Dubai: A city of superlatives or Midnight at the Mall


For the audio-story, please click here

My skin registers dry and warm sensations, telling me that, once again, I have landed in a new world begging to be explored. Inhaling the dry desert air is unusual for me, though, even after having lived in Western Australia for quite a while. The desert-dust-infused air seems more intense here, more demanding, more fierce. My throat feels a little scratchy from it and I pull my water bottle out of my hand luggage, which is packed to the brim as usual, and take a longing sip of the lukewarm, life-giving water. 



What is travel, if not the conscious decision to throw yourself in the deep end, to taste the waters of change, may they be spicy, bitter, sweet, pungent or, ahem, warm? My mind wanders off, which comes especially easy after a long overnight flight from Singapore with too many snoring guests aboard. Juggling a myriad of unknown sights, scents, and sweet nothings, I wearily step out of the bus and smack out into a crowd of industrious businessman, ladies in traditional Burka attire and a colorful melange of tourists.


“Instead of resisting to changes, surrender. Let life be with you, not against you.” – Shams Tabrizi, Persian spiritual teacher


Truly, it does take surrender to travel, I continue my train of thought, because you never know what´s around the corner – but that´s also what makes it so pretty damn exciting, right? The thrill of not knowing what to expect, who you´ll encounter, and which challenge you´ll have to (or have the blessing to) embrace next…. Talking of challenges: Here´s one – can you picture a mall with a gigantic ice-rink in it?



Give it a go while you walk with me into the Dubai mall, which showed itself very unimpressed by my (our?) silly little doubts as to its unfailing grandeur. Bare with me, friends, malls are normally not my favorite place to hang out either – but this one can really not be categorized as a mere mortal mall. 


Just like the Middle East has a tradition of outstanding poets and philosophers that have gifted us with immortal poetry and wisdom, Dubai offers us its worldly counterpart and truly holds the title of global capital of superlatives. Want a little taste test of this? 


Alright: Dubai, the city and emirate in the United Arab Emirates, home to 3,1 million people, is also proud presenter of the largest man-made island, worth a whopping US$12.3 billion. Excuse me, I think I just choked on my cinnabon! Also: It´s shaped in the form of a palm-tree and subsequently called the Palm Jumeirah. Dubai also cements its reputation as global city of superlatives through the existence of the world´s only “7-star-hotel”, the sail-like Burj Al Arab, an iconic world landmark. 



People who are willing and able to cough up the US$1,200 plus per night can expect private butlers, 24k-gold iPads in two-story suits, the world’s largest chauffeur-driven fleet of Rolls Royce Phantom at their disposal, a helicopter-landing-place…and this pretty surreal list goes on! 


If you currently can´t afford this, you can still enjoy the joys of the world´s longest automated metro system, when you hop on a Dubai Metro train. The theme song to this experience could be a rather futuristic one, as the Dubai Metro is fully automated, and no human drivers are present. At 46 miles/ 74 km long, it’s the longest automated metro system in the world.



And, of course, the Dubai Mall, which we are currently about to enter, is a big part of the Dubai superlative equation. Giving into our urge to explore the largest shopping mall in the world, we enter the 50 soccer fields big center of fun and decadence. Financial Centre Road; +971 4 362 7500; www.thedubaimall.com


At first, your eyes just gaze upon the spotless corridors with luxurious shops upon shops lined up next to each other, one expensive brand after the other inviting their prospective customers to a little spending-playtime. So far, so good (or bad, depending on which perspective you take on capitalism).  Better remember that there is much more to the Arab peninsula than extravagant architecture and luxury-shopping-experiences:


This wordly life is like a shadow. If you try to catch it, you will never be able to do so. If you turn your back towards it, it has no choice but to follow you.” – Ibn Quayyim Al-Jawziyya, medieval Islamic spiritual writer


Let´s turn a corner now, and turn slightly to our right -yep, you´ll probably need to look twice! Because you are witnessing people throwing themselves down a waterfall! What? Where is the security-personnel?! Ah wait…you didn´t have your glasses on. Phew! The “people” turn out to be artistic fiberglass sculptures of human divers, thank God/ Goddess/ fill in your higher-power-belief-system here for that. 



Often featuring as a meeting point for the mall explorers, the so-called Human Waterfall (see, you weren´t so far off after all) turns out be a pretty impressive water feature that traverses the mall´s four levels and runs through the whole height of this Mecca for entertainment-aficionados. I´ll tell you one thing: I definitely stopped munching my cinnamon-infused doughnut when this fancy waterfall stopped me in my tracks! And that says something.


