Dubai shopping centers, like most everything in Dubai, are spectacular and completely over the top. Dubai Mall is the largest in the world with 1,200 shops and restaurants. With the imposing Burj Khalifa (the world’s tallest building) right outside, you could easily spend a week in Dubai Mall taking in all the shops, souks, fountains, ice skating, and of course, people watching.
Just minutes away from the record-breaking Burj Khalifa and Dubai Mall (largest in the world), is Dubai Creek — a throwback to Dubai’s origins as a port of trade. Wooden vessels still ply the working creek and a bustling spice and gold souk awaits visitors and residents in the mood for something, well, a little more authentic.
The newly built, old-style Souk Madinat Jumeirah was one of my favorite spots in Dubai, even if it screamed “Epcot.” Lusting over turquoise from Afghanistan (expensive), admiring the Burj Al Arab in the distance, and gazing at gondolas gliding up the canal was a perfect way to spend a hot and lazy afternoon. This attraction is just one more example of how Dubai tempers materialistic extravagance with retro-leaning regional motifs. Color me impressed.
If you love architecture, you’ll love Dubai. Riding the metro through the heart of the city feels a bit like being on the set of “Star Wars” (that is, if it wasn’t all CG). It was unreal. As you can see, the construction has a global feel with a dash of Big Ben, Chrysler Building, a taco (okay, that’s probably supposed to be a boat), and even dolphin- and candy bar-shaped buildings.
Abu Dhabi, the oil rich capitol. Abu Dhabi is a little less glamorous and populated than Dubai, but a lot wealthier and older. We saw gorgeous one-of-a-kind tapestries at the women’s craft village, got up close and personal with a camel, and even saw wild camels galloping through the desert.
Music by Rachid Taha
Exploring the iconic Tokyo neighborhood
After traveling for two hours on the Tokyo Metro, we finally arrived at the double-venued Chiba Stadium. It took another hour to figure out where all the good bands were playing. Thankfully, not in the open air stadium under a vengeful August sun.
Welcome to Tokyo, Japan — one of the most navigationally challenging countries I’ve experienced. Thank goodness we were staying with friends! They picked us up in Shibuya, a hip and electric ward of Tokyo.
It was every bit as romantic as Out of Africa and then some. We toured South Africa, the sweeping beauty of which is pock-marked by unparalleled unemployment, poverty, crime, and AIDS. The scars of Apartheid were distinct — from the street signs formerly named after Apartheid supporters, re-christened to diversity leaders to the very language used to describe this beautiful little girl. A person of mixed race is referred to as “coloured,” the girl’s mother informed me.