After a wonderful month in South Africa, it was a good change of scenery when I landed in Dubai. Originally I was only going to have a 12-hour layover in Dubai and decided to extend it by 3 days so I could explore the UAE and fulfill another one of bucket list items. I heard from a friend who had recently visited that she loved it but it was extremely hot when she went and that was a couple months before I had landed, so I was in for a treat. Since I only had a short time in Dubai, I decided to check out the malls, Burj Khalifa, a day trip to the desert and then a day trip to Abu Dhabi. The first day I checked into my gorgeous apartment which happened to be on the 66th floor and provided me with a spectacular view of the man-made palm tree where Atlantis was situated on. The first day was a nice 100 degrees with 30% humidity so I quickly changed into shorts and a t-shirt and hit the town.
First stop, Mall of the Emirates. I actually planned on doing some more stuff the first day I arrived but I got completely lost in the mall and spent 6 hours wandering around! This mall was absolutely insane; I think I passed 4 Louis Vuitton stores because you know if you were to buy an LV bag why not buy one from each store? I also decided to splurge a bit and buy some new workout gear, shoes, a dress to wear out and some other unnecessary stuff. In case anyone could get bored of window shopping, you could always switch the pace and go skiing for an hour or two in the man-made ski resort that was attached to the food court at the mall!
The next morning, I woke up early to get a workout in (since our apartment complex had an amazing gym) and get ready for a day out in the desert. This was my favorite day in Dubai hands down, most likely because it was an adventure filled day. I hopped in an SUV filled with a bunch of tourists to head 30 minutes away from Dubai into the desert of the United Arab Emirates. First stop, quadding! The last time I had been quadding was in the suburbs of Bucks County so this was a nice change. I put on my helmet and set out across the sand dunes, trying to pick up as much speed as possible. We had 30 minutes quadding through the desert before we headed out. Of course, I pushed my limits a bit and went extremely fast over a sand dune and picked up some air on the way down. Of course, I got yelled at, but hey what’s the fun of quadding if you don’t almost flip over?
The next part of our desert tour was dune bashing and I don’t think my head or my stomach knew what to expect. Obviously, in the desert, there are huge sand dunes, well in Dubai they like to push their limits and take their SUVs off-roading on these sand dunes. Although this was exhilarating for the first couple of turns and spins…. this started to really affect my stomach. While everyone else was screaming and bobbing up and down I kept telling myself not to projectile vomit all over these strangers to my left. Although the video below doesn’t do the dune bashing justice, you can see a glimpse of what my body went through as we jostled around.
While we were on the sand dunes, our driver got out the snowboard and waxed it up so we could attempt to sand board. This was the part that I was most excited for since it would essentially be like snowboarding. Well, I was completely wrong. Sandboarding is nothing like snowboarding and has no exhilarating factor to it. Obviously, I was a pro as soon as I got on the sand board but because the sand was so thick, you couldn’t easily carve or pick up speed. Unfortunately, this was a bust but fun to try out a couple times. Also, there is no ski lift back up the sand dunes so once you get down, you have to run back up the quicksand which was extremely tiring in itself.
After the dune bashing and sand boarding, everyone was covered in sand in every possible area imaginable. We cleaned up and headed towards the authentic Arabian BBQ. This night was great because I saw a couple friends from the apartment I was staying at and we exchanged stories from the day.
The next day I headed out to The Dubai Mall to check out the mall as well as walk around the Burj Khalifa. For those of you who don’t know about the Burj Khalifa, this building is the tallest skyscraper in the world at 160 floors. You can purchase a ticket to get to the top of the Burj but it will cost you a pretty penny, I believe it was around $150. Also, after talking to a couple locals, Saudi Arabia and Dubai are in the process of building a taller skyscraper than the Burj Khalifa so I wouldn’t be surprised in the next couple years to see a building in Dubai that exceeds this one. Anyways, the Burj Khalifa is absolutely exquisite and defines modern architecture. It is stunning to look at it from below and makes for a perfect photo opportunity, if you can figure out how to get this massive building in one picture.
