then it was off to lunch. Nat & Michele chose a small “business man’s lunch” sort of place that served a buffet of Chinese and Indian food. This is NOT the stuff you’d find at the average ethnic restaurant in the US. We had fun picking over the offerings to find stuff that didn’t burn our mouths too badly and that appealed to our tastes. We wound up having a very good, albeit unfamiliar, lunch for a total of about US$15 for the four of us!
Fortified, we headed off for our last stop of the day, City Centre Mall, to check out the action at the city’s largest shopping center. Another totally modern mall, this one boasts a couple of kids entertainment areas with video games, flash lighting and jungle gyms. It also houses several auto dealerships and an eleven screen movieplex. Shops range from the elegant, including clothing, diamonds and gold to the max and custom perfumes, to the tacky, with cheap Indian novelties and low end clothing. Among the familiar were J. C. Penney, Woolworth’s, The Body Shop, McDonalds, Laura Ashley and a large Ikea. Last stop was a grocery store, the likes of which we’d never seen. It was huge, with foods for every ethnic group, cheap clothing and cash registers that calculated the correct change regardless of what currency might be offered in payment. We bought stuff for supper at home and a picnic for tomorrow and headed home.