Well, it’s Ramadan as I write this post but it wasn’t while I was in port visiting Dubai, UAE.
I had an amazing time there! As plenty of military folk would be able to tell you, Dubai is absolutely beautiful. The infrastructure is insane! I think that’s what surprised me most about the city.
Driving home up I-95 North during spring break was a little depressing sometimes. Dilapidated motels and cracked pavements didn’t accurately reflect the pride we Americans so boisterously display.
Dubai on the other hand, is astoundingly clean. Probably the closest thing I’ve seen to the streets-paved-with-gold description that once inspired the mass pilgrimage through America’s Ellis Island gates.
While in Port
Beyond the streets and seemingly reflective pavements, the majority of my time was spent at the Dubai Mall. We had four days in port. Three of which I was free to roam, and even that wasn’t enough time for me to scourer the massive entity that is the Dubai Mall. It’s the largest mall in the world. It has an ice skating rink, a movie theater, an aquarium, an amusement park and a plethora of shops, restaurants and cafes.
I checked out the aquarium, the famed glass dome that allows you to watch as sharks, fish and the occasional diver swim overhead. I rode in a glass-bottom boat and fed fish and stingray that swam below.
The Best Part
Visiting the Dubai Mall, you can reserve a spot to take a tour, “At the Top.” There are a number of tour options; to the midway point of the building, a tour to the top of the building and an exclusive access tour. With a once in a lifetime opportunity, we went for the no-holds-barred option. We were escorted into a lush waiting room.
We were offered dates and espresso before our trip to the top. A tour guide escorted us explaining the history of the building along the way. The spider lily-inspired architecture resembles a “Y,” in the cross-section from overhead so spider lilies are littered and hanging throughout.
We took the elevator that scaled the 555 meter building before exiting onto the 163rd floor. The view was breathtaking. I could see the city buzzing and moving below me. The man-made Palm Islands and the Burj al Arab stand in the distance.
We went out to the observation deck after enjoying a latte – and some beautifully crafted latte art might I add. Blame Pinterest for my fascination.
My ears started popping from the altitude. As I looked directly down over the 30-acre Dubai fountain, Michael Jackson’s Thriller played and the water literally danced to the music.
All I could think was that I never wanted to leave.
We descended back to reality and had dinner lakeside with views of the Burj Khalifa Lake and the building of the same name. I had my favorite: salmon. Followed by another favorite, tiramisu.
I couldn’t help but feel a little melancholy heading back to the ship – I can’t lie. But it’s always helpful to think bigger than myself while remembering the greater purpose I, and the other 5,000 men and women who took this journey with me, serve.
We headed to the ship, got back underway, and invited VICE aboard to help tell our story and our purpose. I recommend anyone interested in learning about our role in the Middle East to watch: “Enemies at the Gates & Global Jihad.”
In the Meantime
I look forward to seeing my cracked pavements and even the overgrown landscaping. They may not be pretty but they’re mine. They tell my story, my mother and father’s story, and their mother and father’s story for generations.
It’s an amazing experience, seeing the world, but home is something I’d never trade for the world or anything else for that matter. I’ll be home soon!