In a part of the world in which the lack of water has historically been the biggest obstacle to human development, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that, in Dubai, its use in great quantities has come to symbolise wealth and luxury living.
Some might say its use has become profligate; that’s a moot point, but there’s no doubt that it draws the crowds.
Whatever your take is on the use of water, there is no question that some of the most awe-inspiring recent developments are either based on water or at least have a large amount of it sloshing around.
The Burj Al Arab – a leviathan whose development certainly displaced a fair amount of water – famously hosts a restaurant called Al Mahara (Oyster), reached via a simulated undersea voyage. One of the things that makes Al Mahara so memorable is its vast aquarium, teeming with life – and what a thrilling notion it is to see sharks watching people eat. In restaurant terms, the aquarium is vast, yet for our purposes it’s just a baby, with only 990,000 litres of water.
More impressive still is the aquarium at Dubai Mall – the world’s largest mall, by the way – which possesses the world’s third-largest aquarium. This monstrous tank has a capacity of ten million litres. Lucky it does too, as it also holds over 33,000 marine animals, including more than 400 sharks and rays combined.
Want something a little bigger? Try the Atlantis Hotel on Palm Jumeirah. There adventurers will find the Lost Chambers Aquarium, with 20 discrete viewing experiences, 65,000 watery critters and – wait for it - 11.5 million litres of H2O.
Here, in the second-largest aquarium in the world (only the mindblowing Georgia Aquarium in the United States beats it) you can come face to face with no fewer than 65,000 marine animals, including sharks, eels, seahorses and pirhanas, as well as visiting a touch pool, if you feel like getting up particularly close and personal.
Atlantis is, of course, built on one of Dubai’s visible-from-space palm islands, and continues its watery theme in its outdoor Aquaventure Waterpark and Dolphin Bay, where – can you guess? – guests can swim (or scuba dive) with dolphins.
All this watery fun may not sit well with sustainable tourism devotees, but there are two sides to every story, and Dubai has generally defied the odds – and the puritans – to become one of the world’s premier tourism destinations.