TIME United Arab Emirates

An Enormous Sandstorm Is Making Life Hellish in Dubai

Amateur footage shows the city blanketed under a thick orange cloud

A massive sandstorm has hit the United Arab Emirates, massively reducing visibility and causing disruption to air and road traffic in several Gulf cities.

The bad weather is caused by strong winds that have whipped up desert sand and dust, leaving the fine particles hanging in the air, reports the BBC.

Flights were disrupted at Dubai’s two busy international airports on Thursday and delays have left many passengers stranded.

In the capital, Abu Dhabi, the reduced visibility has caused a serious traffic accident with a 24-year-old being airlifted to hospital.

The National Centre of Meteorology and Seismology has warned that visibility will be reduced to as little as 500 meters and forecasters say it could last days.

The storm has also been blamed for a rise in the number of patients admitted to hospitals with respiratory problems.

The fine particles in a sandstorm can trigger acute asthma attacks in sufferers and can leave people coughing, wheezing, short of breath and prone to infections.


TIME desalination

This Plant in Dubai Makes Half a Billion Gallons of Fresh Water a Day

With 1.8 billion people projected to live in areas afflected by water scarcity by 2025, TIME visits the Jebel Ali plant in the United Arab Emirates where ocean desalination is getting a fresh look.

It’s in your clothes and your food, the appliances in your home and the electricity that powers them. It’s in television and the Internet and the air. It’s in us—or more precisely, we’re it, given that about 60% of our bodies is made of it. To call water the basis of life doesn’t give credit enough, yet we often treat it like an afterthought. Until it’s gone.

Already 1.2 billion people, nearly a sixth of the world’s population, live in areas afflicted by water scarcity, and that figure could grow to 1.8 billion by 2025. Globally, the rate of water withdrawal—water diverted from an existing surface or underground source—increased at more than twice the rate of global population growth over the past century. Climate change could intensify desertification in already dry parts of the planet. The world is projected to hold 9 billion people or more by 2050—and they’ll all be thirsty.

So in 2015 and beyond, the challenge of water scarcity will only grow, which could lead to global instability. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Efficiency can stretch existing supplies (in the U.S., overall water use has fallen even as the population has grown). And an old technology, ocean desalination, is getting a fresh look as high-tech plants churn out millions of gallons of freshwater a day. The Jebel Ali plant in the United Arab Emirates, shown in this photo essay, can produce 564 million gallons (2.13 billion L) of water a day from the sea, a sign of the sheer scale that may be needed in a drier future. The truth is that we can do anything with water—except go on without it.


Now You Can Virtually Wander the Streets of Dubai

Julian Finney—Getty Images The Burj Al Arab, a 7 star hotel, is seen on February 25, 2012 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

The first Arab metropolis to get Google Maps 'Street View'

Google added ‘Street View’ to its map of Dubai on Monday, marking the feature’s first foray into an Arab country.

Virtual visitors can tour the city’s most notable landmarks, including the “dancing fountains” outside of the Dubai Mall and the world’s tallest tower, the Burj Khalifa, which can be viewed both from the ground floor and the observation deck 124 floors above the city.

“We hope that you’ll be inspired to explore its wonders in person,” the Google Maps team wrote in an announcement on the official blog, “but until then, they’re just a click away.”


TIME Style

Sarah Jessica Parker’s Shoe Line to Launch in Dubai

Sarah Jessica Parker
Nigel Waldron—Getty Images Sarah Jessica Parker.

The "Sex and the City" star is set to appear in the United Arab Emirates promoting her shoe line's international debut

Sarah Jessica Parker is perhaps taking a cue from her Sex and the City alter ego and heading to the United Arab Emirates with her shoe line.

But while Carrie Bradshaw visited Abu Dhabi in the franchise’s second film (which was panned by critics), Parker is preparing to launch her SJP Collection in Dubai, marking the line’s debut in the international market. The collection will be available from Dec. 3 and Parker will be making appearances at Harvey Nichols on Dec. 7 and Bloomingdale’s on Dec. 9 to promote the line.

Parker created the shoe collection with the CEO of Manolo Blahnik, George Malkemus. The shoes, which are already available to buy in the US, are identifiable by the signature strip of grosgrain ribbon on the back of every heel.

