Most everything is under twenty years-old, and designed and built by the greatest architects and real estate development companies from across Europe, the U.S. and Asia. Each building is more unusual than the next.
It has the over-the-top hotels of Las Vegas, combined with the ocean-front condo high-rises and attached yachts of Miami, all with a growing appetite for Orlando-sized theme parks, water parks and massive entertainment complexes. But there is no gambling, and alcohol only in the hotels that service western tourists (and even then, no alcohol can ever leave the bar areas).
Over half of the cars seem to be luxury brands of Mercedes, BMW, Rolls Royce, Bentley and Aston Martin (mostly in white), and the very formal dress-code and service-levels are extremely crisp, professional and almost intimidating.
But, is it a place to stop on a "cultural and educational trip"? Perhaps not, but we were passing through on the way to a more humble Ethiopia (tomorrow) and had to see it for a day or two. It definitely teaches what money can buy - but what about culture, history and a soul?
The rich Arab tradition can mostly be seen in the full-length dress codes of both the men and women of the native Emirtis ethnicity, the food of lamb and mutton rich with spices, and the ever-present Arabic flute music. Otherwise, it is a maze of every luxury brand from Europe the U.S. and England perched prominently on perfectly manicured boulevards.
Ben and I did witness an evening call-to-prayer with the men rushing to remove shoes and prostate before Allah on great carpeted floors, but only after a quick whole-body sink bath.
Personality-wise, it is an interesting mix of a highly educated upper-class Arabs (20%), and the immigrant service (Indian) and construction (African) population sector which make up the remaining 80%. Their commonality is that English is the universal language and everyone is extremely well-mannered and polite.
Would we ever come back here? Maybe if one had a high-powered business meeting, a celebrity Pro-am golf tournament, or was just showing your family what "over-the-top" really means. Otherwise, I wished we had time to go inland or even just to near-by Abu Dabi, the other large city in UAE, to experience more traditional Arab culture, as it seems as mysterious as what is underneaths all of those tunics and burkas.