EML 02 - 12 - 2010

The United States, known for an unattainably high standard of living has set the benchmark for the "developed" world. We drive everywhere, consume fresh water like it will last forever, and construct buildings which require enormous amounts of energy to heat and cool. Could life be any better? Well, in the spirit of one-upmanship, the UAE has taken our lifestyle to an entirely different level. Dubai in particular seems to collect edifices attesting to their supreme prowess as a wasteful nation. Some of these are (but not limited to) the world’s tallest building, the world's largest indoor mall, the world's largest artificial ski slope, etc, etc... Remarkable doesn't even begin to explain Dubai, perhaps the word employs too positive a connotation. But, remarkable it is, surely a more comfortable place could not exist....and in middle of the desert. Today we toured this capitol of waste, visiting such sites of pure, unabashed opulence as the 7 star Burj Al Arab, the Burj Khalifa (now the tallest building on earth, pictured bottom), the Dubai Mall, and the Atlantis (satellite location of the famous Bahamas mega-resort). Everything about this city is over the top. How else are building supposed to stand out in a sea (an ocean really) of architectural chaos. Dan, our BSU alumnus and resident UAE architect, described Dubai's innumerable skyscrapers as performing architectural back flips (i.e. form for form's sake). But hey, it’s definitely not dull. Perhaps the most refreshing moment of our tour occurred in the oldest part of the city near the Creek. Here the streets are smaller, quarters are close, much like the alleys of Cordoba or the ancient paths of Eze. Anyways, while walking these tight streets, we began to notice a substantial increase in the density of the crowds. As we worked our way towards the waterfront, it became apparent that people were waiting for something. Local residents were lining up for an event we would later learn related to the Hindu god Vishnu. It was obvious our presence was adding to the confusion as officials quickly ushered us past a barricade holding back hundreds (if not thousands) of people ready to break into a run at any moment. Finally, we've found something real, unrelated to "progress" or wealth. These were simply devout people participating in a religious tradition. A little unexpected, but decidedly fitting that the only cultural tradition was to be found in what appeared to be the poorest area of Dubai. The UAE is the United States on steroids. Thankfully, small rays of a unique cultural identity are able to find their way in a city obsessed with the new.

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