Insight Dubai Day 3

March 25, 2008

Today was certainly my favorite day so far, since we spent the entire day touring around Dubai and Abu Dhabi. First up was a tour of the DP World Ports in Abu Dhabi. They’re one of the major sponsors of this conference, so the organizers were distributing hats and tshirts with their logo so that we could show our appreciation. It was pretty hilarious for the Americans when it finally clicked that DP World is the new name for the Dubai Port company that caused the big scandal in the US a couple of years ago, when they tried to buy territory. Like everywere in the UAE, the motto of the Port seems to be the biggest and the largest of everything. Certainly impressive.

Next up we went to tour the FNC, which is the Parliament body of the UAE. Everyone was a little disappointed because we were supposed to see a legislative session in action,but we arrived late and missed it. However, it was still very fascinating to tour the building and hear from state officals. It’s a pretty interesting time to be looking at UAE politics because their in the middle of a several stage process of switching to a fully enfranchised democratic system. The parliament has been around since 1970 in an advisory capacity, but a couple of years ago, they had the first election for half of the seats-the other half being appointed by the sheikh. It’s a big concern that most of the national population isn’t very politically aware and used to the process, so in that election, only a select college of of people (kind of an electoral college of the UAE) cast votes. However, they’re trying for this year to have a full election with all the citizens. So, keep an eye out in the news for that.- Fun fact, 23% of the legislature is women, which is one of the highest percentages in the world.

Next up, we went to see a couple of exhibits on some of the new building projects happening around Abu Dhabi, as well as an exhibit on Islamic Art. The art exhibition was stunning and presented a really wide collection of objects and eras. I really wish we could get that kind of wide ranging exhibit to come to the United States, instead of just a few token calligraphy pieces at the Met. The building projects we looked at are all happening on an island off of Abu Dhabi, that they are trying to make into an arts and cultural center for the area. It’s going to feature a variety of buildings by famous architects, including a gorgeous one by Zaha Hadid and a (apologize if anyone disagrees) but a horrifically egregious design by Frank Gehry for a “Dubai Guggenheim.”

Next we went to a mosque. Mosques in the UAE are generally illegal for non-Muslims but they give tours in this one for educational purposes.  The one we visited was a project of the late Sheikh Zayed (founder of the country) and cost 2.2 billion to build. My jaw still drops thinking about it, and I think more than anything else I’ve seen, that this place is what I will remember of Dubai. We were required to put on headscarfs and abayas (the black robes that the girls wear) which was a really fascinating experience in itself. The mosque is all different kinds of white marble with  gold and prescious stones inlaid. It’s the third largest in the world and has the largest carpet and the largest chandelier in the world. (Once more, theyre very big on having “the largest” of things) I apologize if I sound like a guidebook but it really was an incredible site. Of course…my camera died as soon as I entered and I was kicking myself the entire time. However, I asked several people to send me pictures.

Last but not least, we went to the Mall of the Emirates which is famous as the place which has a ski slope in the middle of it. Once again, my job dropped. It’s really a very decent sized slope with trees and a lift and anything. Im not sure I’m very comfortable with the whole idea of something like that but it certainly was impressive.

Anyway, most importantly its been wonderful getting to know everyone here. Tonight I sat on the bus and talked with a girl from Rwanda, a German, an Australian, several Emiratis, a Pakistani and another girl from New York City. Life has been very good to me=)

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5 Responses to “Insight Dubai Day 3”

  1. Sarah said

    Hi Rebecca!

    It sounds like you’ve been having a fantastic time. Dubai sounds beautiful and amazing. (Now I want to visit …) Have you been speaking much Arabic? How common is English?

    I can’t wait to hear more when you get back!

    Sarah

    (PS: I got into Rome!)

  2. Ginny said

    I am so proud that you feel able to critique and talk about architecture! Clearly an important idea in this country.

  3. Rachel said

    Ski slope? Ski slope? wow. i really want to see pictures.

    sounds like you’re having a wonderful time. Also, no arguments here that Hadid’s buildings are lovely, and Gehry’s are, well, not.

  4. I am SO proud! Not only do you talk about architecture, but you critique it also! Sounds like such an interesting place.

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