For less than $1.00, visitors to the city can tour the Dubai Museum to be educated on Dubai's history, from its humble beginnings to its rise to fame.
The rest of Dubai is filled with skyscrapers, with new ones cropping up regularly. Construction sites dot the highways, telltale signs of new hotels, new office buildings, and new malls coming soon. Among these incredible architectural delights are the Etisalat Building, which looks like it has a huge golf ball sitting on top of it; Emirates Towers, which remind me of sentinels facing one another; and Burj al Arab, which is shaped like an unpretentious sailboat but stands apart from the others in a rather "snobbish yacht" kind of way. The most famous architectural wonder, however, is Burj Khalifa, and rightfully so. It is the tallest building in the world, making the Empire State Building look like a toddler, and it is a small city by itself, with offices, apartments, a hotel, a gym, several pools, and, of course, the observation deck, located on the 124th floor. On a clear day, one can see for miles. On a hazy day, it is a struggle to see the ground. Burj Khalifa is breath-taking, both from the ground looking up and from the observation deck looking down.
As chaotic as driving is in Dubai (remember, no system of addresses and apparently very little road planning), the streets of Dubai are even more dangerous for pedestrians. Crosswalks mean nothing to drivers in Dubai. We quickly came to the conclusion that crosswalks are actually treated more like games of chicken, with drivers speeding up, daring pedestrians to try to make it across.
Dubai wears a captivating facade of exotic cars, endless high end shopping adventures, tall buildings, and multitudes of fantastic dining experiences. But under the surface lies a darker side. This darker side deals with migrant workers, at least some of whom live just outside the city, in rows of shanties lining the highway. We noticed that none of the men working on construction sites in 110+ degree heat were Emiratis. They were from Pakistan, or India, or Indonesia. The living conditions of these migrant workers are certainly a far cry from the luxurious structures they build.
We are not naive enough to think that these things do not happen in other places. But for us, Dubai displayed a remarkably stark contrast, with an exceedingly thin veil between affluence and poverty.