Most cities are content with having one iconic skyline.
Not Dubai. In the metropolis’ grand tradition of “more is more”, Dubai has… hold your breath… not one… not two… but THREE notable skylines.
Let’s break them down.
Despite being the single most popular area in the city, thanks to the head-twisting height of Burj Khalifa, the Downtown Dubai skyline is notoriously difficult to observe.
Stand too close and it’s impossible to capture the mammoth-size towers in their full glory. Stand too far and Burj Khalifa will be ridiculously dwarfing several toothpick-sized buildings. No wonder those travel brochures give up and opt for helicopter aerial views instead, but not everybody has that much money to burn.
So you struggle to find an alternative spot for a decent skyline view and when you finally discover one (like the above picture, taken from Melia Dubai Hotel’s rooftop pool), there’s still the challenge of occasional desert sand obscuring your view.
Some naysayers, including award-winning architect Frank Gehry, have slammed the skyline for its “anonymous skyscrapers” that look like “cheap copies of buildings that have already been built somewhere else”. Gehry does have some points. On initial observation, the skyline of Downtown Dubai seems to lack a unique identity (at least from the far).
But on closer look, the skyline demonstrates admirable futuristic ambition. The fact that its skyscrapers have been built in 1999 or later shows just how new the city is. Give it more time. 10 more years and 1,000 more bizarre-shaped skyscrapers from now, Dubai might finally be able to lay claim as the world’s best skyline.
Dubai Marina holds its own against Downtown Dubai.
Its tallest building, Princess Tower, may only be half as tall as Burj Khalifa. But that’s beside the point, because height is just a small part of what makes a skyline stands out (except Dubai Marina does well in that department too: being home to Dubai’s 2nd, 3rd and 4th tallest buildings after all).
Burj Khalifa is Downtown Dubai’s double-edged sword, because it makes other buildings around it look embarrassing. On the other hand, Dubai Marina’s skyline demonstrates harmony and balance. Its grandness exists not just in the game of heights, but in the spread and density of its many skyscrapers.
As far as distinctive-looking buildings go, Dubai Marina has Cayan Tower. Pictured on the far right of the above picture, Cayan Tower boasts a unique concept of 90-degree twist that looks even better from the near.
Moreover, with an artificial canal built around it, Dubai Marina is likely positioned into becoming Dubai’s lifestyle district in near future—a true mirage in the desert.
The original postcard from Dubai.
Connecting between the historic Bur Dubai and Deira, and with beautiful abras sailing across the saltwater creek, I find Dubai Creek to be the closest in replicating Dubai’s old-school charm. Modern-looking buildings such as Etisalat Tower 1 and National Bank of Dubai are joined by historical properties that served as the city’s merchant and trade lifeline.
In many ways, I find the Dubai Creek skyline really interesting. What it lacks in record-breaking heights and sizes, it makes up in its cultural landscape—one that captures the city in its intersection between the old and the new.
The skyline is likely to stay similar a few years down the road, though. Though it was once Dubai’s commercial center, major developments have moved to Downtown Dubai and Dubai Marina ever since the property boom. So for those who are expecting to see alien structures sprouting in this area, it’s probably not happening anytime soon. It’s better that way anyway.
What is your favorite of the three skylines? Where is the best spot to observe Dubai skyline?