On 3 August 2016, a Boeing 777-300 aircraft, registration A6-EMW, belonging to Emirates Airline, was operating a scheduled passenger flight, numbered EK521, and departed Trivandrum International Airport (VOTV), India at 0506am local time for Dubai International Airport (OMDB), the United Arab Emirates (UAE). At approximately 0837am local time, the aircraft impacted the runway during an attempted go-around at Dubai. There were a total of 300 people on-board the aircraft, comprising of 282 passengers, two flight crew members, and 16 cabin crew members. However, the UAE's General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) was very sad to announce that one of the firefighters lost his life while saving the lives of the others.
Jassim Isa Al Balushi managed to rescue 300 lives, but in doing so, he lost his own. The brave firefighter sustained fatal injuries after helping put out the flames during rescue operations, the report said. His valiant efforts, however, were not in vain, as everyone on board escaped from the burning jet alive—including 282 fliers and 12 cabin staff. Once everyone evacuated, the aircraft exploded and burst into flames and Al Balushi was unfortunately caught in the blaze.
The initial report into the incident has shown the pilot had tried to abandon the landing after the main wheels of the Boeing 777-300 had already touched down.
When such accidents happen, it is always best to wait for the investigators to do their job and publish the report, rather than listen to so many so-called 'aviation experts' on the TV and the internet because most of them are just guessing and have little or no idea on what the truth of the matter is.
The official Preliminary Report has been published by the GCAA of the UAE. Click here to get it from their official website.
Al Maktoum International Airport, Dubai
Located 37 kilometres (23 mi) south west of Dubai, the Al Maktoum International Airport opened on 27 June 2010. It costs about 120 Dirhams and takes around 30 minutes by taxi to get to from the city centre. The airport is relatively underused by only a handful of airlines. I flew out of it with Qatar Airways to Doha: Photo Copyright Navjot SIngh
In the Middle East (Dubai World Airport here), even Falcons (the national bird of most of the ME countries) get to travel in First Class! These guys told me that each Falcon is prized at around US $1.5 million...they were carrying 4 falcons...not bad. They had the whole First Class cabin for themselves on that flight...all 18 seats booked for just 4 people and their birds: Photo Copyright Navjot Singh
No Other Way to Clean It!
When you have a tank containing over 10-million litres of water, you need a considerable amount of brave manpower willing to dive and maintain it. The Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo, located on the Ground Level of The Dubai Mall, is one of the world's largest suspended aquariums. Worth visiting for the Sharks alone (2 of 'em): Photo Copyright Navjot Singh
At.mosphere Burj Khalifa - a Review
Situated at the 122nd floor of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the world’s tallest building, the At.mosphere Burj Khalifa, with its remarkable sleek & stylish interiors, is officially the world’s highest restaurant from the ground level. The chic venue has a seating capacity for 210 people, offering guests the option of dining at the Restaurant or at the Lounge, both offering stunning panoramic views across Dubai, Sharjah and beyond.
Unlike some other chic restaurants around the world, the At.mosphere has a few of its own unique formalities that set it apart from the rest. Firstly, there is a separate entrance for guests located next to the lobby of the Armani Hotel in the Burj Khalifa, and secondly you should book well in advance to guarantee a table as this is one of the most sought after eateries in town.
The elevator that propels the guests to the arrival lobby at the 122nd floor at a height of 442 metres from the ground takes exactly 44 seconds- that’s 10 metres per second to be precise. It’s not as fast as an aircraft taking off on rotation; nevertheless, it may still require you to swallow or even chew a candy to stop your ears popping. On a windy or rainy day, you can hear the wind whistling in the background as the lift goes up (or down).
To commence the culinary adventure, I was shown a fine selection of beverages. I opted for the Luc Belaire, Belaire Rose Champagne from France. I was presented with two lovely dishes - “Brittany Lobster salad with julienne vegetable and Asian dressing” and “battered prawns served with homemade chips and Tartar sauce”. The former was decorated with fresh leaves and vegetable shavings, with the delicious lobster meat hidden underneath. The latter is an alternative to the traditional fish & chips, with prawn replacing the cod or haddock that one may normally expect to have. It is highly recommended that you generously sprinkle fresh lemon provided with the dish onto the prawns and chips. The taste is priceless and exceedingly good for your health. Luxury food like this is a priceless gift for anyone that wants to just lose themselves into eating good food in the heart of Dubai. It’s the kind of dish that would fill you up, but one that you would want to eat again, and again.
Michelin-star chef, Jerome Lagarde and his team of talented culinary masterminds have definitely made a promise to put At.mosphere firmly on the map when it comes to providing high-quality international cuisine.
