By Nadine Kam
VIDEO BY NADINE KAM / firstname.lastname@example.org
The Dubai Fountains were among elements that reminded me of Las Vegas. I loved the regional music that accompanied the dancing waters. Those who dine at Dubai Mall's Wafi Gourmet or Karam Beirut have a ringside seat.
DUBAI, U.A.E. — Before leaving on a trip to unlikely destinations, there's always the question, "Why?"
Twelve years ago it was, "Why Portland (Ore.)?" It's pretty clear now it's a fantastic place to be, right?
The other question is, "What's Dubai like?"
I had to go to see for sure, but my stock answer at that time was, "It's the Las Vegas of the Middle East."
And so it was, minus the gambling.
Sited on the Eastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula, Dubai was initially a fishing village also sustained by a bounty of pearls. It wasn't until 1966 that oil was discovered there, and the wealth that came with that led to modernization.
With the last remaining oil deposits in the United Arab Emirates expected to run out in 2029, there's been a push for economic diversification beyond oil, and for Dubai that has meant a rapid boost in finance, real estate and tourism sectors so that today, only about 5 percent of its economy is based in oil.
It wasn't until a visit to the tallest building in the world, Dubai's Burj Khalifa, that it became visually obvious how new the desert city is. Construction on the building started in 2004, and pictures from the top levels in 2009, before it opened in 2010, showed mostly desert in the background. Most of the city sprung up in the last six years, and there are hundreds of cranes throughout the city as it is poised for more growth leading up to its hosting of the 2020 World Expo.
Developments will include more man-made islands like the palm tree-shaped Palm Jumeirah, including retreats awaiting personalization by the wealthy. (Now there's an idea for Hawaii, if we could ever build anything on time, because most people would prefer to live off our shores.)
Dubai Mall is the largest in the world by area, covering 5,400,000 square feet, with 1,200 shops. In this part of the world, where a "mine is bigger than yours" mentality prevails, the mall may one day be eclipsed by another project in the works, The Mall of the World, envisioned as a fully air-conditioned city comprising more than 48 million square feet.
And, what really made it feel like Las Vegas was dining at Dubai Mall's Karam Beirut restaurant, where we could watch the Dubai Fountains, like those at the Bellagio, as well as people zip-lining over the fountains toward the mall from the Burj Khalifa's residential towers.
Here's a look at dinner:
Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her food coverage in print in Wednesday's Crave section. Contact her via email at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.