Just over a week ago, Tiger Woods was here in Dubai, part of the United Arab Emirates, playing golf in what should be a desert. Not so unusual—dunes reclaimed for greens is common in places with a bit of money to burn on the process and upkeep, and golf certainly brings in profits. But how about a ski hill in a place that commonly tops the 100-degree mark in the hot season? Whether you find it appealing or not, this bold growing city is a bit like Vegas without the casinos and demands to be seen if only once. Shoppers make pilgrimages for duty-free purchasing and a month-long annual Shopping Festival which plunges prices 75% or more in some cases. And with a skyline completely dominated by cranes, this city on the Persian Gulf shows no signs of stopping.
Many flights arrive around midnight coming in from places like Paris or Amsterdam, common connection points for North Americans. This can mean throngs of deplaning travelers and immigration becomes overwhelmed. You can expect an hour in line in some cases. (Travelers with infants will be pleased to know that Emirati security keeps a special eye out for you and quickly moves you to the front of the line!)
Word of advice: arrange a ride with your hotel BEFORE you arrive. The taxi stand is more reminiscent of the Middle East I know—no efforts to make lines or avoid stepping on toes. And if you are not a smoker, be prepared to find yourself in a mass of frenetic nicotine withdrawal as the Marlboro crowd is unleashed after the smokeless flights and terminal. All this at 2 a.m. after a couple of 7-hour flights can make a guy a little edgy.