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Jackson in Dubai: Buffalo wings, speedboats

King of Pop buzzes around Emirate with race car driver during visit
/ Source: The Associated Press

He ate Buffalo wings. He took a speedboat to a luxury villa on a manmade island. He buzzed around the Emirate with a race car driver and a prince.

In contrast to the frail and somewhat withdrawn Michael Jackson cleared of child abuse charges in June, the king of pop appeared at ease during his visit to this Persian Gulf sheikdom, said Mohammed Bin Sulayem, the Emirates champion rally driver who escorted Jackson on sightseeing tours.

The pair was joined by a mutual friend, Sheik Abdulla bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the son of Bahrain’s king.

According to local newspaper accounts and pictures, the 47-year-old performer was even spotted looking over some of the world’s priciest real estate developments in Dubai, a booming luxury resort and one of the world’s fastest-growing cities.

“He wants to see more of this area. He likes it here,” said Bin Sulayem.

The local press has been full of speculative articles about the singer taking up residence. But Jackson’s race car driver friend said the pop star is just looking.

“I would love to see him come to this part of the world and live — or even just to have a second house,” the champion driver said.

Before his visit to Dubai, Jackson had been staying as Sheik Abdulla’s guest in Bahrain, where he took refuge after his 19-month trial and June 13 acquittal on child molestation charges.

But unlike his reclusive stay in that oil-rich island kingdom the size of Rhode Island, Jackson’s visit to Dubai has included several surprise public appearances.

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The singer visited a pair of Dubai’s $14 billion manmade island developments, touring The Palm Jumeirah, one of three palm tree-shaped archipelagoes under construction.

Jackson’s entourage also took a speedboat to The World development, an artificial archipelago of 300 private islets being reclaimed offshore and formed in the shape of a world map.

In other personal snapshots Bin Sulayem provided, Jackson could be seen in his trademark black Fedora and sunglasses and a royal blue shirt, strolling alongside his Arab hosts, men in traditional white robes and headdresses.

Bin Sulayem was full of praise for Jackson’s patience with fans, waiters and salespeople, who he said “bombarded” him with requests for autographs and pictures.

“The guy is a gentleman. I’ve met guys who weren’t even 10 percent as famous as he is, and they are much harder to deal with,” Bin Sulayem said.

The singer also paid visits to the Burj al-Arab hotel, the sail-shaped skyscraper that sits on a tiny island off Dubai, and went to the Hard Rock Cafe for spicy Buffalo chicken wings.

Jackson’s spokeswoman, Raymone K. Bain, did not return repeated phone calls seeing comment.

Jackson was recently fined $10,000 for failing to appear in court to face a separate civil case in Louisiana on a claim of sexual assault.

On June 13, he was acquitted of charges alleging that he molested a 13-year-old boy, gave him wine and conspired to hold him and his family captive to make a videotaped rebuttal of a damaging television documentary.