The blog returns today after a week’s hiatus with a question: what does the average tourist make of the UAE? Well, this week my family have been visiting so I got a first hand chance to experience this place from the other side of the fence.
Our – well, their – holiday was broken into three sections: leg 1 was held in Dubai, leg 2 in the party capital itself; Al Ain and leg 3 in Abu Dhabi. Across these three destinations appears to lay a common denominator: Malls. It seems to be the corner stone of the UAE tourism industry. Dubais the worst for such things. We began our Malling in Mall of the Emirates. My sisters – both aged 25 – were in awe. It had a Virgin Mega-store that somehow still exists despite being closed down everywhere else in the world, an Adidas shop and some Penguins. It was a wonderful 3 hours of my life, walking aimlessly from shop entrance to shop entrance.
The following day it was decided that we would go to Dubai Mall. For those foreign readers who don’t know, this Mall is the largest in the world. And sure enough the distance you cover on foot is probably the same distance you would cover if you decided to walk to Saturn. There was a Virgin Mega-store, an Adidas shop and a fish tank.
On the third day we were in Al Ain, my adopted home. We began proceedings by discussing what should be done. Before a spot of light pooling it was agreed that we would go to Al Ain Mall. The new extension is a must-see. There is no Virgin Mega-store but there is a Mega Mart; and an Adidas shop and the world’s smallest Ice-Skating rink.
Day 4 and it was off to Abu Dhabi. After checking in at a very nice hotel we did some brain storming and deduced that it was a good idea to experience Marina Mall. I have to say it’s my personal favourite. We arrived and entered. We enjoyed looking at Carrefour. We paid a visit to the Adidas shop and the world’s even smaller Ice-Skating rink.
The last day of the tour saw the Fullard family pay a visit to Abu Dhabi Mall. It’s not the most impressive but it is air-conditioned. There was plenty to see. There was a Virgin Mega-store, and an Adidas shop and…a Starbucks…
Ask anyone who has visited the UAE as a tourist what they did and I guarantee you that they will have spent most of their time Mall
hopping, trying desperately to avoid the cruel summer heat. See, I actually had a brilliant week with my family and I did get to do some stuff that I had never done previously. For example I paid AED 120 (£20) to go up in a lift to look out of a window for 2 minutes before feeling dizzy. I also paid the same figure to sit on a vulgar diesel-powered bus for several hours and catch deep vein thrombosis just for the pleasure of being charged further money to ride a crappy ill-maintained quad-bike and hold a bird. I did consider killing myself at one point but thankfully I was surrounded by my loved ones who told me not to cause a scene.
I mean it really is a good earner over here. The Malls are just there and I am certain that the starting capital for each has long since been made back. The Burj Khalifa isn’t short of a few quid. It takes 120 people every half hour. AED 120 per person, 120 people per session and 36 sessions each day, every day and is always fully booked. The desert safari is just an unorganised blob that somehow remains popular…
So returning to the formative question, what do regular tourists make of the UAE? Lots of tall shiny buildings yes, but the majority of these are offices or are the homes of people who don’t know you. Hot? Yes. So the tourists are forced to take refuge in the nearest Mall, to shield the MasterCard from the sun… Burj Khalifa? Your hotel probably has a lift and a window that can be used in much the same way for free. So my guess is that if tourists spend most of their vacation time in the UAE they think one word: expensive.
So what did I make of it as a tourist? Its’ brilliant, but damned if I’ll ever do another desert safari.