Greetings, readers! My apologies for the blogging hiatus; it was certainly a jam-packed mod this past winter in preparation of our overseas trips. Now that we are back and into Mod 4, it is my pleasure to bring you part 1 of a five-part blog series on Global Residency and Spring Break 2012! So, without further ado...
Welcome to Dubai!
My travel buddy Matt and I flew into Dubai on a nonstop flight out of Dulles with visions of our destination not unlike the one depicted above in our heads. Since we were flying in a day earlier than the formal start of residency, we booked a couple of cheap rooms in a hotel called Fortune Plaza (nothing dubious there) just outside of the airport in which to crash for the night. This hotel happened to be on the northern, less developed side of the airport, and I believe it was in a strip mall:
Wait, what? Are we still in Kansas (where "Kansas" means Dubai)? As we would discover repeatedly over the course of our stay in Dubai, this is a city/emirate of many dichotomies, particularly when it comes to wealth and displays of such. The Fortune Plaza, for example, was jammed into a strip mall, and then in turn managed to jam no fewer than seven bars and clubs within its walls. This included Matt's and my favorite, Freddy's Restrobar:
We weren't sure how Freddy managed to fit all of those activities into his restrobar since we did not actually go, but it was a pretty good initial taste of what we could expect in Dubai. At any rate, we decided that as fun as the Fortune Plaza was, we would rather be in the lovely Al Murooj Rotana that the McDonough School of Business had booked for us and our classmates, so we headed out.
Needless to say, the Al Murooj Rotana was gorgeous. I believe that it is a regulation in force in Dubai that any new hotels must be five-star. Then again, it felt like an arms race in Dubai (as well as in Abu Dhabi) to build the biggest, best, most expensive <fill in the blank>, so that regulation was probably a moot point, what with the "seven-star" Burj Al Arab (pictures to follow) and the "eight-star" Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi (built specifically to beat the Burj Al Arab).
Prior to the official kickoff of residency activities, Matt and I met up with our classmate Angela to explore the Dubai Mall across the street. As far as malls go, they do not come bigger or more over-the-top than the Dubai Mall:
Also in Dubai Mall were a Gold Souk (market dedicated to selling gold/jewelry) and an aquarium AND underwater zoo (I am unclear what the last one is and how it differs from an aquarium, but it was at the Dubai Mall). There was also an interesting sculpture of what appeared to be a number of able-bodied people diving from a waterfall:
Armed with our preliminary understanding of what Dubai had to offer, we were ready to meet the MSB-organized business and cultural visits throughout the week, including one to the Jumeirah Mosque...
...and another to the DIFC (Dubai International Financial Centre):
View of the DIFC Gate from the Gate Courtyard; one of a number of buildings in this free zone that plays host to over 800 global companies across financial services, professional services, logistics...
Clearly, Dubai is an interesting combination of business hub, consumerism, and traditional values. As a reminder of this following mosque and DIFC visits was back at the Dubai Mall...
Welcome to Dubai, everyone! Updates to follow will include our presentation, our visit to Abu Dhabi, some sight-seeing, and of course, spring break!