How did we end up Dubai? I mean, we purposely select most of our destinations due to low cost and a higher than average propensity to change over the next decade. I guess you can make an argument Dubai fits both. There are way too many hotels, so we were able to snap up a 4 star for under $70 USD/night via Priceline. Keep in mind, a 4 star is nothing special in Dubai considering they have the “world’s only 7 star hotel,” Burj Al Arab. Then there’s the fact that Dubai has had a boom and bust history over the last 8 or so years. As we understand it, the boom could happen again at any time, especially due to the absence of taxation, the $1 price for a gallon of gas and the growing number of ex-pats calling it home. But to be honest, it was a second choice. We planned to fly to Turkey via Cairo to spend our layover exploring Egypt…a place I’ve always wanted to see, but with the recent unrest, Joshua’s family was adamant that we skip it. Dubai was runner-up.
It was an incredible choice! The airport must be the largest in the world. We walked with our mouths gaping for 30 minutes through the immaculate airport, draped with chandeliers, palm trees, mirrors, sculptures, columns and gold-plated everything (including ATM’s.
It was there Joshua had his first snafu. He accidentally entered a prayer room in the airport thinking it was the bathroom. His explanation: I saw the universal man/bathroom logo. Strike one. Walking through an airport at 2 AM, you’d expect to see a few sleepy-eyed travelers and closed shops. In Dubai, the activity was intense. The line for cabs was as long as those in Vegas. There were neon lights, 6 rows of lined of taxis and countless attendants. Were we ready for this?
And what about the weather? Isn’t it hot there? The answer is YES. It is uncomfortably hot and humid. Like a fog. Worse than Florida in July!
We tried to walk outside…just once. It was a mistake. Taxi’s are cheap and air conditioned. Walking outside causes extreme discomfort, sun burn and overwhelming amounts of perspiration. Add this to the fact that every indoor facility has a super-charged air conditioner running, and the sudden change of temperature can literally cause a brain freeze. It is baffling to me how everyone seems to smell so good and look so clean and well-manicured given the conditions. I would never fit in. Ever.
We thought that three days would be plenty in Dubai, take in the sights, sleep in, lay by the pool. Saying our knowledge of Dubai was limited would be an understatement. Everything we thought we knew was almost completely false. Yes, the only word to describe it would be extravagance, but there is also plenty of history, architectural ingenuity and natural beauty. We quickly came to the realization that we were only going to have the time to scratch the surface, so we narrowed it down to a few activities: a champagne buffet brunch, a desert safari, the Burj Khalifa, shopping and the indoor ski slope…anything else would just be icing. Oh yeah, and Joshua had to buy me an ice cream. The ice cream was so bad in Africa that I refused to eat it until we left which is not like me at all.
With the help of resources like my well connected friend Hanni, TripAdvisor, and TimeOut Dubai, we set our itinerary. We explored the Mall of the Emirates and took in the indoor ski slope. For a moment, I thought I was at Northstar in Lake Tahoe. It even had a lodge with a fire burning in the fireplace (remember it’s 100+ degrees outside).
Then I turned around and picked up a burrito at Baja Fresh. Absolute heaven. They have every chain restaurant except Taco Bell; believe me, I looked.
From the biggest indoor ski slope to the world’s tallest building, Dubai does everything “the best.”
We had an appointment “At the Top” of the Burj Khalifa (PS it is ¼ the price if you book online in advance). Luck was on our side, as our allotted time coincided with the only two mid-day water fountain displays at 1:00 and 1:30 PM. The fountain below was designed by the same creator as the one at the Bellagio in Las Vegas.
The water shoots upwards of 75 meters high and there is a variety of choreography throughout the day. It was breathtaking to see it from above.
I followed one incredible experience with another…two scoops of Haagen Daz Mint Leaves and Chocolate. In Dubai, the absence of alcohol (except in restaurants and bars) and gambling, is replaced by luxury stores and sweets. I could love this place. On a walk through the Dubai Mall one might find a gourmet chocolate shop, pastry stand, Hermes, Louis Vuitton, ice cream store, another chocolate shop, beautiful art display and then an indoor aquarium…in one wing. And it wasn’t like people went to the malls just to window shop…women in full dress (called abaya in UAE) carried bags and bags of designer items.
We made reservations for our “Buffet Brunch Dinner” to fulfill the requirement to do a “Friday Brunch” in Dubai…what does that even mean? Well, first it would get us next door to the fanciest hotel. The only other way we’d get to see it was if we paid $18,000 for a room or if we made a reservation for the bar with a minimum spend of $50 USD. With cocktails being $45/each, that wasn’t going to happen.
It probably sounds a little crazy to go to Dubai to have brunch at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel, but there is more to this story. Joshua and I have long been fans of the bottomless champagne brunch. If there has ever been anything in our lives that we have knowingly abused, it would be this. We even have a game plan. Slow and steady. Balance the champagne with the food. Take frequent breaks. Come early. Leave late. Take a taxi. Our proudest collective moment was our 6.5 hour date at the Wynn champagne brunch in Las Vegas. $40/person is peanuts when you throw in 5 bottles of champagne, brunch and dinner…did I mention every single dish was swapped out for the afternoon seating? We were outmatched in Dubai. The food was too good. The alcohol was too free-flowing. My body wasn’t ready for the gluttony that ensued after eating so poorly in Africa. We had to be rolled out four hours later. We didn’t even make it to close. We skipped breakfast and had a small lunch the next day. Boy was it worth it!
Everyone we talked to said we had to go on a desert safari in Dubai. It was described as a whole day affair complete with “dune-bashing,” hookah, henna tattoos, belly-dancing, Bedouin camps, traditional attire, camels (Joshua despises them) and a middle-eastern barbecue. It didn’t disappoint.
We drove an hour outside of Dubai in a brand new Land Cruiser equipped with roll bars then our driver let out the air in the tires and started to drive recklessly around in the sand.
I hated every minute of it. But, it was the only way to dinner, so I screamed and yelped a little in the backseat much to the amusement of the other passengers. We each got a henna tattoo (my first!), smoked a hookah and watched the belly dancers move their bodies in ways that shouldn’t be physically possible.
We tried on the traditional dress and then added our own spice—the redshirts, pretty soon tourists were asking to take pictures with us like WE were the attraction.