12 June 2011

As Seen in Dubai: Burj Khalifa

Here are some of my shots of Burj Khalifa - not to be mistaken for Burj al Arab (that's the relatively short one on the coast that's shaped like a sail).

Guess where this is... it's the less than impressive observation deck on the 123rd floor of Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building. On a clear day you will get to see all the way out to the desert, but the really impressive view is actually from the foot of the building looking up.


The shadow cast by Burj Khalifa covers the 1km stretch of the Dubai Mall. Next to it you can see the Dubai Fountain (switched off until 5.30pm daily) and the Address Hotel.

Burj Khalifa towers above Dubai's tower blocks like a hypodermic needle in the sky. This is the view from the Southridge residential development.

I was at the opening night ceremony for Burj Khalifa, the night we discovered it would no longer be called Burj Dubai (Sheikh Khalifa of Abu Dhabi had bailed Dubai out of its debt and this rechristening was the thank you). Despite embarrassing financial issues, a reported £70,000 was spent on the fireworks display. As they exploded from the side of the mammoth structure and smoke filled the sky, I was - rather disconcertingly - reminded of of the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Centre. 

11 June 2011

Things I Love About Dubai #1: Weight Loss Opportunities

I don’t always take advantage of the UAE’s love affair with fitness and the multiple methods designed to achieve it, but I have, since landing on these Lycra-clad shores, tried more weird and wonderful ways to lose weight than a Hollywood A-lister. I’ve been part of a netball team, I’ve endured painful boot camps; I’ve belly-danced, body-combated and body-pumped. I’ve tried a Brazilian aerobic-cum-dance class with a name I couldn’t pronounce (no, not Zumba, the other one).

I saw Jennifer Anniston balancing on a surfboard in the pages of People magazine and the next week I was SUPing (that’s stand-up-paddling) around the Burj al Arab one beautiful still morning – for free! – on an introductory lesson with Surf Dubai.

I saw Geri Halliwell do ‘the crab’ on a beach in a paparazzi shot and felt inspired to join Dubai’s brilliant Zen Yoga. Alas, getting to Building 10 in Media City (which seems to be nowhere near the rest of Media City at all) was too much hassle, so I sourced a real yoga guru – not some trustafarian relocated from Notting Hill after a month on a yogi course in Koh Samui, but an Indian ex-pat living in Deira. He came to my apartment and charged just Dhs100 an hour (compared to the Dhs300+ charged by willowy blondes called Penelope for house calls, and for that amount I’d expect a happy ending!).  

Almost every building in Dubai has a gym and a pool, and there’s a marathon, fun run or locally sponsored race every month outside of summer. I should know – I’ve now got three (yes, three!) medals hanging on my jewellery stand.

I admit I’m still carrying the ‘Dubai stone’ (more on that later), but that’s down to me, my love of ten-dirham DVDs and all the tasty takeaways here (more on both of those later too).

However, I’m certain if I – or you – can’t hit your fitness goals in Dubai, you won’t hit them anywhere. Sure, there are distractions – the heat in summer, the Dubai brunch every Friday, the abundance of hot chocolate cafes and designer cupcakes in every mall, the aforementioned DVD box sets, but (and it’ll be a big butt if you don’t stay focused) as long as you minimise binges to one day a week, and let Dubai’s fitness opps engulf you the other six you’ll be as skinny as Angelina Jolie. And then you’ll probably want to brunch to get some meat back on your bones.

For details on any of the fitness fads I’ve tried, here are some links:

www.duplays.com (netball and loads of other team sports)
www.coredirection.com (Body Pump, Body Combat and other studio-based classes)
www.surfschooluae.com  (sometimes offers free introductory lessons for surfing and SUPing)