It even held my attention for so long that it was getting much too late to explore the 1200 shops including, and that one was a bummer, the world´s largest candy store Candylicious, and/ or the game center featuring a 3D bowling game. On the plus side, this time-induced Stop sign made me honor my conviction that its better to reuse and get creative than to support the endless story-of-stuff-cycle.



Anyways, we had to ask ourselves one major question at that time, when the clock showed that it was getting close to 22:30 PM. Were the 22 cinema screens and 160 plus restaurants calling us, was the amusement park seductively whispering our names, or was something completely different tickling our fancy?

I know, talk about too much-choice-induced- paralysis! You already know the answer to this one, my friend. Because, as opposed to me, you did your research before visiting – and are well informed that this Dubai shopping center of decadence also contains one of the largest aquariums in the world! Of course it did/ does. 



Laying eyes on the aquarium as the clock strikes almost-midnight is a rather supercalifragilistic- expialidocious experience, to say it in the words of Mary Poppins. The 2.64 million-gallon-Dubai Aquarium itself is held in place by the world´s largest acrylic panel – and is home to more than 400 (hopefully not shopping-averse) sharks and rays and a total of over 33,000 marine animals  on display. 



After connecting with sexy sharks, pretty penguins, fancy fish and heftily-dressed-humans, it´s time for one last impression of Dubai´s glitz-and- glamour-world of superlatives – and it´s just around the corner!

As you might know, one of Dubai´s signature trademarks is its ultramodern architecture. The Burj Khalifa building is one of the icons of Dubai – and, yep, the world´s tallest building. 1 Emaar Blvd., Downtown Dubai, Dubai, United Arab Emirates; +971 4 888 8888; www.burjkhalifa.ae 

At 2,716 feet/ 828 meters high (and worth US$1.49 billion) it can be easily accessed as soon as you step outside the mall. Come on, I am sure you will be impressed! You can snooze afterwards, I promise. The Burj Khalifa is that tall that its 164 floors make the rest of the city look like a miniature town!

If you fancy coming back here tomorrow and go to the top of the tower (with a fee), you can enjoy mind blowing panoramas of the city and Arabian Desert. If you aren´t a lover of hights, you can always catch a water fountain show, nightly at 7 PM, at the Burj Khalifa lake just outside the mall. Wow, talk about an evening of superlatives, hey? Well, I am off to the Burj Al Arab now. My butler just called. 😛


Healing tip: For inspiration on how to transform the way we make, use, and throw away stuff so that it is better for people and the planet, check out the fabulous Story of Stuff project.


Back to you, dear reader: Have you ever been to Dubai? What were your first impressions? If you haven´t been – which of the superlative-sights would you be most interested in checking out? As always, would love to hear from you:)

CopyrightAll rights for photography and text reserved @A gypsy at heart. Because. I believe in your own talent to create.

Categories: Posts in English, Reiselust- Hungry for travel, Reisen | Tags: , , , , , , | 39 Comments

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39 thoughts on “Dubai: A city of superlatives or Midnight at the Mall

  1. Well…as you know, I travel through you, so no, I’ve not been there. But WOW – that’s quite the place to visit. I thought our neck of the world was quite amazing at the https://www.mallofamerica.com/. It is tiny in comparison to what you saw. As always, I adore your smiling photos and clever storylines sharing what you saw and what you ate (a Cinnabon with all those lovely calories, yum!) Cheers to a wonderful adventure, thank you for sharing!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Shelley, thanks so much for your lovely feedback and sharing the link with us! I will travel to your neck of the world via your link as soon as disembarking from our comment-exchange, lol. Yeah, the whole Dubai-experience was nothing less than surreal! It´s like a parallel universe of grandiosity there. So happy you enjoyed the journey, lovely! That Cinnabon was pretty yummy;) Hugs

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  3. I appreciate that you can find beauty and wonder anywhere. For me, so much of Dubai reflects the excesses of human pride and ego.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Brad, thanks for your feedback! Yeah, I totally get where you are coming from! I guess it depends on which lens you view Dubai through – I did choose to focus on the aspects of wonder. Also, and this is something I didn´t mention in the post, the whole city felt very safe to me. Its a bit like that in Singapore, also. So I guess, feeling at ease there made it easier to focus on the upsides! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m glad you felt safe Maria. I think of all the good that could have been done with that money for people and the planet. And we really can’t afford to keep building and consuming the resources of the planet so voraciously.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Thanks Brad. Yeah, I am totally with you on this. Thats why I also linked to the “Story of Stuff” project, hope you´ll check it out! 🙂 We can change some things, but some people have such different values that its hard to influence them to think differently I guess… I know, that is quite the challenge! As the world is not human´s property…