The dessert, a very unique style of cheesecake, was nothing short of a classic. The “cheese cake with passion fruit, Yuzu sorbet and crumble”, which looked more like a giant white chocolate lollipop, was nothing but a fabulous piece of art and a priceless invention by the chef. Just like an Easter egg, the ‘round ball cake’ had to be cut in half to reveal an explosion of sweetness, blending in the ice-cold Yuzu sorbet and 100% pure passion fruit pieces. It’s hard to argue about the taste when you are presented with a genius dish such as this in-house made spectacle. Food has always been taken exceedingly seriously in Dubai. Go there, and experience it!
Click here to find out more!
A Well-Deserved Cricket Match
No pavilion, no crowds, no proper cricket balls, clothing or equipment...but these migrant workers from India and Pakistan (two cricket mad nations) have plenty of happiness, high moral and support from each other. Every Friday after prayers (Friday is a weekend in the UAE), the streets are filled with Indians and Pakistani migrant workers (who make up the majority of the 90% of expats in the country) playing cricket or taking a rest away from their work. The whole of the Middle East has been literally built by people from these two nations...almost every building you see in the UAE, Qatar, Saudi, Oman, Iraq and Yemen has been built by an Indian or a Pakistani. Many get FIVE times the salary they would back home, and their living conditions have improved in recent years. Would be a great photo project to work on ..something titled "They made Dubai". Over the 2 days I stayed in Dubai and Sharjah, I heard a lot of first-hand stories from migrant workers...also got to speak to a Syrian migrant (a professional Chartered Accountant who lost every member of his family in the civil war...but now works as a taxi driver in Dubai...amazing survival story). Photo Copyright Navjot Singh
The Sky At Night (in the Sharjah Desert)
Some Nomads...More Camels
Spectacular Sunset in the Sharjah Desert
Camels Racing (with a Bird)
Racing Camels and Horses are big business in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and despite the speed of a Horse (around 88 kph) compared with a Camel (40 kph), the winner of either race (Camel or Horse), get's the same amount of prize money. Camels can be seen loping along the desert at their maximum speed of 40 kph (Mo Farah can beat them any day).
Dubai in the Early Morning
Wealthy Abu Dhabi...
If you had a few spare BILLIONS of dollars, then what would you do? The Emiratis have decided to invest heavily in infrastructure...including the airport. The airport is now undergoing a AED 25 billion (US$6.8 billion) expansion and is the hub for Etihad Airways.
Goodevening Abu Dhabi!
Mega orders at the Dubai Air Show!
Dubai-based Emirates Airline placed an order for 150 of Boeing's new 777 mini-jumbos (nicknamed 777-X), in a $76bn (£47bn) deal at the 2013 Dubai Air Show. These will be a combination of 35 Boeing 777-8Xs and 115 Boeing 777-9Xs; plus 50 purchase rights. It is the single largest aircraft order by value in the history of US commercial aviation, creating and supporting an estimated 436,000 jobs in the US. Emirates currently operates 131 Boeing 777s and has a further 214 Boeing 777s on order. The 777-X, which has FOLD-UP carbon fibre wing tips will be delivered in 2020 (without the bendy wings, the wingspan is about the same as the Airbus A380).
Emirates has also ordered FIFTY Airbus A380s, in a deal worth $23 billion. The airline is already the biggest customer of the A380.
So where will they be parked? Dubai is a tiny place, and indeed, so is it’s airport. The answer is going to be ‘Dubai World Central - Al Maktoum International Airport’. The airport is planned to become the world's largest passenger and cargo hub, ten times larger than the current Dubai International Airport which covers an area of 29 square kilometres (7,200 acres) and Dubai Cargo Village combined. One terminal is going to be for ALL THE OTHER AIRLINES except Emirates (& Qantas Airways two daily appearances). The latter two will enjoy having Terminals A, B & C to themselves. When they move to DXB World - it'll be in one hit, in about 2020 - when the first 777-X arrives.
Meanwhile, all the freight aircraft and the VIP aircraft will be sent to DXB World before the runway works next year (DXB World is going to have FIVE runways). So, now you know where they’re gonna park the 140 A380s, 150 777xs, 100 777s and 70 A350s as from 2020.
While the aviation industry is suffering financially in the Americas and Europe, it is booming in the Asia Pacific and Middle Eastern regions. Huge airport construction projects are well under way in cities such as Shenzhen (new airport terminal will open on 28th November), Doha, Dubai, Mumbai, Delhi, Kunming, and many others (mostly in China and the Middle East).
Abu Dhabi: Land of Islands
Once you get airborne, you realize that most of Abu Dhabi city is located on an island itself, but it has many suburbs on the mainland. The Emirate of Abu Dhabi’s land surface measures 67,340 square kilometres, which is equivalent to about 88% of the UAE’s total land area. Only less than 29% of the emirate is inhabited, with the remaining vast expanses covered mainly by desert and arid land.
