Emmelyn Wu was a Young Travel Writer competition winner in 2013, coming on assignment to the Kimberley. Here she turns her new skills to capturing a visit to Dubai.
Some people believe that, in the past, there existed a peaceful island nation populated by a powerful and noble race. This place was a centre for trade and commerce, and the abundance of natural resources on their land had blessed them with great wealth. However, one night, the island suddenly disappeared beneath the sea after a series of earthquakes and floods.
This was the island of Atlantis.
Unfortunately, this supposedly lost ancient civilisation cannot be visited today. But not all hope is lost. Imagine a place with endless views of ocean, markets filled with gold, luxurious artwork, paintings and jewellery, majestic buildings that dominate the city centre, a thriving economy, a busy port and ample reserves of the earth's goodness.
Yes, this place does exist, and it is definitely more accessible than an island buried beneath the depths of the sea. In fact, last year, it was the seventh-most-visited city in the world.
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the city of Dubai.
To some, Dubai may be no more than a stopover on the way to the more famous, romantic, European cities. But it has emerged as a cosmopolitan metropolis that has grown steadily to become a global city and a commercial and cultural hub of the Middle East and the Persian Gulf region. The tourism sector has since become a major source of revenue for the city ranked most expensive in the Middle East by Swiss Bank UBS in 2012, and the 22nd most expensive city in the world. The city has also become known worldwide for its ambitious projects, including artificial islands, towering skyscrapers, and for housing the world's tallest building.
The Burj Khalifa, opened in 2010, is currently the tallest structure in the world, reaching a height of 829.8m. Standing at the base makes you feel infinitely tiny as you marvel, wide-eyed, wondering how on earth this colossal yet elegant building was constructed. If desired, there is an option to travel in a high-speed elevator to the 360deg. observation deck on the 124th floor, where you can experience unparalleled views of the city. Otherwise, take the opportunity to watch the incandescent dancing jets of the Dubai Fountain, located at the base of the Burj.
Designed by the creators of the dancing fountains of the Bellagio in Las Vegas, the world's largest performing fountain does not disappoint, with water sprayed as high as 150m to an extensive repertoire of music. When it comes to world-class attractions, the city aims high. (Pardon the pun).
Conveniently, the best viewing spots for the fountain show are accessed through the world's largest shopping centre by total area, the Dubai Mall. The title "mall" is definitely an understatement.
The complex features more than 1200 shops and boutiques, gourmet eateries, a three-storey aquarium, an ice-skating rink, two indoor amusement parks and a cinema. From the closest metro station, there is a walkway to the mall (with travelators) that extends almost a kilometre, allowing excitement and suspense to build up as you wonder what lies at the end of the tunnel.
The end result is overwhelming. It's almost as if you have entered another indoor country, with shops extending further, floors looking shinier and ceilings reaching higher than ever before. It's a shopping-lover's paradise.
If you were looking instead for something more exquisite, more memorable, then perhaps you'd be better off visiting the Gold Souk. A marketplace dedicated specially to the selling of gold, this attraction is a must-visit on your travels to Dubai. Here, gold is priced by the gram, with the daily going price displayed on electronic screens throughout the market as you peruse the glittering specimens on both sides of the street. Window-shopping at its best. Perhaps this is how the Atlantians would have gone about their everyday life, trading riches for, well, more riches.
But hang on, perhaps Atlantis has been found after all. Perched on the end of the artificial island, The Palm, you can check into a whole other world at the opulent Atlantis Hotel.
The 46ha, five-star development contains 1500 guestrooms with views over the Persian Gulf, and has a peach-coloured facade that gives it the appearance of a fairytale castle. This place was built to serve and serve it shall, as those who can afford to stay here make use of its premium facilities.
However, the very tip of The Palm, outside The Atlantis, is a superb location for a spectacular sunset view that is accessible to all, bathing the coast in a shade of gold that not even the wealthiest civilisation can buy.