There's something charming about charmless Dubai. There are hideous buildings, certainly, but there aren't so many of them that you can't focus on the nice ones. In fact, there are so few that it becomes easy enough to only look at the nice ones.
It's dead, hugely dead—there's hardly anything alive but people and their strange, humpy monuments, and perhaps Dubai is hard to hate because it's so humanly imperfect. Let's build a huge palace of consumption, for example, but to alleviate our guilt let's put an aquarium in the middle of it, so perhaps we'll learn something by osmosis, as it were. (I realize the aquarium probably wasn't put there to alleviate my particular guilt, but let's just imagine...).
The big building (the biggest, in fact), the Burj Khalifa, is spectacular. It just is. The fountains in front, which dance every 30 minutes, which I thought would be hideously tacky, are frankly delightful, and that fact that during my dinner across from them they performed to first “Thriller,” then Mozart, and then the theme from “Bonanza” only made me love the whole damn thing even more.
This kind of awful decadence is something we gush over when it's a few centuries in the rear-view. It's just disconcerting to be in it in the here and now. I'm finding it hard to reconcile my love for the relics of it with my desire to hate its current incarnation. It seems dishonest.
And there's just nothing there but man, it seems. It's so strange.