Alicia Keys

Alicia’s column    ·    July 19th, 2004

She’s a grammy-winning R&B artist and a native New Yorker. Now Alicia Keys has a new role - as travel correspondent for New York’s favorite newspaper. Keys is on a world tour, supporting her latest triple platinum album, “The Diary Of Alicia Keys.” She will be keeping her own travel diary, filing stories regularly from the road exclusively for Daily News readers. “Writing a travel column is definetly new from me, but I love the challenge,” she said. “It’s exciting to be able to report back to my homewtown.” Read Alicia’s first report - from the stunning resort of Dubai - in our Travel section today.


“Dazzled By Dubai”

When i recieved the invitation to visit Dubai, my first question was one of naivete: Where is it? Cany ou really blame me? I am just a city girl. Ask me where Chelsea Piers is, I can tell you. Ask me where the Cloisters are, I can tell you. But Dubai? That’s a whole ‘nother ball game.
After doing some investigation on my own, I determined the Dubai is a city of fortune and business in the United Arab Emirates-a small Middle Eastern country just across the Persian Gulf from Iraq, yet untouched by the wreckage and despair of war. I had only been painted a one-sided picture of the Middle East. But since I am a rebel at heart, as all city girls are, I accepted the invitation and off i went.

Getting there wasn’t easy. My band and I took a seven-hour flight from New York to London and then, after a two-hour layover, we took another seven hour flight. When we finally arrived at Dubai International Airport, we found ourselves in one the most beautiful airports I’ve ever passes through. Mahogany and shiny silver accents everywhere. Big stairs and elevators built as if they had a prince in mind, EVerything was just so. Immediately, I felt a difference - a certain respect for custom, for presentation and hospitality. We took about a 30- minute drive to the Shangri-La Hotel. Driving through the night, I couldnt see any landscape, but arriving at the hotel sure gave me a sense of the investment made in the hotel industry. Awaiting us were a welcoming committee and at leeast five secuirty men, I got out of the car feeling completely underdressed in my jeans and hat pulled low over my eyes.

They were nothing but gracious and led me up to my suite, which occupied the entire top floor of the hotel across from a small gym, pool and sunbathing area. When they openedthe doors to my suite for the first time, the vision was breathtaking. A 2-floor palatial beauty straight out of the pages of the best architectural design magazine. There were marble floors, silver accents, and large, floor-to cieling, dark wood doors covered with rich brown leather and huge silver handles.

Massive windows were everywhere and from the living room to the dining room was a long stretchof space you could do pirouettes across. i tried to put on my best look of cool approval and not show too much goofy excitememnt, but it was the most babulous place i’d ever seen! All this excitement and i hadnet even left the hotel yet.

My favorite place in teh whole suite, besides of course the Jacuzzi in my bathroom, was the wrap-around patio that looked out upon a sea of lights. in the morningi would see that it was an oasis-75% of all the buildings were still under construction. From the terrace, more than one of our guides during our stay pointed out the location where they were building the tallest building in the world. I gazed down on the beginnings of that structure and felt their excitement and pride in their city.

Luckily, I’d come to Dubai with a few days to spare before my gig and I made sure I had enough time to explore. The beach was my first destination, as I am a mermaid at heart. The water was a clear, bluish-green and shallow 80 degrees. I just sat in the middle of it and felt the warmth and I mean warmth. It was heaven!

I noticed they offered water-skiing and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to try something new. The gentleman who took us out was a young, strong, light-skinned man from Africa. He told us he was a surfer and that the only thing he missed in Dubai was the waves. Our instructor took us far out on a boat to different sets of islands and a big deep area of the ocean so we could try water-skiing. Let me just say you’re definitely gonna fall at least twice - but it’s so much fun to be a fool.

We had other adventures as well. We went dune-bashing in the desert (which puts roller coasters to shame), and then camel-riding, which was quite an experience. The camels were tethered together and knelt down on command as we crawled on. We held on for dear life as we were led around a large circle.

Then we had a traditional Middle Eastern dinner under the stars (the best falafel on the planet), had beautiful designs drawn on our skin with henna (much better than tattoos, especially for the ladies), listened to live traditional music and enjoyed a belly dancer (yes, I tried it!). It was a night I will never forget. I left Dubai feeling the intrigue that the creators of “Aladdin” must have felt - a place rich in tradition and history, kindness and magic. I felt like there was so much goodness to discover in a world that is mostly painted for Westerners as just the enemy (but that’s a whole different column). Mostly I felt proud that I wasn’t too afraid to try something new. Like every city girl should!

Source: New York Daily News


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