We went to Dubai for the very well thought-out reason that one day an email showed up in Blonde’s in-box with a trip to Dubai from GateOne Travel and the prices looked good. Oh, and one or two times Brunette had expressed an interest in Dubai.
What more do two women need to know to plan to fly 13,000 miles roundtrip to a country whose dominant religion requires its female followers to dress in lots of concealing black garments in desert heat? Well we aren’t of that religion so didn’t have to go abaya shopping. Although one of the main reasons people go to Dubai is to go to shopping malls. Seriously? Does someone have trouble finding enough shopping malls??
Several furtive phone calls ensued to arrange the trip. The calls were furtive because Brunette was in Florida with her crabby husband. We thought it possible that he might not see the need for this trip because we’d just come home from our previous trip a week or two earlier. So? This new one was months away! (Why is he so crabby?)
Fast forward and Blonde and Brunette (sans Blonde’s luggage) are in Dubai. Although we are generally horrified by the very idea of a group tour, we were on a group tour. The price was good, the company had generally positive ratings and they were going to take us to most of the places we wanted to go anyway so we rolled the dice and went.
We saw a lot of places but these are the ones we would suggest you not miss if you go.
- The Dubai Fountain in the Burj Khalifa lake in front of the Dubai Mall – Go to the tallest building in the world a little before 6:00 p.m., find the lake and wait and you will see the free show. (Here’s where some of the dubious comes in. The Burj Khalifa claims to be the tallest building in the world. However, recently a new J.W. Marriott opened in Dubai and it is taller than the Burj Khalifa. When we asked our guide about that she said it’s the world’s tallest dedicated hotel, and the Burj Khalifa is still the tallest building. Uh huh, if you say so.) They’re very into the “size matters” concept in Dubai so it’s important that you also know the fountain is the world’s tallest musical fountain, it soars to over 500 feet, has 6,600 lights and is synchronized to the music. This is a very inept video shot with Blonde’s iPhone. (Brunette did great videos with her phone but her phone subsequently ate them.)
- There are a couple fountain shows a night half an hour apart beginning at 6:00. A “show” is the length of whatever song is playing. One of the songs is frequently the gorgeous Time to Say Goodbye (Con te partirò) by Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman. The second piece of music is more like Arabian belly dancing music. During the half hour break walk across this bridge to the gelato place across the sidewalk from the end of the bridge and get yourself a tasty over-priced gelato. May as well be happy while you wait for the next song and you can’t get any alcohol.
- Go to the top of Burj Khalifa – This is something that virtually everyone does so why shouldn’t you do it too? (If that seems like a good argument we have some crystal meth to sell you.) It’s actually a way to see some excellent views of other high buildings in the desert. If the air is cloudy you may not want to bother, but otherwise it’s worth doing just to know you were in the world’s tallest building. For an extra thrill you can use the rest room up there for your own claim to fame (assuming you tell people about places where you use the rest room). You can get some good photo ops but you really won’t spend the hour and a half they tell you it typically takes unless you crawl around on your hands and knees. Buy timed tickets online ahead of time as we heard the lines can sometimes be very long. (Oddly the timed tickets you buy ahead of time are also much cheaper 125 AED compared to 400 AED for the “immediate entry” ones or $34USD vs $108 USD! Tickets were included in our tour so we had no idea they cost this much.)
- Do a desert safari – Yes, this is a very touristy thing to do but we had so much fun doing it and it gets you out in the desert away from all of the skyscrapers. This is the one we went on and we loved it. They picked us up at our hotel around 3:30 in the afternoon so we had time in the morning to go to another place you won’t want to miss – the Medina Souks. We wrote a whole post about our safari experience and hope you will read it here. Here are some of our favorite pictures. We hope we will entice you to want to go yourself.
- Take some time in the morning – but after 8:00 a.m. – to explore the souks in the Dubai Creek area. If you’ve been to ancient souks in countries like Egypt, Morocco or Oman these may not impress you. But if you’re new to souks spend a little time and a little money at the ones in Dubai. You can go by taxi or take abras (small wooden dhows) across the creek. Although the souks are all described as if they’re quite separate, in reality they’re all interconnected. We managed to look around the fabric, gold and spice souks in about an hour and a half.
And for those of you who, like us, can’t stand to go to a city with beaches and not get in the water, head over to Jumeriah Beach Park. The park is on the Arabian Gulf which is as warm as bathwater but, unless your baths are a lot more interesting than ours, you will enjoy much better people-watching here! It’s only open to women and children on Saturdays. They apparently save all of the rest of the days of the week for exhibitionists with much higher self esteem than they’re entitled to have. Egad.
There are signs everywhere saying taking pictures is strictly forbidden. However, there are more cameras than signs so, despite Brunette’s ongoing fear of Blonde ending up in a Dubai jail, we just joined in.
Aside from the human spectacles there is also a nice looking park for children where they can ride ponies and camels and play. So if you have kids with you in Dubai this would be a place to let them run free for a while. Don’t let your husband do that though.
There are plenty of other sights worth seeing in Dubai but we would strongly suggest that, if you can, take a day trip to Abu Dhabi to see the Grand Mosque. It’s beyond fabulous but they aren’t messing around with their rules about how women have to be dressed so heed this sign in its entirety! We also just happen to have a post on the mosque which you can read here.
Dubai is becoming the crossroads to the Middle East and Asia so, if you find yourself going to or through Dubai, try to take in as many of these sites as you can and let us know about any we may have missed. Having managed to not get thrown in jail once who knows – maybe we’ll tempt fate and go back again sometime!