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Dubai Adventure, From Sky To Sand To Snow

This first aired Nov. 14, 2008

Tiny Dubai keeps growing -- literally.

Even though the global economic crunch is starting to make itself felt in the super-wealthy Arab emirate on the Persian Gulf, Dubai is getting bigger, as construction of huge islands there goes on.

Seen from the air,

resulting from the building boom are taking the shape of a mammoth palm tree, as Early Show viewers saw vividly Friday. already up and going up are also sources of amazement.

Co-anchor Maggie Rodriguez provided looks at many facets of Dubai -- including an aerial tour -- as the show continued its series, "Destination Unknown." Our on-air personalities show up for work each day with their bags packed, ready to be sent to they-know-not-where as they depart. Julie Chen went to Paris and Russ Mitchell to Athens.

Maggie started her journey Thursday.

"This once-sleepy desert town is now known for its opulent, constantly-topping-itself architecture," Rodriguez observed on the show, From Dubai, Friday. "It's known for golf, beaches, everything under the sun." Even an indoor ski slope in a giant mall. And oh -- that shopping!

"It's a desert here, and it feels like one," Rodriguez continued. " ... It is 88 degrees, but just 17 floors below me ... it is 25 degrees" at the ski slope.

Rodriguez showed views from a helicopter of the "palm tree" below and its sister community that, when finished, will consist of more than 300 islands two-and-a-half miles out in the Gulf, forming the shape of all the world's continents. "Dozens of massive dredgers are scraping hundreds of millions of tons of silt, sand, coral, rock and sea grass," she said, as Early Show cameras recorded the machines at work. "The islands are 50 feet deep and rise 12 feet above sea level. Thirty-four million tons of boulders are being packed into the islands' edges to stop erosion and act as a reef. When finished, the palm and the world will increase Dubai's beachfront from 20 miles to 400 miles. On the islands, it'll be shops and more shops.

"But Dubai is mainly for palatial homes -- palaces for the rich and famous."

Rodriguez calls Dubai's rapidly-multiplying skyscrapers the "shock and awe of architecture ... from every angle, breathtaking architectural bling. There are buildings shaped like pyramids and mushrooms, buildings with holes right-through, a riot of daring concrete and glass. Some buildings appear to have been transplanted from ancient Florence. Most are just arrogantly modern." There are TWO buildings shaped like the Chrysler building in Manhattan, "and of course the iconic hotel shaped like a massive yacht, under full sail." And a mall to end all malls; shops -- with sharks!

"It's almost impossible to imagine that, not so long ago, Dubai was a small, scruffy port. Rotting wooden boats still haul cargo, and the fishermen still do good business.

"Today's Dubai, though, was created for 'elite-achievers.' The credit crunch means big business HAS slowed, and there is lots of empty real estate, but cranes (all over) tell the story. The city is still being built, so it's Hardhat Heaven, with hundreds of thousands of immigrant workers with a head for heights. One tower will soon be the tallest in the world, right now at 165 floors, it will reach a half-mile when complete, nearly double the size of the Sears Tower in Chicago.

"There are wilder projects planned: a spiraling 82-story 'dynamic' tower. ... Plans show a structure that changes shape, bewilderingly, 24/7. Then, there's Dubai's other insane-skyscraper-to-be: the Anara Tower, a massive, propeller-like structure and a glass pod restaurant 2,000 feet high."

Rodriguez also got a lesson at that gigantic in-mall, indoor ski slope is "snow-scooting" -- using something resembling a bicycle frame on skis.

Oh, then she went to the other end of the modernity and temperature spectrum, hitching a ride on -- a camel!

This trip was arranged by luxury travel service company Virtuoso.
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