As we hurtled skyward, a projection on the wall showed us passing the height of the pyramids. Then the Sears Tower. Then the tallest buildings in Asia. Towards the end of our minute long ride there was nothing left that could compare.
Then the elevator slowed from 30 ft/sec to a stop at the 148th floor, 1820 feet up in the air. The spire of the Burj Khalifa continued up another thousand feet from this point, but we had already reached the tallest outdoor observation deck in the tallest building in the world.
We stepped out of the elevator and peered down at endless coastline in either direction. The city below was filled with rival buildings and miniature cars flying down expansive highways. It was an unreal view, an impressive reminder of human potential. The essence of Dubai.
Dubai was once a place primarily funded by oil, but the Dubai you can see today was built on tourism. To support this money-making machine, the Emirate has invested in unimaginably grand tourist sites, massive malls, trade and aviation. Driving down one of the many highways is an impromptu tour of record-setting construction: on the left, a man-made savannah to be filled with African animals and primed for safaris, and on the right, the newest one of eight theme parks.
While there's a very heavy Western influence on most everything in Dubai, you're still reminded every now and then that you're on the Arabian Peninsula. Many people browse the malls in a dishdash or abaya, and there's a very fancy place to buy them next to the Louis Vuitton. When we watched James Bond in the giant laser IMAX theater they had thankfully edited out all the naughty bits. And there's still great shawarma to be found sandwiched between an IHOP and a PF Chang's.
We came to Dubai, in part, to witness this excess firsthand, but most of all we were here to spend time with my Uncle and Aunt, Brocas and Fi, their two children and my Aunt Angela. The kids had been growing like weeds while our backs were turned, and it was great to get to know each of them for the little people they now are.
The youngest, Ruby, commands a dune buggy like she's auditioning for Mad Max.
And Noah, who plays Xbox with devastating precision and heaps of trash talking, has a considerable soft spot for barbecue.
They spent the whole weekend showing us how awesome the expat life in Dubai can be. On our last night, we enjoyed a British Sunday roast in front of the world's tallest building by the world's largest mall while watching the world's biggest water fountain display. The weekend was rife with craziness such as this, but it was exactly the kind of recharge we wanted before launching into the last month of our trip.
Out of the sand and into the steamy portion of our travels, starting with Sri Lanka!