Dubai’s Fantasy Castle and Cathedral to Consumerism


Dubai has been built on the premise that most people are shopaholics, on the desire to break world records and to entertain both locals and visitors with endless themed structures, like something from Disneyland. Two complexes that represent Dubai’s addiction to excess that can be visited free of charge and are stop-off points on the relatively cheap get-on-and-off Big Bus Tour of the city are:

  • The Atlantis Hotel and aquapark
  • The Dubai Mall

Like many things in Dubai, there is a touch of fantasy in the luxury-themed resort on the Atlantis Hotel. It is based on the drowned continent of Atlantis mentioned by Plato, a legend fancifully embellished over the centuries, and attempts to provide a window into a lost world. The complex was built at the staggering cost of $1.5 billion in 2008 on the artificial island of Palm Jumeirah. The hotel is decorated with ceilings of marine life, shell-topped columns, a Neptune-like gilt throne, Lost Chambers with a maze of tunnels, sunken ruins, drowned halls under a lagoon that has 65 000 marine creatures. Some of the 1539 rooms and suites (Lost Chamber Suites) have floor to ceiling views into the water world. In the aquapark there is a 30-metre ziggurat that provides an almost vertical slide into a lagoon infested with sharks.

Reactions to this resort complex range from totally kitch and over-the-top, to opulent and like ‘paradise on earth’.

The Dubai Mall, in the new precinct of Burj Dubai, was also built at unbelievable cost and opened at the end of 2008. It is the largest mall in the world and the adjacent needle-like tower is the tallest building in the world. The mall is the size of 50 soccer fields with 15 malls-within-a-mall including the world’s largest gold souk among its 1200 stores. However, this mall is more than just a shopping experience. It is also a massive entertainment complex with an Aquarium and Discovery Centre containing 10 million litres of water, 33 000 species and the world’s largest acrylic viewing panel. There is an Olympic-sized skating rink. 22-screen cinema complex, Kidzania, a children’s entertainment centre and SEGA Republic, an indoor themed park where visitors can go into sensory overload. It is easy to get lost in this massive glitzy mall that provides everything including a refuge from Dubai’s excessive heat.

There is no doubt that a visit to both of these new Dubai landmarks is a memorable experience and gives one perspective on Sheikh Maktoum’s showcase city.


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