[The National]

TIME Travel

10 Things To Do Wherever You Are

Businesswoman with suitcase in airport
Getty Images

Traveling this holiday weekend? Whether you’re headed to New York or San Francisco, Singapore or Tokyo, we’ve put together a list of your destination’s must-see attractions and activities. So if you want to hit the tourist hotspots, or if you prefer to see how the locals live, these ideas will make your Labor Day planning a bit less laborious:

TIME United Arab Emirates

Dubai’s Kids Now Worth Their Weight (Loss) in Gold

Getty Images Stack of Gold Bars

"Your Child in Gold" program will award two grams of gold for every kilogram (2.2 pounds) a child manages to shed over two months

Dubai has devised a rather unorthodox plan to incentivize its citizens to lose weight: Shed pounds, and we’ll give you some gold. And if you’re a child — we’ll give you double.

Participants will be awarded one gram of gold, worth just under $42, for every kilogram (2.2 pounds) in weight lost. But if a family has a child over 2 but under 14 years of age, then they will receive 2g for every kilo lost. Only two children can participate per family, and the minimum weight loss is 2kg to be eligible.

Last year the program focused principally on Dubai’s adult population, and it paid out $762,340 in gold, Quartz reports.

The Dubai Municipality launched the “Your Child in Gold” initiative during Ramadan. The website for the competition gives weight loss advice: “Ramadan is the most appropriate season to launch such initiatives as it reminds us about many health benefits of reducing weight and encourages us to take strong steps to change our bad lifestyles.”

Last week, the Kahleej Times reported 341 children had officially weighed in to participate in the 2-month program.

Quartz cited a 2012 BMC Public Health Journal study which found that the UAE is the sixth most obese nation in the world.

TIME Dubai

Dubai to Build World’s First Temperature-Controlled Indoor ‘City’

In Dubai's latest attempt to cement its place as the economic hub of the Islamic world, Sheik Mohammed announces plans to build the world's first temperature-controlled "city," which will double as the world's largest mall

Dubai’s ruler Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum has unveiled plans for the Mall of the World — a 48 million-sq.-ft. (4.5 million sq m) shopping center, to be the world’s largest, which will also form the world’s first temperature-controlled “city.”

Designed by developers Dubai Holding, the complex will be modeled on the cultural district around New York’s Broadway and Oxford Street in London, and is expected to draw 180 million visitors to the city annually — even during the sweltering 104°F (40°C) summer. (The complex will be opened to the elements during tamer winter months to allow fresh air to circulate.)

“The growth in family and retail tourism underpins the need to enhance Dubai’s tourism infrastructure as soon as possible,” Sheik Mohammed said in a statement. “This project complements our plans to transform Dubai into a cultural, tourist and economic hub for the 2 billion people living in the region around us; and we are determined to achieve our vision.”

The ambitious project will include the world’s largest indoor amusement park and shopping mall, 100 hotels and serviced apartment complexes, an entertainment center to host 15,000 people, and a 3 million-sq.-ft. (300,000 sq m) “wellness district” for medical tourism. Buildings in the city will be connected by promenades stretching 4.5 miles (7 km). The plan is Dubai’s latest attempt to mark itself as the economic hub of the Islamic world; the UAE’s most populous city already boasts the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa, which stands at 2,722 ft. (829.8 m).

In addition, as countries around the world struggle to reduce their greenhouse emissions, the project could lead the way for environmentally responsible urban planning. Ahmad bin Byat, chief executive officer of Dubai Holding, said in a statement that technology used will “reduce energy consumption and carbon footprint, ensuring high levels of environmental sustainability and operational efficiency.”

The cost and timeline of the project have yet to be released, but it is expected to be a highlight at the UAE World Expo trade fair in 2020.

MONEY Tourism

World’s Tallest Observation Wheel Prices Come Down to Earth

The High Roller at the Linq
Yaacov Dagan—Alamy The High Roller at the Linq, a dining and shopping district at the center of the Las Vegas.

The High Roller, a new attraction in Las Vegas that gives tourists a view of Sin City 550 feet up in the air, is already being discounted to try to boost ticket sales.

