The taxi ride promised little excitement. It was mid-afternoon and the traffic flowed smoothly past the shiny tall buildings. Impossibly green grass and brilliant pink flowers edged the wide highway, and beyond that we saw sandy vacant lots, parked cars, huge billboards advertising the next luxury development or flashy car, construction sites spiked with tall cranes. It was the standard Dubai scenery.
Off the highway, the taxi driver (“Where are you from?” “Bangladesh.”) took us past rows of smaller residential housing, interspersed with the ever-present sandy construction sites. In the distance the haze (or smog?) was visible as a brown smudge above the horizon. The oppressive heat kept the windows closed and the air conditioning on high. More vacant lots – “Looks like a hotel is going up there.” – more residential housing, and we pulled into the dusty parking lot of Dubai Miracle Garden.
A garden? In Dubai?
I had chosen to visit Dubai Miracle Garden just based on wondering how Dubai could even have such a thing. On earlier visits I’d seen the indoor ski slope at the Mall of the Emirates. It was one of those shaking-your-head, who-even-thinks-of-such-a-thing-where-it-tops-forty-degrees-Celsius-in-the-summer sorts of places.
A garden in the desert? After all, that’s where Dubai is. It may look like a shiny modern city in all the photos, but it’s a shiny modern city plunked down in the desert. How could they possibly grow a garden there?
At the ski slope, I wondered how much energy it must take to keep it refrigerated through the summer. For the Dubai Miracle Garden, my first question was: how much water do they use?
I had talked two colleagues into visiting it with me, and though we were a bit worried about spending time outside in the heat (about 35C or 95F that afternoon), off we went.
Dubai Miracle Garden
If you’ve ever read this blog before, you’ll know I have a particular fondness for quirky, oddball sights like this one or this one. Just stepping through the gate confirmed for me that I’d made a good choice.
This is the first “floral design” inside the entrance. What do you think it represents?
My first thought was that it was an alien spacecraft. Or perhaps it depicted a four-legged alien. I showed both my kids the picture and they insisted it was an upside-down castle.
Whatever it was, it was covered with flowers (how do they water those?). At its “feet” were four massive swan sculptures. Straight ahead, if we walked under it, stood a tall red heart on poles, and, beyond that, a flower-covered gateway with mismatched towers.
This became a theme at Dubai Miracle Garden: juxtaposition of completely unrelated elements, often involving a bird of some sort.
For example, ostriches, their bodies covered in flowers, lined many of the walkways. Massive peacocks, also covered in flowers, overlooked the proceedings from on high. Three giant parrots, in this case flowerless, stood on three small hills. A fake pelican floated in the water feature.
And, of course, there were masses of flowers everywhere: 100 million, according to their website. Colorful, densely planted flowers covered almost everything, including many structures.
If you read my post last year about flying on Emirates’ A380, you’ll know I’m a fan. I flew them again on these two recent trips to Dubai. Well, Dubai Miracle Gardens has an Emirates A380 too. It holds the Guinness World Record for largest flower arrangement/structure.
The problem is: it looks like it has crashed, which is perhaps not the message Emirates intended to send. Like most things in Dubai Miracle Gardens, the A380 is covered in flowers. Its fuselage rests on the ground, while its wings are supported by large fake tree trunks.
To add to the absurdity of this sight, a row of flower-covered ostriches lines the path to the plane. A bit further away, an even odder object stands alone: an enormous, beribboned hat, its brim and crown lined with flowers.
What do A380s, ostriches and hats have to do with each other?
What do ostriches have to do with an upside-down Volkswagen beetle?
And is that John Lennon? Why is he throwing up?
Who is this meant to be? Some sort of half-plant, half-man?
These flowerpot people seem to “live” in the flower-covered house behind them.
Dubai Miracle Gardens isn’t very big, but it manages to pack a lot into its small acreage. While it’s all too easy to make fun of the absurdity of it all – the seemingly random combinations, the whole idea of such a garden in the desert – we greatly enjoyed our visit. From the look of the crowds, many people appreciate it. On a late Sunday afternoon, it was swarming with people from all over the world, presumably the “expats” that Dubai relies on, who come to Dubai for work.
After several days in Dubai’s dusty, hazy, hot air, it was pleasant to smell earth and natural scents and fertility again. I can imagine that if I lived there, I’d go regularly just for that respite.
Dubai Miracle Garden is only open from November to May. Check their website for exact dates. Admission for adults cost 40 AED (10 euros or 11 US dollars) this year, 30 AED for children 3-12.