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Dubai, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Skyscraper City - New Dubai

A Metro Architectural Tour of New Dubai

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Difficulty: Easy
Duration: Half day
Family Friendly
 
Overview: This tour will take you on the Dubai Metro Red Line between Ibn Battuta Mall station #39 and Khalid Bin Al Waleed station #19. This area could very well be the highest concentration of bizarre skyscrapers in the entire world. This is “New Dubai.”

Beginning in the 1980s, developers and architects were in a mad rush to outdo each other with the most outlandish skyscraper designs. This resulted in an ultimately weird skyline for the area known as “New Dubai.” Slicing through the middle of these monsters is the Sheikh Zayed Road (SZR). This portion of the Dubai Metro Red Line runs snuggly next to SZR providing a captivating view of these magnificent giants and the surrounding areas.

Take special notice of the unique “hats” each structure proudly wears. They are the building’s signature. Because building signage is not plentiful, and because Dubai has yet to implement a comprehensive street naming and numbering system, many buildings are called by their nick name especially when giving directions. For example, turn left at the Swiss cheese building . . . after passing the twin Chrysler towers . . . next to the golf ball building...

Skyscrapers are not the only thing punctuating the Dubai skyline. You will see many tower construction cranes marking buildings still to come. You will also see many beautiful mosque minarets that are testament to being in a Muslim country.

Along the tour are “Good places to visit.” You may want to get off and explore. If there is not direct access to the site, there should be feeder buses to take you to the site which is only a short distance away. The bus cost is included in your Metro ticket


Tips: This is an excellent “walking” tour when the Dubai weather becomes really hot. Air conditioned the entire way unless you decided to make some stops.

Unless you are planning on riding the Metro during your entire stay in Dubai, there are two classes of tickets to choose from – Red for AED 15 (approx$4) and Golf Class VIP for AED 30 (approx$7). A metro car on each train is also reserved for women and children. Strongly suggest the Gold Class ticket as the regular cars can get very crowded and seating could be a problem. Note traveling towards Jebel Ali, Gold Class is the first car; traveling towards Rashidiya, Gold Class is the last car.

Important to sit on the right side of the car next to the window facing forward no matter which direction you are traveling in. Seating tight? Standing at the very front of the car on the Jebel Ali headed train gives you a nice bird’s eye view too.

You can begin the tour at any Metro station . . . just note what station number you got on and determine which direction you are going (towards Jebel Ali or towards Rashidiya). The tour is arranged first from Jebel Ali (Ibn Battuta Station # 39) towards Rashidiya (Khalid Bin Al Waleed Station # 26) and then back again. Find the station going in the correct direction on the tour guide and follow along. Confused? If you sprang for the Gold Class ticket you can just ask the Metro attendant for information. They love it.

Hours (check before going as these times tend to change especially during Ramadan):
Sunday – Wednesday 5:50 AM – 11:00 PM
Thursday 5:50 AM – 1:00 AM
Friday 1:00 PM – 1 AM
Saturday 5:50 AM - Midnight

Trains run every 6 minutes

Points of Interest

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Metro Station #39 - Ibn Battuta Mall (Rashidiya bound)


At this station, take the Metro traveling to Rashidiya. Gold Class platform is right there as you exit the escalator. For the best views, be sure to sit on the right side facing forward.

*** Good place to visit: Ibn Battuta Mall
Ibn Battuta Mall is the world’s largest themed shopping mall. The interiors are beautiful. Architecturally, it celebrates the famous 14th century Arabic explorer Ibn Battuta travels. China Court is the entertainment Zone with an IMAX theatre, cinemas, bowling and restaurants; India Court’s centerpiece is the life-size elephant; Persia Court is home to a gorgeous painted dome; Egypt Court’s architecture is based on the Islamic architecture of the Maluk period; Tunisia’s architecture is based on a African marketplace; and Andalusia boasts the Lion fountain fashioned after the Fountain of Lions in Alhambra. The bad news is it is a little bit of a hike from the Metro station to the mall.
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Metro Station #37 - Jumeirah Lakes Towers (Rashidiya bound)

The next grouping of skyscrapers you see are the Jumeirah Lakes Towers (JLT), a 495-acre mixed use waterfront development for business and residences. Eighty-seven towers surround the 45 acres of 4 man-made winding lakes.