The High Roller opened this past spring as the focal point of the LINQ, an open-air shopping and dining district. The Ferris wheel-like attraction—an observation wheel that holds 40 passengers in each of 28 pods, modeled on the London Eye—launched to much fanfare in April. It is not a thrill ride per se, moving at only one foot per second and requiring a half-hour to complete a full circle, but the idea is that the views from 55 stories will prove thrilling. One man reportedly waited six hours to be among the first passengers to board a High Roller pod on opening day to the public.

Fast-forward a few weeks, and the idea of such a wait is especially laughable. From the beginning, many complained that the price of a High Roller ride was just too expensive. A basic daytime ticket originally cost $24.95, and a ride after 6 p.m. runs $10 more. (By comparison, a ride to take in the view at the 869-foot-high Stratosphere observation deck, usually costs $18 for adults, $12 for hotel guests, locals, and seniors, and $10 for kids ages 4 to 12.) The Las Vegas Sun reported that many High Roller ticketing options have quietly gotten cheaper, however, apparently to juice sales during the slow summer season.

The daytime adult ticket was dropped to $19.95 at least through Labor Day, and youth rates for kids ages 13 to 18 were reduced permanently to $14.95 during the day and $24.95 at night. (Kids 12 and under are free with a paying adult.) Family packs have also been introduced, with two adults and two youth tickets selling for $50 during the day and $80 at night.

The new pricing structure is hardly the only way Caesars is trying to fill empty High Roller pods. An ongoing Tuesday special cuts prices in half for locals (anyone with Nevada ID), and locals get $5 off on rides every other day. A Groupon for a $65 VIP High Roller package for two (valued at $109.90), with two rides, two souvenir photos, and two drinks, was introduced in mid-June and still hasn’t sold out. (It probably hasn’t helped sales that a water main burst in mid-June, flooding the LINQ pedestrian areas directly below the High Roller.)

Sure, everything goes on sale eventually in Las Vegas, where wheeling and dealing are ingrained in the culture. But it’s not a good sign for the future success of the High Roller that it appears to be forced to resort to deals and discounts within a few scant months of being the hot new thing on the Strip.

Meanwhile, plans for a second Sin City observation wheel, the 500-foot-high SkyVue, across the street from the airport and Mandalay Bay, seem to have been put on hold. While ground was broken for the SkyVue three years ago, last month the Las Vegas Sun put the crane and scaffolding on the site—the only physical progress on display—into the category of “eyesores to tourists and commuters” in the city.

Oh, and even as one High Roller competitor seems to have faded away in Las Vegas, forthcoming rides in other locations are poised to steal its thunder as the World’s Largest Observation Wheel. A 625-foot-high Ferris wheel-like attraction is in the works for New York City’s Staten Island, offering views of the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan skyline. Not to be outdone, a 689-foot-high Dubai Eye observation wheel is planned as the centerpiece of manmade island in Dubai with a five-star hotel and a cluster of tourist and shopping facilities.


Watch BASE Jumpers Set a New World Record by Diving Off The Tallest Building on Earth

A touching bro-ment

Fred Fugen and Vince Reffet set a BASE-jumping world record after hopping from the tip of the Burj Khalifa—all 2,717 feet of it—in a stunt sponsored by the skydiving resort Skydive Dubai. Along with a peculiarly uncredited cameraman, the bros share a bro-ment as they soar around the building like unusually large gliders, trailed by twin plumes of dramatic red smoke.

“People think that you BASE jump because you’re crazy, you like to get scared,” either Fred or Vince said. (From the video, it’s not clear whom.) “But, I mean, we like to fly.”


Comic Con in the Middle East

High temperatures in Dubai didn’t stop droves of sci-fi and comic book fans from showing up clad in battle armor. At the annual Middle East Film and Comic Con, it’s as likely to see someone dressed up as Batman as somebody wearing a business suit. Although a multimillion dollar comic book collection gained the biggest buzz of the show, the convention featured tons of affordable merchandise, from Star Wars to Superman. For those who wanted to portray their favorite heroes rather than just own their likeness, there was even a program that digitally transformed con-goers into superheroes.

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