The airport is located near the coast, and like most of the Middle East, the coastal areas contain pockets of wetland and mangrove colonies. Abu Dhabi's dozen or so islands, mostly small and uninhabited like the ones pictured, have been designated as sanctuaries for wildlife. The rest of the desert is laying on an oil bed!
Abu Dhabi's Ferrari World
Opened in November 2010, and designed by Benoy Architects, Ferrari World is a theme park located on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi. Located under a 200,000 m2 (2,152,782 sq ft) roof, making it the largest indoor amusement park in the world, the park is home of the world's fastest roller coaster (where else?!), the Ferrari Rossa which has a top speed of 240 km/h (150 mph).
Dawn breaks over the Gulf of Oman
Flying from China and onto the Arabian Sea (we came over from Shanghai, Suzhou, Wuhan, Chongqing, Kunming, Nepal, Karachi, and into the Arabian Sea), the Airbus A330 comes close to the end of it's journey into it's final destination Abu Dhabi. Sunrises are always spectacular. Oblivious of the significance for earthlings, the sun rises on just another day above the skies at 39,000 feet.
Indian and Pakistani laborers grab any chance to rest or cover themselves from the sheer heat. Working 13 hours a day, 6 days a week on two or three year contracts, they pay Labour Force companies about 1,500 USD for their initial visa and airline ticket and the chance to earn a minute 250 USD a month. There are about 200,000 Pakistani expats, and 300,000 Indian expats working in the construction industry in Dubai. Most work overtime to increase their monthly take by half or more. Their employers pay for their transportation to/from the construction site to their dormitory-style accommodation (NON air-conditioned buses). The accommodation has at least eight to a room, shared showers and toilets, no lap of luxury of any decent starred hotel - plus the food is not free. After their contract expires in two or three years, they get a return air ticket paid for, and at least 40 days home with their families.
The Ruler of the UAE has put in place strict laws to ensure they get proper medical and dental treatment, two hour breaks during the middle of the hot summer days, and to ensure they are not exploited. Next time you check into your five star hotel in the UAE, take a moment to reflect the hard work and the sheer effort put into making your stay comfortable...that someone who probably earns the same in a month as to what you may have spent in one night at your hotel stay...puts things into prospective.
Even though their wages are considered low in the UAE, they earn about FIVE times what they could back home. Working throughout the night, the cranes operated by an Indian or a Pakistani often are first ones to greet the morning sunrise over the Arabian Sea - in essence, they made Dubai and the UAE what it is today, and we must thank them for it.
Highlights from Dubai
This article should have been posted well before my Shanghai articles, but I have been very busy and have had no time to upload the photos and articles since I set my foot in China. But better late than never...so here is my report from Dubai!
Everytime I have been to Dubai, it's always been for a short stopover for a few days- though I suppose that this enough to see a city which once used to be known as a village! In the past, Dubai looked like a construction site, with high rise building being erected all around the place. Even today it feels like a construction site, though on a much smaller scale. The large amount of construction that has made Dubai what it is today is not apparent- there is a sense of silence in most parts of the city. Yes, building work is going on, however you are bound to come across high rise buildings that have been half completed, and the rest are still being constructed- or put on hold because no one has any money to complete the project. The helicopter pilot who took me on a VIP city tour explained to me that the only people who have the money at the moment are either the pilots or the locals (who have not spent much- or more like they do not need to spend much!).
The amazing story about this vibrant and colourful city is that twenty years ago, especially in the early 1980s, this was not a tourist city. In actual fact there were only a handful of basic stared hotels, lots of old souks (markets) selling fish, produce and other local bargains (including trading of Camels and Animals), and just a vast land consisting of nothing else but sand dunes disappearing into the horizon. Hollywood stars who have decided to make Dubai their second home, would have laughed at the idea of even coming here for a holiday all those years ago- that has all changed. Dubai is a place which apart from being firmly on the map, is a place that full of competition from property developers, hotels and other sectors that make up its thriving finance and tourist industry.
In a recent meeting with the British Travel Broadcaster and Actor, Michael Palin, I exchanged some viewpoints about the Dubai of the past and now. Mr. Palin first went to Dubai in the early 1980s during the filming of his well acclaimed “Around the World in 80 days”, and he recalls that in those days the hotel facilities were not lavish, there was hardly any building that even had, say, 10 floors, and there was a very small airport. So much has changed since then. Dubai has one of the most modern and biggest airports in the world, one of the best airline’s in the world, Emirates, and of course, all the rich and wealth that has surrounded this tiny city in the Arabian Gulf. 21st Century Dubai is seen as a centre of luxury for the rich and famous to come and while away their time- a place where they can escape away from the pressures of life in their home country. Russians (and now the Chinese), tend to be the major number of rich visitors to this city, as well as Hollywood stars- some of whom even have Vilas on the beach front or on the artificial “Palm Beach” (A manmade Island that looks like a Palm Tree from the sky). The catch line of “You ain’t seen nothing yet!” certainly applies to Dubai, because essentially, despite the economic downturn, this place is still booming, and there are a lot of new things that will be introduced in the coming years. In actual fact tourism is expected to over take oil exports as an important source of revenue in the near future. For the moment the people of Dubai are enjoying all the attention that they can get.
