A recent visit with the family introduced me to this magnificent city of contrasts – Dubai.
The first thing that hits you about Dubai as you stare out of the window as your aeroplane is descending is the perpetual dust haze that seems to envelope this city. As you get closer, you can start to make out the faint, sparkly lines of the skyscrapers and before you know it, the entire city skyline is revealed in front of you. It is quite something!
We travelled in the month of October so just outside of peak season. The temperatures averaged 35 degrees pretty much most days. The best time to travel to Dubai is from November to February, but then the touristy crowds start to descend, so I think October is a pretty sweet time to dodge that.
In terms of getting around, the squeaky clean Dubai Metro is an excellent, easy and affordable way to see the main sights. Taxis are pretty cheap too, so a combination of those two means you can get around in Dubai without stepping into the heat! I recommend getting the weekly travel card and carrying lots of cash for cabs.
Burj Khalifa | Dubai Mall
After checking our bags in and a quick lunch, we headed straight to The Dubai Mall. Considered one of the world’s largest malls, it truly is an endless parade of high-street and boutique shops, restaurants and entertainment. It is right next to the Burj Khalifa – the world’s tallest building, standing proud and indomitable. The highlight of the day was definitely watching The Dubai Fountain (the world’s largest choreographed fountain system) and the Burj Khalifa laser show. It is free and open to the public, and you can easily spend a couple of hours here.
Gold Souk | Dubai Creek | Old Dubai
Our second day was spent exploring the old part of Dubai, including all the souks. I thought there was only one Gold Souk but turns out they have a specialised souk (meaning market) for everything – spices, textiles, utensils etc. For a city teeming with malls, I felt more drawn towards these more traditional souks. People are friendly and there is a real buzz to the place.
Only a few minutes away is the Dubai Creek , a saltwater creek separating Deira and Bur Dubai (mainland Dubai). We took a quick ride on an ‘abra‘ before stopping for a delicious lunch at a local restaurant Aden, hungrily devouring platters of meat, rice and fresh salads.
The city of Abu Dhabi is a only a few hours drive from Dubai. We hired a car for the day (via Rayna Tours) that allowed us the luxury of customising the journey according to our preference. Whilst there, we had a whistle-stop tour of some of the key sights of the city including Ferrari World, Date Market, Corniche and the striking Emirates Palace Hotel.
But the highlight of the day was undoubtedly visiting the magnificent white marble splendour – the Sheikh Zayed Mosque. This place is stunning no matter which way you look. Not just the exterior but even the interiors were simply spectacular. I would recommend wearing appropriate clothing before your visit. Women can also hire a complimentary abaya before entering the premises.
Jumeirah Public beach | Desert Safari
On the penultimate day, we decided to hit the beach for a few hours in the morning. Jumeirah Open Beach is a public and free beach where you can easily spend a few hours soaking the sun, sand and sea air. It also offers unrestricted views of the majestic Burj Al Arab Jumeirah.
That evening, we set out for a Desert Safari. As someone who has never stepped foot in a desert before, this part of the trip was the most I was looking forward to. We hired our own car through Rayna Tours again. Only a half an hour drive out of the city, the landscape outside my window quickly changed from glass and steel to the sandy stretches.
As I suffer from motion sickness, we decided to give the exhilarating dune bashing a miss and headed straight to our campsite. Once there, we enjoyed a few hours of camel rides, henna painting and donning traditional costumes for the Insta before settling down to enjoy the evening’s cultural performances of Tanura, belly-dancing and fire-eaters.
In terms of food and drink, everything was very well-organised and thought through. The BBQ and Buffet dinner had some really scrumptious selections. There was also a full fledged bar (that took credit cards!), a Sheesha point and unlimited bottled water/soft drinks. Even the toilets were well-designed. For a few hours, I was transported to a truly magical world. I would seriously recommend this experience to anyone visiting UAE for the first time.
Dubai Frame | Dubai Marina
On our last full day in Dubai, we decided to venture into the latest Dubai tourist attraction – The Dubai Frame. A high-rise viewing platform designed literally in the shape of a golden frame, it offers panoramic views of old and new Dubai. The Frame itself is a real visual treat. I struggled to capture it fully through my dinky little camera phone and it is seriously mesmerising to look at.
Our last evening in Dubai was spent watching the sun set over the fabulous Dubai Marina, surrounded by the magnificent yachts and shiny skyscrapers. Indeed, it was a perfect way to say goodbye to this global luxury destination.
With that, our wee little family trip to the UAE came to an end.
When I think of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, I always think of modern, glossy cities but the traditional bits equally fascinated me. Modern Dubai is indeed a testament to the stellar human achievements in construction and technology. Everything here is the tallest, longest, largest and the biggest. But it is also the history, tradition and the culture that underpins it all that was wonderful to discover on this short but sweet trip!
N.B. All photos and opinions are mine.