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Around the World in 80 Days Revisited

Dubai 8 October 2008

Back in Dubai 
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Back in Dubai, twenty years on. The dhows in the creek behind me are now more likely to be floating restaurants.
Michael Palin - Around the World in 80 Days RevisitedTwenty years ago, following in the steps of Phileas Fogg, the journey from London to Dubai had taken Passepartout and me fifteen days. Today an Emirates Airbus brought us here in seven hours. Twenty years ago, Dubai was a desert town with a population of 350,000. Today it numbers one and a half million and more are arriving as fast as they can build homes for them. And that doesn't include the six million visitors who stop off here every year.

In October 1988 we put up at one of a tiny handful of hotels. Now there are over five hundred to choose from, including the Burj Al Arab which calls itself a seven-star hotel and serves a cocktail costing 3,800 a shot. The minarets and mosques which defined the skyline have been overshadowed by secular constructions, including the Burj Dubai, ('burj' meaning a tower) currently the world's tallest building, in which you can live and work 2,500 feet above the ground. There are plans to top even this, with a tower that will be more than a kilometre high. The International Herald Tribune describes the city as 'Las Vegas on steroids'.

At the Dubai Off-Shore Sailing Club, I meet up with Bill Nelson. As Head of Ports and Customs Bill had been our first point of contact twenty years ago. Now eighty-six, in poor health and having to leave Dubai as his house is to be bulldozed to make way for the new airport, he was in remarkably good humour. He gives me the number of his one-time deputy, Khamis Moud, who actually found us the Al Shama, and who is now himself Head of Ports and Customs.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Around the World in 80 Days Revisited
  • Chapter: Dubai 8 October 2008
  • Country/sea: United Arab Emirates
  • Place: Dubai
  • Book page no: 230

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