Feeling Dubai may mean different things. Sometimes depends on the time of the year you fall there, sometimes on deeper reasons :).
During our stay the temperature was over 40 degrees C, and usually this is the average between May and September. The unbearable heat outside combined with the freezing air-conditioning in public areas makes your body feeling totally confused in the beginning. But after some days in the swelter you start to understand the local people’s addiction to low inside temperatures…
While still riding along the Sheikh Zayed Road from the airport to our hotel, the glimpse outside from the taxi confirmed my preliminary concerns. Dubai was really rather different from the places I usually prefer for travel. Towering buildings of advanced technology, flashy billboards, wide newly-build roads full of racing cars of last generation, vast storehouses beside the boulevards next to the branch offices of IT giants like Dell, Microsoft, Oracle… It was more likely to be a city taken from the future than a common tourist destination as per my mind. If, after all, you expect to find old town’s winding streets with traditional markets and cafes and to breathe the historical atmosphere of the Middle East, you will be deeply disappointed. So, I also had to forget about a traditional visit and to explore Dubai in a different way. Actually you can find places of interest anywhere in the world.Why not discover the modern ones of Dubai?
Let’s start the sightseeing tour with Burj Khalifa in the Downtown – the tallest building in the world with its impressive 828 meters. As a comparison, Empire State Building is “only” 381 meters. Going “At the top” of Burj Khalifa means taking a lift which brings you at an unbelievable speed for less than a minute to the 124th floor of the building – over 400 meters from the ground level. You can take exceptional pictures from Burj Khalifa in spite of the haze. The extraordinary panoramic view from there reveals much of the Dubai identity – an artificial city into the desert with glamorous skyscrapers across the sandy terrain. The faded palm trees in the streets, tortured to grow on this dry land, are invisible from such a height. And the real waters of the Persian gulf can be seen by a specific corner. I can advise you to buy At the top entry tickets online, first because of saving lots of money, and yet to keep a comfortable time for your visit. Crowds of tourists come to see this remarkable building and most visiting hours are fully booked in advance.
The entrance for Burj Khalifa is in the Dubai mall, which for someone may represent a landmark as well. Dubai Mall is believed to be the biggest in the world as a size, including an Aquarium and Underwater zoo along with the numberless stores. The Mall of the Emirates on its turn attracts visitors with a ski slope and ski lift. I am not willing to draw much attention to the shopping centers as they are not a real place of interest in my opinion, but if you like shopping, why not try your chance in the malls of Dubai?
Next landmark should be the Jumeirah Beach and Dubai Marina region in particular. Popular among the tourists, it is the only seen (for the time of our trip) walking area in Dubai. Many luxurious hotel chains, bars and restaurants are tempting the visitors down the seaside street. We were lucky enough to have our hotel located in the same area and the description I may give to it is very simple – just incredible. The sandy beach was easily available from there, but the waters of the Arab sea have proved to be too hot for Europeans and together with the air temperatures prevent us from having a beach holiday that time.
The Palm island was close to our hotel, but yet not in a walking distance. The peculiar form of the island can be seen from a higher point of view, and for that reason the helicopter tours are widely offered there. By land this area offers the best views of flowers and greenery in the city. At its far end into the sea lies one of the most expensive hotels in UAE – hotel Atlantis the Palm with its Water park and dolphins swimming adventure. see hotel
Burj al Arab see hotel – if you look for a real luxury experience, this super famous hotel is the right place with its elaborate interior full of gold, fountains, wall aquariums… It is available for visitors only with advance reservations for breakfast, lunch or dinner. The most cost-saving option is the cocktail either in the lobby- or in the sky bar, the latter opening really stunning ocean views.
What other activities you may have in Dubai?
Here are some typical excursions offered there about which I can share an opinion after personal experience:
Dhow cruise dinner with picking up/dropping off the hotel. It is a pleasant evening trip with buffet dinner on a traditional wooden boat (dhow) in Dubai Creek and a chance to find yourself amongst totally international public. People of so many different cultures and religions could be rarely met together at such a small place like the cruise boat on that activity.
I am not so definitely positive about the Desert Safari with Bedouins dinner, but let’s say it is more or less subjective. Most of the participants seemed happy not only during the crazy sand boarding, but also later on the BBQ dinner, when it became obvious no Bedouins were around 🙂 But the breathtaking scene of a sunset over the red dunes gives me a strong push to recommend this activity as well.
Don’t waste your time going to the Heritage village in Deira. Its advertisement as “a place when you can discover the charm of Dubai history, its crafts and traditions” in facts is rather exaggerated and misleading. It is just a small sun heated yard with about ten souvenir shops with no escape from there – no taxi and only a tourist bus passing on more than an hour interval, which in such a heat may be too risky. We found ourselves there all alone together with a stray American couple, who also trusted the advertisement about the “historical charm” :(. The alternative for such seekers of history can be the Dubai Museum located in the same region.
We got fantastic impressions of the full day excursion to Abu Dhabi – the UAE capital and the fabulous Sheikh Zayed mosque. The third mosque in size on the Arab peninsula after those in Mecca and Medina strikes with its white domes, stained glasses and exquisite chandeliers.
All female tourists should be prepared to enter via another passage separately from men, and – no matter of the inhuman temperatures outside – to put on a black hooded robe that waits for them in the dressing room before going inside. The subsequent walk down the Abu Dhabi Corniche- seaside street – brings what you really need – a fresh breath after the heat around the mosque. Some can take a lunch, others may wish to shop in the near Marina Mall – a cozy and quiet shopping center, full of interesting stores, simply more different from the crowded mega-malls of Dubai.
Perhaps because the trees and greenery override the glass and metal in the city outlook, I liked Abu Dhabi much more than Dubai. The capital of UAE seemed to me more familiar and close to our days, modern enough, but without striving to be a super city (I recently read in a magazine about Dubai police boasting with its car park new additions – Ferrari, Aston Martin, etc. ..)
Certainly subjective, but the feeling of artificial and pretentious luxury since the very first day in Dubai has not left me till the end of my journey…
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