|So yeah, that didn't work out. We're home now.
Yesterday after work seven of us carpooled up to Jebel Ali to go camping.
Jebel Ali is part of the Emirate of Dubai, but not part of the city of Dubai, which gets tricky. It's about 20 miles south-southwest of Dubai Creek, the older part of town, but is really just around the corner for us. In fact, some stores at Ibn Battuta Mall refer to themselves as in Jebel Ali.
Anyway, Jebel Ali is mostly known for shipping. It's the world's largest person-made harbor and the biggest port in the Middle East. In fact, the port of Jebel Ali has become the port most frequently visited by ships of the United States Navy outside the United States, due to the fact that the port can accommodate Nimitz Class supercarriers, and the fact that for some reason the U.S. has had lots of boats in the Arabian Gulf as of late ...
But continuing south past the port there's just nothing. Desert to the left of Sheikh Zayed Road, desert to the right. Well, desert, and eventually the Gulf. So we took a right, and caravanned across the sand to the beach.
Of course, there's nothing around us at all, except for out in the Gulf, as that's where they're building the Palm Jebel Ali.
Yep, another Palm. This one is actually going 50 percent larger than the almost-completed Palm Jumeriah, too.
But that's not the craziest part. They're actually building a whole cluster of artificial islands around the Palm Jebel Ali called the Dubai Waterfront, which will be larger than the the island of Manhattan.
Of course, this being Dubai, the Dubai Waterfront isn't the end. Nope. That's just phase one of an even bigger plan - the Arabian Canal, an artificial canal that runs inland, similar to the Dubai Creek but bigger, gaudier and of course, artificial.
As part of the Dubai Waterfront they're also planning to construct one of the world's tallest buildings Al Burj.
This shouldn't be confused with the Burj Dubai, which is planned to be the world's tallest building, and is currently being constructed, and already taller than the Empire State Building.
(see my Flickr gallery for some photos of the construction from last weekend.)
Oh, one last thing. They're also building the world's busiest airport - Dubai World Central (formerly "Jebel Ali International Airport").
So yeah, Jebel Ali is not going to be so sleepy when it's done in a few years.
1 Al Ras
3 The Rivera
4 The Palm Boulevard
5 Madinat Al Arab
6 The Peninsula
10 The Exchange
As far as I can tell, we camped yesterday in the red area, somewhere just to the right of the number five. Heck, that could be where the Al Burj is someday going to end up!
Here's another view of where we were on the Dubai Map that we found in October (see Map of Dubai).
Since none of these canals exist yet, it's tough to determine exactly where we were, but I'd guess somewhere around the "Al" in "Madinat Al Arab".
Anyway, from our camping site we had a fantastic view of the Palm Jebel Ali construction (if any of you have the chance to see the Discovery Channel "Mega Builders" about the construction of the island, watch it! Very interesting stuff.) Further up the coast we had a view of the lights of Dubai.
We made a fire, set up the tents, cooked some hot dogs, made s'mores (albeit without graham crackers, as I couldn't find them in Carrefour).
It was a nice night, as yesterday was really muggy. It was also quite sandy yesterday. Sandstorms are a weird thing - it's not like in The Mummy when you see it rolling across the desert at you only to be blinded by sand immediately after it hits - or, at least the ones I've experienced haven't been like that. It's more like a windy day in winter when the already-fallen snow is being blown around.
But it's not sunny, in fact, the whole day takes on a red color-scheme, like when they have wildfires in Southern California. The light is tremendously blocked out.
Anyway, we should have thought about this before we went camping. Heck, had we read the somewhat unreadable Gulf News we'd have seen this gem: People stay indoors as sandstorms hit UAE.
Apparently wind speeds reached up to 30 knots (35 mph) yesterday, which might not sound like much, but sand pelting you at speeds faster than cars travel through a school zone ... that's not cool.
Needless to say, last night the tents started shaking as if there were four Boy Scouts outside angry that you used up the last of their toilet paper. We tried to stick it out, but at quarter-past midnight we made the call to pack it up. At that point the lights from both Dubai and the Palm Jebel Ali were obscured by sand.
It's probably a good thing we left, too. Right now the wind is howling outside and the sky has a rather orange pallor.
But still, it was cool to hang out on an abandoned beach where soon hundreds of thousands of people will live ...