Like the children we work with, the majority of teachers are always striving to develop their skills to make a positive difference to their charges. Sometimes this involves scouring the internet; other times it involves going to teacher conferences in the Middle East. Not that often, admittedly, but an opportunity that I’ll happily grasp.
|The Dubai Fountain, viewed from floor 124 of the Burj Khalifa|
|Burj Khalifa...or giant laser??|
|The yachts docked in Dubai Marina|
I’ve been to this emirate before, in 2012. The blogs about it can be found around here. What I was particularly keen to do was compare it to my current home of Malawi. Malawi, which often can’t power the fridge in my house, let alone do this to its buildings…
|If only they could keep my milk cold...|
|Putting this on my head was an|
interesting - and fruitless - selling method
The change of pace is frightening. Dubai is whizzing down an eight-lane highway in a Ferrari while Malawi is plodding along on foot. So many new skyscrapers have shot up since I last laid flip-flop on the Arabian sand. So many more are being built, the cranes illuminating the sky like elongated fingernails.
|Malawi's main motorway is one lane in each direction|
|The cranes on the left are working on new structures|
on the Palm Jumeirah, Dubai's largest man-made island
These are tall but shrivel in comparison to the largest building of all (for now): the Burj Khalifa. 828 metres tall. That’s taller than the highest point of Belgium, Senegal and Uruguay. Almost 200 metres taller than the next largest completed building, in Shanghai. Oh, and about 792 metres taller than Malawi’s tallest building, Kangombe House.
|A model which is not 828m tall|
|Don't underestimate how hard it is to fit|
the entire Burj Khalifa into one shot
Going up the Burj Khalifa generally needs to be booked in advance, which is why we didn’t rise up to the clouds five years ago. This time, I was prepared…
You can’t go to the very top – there’s no way of doing that, short of being an urban climber. There are two options, both of which take you higher than any structure outside of Asia apart from One World Trade Center in New York. You can go to floor 124 or floor 148 of the Burj Khalifa.
|Just look at the shadow it casts!|
|The temperature difference between the top|
and bottom is normally about 6'C
At 455 metres tall, the 124th floor seems plenty high enough. We timed our ascent so that we could witness the sunset.
|The northeastern side of the city|
Very impressive it was, too, though the pollution haze which lingers around Dubai made the Sun disappear before sinking into the Arabian Gulf.
|At one point you are almost looking down on the Sun|
|Pondering life - or why they need so many|
skyscrapers - as the Sun sets to the west
Soon, as dusk turned to darkness, the landscape transformed in a way unimaginable in Malawi. It was as if someone had found the magical switch that turns on all of the Christmas lights. Dubai was illuminated once more – just this time, the light was coming from the buildings, rather than the Sun.
|The green lights belong to Dubai Mall, the largest mall|
in the world by total area
|Lights of many colours radiate in the|
Pretty much directly below the Burj Khalifa is a body of water which does its best to be an eastern version of the Bellagio in Las Vegas. From 455 metres above, it’s a very different perspective to that on ground level. I found it fascinating that the water seemed to hardly rise at all, simply because of the extraordinary height from which we were witnessing the show.
|The water rises to a height of 150 metres - half the height|
of the Shard in London
On the ground, it’s accompanied by music (we were told it can range from traditional Arabian music to…Enrique Iglesias). Up on floor 124, the water spurts seem to sway and soar in silence, like dancers from a faraway planet.
|6,600 lights are used in each show, which lasts between|
five and ten minutes
|Shows are every 30 minutes, starting at 6pm|
The tower and water show are merely two examples of Dubai’s opulence and extravagance. Its other icon is the Burj Al-Arab, the infamous ‘seven-star hotel’. You can only enter if you book a room (over $2000 a night), go to a supposedly sub-par restaurant or have possibly the world’s most expensive afternoon tea.
|Roger Federer often plays exhibition tennis|
on the helipad of the hotel
|The nearby public beach provides great|
views for sunset
The marina area seems transformed from the last time I came to Dubai, almost a city in its own right due to the sheer number of cloud-piercing towers which dominate the small beaches below. Once again, at night it’s transformed into a festival of lights.
|The marina isn't actually on the sea - it's behind|
|The Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR) consists of over|
40 towers and 6000 apartments
Dubai’s marina comes complete with a large shopping mall, featuring stores which one would only imagine seeing in the UK.
The number of shopping malls is simply staggering. How they all survive, let alone thrive, is beyond me. Maybe events such as Black Friday (yes, that happens here too) contribute to people making their bags and cases overflow with just about anything you can imagine. The fact that the prices are often sky-high in the first place seems to be ignored.
|But if you don't need it, it's not a bargain|
|Flags were draped across the Mall of the|
Emirates in preparation for National Day, on
The malls themselves are about so much more than shopping, though. Ever seen a shark on the second floor of Gateway Mall in Lilongwe? Or penguins in the Trafford Centre in Manchester? I wasn’t overly impressed with the fact that the owners have trapped creatures from faraway lands into a zoo-like existence in the desert. I also seemed to be in the minority.
|That is a shark, and there were scuba divers in the aquarium|
|The penguins are found in Ski Dubai, an indoor ski slope in|
the Mall of the Emirates with a temperature of -6'C
One thing I was impressed with was the medical care. Well, eventually. I went for a pre-arranged consultation at 9am and was told at 8:45am that the doctor was in surgery until 2pm. Anyway, an ear infection which I’ve had to suffer through for over three months in Malawi, having been given incorrect information and treatements along the way, was cured in 15 minutes in Dubai.
|Where I received microsuction, which sounded like|
someone fiddling with the radio dial and never finding the channel
One way that Malawi trumps Dubai, hands down, is with price. £11 for a beer reflects the relatively dry nature of the UAE (you can drink in hotels and other specific places). As mentioned before, regular shopping prices are prohibitively expensive, aside from the local souks.
|Beer at the Black Tap, a delicious|
|Inside the local souks - though still aimed|
at tourists, the prices were more reasonable
The other thing that comes at a high price, but is certainly worth it, is the variety and quality of food. Western chains in Malawi are restricted to KFC and Mugg & Bean. Dubai had…everything.
|Sunday roast and Guinness at The Space, a restaurant in|
Dubai Marina owned by Simon Rimmer
|Key lime cheesecake from The Cheesecake Factory:|
Best. Lunch. Ever.
Lilongwe and Dubai are incomparable. They are polar opposites, humility and basic servicing of needs pitted against seemingly unlimited wealth and a culture of getting anything you want. Dubai was fun, and productive from a teaching perspective, but I’m more than happy to be returning to the Warm Heart of Africa.
Love you all