Forty-five percent of the towers are residences for more than 60,000 people; 21% of the towers are offices and the remainder are hotels and mixed use. The tallest building is the Almas Tower with 66 floors. The major hotels in JLT are the Movenpick and the Bonnington.

In Dubai they love to build double and triple towers like the Armada. The JLT centerpiece is the Al Mas (Arabic for “the Diamond”) building which is home to the Dubai Diamond Exchange whose basement contains the main diamond vault. Right next to the Armada Towers you can be seen the Diamond Exchange two-story beige building.

Just after the Dubai Marina Metro Station #36, look for the white “tents” of the Emirates Golf Club.

Emirates Golf Club, referred to as the “desert miracle,” is Dubai’s oldest golf club and the first golf course in the Middle East. Built in the sand dunes of Dubai on land donated by HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, the 18-hole par 72 course was ranked in the Top 100 courses by Golf World in 2010 and 2011.

By Sheikh Mohammed’s directive, the desert fauna was maintained. The tent-like structures that punctuate the club are meant to resemble Bedouin tents. This is the site of the Dubai Desert Classic considered the “jewel in the crown” of the European Tour and has been played by the likes of Tiger Wood, Rory McIllroy, and the 2012 winner, Rafael Cabrera-Bello.

After passing the Internet City Metro Station #34 you will see a stretch of typical Arab multi-use buildings of 4-7 stories in height with retail on the first floor and apartments or offices on the upper floors. This was the norm before the big skyscrapers emerged on the scene.
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Metro Station # 32 - Mall of the Emirates (Rashidiya bound)

As you approach Mall of the Emirate Metro Station #32 look for the giant silver slope . . .this is the Ski Dubai slope at Dubai Mall. Yes, you can go snow skiing in Dubai! Quickly you will pass the 5 star Kempinski Hotel and further in the distance the Pullman Hotel both located in the mall.

*** Good place to visit. Mall of the Emirates
In addition to snow skiing or snowboarding, the Mall of the Emirates offers Via Rodeo, a collection of ultra luxury designer stores, The Arabian souk if you would rather not go into old Dubai, The Magic Planet – the largest indoor amusement park, Ductac, a 500-seat state of the art theatre where many great performances can be enjoyed, more than 75 restaurant to choose from and, if that isn’t enough, 450 additional retail stores to drain our pocketbook.

If you still want to shop . . . just after the expressway exchange you will see the Gold and Diamond Park. There are more than 300 shops here offering gold and gems for sale where you are invited to design your own creation. Get off at the First Gulf Bank Metro Station #31 if you want to shop!

Metro Station #26 – Business Bay

For the next few stops you will see the Al Quoz area of Dubai just beyond the row of businesses that line the SZR. This is the industrial area where manufacturing and warehouses are located. Look for the two large concrete plants. This is where the underpinnings for Dubai are. Its dusty roads and side-by-side warehouses may be deceiving because somewhere in the middle of all this there is a burgeoning art district.

Just after passing the Oasis Centre – a large shopping mall (yes another one)- you will begin to see the tall group of skyscrapers that is called Downtown Dubai. Keep a look out for a high rise with the heliport, a disc like object hanging on the side of the building.

If you remember what kryptonite looks like (think Superman) you can identify the “Kryptonite Twin Towers.” These two towers are actually the Emirates Park Towers.