        Liked by 1 person

      • Projects like the “Story of Stuff” are a good beginning. We just need a LOT more people to play along.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah, true. Fridays for Future and Extinction Rebellion are also interesting movements one could think of joining, amongst others – there is already a lot of encouraging movement for the planet happening. And spreading awareness amongst friends/ family etc also helps. And the obvious things like reducing plastic, eating mostly local, organic produce (my food comes from farmers who deliver without plastic packaging, f.ex.), minimizing one´s own carbon footprint in general… we could talk about this for a while;)

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      • I’m glad to hear these ideas are circulating and growing.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I really enjoyed this, you give the place you travel such a sparkle, such brightness. And a cameleer?? Wow!!! Xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much, Rachel – I think I read on your beautiful poetry-blog that your name is Rachel? 🙂 I really appreciate your wonderful feedback and am so glad you enjoyed the ride:) Love that you picked the word “sparkle” to describe your impressions! 💖 Yeah, being a cameleer for some weeks was quite interesting. Might write about it in the future! Thanks again, and wishing you a beautiful weekend in New Zealand xx

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      • Yes, I’m Rachel 🙂. Everything about you sparkles, you have such a beautiful way in how you write and interact with people. You have a beautiful weekend too my friend xx

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hi Rachel:) Thanks so much, that is such an incredibly sweet and kind thing to say and brought a massive smile to my face and being!:) Honestly, so sweet. Have a fantastic start to your week my friend. xx

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  5. Lots of fun here! I see you have not covered your head with your scarf. Is that just for the pics, or is it allowable for western women not to wear a scarf?
    The mall is fantabulous, and the architecture is amazing!
    I feel like I was in the mall with you.
    It’s crazy, but inasmuch as I believe animals (incl. aquatic) should just be in their natural habitat, they are probably better off in the aquarium. The ocean is so polluted.

    Take care, and travel well!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Hi dear Resa, thanks so much for stopping by and leaving such a thoughtful and detailed comment:) Great question you ask here – the woman I took the picture was with was actually an English teacher from Saudi Arabia, where things are crazy strict for women. I think they just got allowed recently to drive cars over there (!!). Dubai is quite liberal and most of its inhabitants are foreigners. So no head scarf needed:) Generally, the dress quote is quite liberal/ Western. It´so great to hear you felt transported to the mall with me! Always more than happy to have you:)

    And you are right, it IS pretty surreal regarding the pollution levels of the oceans. Fortunately, there are some great initiatives like the brilliant project https://theoceancleanup.com or the organizations listed here https://www.marineinsight.com/environment/15-brave-organisations-fighting-save-oceans/. Thanks again for your lovely comment and wishes :), Maria Elena

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  7. Phew and wow! What an extraordinary and phenomenal tour Maria. I learnt so much here, not just about Dubai but about you. What an adventurer you are. And a cameleer to boot! I’m impressed. Especially with your writing. You have a magical way of bringing everything to life.
    A mall with a gigantic ice rink! Dinasours and giant fish tanks! So much awesomeness. Thank you for taking me inside the Dubai mall. It’s hard to contemplate the sheer size of this, the largest in the world, but you transported me. Honestly, I had no idea of Dubai’s sheer wealth and decadence. It’s quite another world isn’t it. Such a contrast to the desert lakes that I recently found myself in.
    Loved all of your photos. Your smiles, exuberance and awe at everything you saw simply radiated throughout the post. Thank you my friend, for showing me a part of the world that I’ll probably never get to experience myself. By the way, that Cinnabon sounds delish and right up my alley!
    Sending you lotsa love and big hugs from me here in Melbourne. xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Miriam, isn´t this fantastic – while you traveled with me to Dubai, I was just hanging out with you in otherwordly Mungo National Park! OMG how I loved your post!!! You feed my Australia-starved heart just the right ingredients 🙂 Thanks so much for your gorgeous feedback love. So happy to hear you enjoyed the trip to luxurious Dubai with me! You are right, it could not be more different there from the desert lakes you portayed so superbly. Manmade wonders versus Mother Nature´s brilliance… Thanks so much Miriam, it means a lot to get such beautiful feedback from you!! Dubai was much more impressive than I anticipated it to be, and invited me to leave preconceived notions aside and just delve into its wonders:) And yep, the cameleer experience in Shark Bay was something else. Thanks again for traveling with me, and your beautiful friendship lovely! Lotsa love and big hugs back from Andalucia to Melbourne xxx

