Dec 8, 2011

Old Town Dubai. Down Town New York.

Dawn breaks over Dubai and I am there to watch it from the 42nd floor of Shangri-La.  And it is every bit as surreal as I intended that sentence to sound.  I'm not just in a hotel gym, I am in James Hilton's mystical and harmonious Shangri-La, that mythical Himalayan utopia.  A gentle haze (it looks gentle from where I am) rolls over low lying buildings leaving the gleaming new towers of hotels and offices to themselves in the high roller's skyline of the new Dubai.

As I look downward to street level, I can see the city's pulse and hear its rush.  The cars zooming past on the 12 lane carriageway that is Sheikh Zayed Road and the shuddering whoosh of the trains as they glide between stations on their mid air tracks.  The stations themselves stud the street scape with their distinctive presence.  Matte gold domes with borders of glass.

It is now 6.50 am (I have my hotel routine down pat) and I am glowing (though the purists would call it drenched in sweat) from my time on the treadmill and stepper.  I am also apres rapid sequence yoga (downward dog, triangle pose, head stand and repeat).  I rebelliously pad barefoot across the carpet of the gym and foot slap across the gleaming marble.  If I am politely offered slippers for the journey, I take the hint  but otherwise I relish those barefoot moments as I head to my room.

To the right of the hotel is that space age metropolis I described. To the left, is an expanse of old Dubai.  The modest 3 storey brick and stone buildings that run in parallel lines alternating with trees.

Back inside the hotel, it's a fusion of those two disparate elements of the city, the old and the new.  A beaded curtain is suspended high above traditional latticework.  At ground level it is all sleek international hotel lobby.

I don't get so disorientated in the Dubai Mall anymore.  Sadly, this is a sign it's nearly time to go home.  There's some kind of jaw dropping feature at the end of each avenue of the complex.  An aquarium, an ice skating rink, a fountain that's as tall as the aquarium.  Just to mix things up a little.

Last night's travels to other cities via Dubai took me to New York.  Dean and Deluca Dubai is part grocery store and part cafe.  The proportions are inverse to the stores in New York where the bulk of the area is groceries with only a few seats and tables at which to consume your takeaways.

It's all airy and New York City clean lines inside.

There are wrap around floor length windows that open out onto a spectacular view of the Burj Khalifa, the man made 30 acre Burj Khalifa lake and the Souk Al Bahar.

This is a situation where man made appears to have gone one better than nature.  The sheer size of the lake gave the landscape a very natural and relaxed feel.

From where I was seated, it looked like Lego land perfection at ground level.  It won't surprise you that it was so when I did get to ground level after dinner...

Meanwhile, in down town New York, I was sipping on a lemon and mint juice.  It was very refreshing - from the vivid green (which got me thinking how much I need a handbag that exact same shade, an issue for another holiday, perhaps) to the finely grated ice and that invigorating mint scent.

Yet more flat bread because I am both in Dubai and a creature of habit.

My wrap was filled with tandoori chicken.  It was lean and the dressing light - which was all the excuse I needed to finish all my hand cut french fries.

The fries were crisp on the outside and deliciously soft within.  They were also lightly herbed.  Not that any of these fine attributes stopped me from asking for ketchup on the side.

After dinner, I took a walk around the fountain and across the bridge I spied from my table at Dean & Deluca.

Everywhere I looked, there was the reminder of how the old and the new co-exist in Dubai.  It gives a place interest and character as well as a sense of harmony.  That worlds can collide and create something beautiful without the detriment of one or the other.

I have a feeling that the blue of the lake was hand picked to offset the colours of the souk as well as the sky scrapers.

It was only a short walk across a man made lake but I felt in a different world entirely to the shopping centre I had just exited.  Which in itself was a rather crazy world.

Dubai is lovely in the winter.

The evenings are cool yet there is enough of that soft light to be out and about in this mystical man made paradise.

A soft breeze dapples the water and there isn't any rain.

And just like that, we're back in New York in time for dessert.

The basement level of Bloomingdales is home to ..... MAGNOLIA BAKERY!!!!!

And it looks even prettier than the mother ship.  It's also not as cramped.

All the old timers were on display - the cup cakes, the fantastic old school American cakes.

I had an underwhelming coconut cupcake at the New York store so this time I went for something different.

That's a true red...
Red velvet with cream cheese frosting.  I'm a believer again.  The cake itself was dense and fine in texture and the frosting was just rich enough and just right in the sweetness stakes.

Paris, New York, Melbourne.  The cities I've visited whilst in Dubai.  All that is left, I guess, is to visit Dubai in Dubai.  Which I shall, of course, be doing this very afternoon.


  1. Wow - great pics! I've never been to Dubai and am intrigued by it. Such a unique place. I love the NYC spin you've put on it! Enjoy x

  2. You are making me think that maybe rather than a round the world trip I just need to go to Dubai.

    Apparently red velvet cake was one of the most googled terms in Australia this year. Having eaten it, I know why although I doubt the one I had would match up to that Magnolia Bakery one.

  3. What a fantastic post about a place I know so little about, you have certainly piqued my interest! I am loving your photography, you have a great eye for it, SSG!

  4. I love reading your blog every day. You have a wonderful way of making your readers feel like we're traveling right there with you. I have always been inquisitive about Dubai, now I definitely want to visit. And you look so lovely in your travel wardrobe, bravo. Think you should go and find a lovely green handbag to squeeze into your return luggage.

  5. Your posts are always interesting, yet soothing. Like a superior single malt.

    TDM xx

  6. I have to admit that I'm not a huge fan of Magnolia. As any faithful SATC fan would do I found myself in their Bleecker Street store and bought myself a box of cupcakes but I found them dry and not at all extraordinary. They also gave me that weird chalky feeling in my mouth and I hate that. I always try to pinpoint exactly what is in the cupcake to create that chalky feeling but I have no idea.

  7. I've been away and come back and you are in Dubai!! How marvelously exciting! I've read all the posts and as others have mentioned now think I need to visit Dubai. Thanks for the gorgeous photos and great writing.

  8. Cupcakes from Magnolia. I am sold. Dubai, I am on my way!

    K xx

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