Look quickly in the distance for the “Swiss cheese” building, a gleaming white structure that resembles . . . swiss cheese.
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Mall of the Emirates
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Metro Station #25 - Burj Khalifa (Rashidiya bound)

And now for Dubai’s crowning glory – the tallest building in the world – Burj Khalifa. The Burj is 2,716.5 feet tall, rising 160 stories from the desert floor and boasts The Armani Hotel and Residences, 63 stories of ultra-luxury residences, corporate suites, a restaurant and the public observation deck.

The Burj was featured prominently in the film "Mission Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol" when Tom Cruise, performing his own stunt, climbs the outside of the Burj Khalifa.

*** Good place to stop. Burj Khalifa/Dubai Mall . . . check out the Trip Advisor” walking tour “The Ultimate – Downtown Dubai.” There should be feeder buses to take you to the mall. Your Metro ticket includes the cost of these buses.

Metro Station #25 – Burj Khlaifa
Just after the Burj Khalifa Station is the best place to get a look at the stunning Emirates Towers. They face each other with “notches” that align. The towers are 1163 feet tall with the office tower having 54 floors and hotel tower having 56 floors. They are connected by a retail boulevard. Great restaurants are here and more shopping!

Next pick out the Damac twin towers - they are blue and white and show once again how Dubai likes to have duplicate towers.
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Burj Khalifa
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Metro Station # 24 - Financial Centre (Rishadiya Bound)

Now look for two tower buildings connected at the top. This is the Dusit Dubai Thani Hotel, a 502 foot distinctive structure of 40 floors with interiors decorated with a Thai influence and boasts 2 great restaurants – Thai and Italian.

Find next a building with gold columns running down the sides. This is the Al Attar Tower a 38 floor post modern design that rises 518 feet. Completed in 1999, it is one of the early skyscrapers in New Dubai.

Now look for a very tall clock tower – resembles Big Ben clock Tower in London. This 72 story building is the Al Yacuob Tower and said to be one of the last of the towers with a “gimmicky” design.

Next to Big Ben is The Tower, a 798 foot 54 story structure that reminds people of the Woolworth Tower in New York City. Its design is called modern eclectic arabesque.

Metro Station #23 – the Emirate Towers stop, provides another look at the beautiful Emirates Towers. This stop is also home to the Dubai International Finance Centre (DIFC) recognized as a marriage between business, art and food.

*** Good place to stop – You can follow the EveryTrail Walking Tour DIFC Gate Village Art Gallery Walking Tour and tour the beautiful art galleries and enjoy a bite to eat at the great restaurants.

Metro Station #22 – World Trade Centre
Look for a cream colored shorter building that resembles an egg crate. This is The World Trade Center (WTC). Completed in 1979 it was dedicated in a grand ceremony my Queen Elizabeth.

The WTC was the brain child of the first ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Rashid Bon Saeed Al Maktoum, and was the first building dedicated to establishing Dubai as an international center for commerce and trade and the tallest building in the UAE at that time. It stands 39 stories and is 489 feet tall.

Just beyond the WTC you see a building with a golf ball on top. This is the Etisalat building. Etisalat is one of the two cell phones providers in the UAE.

There are similar Etisalat buildings in each of the other six emirates. The “golf ball” on top is actually a communications orb packed with telecommunication transmitters and receivers. The 15 story building is made of glass, steel and concrete.

Look out into the distance, and if the sun is shining, you should see it reflected off a triangle that is the top of a pyramid. This is the Raffles Hotel at the Wafi Mall (yes, another Mall). Pyramid you ask? You guessed it! The mall has a section that is decorated in an Egyptian theme.

The large mass of greenery you are seeing is Zabeel Park. This beautiful park, bisected by highways, offers a lake, an amphitheatre, 4.3 meter jogging track, a cricket pitch and an adventure playground for the children.

Before and after the Karama Metro Station # 20 you will see a typical Indian neighborhood in Dubai. There are tales of great shopping bargains to be had here if you know how to bargain.
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Metro Station #9 - Khalid Bin Waleel (reversing direction)

At this station you need to cross over to the train going in the opposite direction. Exit your car and go up the escalator following the signs to Jebel Ali. Take the down escalator and the Gold Class car platform is right there at the bottom. Be sure to sit on the right side facing forward for the best views.

