It was surreal. There is no other way to describe it. It was like looking at a postcard that was sky high and extends beyond one’s peripheral vision. From inside the taxi on our way from the Dubai Airport to the hotel, I caught sight of the silhouette of the skyscrapers standing next to each other. I pursed off my camera to allow myself to be completely mesmerized by the futuristic beauty. After all, there is no way my 50mm camera lens will be able to give justice to this otherworldly scenery in front of me.
Which explains why I didn’t have any photo of the Dubai skyline. And also the reason why I had totally forgotten having taken this single image of Burj Khalifa’s towering magnificence.
Dubai is a 23rd-century city mystically zapped into the present. If ever I would have to complain about this city, it’s only because it causes an extreme scarcity of superlative adjectives to describe it. Marvelous, magnificent, majestic. When presented with something so beautiful, you’re suddenly at lost for words.
Dubai Mall & Dubai Aquarium
My visit to Dubai Aquarium was totally unplanned. In fact, I did not even go inside the Underwater Zoo. On the first day of my three-day business trip in Dubai, I consented to meet with my two sisters-in-law who were both working in that city. Upon checking in at the hotel I pre-booked days before, I was informed that there was a bus plying to key spots in the city including the Dubai Mall. The bus was to leave at around half past three in the afternoon. It was still too early but I thought it was best to take that early bus rather than get lost in commuting alone later. As expected, I reached Dubai Mall before five, more than two hours earlier than our intended meeting time. Left with nothing else to do, I toured the mall looking for whatever it had to amuse myself with when I chanced upon the ceiling-high aquarium.
The Dubai Aquarium was a massive 10-million-litre saltwater tank made to look like a living wall. It was huge but I did not find it very interesting. The artificial reef looked bleached and there were not enough fish to look at. It was like ogling at a dead rock formation, which could have been great had it been in a cliff or elsewhere outdoors, but that was an aquarium and I was expecting colorful reef and fish formations and not static gray rocks.
Located next to the ceiling-high aquarium was the cave-looking entrance to the Underwater Zoo, and above it was another tall aquarium. It was smaller compared to the main one, doesn’t have fancy rocks but there were more than enough fish to give an impression of a real underwater scene. I was trying to take photos of the aquarium and the sharks swimming crazily inside it but the thick crowd was getting in the way. I put my camera away and stepped back to marvel at it from a distance when something else got me excited.
Most of the people gathered in front of the aquarium had their smartphones out, trying to capture photos of the sharks like what I originally intended to. The mall was slightly dim-lit which caused the light from the smartphones stand out. It was like an scene from an old-school concert where people would light up their lighters against the dark, waving along with familiar melody. Only there were no singers but sharks. I brought out my camera again and aimed at the crowd while adjusting the shutter speed to create a silhouette of the crowd against the bright-lit foreground.
It was amazing! The curious crowd was able to humanize what had been a monotonous scene. I kept taking photos while aiming at different subjects — the crowd against the aquarium, the bright-lit smartphones against the crowd, the whole scene with varying shutter speed to either light up the people or reduce them to silhouettes.
I lost track of time and before I realized, one of my sisters-in-law was already there behind me. She had had been there while I busy myself with the crowd.
Meanwhile, my little companion got engaged in a physical combat with the King Croc.
Yotsuba ended up victorious and brought peace throughout the land and as a token of gratitude, we treated her to a scrumptious seafood feast at P.F. Chang’s. Minutes after we started digging into our sticky, spicy shrimp, the crowd started cheering the nearby water fountain as its water danced off with Shakira’s music.
Excuse me, I’m busy.
I was in Dubai on November 19 to 21, 2014. This was on the first day. On the night of the 20th, the Filipino bartender at the hotel bar got me all drunk, I puked at the toilet in my room. Happiness overload!
Disclaimer: The punning title was first used by Cebu Pacific Air during their first commercial flight to Dubai.
Update May 26, 2018: Lots of new attractions and landmarks are being built in Dubai, including the Dubai Frame (constructed) and a dynamic skyscraper (on-going construction). Question is, will Jeddah’s 1-kilometer tower be able to eclipse the world’s tallest tower in Dubai? We will see.