Everything in Dubai is over the top, especially the Burj Khalifa

Yesterday we went to the top. Actually, to two tops.

First, we went to the top of the tallest building in the world, the 160-story Burj Khalifa, which opened earlier this year in Dubai. Then we went to the top of a ski hill, certainly the only ski hill in the Mideast.

The Burj Khalifa

And – typical of Dubai, where everything is the biggest, tallest, longest or whatever – both of these are in shopping malls. Yes, Dubai is one of the great shopping destinations of the world, too.,

Not only is the Burj Khalifa the world’s tallest building, but it has broken two other impressive records as well: tallest structure, previously held by the KVLY-TV mast in Blanchard, ND, and the tallest free-standing structure, previously held by the CN Tower in Toronto, Canada.

If you do nothing else when you visit Dubai, you should go to “The Top.”  Not only will you enjoy extraordinary views of the entire Dubai region…yep, it definitely adjoins the desert … but you will learn about how this extraordinary building was created. If you purchase a timed ticket online in advance, it will cost 100 dirham (about $27 US), or if you want to just walk up it will cost you 400 dirham (a hefty $110). For more information, go to www.burjkhalifa.ae or www.atthetop.ae.

You access the Burj (which means “tower’) through the Dubai Mall, which is….yes…the largest mall in the world with more than 1,200 retail outlets. It also has a huge and aquarium and “underwater zoo,” an Olympic-size ice rink, a 22-screen movie theater, its own gold souk with 200 jewelry shops and a indoor-outdoor streetscape with the only retractable roof in Dubai. At night, the mall features a sound-and-light show with fountains (much like at the Bellagio in Las Vegas…only bigger, of course). Check out www.thedubaimall.com.

The Burj and the mall are the centerpiece of a development area which calls its “Downtown Dubai” which is an interesting marketing concept because Dubai really does not have a downtown, but if it does it is probably in the older area down by the Creek. Oh well, Dubai is continually re-inventing itself. I know that if I return in 10 years, I will barely recognize it.

Yes, Virginia, there really are ski hills in Dubai

After taking a good look at the desert from the top of the Burj, we headed over to another of the city’s huge malls, the Mall of the Emirates. The centerpiece here is Ski Dubai, a real ski hill and snow park that is quite popular with the locals. We were surprised to find the complex bigger and higher than we thought it would be.

Although Chet and I are both skiers, we decided to jeopardize our entire trip by possibly slipping or falling on ice in Dubai (who would believe that excuse?) So, although our daughter Jen said we were wimps, we opted to don snow boots and jackets to venture inside.

Wow, it was really cold. And, yes, the snow was real.

We were certainly impressed with this attraction. First, you buy admission to either the snow park or the ski slopes. Then they suit you up with boots, a jacket and appropriate equipment (you must provide your own hat and gloves or buy them at their shop). There are lockers for leaving your shoes and personal items.

You enter through the snow park. This has lots to offers littles ones and those who do not ski. There is bobsledding, tobogganing, tubing, sledding and a snow cavern full of play equipment. You can even build a snowman.

If you are going to ski or snowboard, you hop on the four-person chairlift which takes you first to an intermediate platform where there is a small café for coffee, hot chocolate or sandwiches…from here you can go tubing or tobogganing, as well as access the three shorter runs. Then you go on up to the top where you can access the two higher and steeper runs. Lessons are offered to the inexperienced and they even sell accident insurance!

A ski resort inside a shopping mall

Ski Dubai is open Sundays-Wednesdays, from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Thursdays from 10 a.m. to midnight; Fridays from 9 a.m. to midnight and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. (I should note here that the “weekend days” in Dubai are Friday and Saturday and that Sunday is a regular work day.)

Admission to the snow park is 120 dirham ($32 US) for adults; a two-hour ski pass is 180 ($50 US) for adults. You can buy extra hours or an all day pass. If you just want to take a ride on the chairlift, a one-ride pass costs 80 dirham. For more information about this one-of-a-kind attraction, go to www.skidxb.com.

For more information on travel to Dubai, visit www.definitelydubai.com.

Tomorrow: The Dubai of today, where will it end?

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