At this station take your time enjoying the murals and other interior designs that depict Dubai life before oil.

*** A good place to stop. If you want to experience old Dubai you can exit here and use the EveryTrail Walking Tour “Bastakiya - An Historic Dubai Neighborhood.”

As the train leaves the station and comes back to ground level you should see the large container cranes of Port Rashid. This man made commercial port handles containerized cargo and is the largest cruise center in the Middle East. The QE II is birthed here awaiting a much needed face lift and new life as a floating hotel. However, not much work has been performed so her future is unknown.

Also in the distance you will see a large UAE flag. It marks the site where, in 1971 the sheikhs of six emirates (the seventh sheikh came into the fold 2 months later) gathered to birth a new country – the United Arab Emirates. The flag measures 66 X 131 feet.

After the Karama Metro Station you will see another low rise residential neighborhood of old one story walled houses. This was the typical Dubai residential housing before the big buildings started coming.

Metro Station # 23 – Emirates Towers
The Chelsea Tower was built in 2005 and at that time was the 5th highest building in Dubai. Its post modern design features horizontal white lines on the exterior and a unique “hat”, rather like a monstrous saber sword stuck into open square rock.

Looking out the window to your left make sure you catch the extraordinary advertising on the side of the Al Attar Building – people climbing up the side of this very tall building. Don’t know who long the advertisement will be there but it is a great visual.

Metro Station # 24 – Financial Centre
At the big interchange looking into the distance you will see the Satwa Water tower – a beige inverted mushroom with brown design on it. Satwa is another Indian neighborhood in Dubai known for its textiles and tailors.

Metro Station # 26 - Business Bay
Dubai has quite a number of green parks which is extraordinary since it is really a desert terrain. You should be passing Safa Park now. This serene 158 acre park first opened in 1975 has undergone a number of renovations since then. Among its sections are a ladies only area (remember this is a Muslim country), a games area, an amphitheatre, a maze and a lakes and waterfall area. The vast green lawns cover 80% of the area.

At this point you can begin to see the 4 minarets of one of Dubai’s newest mosques – Al Farooq Mosque and Islamic Centre. It is affectionately call the “Blue Mosque” because its Ottoman and Andalusian architectural style resembles the 17th century Sultan Ahmed Mosque – the Blue Mosque of Istanbul.

It is Dubai largest mosque with a capacity of 2,000 for prayer. Built with private funding from Dubai Businessman Khalaf Al Habtoor, it has a 4000 volume library and a lecture hall that hosts interfaith dialogues.

Along the route now you will see some of the larger residential mansion compounds favored by the wealthy of Dubai. Each of these compound is “guarded” by beautiful gates.
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Metro Station #29 - Noor Islamic Bank (Jebel Ali bound)

The iconic symbol of Dubai is the Burj Al Arab (Tower of the Arabs). Soaring more than 1000 feet into the air this 60 floor, 202 room hotel, claims a 7 star rating. Built at a cost of $650 million, the hotel commands $1000 per night for the basic room but if you want the Royal Suite it will set you back $28,000 per night but you do have a chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce at your disposal. .

The building stands on a man-made lake off Jumeirah Beach and is built to resemble a sailing dhow, an Arabic sailing vessel. It has a steel exoskeleton wrapped around a reinforced concrete tower and claims to be the highest structure with a membrane façade. There are 86,000 square feet of 24-carat gold leaf and more than 258,000 square feet of marble. The atrium is 590 feet tall.

Interesting publicity stunts on the Burj’s helipad have seen Tiger Woods and Rory McIlry teeing off on the helipad, Ronan Keating shooting his video Iris and Roger Federer and Andre Agassi facing off in a tennis game. This last is all the more interesting when you consider there are no railings or fences along the edges so the players could easily have made lunge to catch a ball and gone over the side.

