Dubai. The Las Vegas of the Middle East…just with more money and less sleaze. The bigger the better seems to be the unofficial city slogan – with the Burj Khalifa currently reigning as the tallest building in the world, and the Burj Al Arab dominating the waterfront, and the only current 7 star hotel in the world. Where luxury vehicles line the highways, and massive shopping malls constantly expand, the wealth seems endless.
Dubai. The Las Vegas of the Middle East…just with more money and less sleaze. The bigger the better seems to be the unofficial city slogan – with the Burj Khalifa currently reigning as the tallest building in the world, and the Burj Al Arab dominating the waterfront, and the only current 7 star hotel in the world. Where luxury vehicles line the highways, and massive shopping malls constantly expand, the wealth seems endless. Standing in the middle of Dubai, its tough to imagine that you are in fact standing in a desert…and that 40 years ago, Dubai was little more than a small port town that had just discovered its natural winning lottery ticket – oil.
Aerial view of Dubai Creek, 1960’s borrowed from http://blog.zeemp.com/the-evolution-of-dubai/
Today the headquarters of one of the largest airlines in the world, Emirates is based in Dubai. As a result, Dubai has become one of the major international airport hubs, and a perfect place to stopover for a few days and explore. Our Emirates flight from Toronto to Bangkok via Dubai offered a stopover for 2 nights for $8 more, an offer too good to pass up. Unfortunately, the government of the United Arab Emirates has enforced a travel visa for all Canadians so in addition to our $8’s, we each had to apply for a $61.50 tourist visa. Over 40 other countries such as the US, Australia and many countries in Europe can receive a 30 day travel visa free of charge on arrival, so this expense is generally just reserved for lucky (sarcasm really needs its own font) Canadians.
We arrived on a Monday afternoon, and our first objective after checking in to our hotel was to find our way to the Burj Khalifa. We had made a reservation for 5pm so that we could overlook Dubai both during the daylight, sunset and at dusk and wanted to make certain we were on time. Reservations are currently 100 dirham each (about 25 USD), but without reserved tickets, a ride to the top will set you back 400 dirham, or about $100. Unless money is no object, I highly recommend reserving your spot in advance at www.burjkhalifa.ae. Travel tip – the entrance to the Burj Khalifa At The Top Experience is actually through the Dubai Mall, and not at the base of the tower where we figured it would be.
Burj Khalifa Dubai, UAE
Travelling up the fastest elevator in the world, we reached the At The Top Experience of the Burj Khalifa. Ironically,not at the top of the tower, numerous floors of offices and residences still rise up above “the top”. Nevertheless, the lookout of Dubai is indeed worth the trip.
Sunset over Dubai, view from the Burj Khalifa Dubai, UAE
At the bottom of the tower, we found ourselves in perfect timing with the legendary Dubai fountain schedule – which runs every night of the week, every half hour from 6pm until 11pm. Grabbing a table at one of the many restaurants overlooking the fountains, we enjoyed dinner and watched the fountain show.
Dubai Mall Fountains Dubai, UAE
We walked around the Dubai Mall for a hour or so after dinner. Even if you are not a shopper, the Dubai Mall offers a movie theatre, an indoor skating rink, a massive aquarium and even a waterfall. The Mall of the Emirates is a few subways stops away from the Dubai Mall, and includes a ski and snowboarding indoor resort as well as an amusement park. There are over 200 shopping centres in Dubai, including traditional souks of gold, perfume and textiles. Spelling Dubai as “Do Buy” might actually be more accurate. One thing I found unusual was that as we entered the stores, my husband was welcomed, and as we left, he was thanked for coming in. I was completely ignored, although noticably more interested in shopping than he was. The same treatment occured in our hotel and at the restaurants we visited. For such a modern city, it seems strange that women in Dubai are still regarded by many to be second class citizens.
The following day, we set out at 10am from our hotel on our Half Day Tour of Dubai. We arranged our tour the previous day with the conceirge of our hotel but we found dozens of simliar full day and half day tours of the city online and in travel brochures. $30 each for a 4 hour tour, we captured the highlights of the city. Briefly stopping at the Dubai Creek to check out the luxury yachts and snap a few pictures, our first official highlight was the Dubai Museum – a small but well displayed museum almost completely housed underground. For only being 40 years old, the United Arab Emirates has an incredible history and the Museum includes exhibits of local traditional housing, markets and the ends with a gift shop full of snowglobes and camel magnets.
Traditional Dubai House, complete with windcatcher for climate control Dubai Museum
Our next stop was Jumeirah Beach, full of beautiful white sand and hundreds of sunworshippers. In the background sits the Burj Al Arab hotel…suites starting at $1700 a night. We considered dining there in one of their 4 world class restaurants, but we estimated lunch to be at least $200, and figured just a drive by was more in our budget.
Photobombed by a fellow toursit at the Burj Al Arab Dubai UAE
Our third stop, also technically a drive by, was The Palm Jumeirah. A man made palm tree shaped peninsula, full of homes of the rich and famous, our tour van drove up the trunk of the palm to the Atlantis Hotel. Honestly, The Palm is much more impressive in overhead pictures. Driving down the centre of the Palm, you can only make out the gates leading to the palm tree branch estates and pass by the many elegant hotels that make up this island like paradise.
Our second and final night we spent in Dubai, we relaxed at the roof top bar at our hotel along Sheikh Zayed Road. One of the few places to enjoy a drink, we watched the lights of the city sparkle.
View from our rooftop bar along the Sheikh Zayed Road Dubai, UAE
With all the modern conveniences you could ever imagine, Dubai is lacking something. Authenticity. While giving you the world on a silver platter, the only thing Dubai can’t seem to do define it’s own culture heritage. Dubai strives to be the best of everything – giving snow to the desert in the form of ski resorts, building towers that break all heights, giving you the best in stores and restaurant chains from around the world, exceeding all boundaries of luxury. Dubai feels like a playground for adults, and a fantastic escape from reality – ideal for a short stopover for those craving a taste of the infamous 1%.