Visiting Dubai - Dubai stopover review - What to do in UAE

Dubai marina
Dubai's beach

Dubai smells different from how I'd imagined. It lacks the herbal quality of Qatar, that aroma of burning incense that comes to mind when I think about the exotic lands of the Middle East. It smells clean, plastic, sterile.

I suppose that's because Dubai is far from exotic. Yes, it has its otherworldly attractions, but there isn't a hint of the mysterious sensuality that so often draws me back and again to my favourite cities. Like the reclaimed sand on which its palm archipelago is built, it did not exist as we know it just a few decades ago. It exists as one of the last bastions of ostentatious power in a post-modern world. Look at me, says the city, aren't I so rich and glamorous? She splays her oil-slicked fingers, hands framing her surgically enhanced face, demanding your attention. Money without discretion; beauty without brains; power without wisdom. Nouveau riche. 

It brings to mind the goldrush cities, the regions that shot to fame in an instant and had the life drained from them nearly as quickly as they were populated. Will it, too, be abandoned when we inevitably suck the land of its irreplaceable resources? Some say that could be within the decade. 

I'd imagine if I posed the question to Dubai, she would shrug and offer me another drink.