I wasn’t prepared for the intoxicating love affair I’d have with Dubai. My sons and I had planned to vacation in the United Arab Emirates city, because it checked off every box for us: It had a warm climate, beautiful architecture, a famous racetrack (we’d be there for the opening of racing season) and was a place where we could have a real adventure. As we descended on Dubai, the iconic skyline emerging from the desert, it welcomed us like no other city had. Its sheer magic affirmed to me that Dubai has joined an elite club of worldwide luxury travel destinations.
A city built on deep-rooted traditions and a progressive vision of what cities of the future should/could look like, Dubai’s both welcoming and inspiring. We took a quick train ride from the airport into the city—an opportunity to experience its new fast transit system—and walked through the streets to our hotel. Large cranes, tall buildings and massive piles of building supplies, with construction barricades everywhere, dotted the streets as if to say, “Welcome! We’re building a city just for you.” Like a kid in a candy store, I obsessed over every detail: the modern lines in the architecture; the elegant houses of worship, with their glorious call-to-prayer echoing throughout the streets; the hum of luxury cars; and the beauty of the warm blue sky. All that, and the promise of the Arabian desert and its graceful sands beyond the city.
As if in a trance, we wandered around the world’s largest mall, saw the world’s largest building and experienced the world’s largest fountain. Wow! A visit to Burj Khalifa, the city’s 2717-foot tower, was first on the list. This majestic building commands the skyline like no other, and while it hosts apartments, restaurants, offices and viewing areas—and has a spire made from more than 4000 tons of steel—it’s more than just a building: It’s an incredible, award-winning architectural masterpiece. And as if that wasn’t enough, at its base is the Dubai Fountain, providing a mesmerizing jetted light show, choreographed to music, which we were able to get a front-row seat for from the private balcony of the Burberry store. Talk about being at the right place at the right time.
Our next stop was Meydan Racecourse, Dubai’s premier horse racing venue. As proud Saratogians who’ve loved our historic Saratoga Race Course, it takes a lot to impress us. But with Meydan’s mile-long grandstand, with room to accommodate more than 60,000 spectators; elegant international crowd; and glorious horses, the experience simply took our breath away.
It was difficult to leave Dubai, its stunning architecture and cultural experiences—and its gracious people left an indelible, unforgettable impression on us. It’s a fabulous city. I know that someday I’ll return to Dubai, and there’ll be a host of new buildings to see and beauty to discover.