Just next to the Burj you can see the Jumeirah Beach Hotel – looks like a giant wave. This five star hotel is a hopping place in the evening as its many bars a restaurants are favorites among the “hip” in Dubai. It has been designated the Best Hotel in the Middle East by Business Travel Award in 2011 and ranked by Conde Nast Traveler as a Top Hotel in the Middle East.

The master development of The Dubai Pearl is currently a series of billboard advertisements. Inviting you to “Live the Bespoke life,” this advertised sustainable urban community it is planned to be home for 9,000 and workplace for 12,000. Enjoy reading the billboards to learn more. Your apartment should be ready for you to move in sometime in late 2014.

Metro Station #33 Al Sharaf
Look for the twin towers that resemble the Chrysler Building in New York City. These are the Al Kazim Towers and mark the beginning of three major free zones in Dubai – Internet City, Knowledge Village and Media City. These free zones have been very successful in attracting businesses to locate their regional office in Dubai as attested to the prominent names you see on the buildings.

The serene academic looking building facing the Sheikh Zayed Road is the American University of Dubai.

Metro Station # 35 – Nakeel
Giant twin guitars mark the original Hard Rock Café in Dubai (a new Cafe opened in 2011 in Festival City). The original Cafe was once a very popular family venue (no alcohol was served because the UAE is Muslim country) with birthday parties hosted here a real hit. It opened in 1997 but was bought in 2008 by a local developer with plans to replace it with a luxury hotel. However, not much has happened to the site since then.
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Burj Al Arab
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Metro Station #35 - Nakeel (Jebel Ali bound)

Quickly now you will see the first cluster of skyscrapers that mark Dubai Marina’s “Super Tall District.” This area is home to the giant towers with the title of tallest residential building in the world rotating as each new taller building is completed.

Among these giants are The Princess – at 1350 feet tall the current tallest residential tower in the world, the La Reve, the most expensive residential tower with apartments going for $7 million, 218MAG at 902 feet and The Torch at 1105 feet. At the time of this writing the Pentominium is under construction (although stalled). That building, when completed at 1693 feet tall, will surpass the Princess Tower as the tallest residential tower in the world.

Also under construction is the “Twisty Tower” – The Infinity Tower tops out at 1080 feet tall and is constructed in the shape of a helix.

Close to Sheik Zayed Road is the second cluster often referred to as the “original six.” These shorter towers were the first to be built in the Dubai Marina and sit on the relaxing Marina Walk – a restaurant promenade around the Marina waterway.

Metro Station #23 - Dubai Marina
You will continue to see the residential towers of the Dubai Marina – a preferred enclave of the expats living in Dubai. Look to the farthest buildings that run the length of the Marina, a large grouping of tall beige buildings. This is the Jumeirah Beach Residences – an enormous development of residential apartments that sits above the Jumeirah Beach Walk – another restaurant and shopping promenade along the beach.

As the Metro heads out towards Jebel Ali leaving behind the towers of Dubai Marina, you will see some of the working parts of the Jebel Ali Port. The stacks are aluminum smelting plants and a desalination plant which provides the millions of gallons of water needed by thirsty Dubai.

As you round a bend in the Metro track you can catch a glimpse of the dramatic Ibn Battuta Gate - a dynamic entrance spanning the roadway connecting the Ibn Battuta Gate Hotel with the office tower.
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Metro Station #26 - Ibn Battuta Mall (reverse direction)

At this station, cross over to take the Metro going the opposite direction. Exit your car and go down the steps or elevator or walk to the end of the platform to take the down escalator. Follow signs to Rashidiya going up the escalator. Gold Class platform is right at foot of escalator. For the best views be sure to sit on the right side facing forward.

Go to beginning of tour.
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Ibn Battuta Mall
Pictures in this guide taken by: katiefoster46

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About the Author

katiefoster46
katiefoster46
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Katie is an American expat freelance travel writer living in Dubai, UAE. Her interests include travel,...

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