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      • Love your words here Maria. “Man made wonders versus Mothers Nature’s brilliance”, it’s these contrasts that make life so full of wonder isn’t it? I love your spirit and the way you focus on the beauty of the world, even in its excess. Thank you for your friendship too lovely. I feel very blessed to have connected with such a beautiful soul and kindred life traveller. xx

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      • Aww thanks my dear friend. I can feel your words and they are such a beautiful gift of appreciation, love it!! Yes I agree, these contrasts are essential to our human experience here I believe. I ve always been interested in training the mind and perception to become more positive. It sure is a training and a choice. Feeling so blessed to connect with you, too! Talk soon gorgeous xxx

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      • Yes, it is indeed a choice Maria and it takes constant commitment which is such a special gift. Okay, as I head off to bed, 1006 hugs and that’s it! lol 😘 xx

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      • 😘 Lol. I ´ll take all the 1006 hugs and let you go to sleep now lovely! Thanks for your precious feedback, you are so right with your lines. I also admire that deeply about you and your writing style as I see that commitment within you, too! Thanks for that!! Hugs xxx

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  8. Beautiful wandering in desert.you know-i like very much the Desert.it seems the river when i see it at far distance.we said it Miraz(मिराज़).the beauty is everywhere if we see it by universal sight.love and big hugs amiga💕💕💕💕

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    • That´s beautiful dear Aruna – the desert as a river… and yes. you are right, beauty is everywhere!! Bahut bahut dhanyawaad for your kindness and appreciation querida amiga 💕💕💕 Amor and hugs

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      • Hey yaar.i have seen Andrews’s two post.one is written yesterday and second post is written today.he is serious because of heart’s problem.surgery is necessary for his heart.this problem is created by taking high power painkiller medicine.we both should pray for him.MAY GOD GIVE HIM GOOD HEALTH.AMEN.🕇🕇🕇

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      • Yes I´ve seen that, yes I agree, lets do that for him. Sending him good wishes and hope he will make a swift recovery…. and hope some of his friends will be by his side, also physically now, as best friends ideally would… Hugs and love

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      • Yeah.i have mailed him with best wishes.love and hugs.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Very good, yes have emailed him as well… may he be back to good health soon! Love and many hugs meri jaan

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      • The hoping with positive attitude has most important.my dear amiga.Love and many hugs.thanks for information about Andrews.you are most sweet and kind hearted,meri jaan.

        Liked by 1 person

      • YES!! I so agree! You are right. Of course, I know how much you care about him dear. Thanks my friend for your lovely words 🙂 ❤️ You are a tesoro/ treasure in Spanish.

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      • So much thanks,meri dost.!! You know-i have never seen him but so much like/love him.this is the relation of one soul to other soul. as i talk with you like a close friend but we have never met each other.but you are nearer my heart.this is relation of two souls.soul speaks to other soul.last day of yrsterday, I was bitterly in tears.i think -those tears without any reason was for Andrews.that day i felt something wrong happened. You are too tesoro.love you and a tight hugs❤

        Liked by 1 person

      • Most welcome meri mitra. I understand, we can definitely connect to others deeply through words etc and as you say so beautifully, soul to soul! Yes. You are a wonderful poetess my friend! Yes I agree, when we are very close with someone we can sometimes sense things like you the other day with Drew…ah bless your sweet honest heart and soul! Your words are so touching my dear amiga! Not many people are, or can be, so honest and vulnerable. Love ya too my friend! Big hugs and rest well ❤❤

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  9. Your audio version of your post is excellent, thank you for providing this option! It’s apparent there is a limitless if not anxiety-inducing amount of things to see/do in Dubai. How long did you stay and out of curiosity I wonder how much time it would take to explore the entire island? I’d imagine it’d take days to do the entire mall but that water feature is the coolest I’ve ever come across.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much Steph, I am thrilled to hear you enjoyed the audio-version! Yes, there is surely a vast amount of exciting things to experience when exploring Dubai. I just stayed in Dubai for a stopover of around 48 hours, but would suggest at least 4 to 7 days to really get a feel for the place and visit the major sights, as well as maybe doing a desert-safari, which is still on my list. Hope that helps Steph:) And yes, the water feature was amazing! Dubai is definitely a unique travel destination Happy, healthy 2020 to you 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Oh, and thank you for sharing the link to “The Story of Stuff Project.”

    Liked by 1 person

  11. You have covered Dubai’s attractions so well.

    Liked by 1 person

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