Burj Al Arab, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
As much as I loved India and all the amazing experiences, the North American side of me was also dying for a nice hot shower that wasn’t over a toilet, not having to watch my step for cow poop and paying the actual price on the tag/menu without having to bargain. So I was extremely happy to be stopping over in Dubai en route to Africa! That and my sister who lives there just got engaged (congrats Adria and Hussein!).
Mike and I left Delhi super early in the morning to avoid the traffic jam because the Holi festival and boarded our flight. When we landed in Dubai, I already knew that we were stepping up – not only in terms of luxury but also in hygiene – by the marble columned arrivals hall. Farrah (future sister-in-law and reader of this blog, thanks Farrah!) picked us up and we went back to my sister’s fiance’s family home to stay for the 2 weeks. Their place is very baller – with all the comforts of home (i.e. TV, internet, stocked fridge, hot water shower in an actual bath tub etc).
So for the last 2 weeks, I’ve mostly been relaxing, sleeping in and lapping up a life of luxury until the shock of Africa surges over when I landing Kenya on Monday. Since this was the first time Mike has been to Dubai, we went around to all the touristy places for the week he was here. First, we went to Madinat Jumeirah which is modeled after an old Arabian town with man-made waterways. Only in Dubai are they able to design and build a place with no natural water at all to look like the often-flooded city of Venice. Next we went to the Mall of the Emirates, which surprisingly is not the largest mall in Dubai even with its indoor ski hill (Ski Dubai). It’s astonishing how many brands the malls in Dubai carry, they not only have all the North American brands, but also all the European and Asian ones too. If only I wasn’t carrying my entire life around with me in a 15kg backpack for the next 3 months, I would have definitely gone shopping crazy!
Then we went to the older parts of Dubai called Bur Dubai and Deira to walk around the souks (markets). We first took the abra across Dubai Creek and then walked around the spice souk, textile souk and finally the gold souk. These markets seemed so clean and tidy compared to the chaos we experienced in India! The gold souk was the most interesting with stores along stores filled with gold jewelery and diamonds. For dinner, we went to a fancy dress party at one of Farrah’s friends house to celebrate her wedding and Adria/Hussein’s engagement. Considering my fanciest clothing is a sundress and a pair of flip flops, I had to borrow clothes from my sister and was still the most under-dressed amongst the fancy cocktail dresses, sky high stilettos and designer handbags. But everyone was very friendly and the food was amazing! Especially the dessert which was 3 cakes (one made out of profiteroles) and gourmet ice cream!
The next day we went to the Dubai Mall (which is the world’s largest shopping mall) and walked around for the entire day. We didn’t even see every single store in the mall and it took us over 6 hours of just walking around! The mall is so huge that there’s a free shuttle to take you around like in airports. We also went up the Burj Khalifa which is the tallest building in the world (sorry CN Tower) and it was so cool! From the observatory deck, all the of the buildings look like miniature models and it’s amazing to see a modern city in the middle of the barren desert. At the base of the Burj Khalifa, there’s a huge fountain (the Dubai Fountain) similar to the one in front of the Bellagio in Vegas and an area called Old Town (which surprise! is not really old but designed to look old) with restaurants to just chill, smoke shisha and enjoy the hot weather.
Since the weekend in Dubai is Friday and Saturday, we did one thing on Friday that Dubai’s apparently known for and that’s all-you-can-eat and drink brunch! We went to Zuma which serves Japanese food which was amazing – not just amazing for Dubai but amazing Japanese food in general (3rd on my list after Tokyo and Vancouver)! That mixed with all-you-can-drink sake, wine and beer and by the time 4 o’clock rolled around, most of us were hammered or falling asleep from itis at the table or both. It was such an interesting afternoon activity so we ended up going for shisha at the 360° Lounge at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel, which is a lounge with perfect sunset views of the Burj Al Arab (7-star sailboat hotel). The venue was very nice but the crowd was a little off – not sketchy or anything but quite Euro-trash. There were girls dressed in scandalous club wear and the sun hadn’t even set yet. And there were lots of skeezy looking guys trying to look hard and cool with bottle service. After that, it was a quick trip to McDonald’s for a McArabia (Mike likes the Maharaja Mac from India better but I beg to differ) then finally headed home after a long day.
On Saturday, we decided to spend the day at Aquaventure Water Park which is in the Atlantis Hotel on the Palm (island shaped like a palm tree). It was like going back to our childhoods – floating around in the lazy river and screaming at the top of our lungs while plunging down water slides. The water park is so clean and not too busy so there weren’t any lineups for the slides. It was so much fun I didn’t even realize that we spent the entire day there! For dinner, we went to eat Lebanese food – I’ve been waiting since my last trip to Dubai a year ago to eat Lebanese food! It was so good – my favourites were the arayes, mango juice and hummus with meat.
On Mike’s last day in Dubai, we woke up early and went dune bashing in buggies which was so much fun! We were driven 45 minutes outside of Dubai and dropped off by dune buggies (they’re like bigger go-karts with metal protective cages) in the middle of the desert. At first I was a bit scared because I had heard stories of people rolling their buggies on the dunes. But it was so much fun! We had a guide who helped us navigate the desert because apparently, lots of tourists get lost every year – even GPS won’t help you out there. The guide was great, he didn’t slow it down for us so we were flying up and down and over sand dunes! We even managed to get stuck in the sand a bunch of times, all while dodging bushes and shrubs which apparently is a big hazard. The guide told us that a tourist had crashed into a shrub the day before in the middle of a sand storm. You have to wear a balaclava, googles and a helmet since there’s sand flying around everywhere – that didn’t help much so I was stuck digging sand out of everywhere afterward!
We came back to Dubai and watched a movie in the Gold Class cinemas at Mall of the Emirates. For those who don’t know what Gold Class is, it’s a type of theatre where all the chairs are lazy-boys, they give you blankets and there’s a call button where you can order food from a waiter (and not just popcorn but chicken fingers, burgers etc) at any time during the movie! So basically, the comforts of your own home plus your own waiter and with a theatre sized screen and sound system – also great for people who have perfected the art of chilling which I think I came close to during my trip to Dubai.
Sadly, Mike left on Monday (of last week) and since then, I can’t say that I’ve done much :). A little relaxing by the pool here, a little eating/shisha smoking there, mix that in with the occasional trip to the mall, and that’s basically all that I’ve accomplished. I keep telling myself it’s resting up for Africa but who am I kidding, I’m just lazy.