Dubai is a city of refined desire. While it offers everything from bustling bars and swanky supper joints, it is equally good at building sky-piercing super-scrapers — the Burj Khalifa, officially the world’s tallest building, being the crown jewel. As awe-inspiring as this tapered stainless steel and glass structure is, it is almost impossible to take in the entire tower without craning your neck. The surrounds of the building and the adjoining tourist attractions have an air of glamour that has come to typify the vaulting ambition of Dubai. Chief among them is the world’s biggest mall, Dubai Mall, where one can shop at luxury outlets, among others, Calvin Klein and Dolce & Gabbana or gaze at the sharks in the indoor aquarium.
After breakfast on my penultimate day in Dubai, I chose to swing by the Dubai Mall, partly to see what I could bring home and partly to escape the steamy and sweltering heat. Given it was the first time I was visiting a mall built on such a scale, the interiors, high on bling, were initially an assault on the senses; it took a while to get a grip of the supersized structure. But for the next couple of hours, it was an indulgent escape into a world of flamboyant displays of branding, thriving on exclusivity and individuality.
At this point, I must confess that I was unaware of the existence of some of these brands. But, hey, that’s okay, there’s always a first time!
Milling around the several million square feet of retail space felt more like a workout, speaking of which, I came across a Decathlon store where a well-groomed salesman inquired if I would like to buy a Treadmill. God knows I need to use one but not today… I went inside nevertheless, and after browsing through their collection of cricket bats and running shoes, I left wondering if I would have any time left for a detour. As it turned out, I didn’t.
It was match day and India was all set to take on Namibia in its last group game; a dead rubber for all intents and purposes. The Indian supporters flocked the stands nevertheless, and one realised why an audience is so integral to the wholesome experience of live sport. The crowd is not just a sound effect to be amplified and played on loop via loudspeakers. And I have to admit: after having watched matches on TV, where the fake crowd noise tries to breathe life into swathes of empty seats, this was both startling and a welcome break. Startling because we are still amid a global pandemic, and welcome because everything felt normal again for a change.
Inside the press box, one could overhear conversations about the change of guard, with the Namibia game being Virat Kohli’s last as India’s T20I skipper. The chats were punctuated by the, at times annoying, whirring sound of the coffee machine in the dining area.
There were also discussions about the mandatory Covid-19 travel rules amongst those flying home after the Super 12s stage. The anxious wait for the Covid test results gave me a few sleepless nights on the trip; what with the fate of match coverage and ultimately my return home banking on them. But all’s well that ends well.
I got home, safe and sound, having covered a maiden ICC event. Upon landing in Chennai, I was told three more international flights had landed at the same time and that I had to navigate through an endless queue snaking out of the immigration encounter.
It was a tiresome wait for nearly an hour and a half before I was finally out of the airport, greeted by uncharacteristic chilly weather and a steady drizzle — perfect for a cup of simmering hot tea.
Having never travelled to Dubai before, I was as wide-eyed as anyone and left with a completely fresh mindset, one that I will no doubt need as the whirlwind cricket calendar cracks on.