Don’t leave without seeing...
Burj Al Arab
Consistently voted the world’s most expensive hotel, and specifically going with the enjoyment of being known as the world’s only seven star hotel, the Burj Al Arab (meaning “Arab Sail”) is the ultimate in luxury. Officially the 2nd largest hotel in the world at 321 meters, the Burj Al Arab is the only one in the world that has gold plated wallpaper evident in all the rooms as well a glass ceiling in every suite (The Burj Al Arab does not have room, but every suite is two floors). If staying here is too expensive, then dine at either the Al Muntaha, offering spectacular views across the Arabian Gulf, or at the Al Mahara (below the sea) which was voted one of the ten best restaurants in the world by Conde Nest Traveler. It costs around USD$40 to go to the top of the Hotel and enjoy the views, along with a complimentary drink of your choice. Recommended to spend around an hour to get a true taste of the place.
Opened against the backdrop of a spectacular firework display on the 4th January 2010, at 828 m (2,717 ft), the Burj Khalifa is the tallest manmade building in the world. Developed by the Emaar Property Group and costing around about US$1.5 billion, the Burj Khalifa must be one of the world’s amazing wonders. You’ll get a stiff neck just by looking upwards when you are below. The Burj Khalifa is home to the 3rd highest observation deck and the highest outdoor observation deck at 442 meters- it’s located on the 124th floor. It is highly recommended to book in advance. Located at the base of the Burj Khalifa, the Dubai Fountain provides a stunning show of “dancing water”. Costing a total of Dh 800 million (US$217 million), a record-setting fountain system offered by the tallest dancing fountain in the world, was designed and constructed to go side by side with the Burk Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. The fountain is illuminated by over 6,600 lights and 50 colored projectors.
City Old Tours
For those visitors who are coming to Dubai for the first time, you may just end up seeing the modern Dubai- for sure you are missing something great. Take a tour of the old Dubai, especially around the Deira area. This is home to a number of souks (traditional Arab markets) including the Covered Souk, the Gold Souk & the Spice Souk. The Gold Souk has nothing else except less than hundreds of shops trading in Gold. Likewise the same for the Spice souk, while the Covered Souk sells all kinds of brik-brac- some of which are being sold just as they were in the old days before all these high rise sky scrapers came into effect.
The Big Bus Company (www.bigbustours.com) has been in operation in Dubai for over 7 years now. It used to operate creamy and red coloured London Double Decker Buses (the tradtionals ones'). However with the change of the times and with improvement, the Big Bus Company has two types of tours- the Red Tour (for the Old Dubai) and the Blue Tour (For the new Dubai and the beach side areas). With their distinctive open-top tours, they reveal Dubai’s landmarks while showcasing the city’s rapid development from a small fishing village to a modern, vibrant city.
Its well worth taking Day Tours' by making full use of the the hop-on, hop-off facilities to visit all the places that interest you, or join the Night Tour with a live-guided commentary which showcases the spectacular night lights of Dubai. It really is awesome. Nothing beats the feeling of seeing Dubai in all its glory at day or night- watch out for the wind from the Arabian sea though!
For another alternative, if you wish to go desert safari or to if you wish to hire your own driver yourself then it is also highly recommended to book half a day with Arabian Explorers: www.arabian-explorers.com
Hatta is a 200 years old village that is only an hour’s drive from downtown Dubai city. The ancient fortress and the famous Juna Mosque, which are both located amid palm groves, draw visitors all year round. But one thing that really fascinates the visitors is the authentic drive along the burnished sand dunes & mountains varied in colour- you only get to experience this in Dubai, and Hatta. The locals are very welcoming and friendly. They may even offer you some local Arabic tea. Make sure you greet them with a gentle “Islamalikum!”.
Built in 1787, and later renovated in both 1971 and then in 1995. The museum is perhaps one of the oldest buildings in the whole of the middle east, the Dubai Museum located in the Al Fahidi Fort is a must see attraction. The attraction gives a true sense of what life was like well before the commencement of the high rise buildings came into existence. It looks and feels a bit like being in a typical “Arabian Nights” movie. Unlike the modern Dubai which everyone sees nowadays, coming to the Dubai Museum conjures up that authentic Arabic feeling.
Here are some photos I would like to share of Dubai:
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