After our first day in Dubai focused on Dubai’s economy and business climate, our second day in Dubai allowed us to explore the culture and history of Dubai in greater depth. We began the day by traveling down to the Old Town, which featured huts built by Dubai’s first permanent residents.  We learned that long before the discovery of oil and the emirate’s subsequent renaissance as an economic powerhouse, Dubai was a small fishing community whose primary source of income was another natural resource, pearls.

A trip across the river in a water taxi both brought us to the traditional markets and displayed to us the sharp dichotomy which is quite apparent in Dubai. As junk ships bearing their cargo bound for Iran and other foreign ports as they have since the earliest days of the city traced the riverbank lined with skyscrapers and traditionally-clad residents passed by driving supercars, the divide between the city’s futurism and traditional past came into sharp contrast for the first time. To celebrate this, many of us purchased traditional items and clothing before heading out for our city tour and desert excursion in the evening.

Our city tour expanded on the themes we experienced at the river earlier, as we saw first-hand many of the projects which have made Dubai a lengendary global city. Among the most impactful of these were the Palm Islands, an endeavor which succinctly conveys the city’s goals. This ambitious construct aimed to artificially double Dubai’s coastline, thereby creating more coveted ocean-front property. These properties served as a great representation of the the past, present and nascent economic prospects of the city. For instance, apartments originally priced at $2,000,000 during the city’s boom sank in price more than 50% and are only now recovering some of their value.

While the Palm Islands certainly illustrated the extent to which Dubai has experienced fluctating business climates, they also served to impress upon the group the degree to which Dubai had been able to shape its natural environment and its destiny through its commitment to the realization of its ambitious dreams. Despite the setbacks encountered by the emirate in recent years, these dreams still have the ability to allow Dubai to remain a global presence and maitain its position as a model for the futures of almost every city in the world.

After our city tour we embarked on a desert excursion. Traveling through the sand dunes in Land Cruisers was a blast, and we even had the opportunity to see the sunset in the desert. As it was getting dark, we made our way to a desert campsite to ride camels and eat a traditional indigenous feast. The desert safari was certainly a contrast to the hustle and bustle of downtown Dubai. We had a lot of fun on the excursion and look forward to an eventful third day in the United Arab Emirates.

— Austin Rhoads & Scott Bishopric