The next day, I decided to take the public bus 2 hours to Abu Dhabi to check out the city as well as the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Of course the day I went to Abu Dhabi, it was a casual 104 degrees out and since I was leaving Dubai, I had to cover up my shoulders and knees to respect the Muslim culture as well as the UAE laws. As soon as I stepped off of the bus, I knew I was in for one hell of a hot day. I stupidly walked from the bus station to the coast which was around a mile and a half away. Halfway through that walk, I was absolutely drenched from head to toe in sweat and had drank my entire 1.5L water bottle. I decided to give up and take a public bus to the coast to walk along the boardwalk. Once I got to the boardwalk, I was sweaty in 3 minutes time and decided to head back to a place with AC. Since there wasn’t much to see in Abu Dhabi, I decided to head to the mosque early and get that out of the way before I headed back to Dubai. The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque was STUNNING. Absolutely breathtaking. Before we were allowed to enter, the women had to be completely covered from head to toe. Luckily they provided us with an Abaya (long traditional dress) and I wore my scarf around my head to cover my head. They were very strict regarding these rules for women, even when my scarf fell off while I was touring and taking pictures, someone politely asked me to quickly put it back on. While I was walking around the grounds, I found out that this is one of the world’s largest mosques and that it could hold up to 40,000 worshipers at one time. This fact doesn’t surprise me since I spent an hour or two walking around the mosque taking in all of its beauty. I came to realize that all of the mosques that I have visited during my months abroad are all absolutely breathtaking. If I had a place of worship that was 1/10th the beauty of these mosques, I would be there every day to examine it’s beauty. The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque features 82 domes, over 1,000 columns, 24 carat gold gilded chandeliers and the world’s largest hand-knotted carpet. As I was walking around the outside grounds on the marble, the detail was exquisite everywhere I looked whether it was the flowers that were imprinted in the columns or the doorways with Arabic writing. Before heading out, I toured around the inside prayer rooms and was astonished by my surroundings yet again. The carpet was so intricate and soft on my feet. The chandeliers were something out of a dream, so large and detailed with so many colors and patterns. Overall this was by far the most incredible mosque I had come across and would happily tour again as I was enthralled by the beauty of such a holy place for worship.
On my last day in Dubai, I decided to head to a beach bar that was across from my hostel to catch a nice tan and watch the mega yachts. While I was at the beach club, I met a friend, Aymen. Aymen was wonderful as he answered all my last questions about Dubai and the Islamic religion. Since Fridays and Saturday are the weekend days in Dubai, everyone was in the ocean on their jet skis and jetpacks doing crazy tricks. This was seriously an adult’s playground with mega super yachts, jetpacks, and crazy water toys!
It was wonderful to sit back and daydream about owning one of these yachts one day…until next time Dubai!
- Extremely hot even when I was there which wasn’t the peak season of the summer. Apparently in August it is unbearable! Even walking outside for 5 minutes I had sweat dripping down my back and the lower layer of my hair was soaked.
- Skyscrappers everywhere with more being built everywhere you looked.
- Got lost in 2 malls and literally could not find my way out. Malls had ice skating rinks, aquariums, waterfalls, ski lodges where you could go tubing or skiing.
- Very spread out, there are two main areas – the Dubai Mall area with a lot of restaurants, Burj Khalifia and shopping around and then the Marina area where the yachts park, lots of hotels around the area and a fun place to hang out by the beach. Between these two areas, there is absolutely nothing except for the desert and some residential areas.
- The city of Dubai consists of mostly expats who work for Emirates Airlines or are advancing their careers through real estate. Interesting culture and you never know where the person your talking to is from!
- Easy use of public transportation
- While walking around the city you will either be walking next to an expat from London who is in short shorts and a tank top and then a Muslim family who is covered from head to toe.
- Some funny and absurd laws the UAE observes (my dad did some diligent research on this, luckily I wasn’t arrested while I was there):
- Shopping in shorts or anything tight/transparent can attract the local authroities attention. (Usually observed in Abu Dhabi)
- Photography of certain government buildings is strictly prohibited
- Perusing of any pornographic materials is prohibited
- Pork is banned so no more BLT or Bacon & Egg sandwiches
- Poppy seeds are banned so if you want to be a daredevil and eat a bacon & egg sandwich on a poppy seed bagel you would be in some serious trouble!
- Being drunk in public is prohibited and if the taxi driver senses your intoxicated he has the right to drop you off at the police station
- Drinking and driving is prohibited even if your BAC it .001
- Giving someone the middle finger is prohibited