A clear night sky twinkles with distant stars, competing with glittering towers, and I don’t know whether to stop my gaze or to keep looking up, keep looking around – there is just so much to absorb.
Welcome to my Dubai experience – my first bleisure adventure courtesy my day job at Wego. You can imagine my excitement and the inevitable nervous goosebumps, the everything that comes with a work trip. So, I didn’t really plan to see and do anything and went with the flow. And, it was surprisingly refreshing.
When landing in Dubai for a short layover previously, I had marveled at how beautifully curated it looks from the sky. And truly, seeing the highways that connect every corner, the chalked out villas, the carefully placed towers, and palms alike – the city blew my mind.
And it didn’t cease to delight for the rest of my stay.
Starting from the Dubai Mall, where the roof glitters like a night sky, where the fountains exhibit more flexibility than a belly dancer, and oh, the tallest building in the world is right around the corner. You can just walk around and discover a ginormous dinosaur fossil, a waterfall with men in underwear diving (don’t get that excited, the men are statues!), a shop window with dynamic ocean waves for a backdrop, an underwater aquarium with a yawning fish, a carousel, a shop with unicorn bags. Let’s just say that I went on a curiosity overdrive.
And talking about malls, there is also the Ibn Battuta – a story mall – designed to represent each country Ibn traveled to for 30+ years – India, China, Egypt, Tunisia and his homeland – Morocco. This one doesn’t feature in the usual tourist circuit but is an absolute beauty. Why? Just google Ibn Battuta and see what comes up in the images. You’re welcome.
Sigh! Now, on to my true love – the ocean. Dubai’s coastline has a multitude of public beaches and Kite Beach is a must-go. I, however, ended up swimming 3 hours in JBR. Now, picture this:
You are swimming in the gentle waves with your eye goggles on because you love the underwater sights and what, you see a starfish! You don’t know whether to touch it or just observe from a safe distance. You come up for some air and as you breathe in, you look at the shore. Reflected on the mirrored sides of one of the world’s highest skyscraper clusters is the glittering ocean waves. Aah, what a beauty! The towers are so high that you can’t see what’s beyond – an urban jungle. You look around and set your eyes on the sea horizon. On your right is the world famous Palm Jumeirah stretch and on your left is the upcoming Dubai eye. And, you taste the salty water in your mouth and smile.
And finally, where to party? Here is what you must – sip a mai tai or whatever cocktail floats your boat at Trader Vic’s in magical Souk Madinat – and hop to Barasti to dance the night away. I promise you, you’re gonna send me a love note for these recommendations, especially after the cocktail.
So there you have it – my Dubai favorites. But there is so much more – you can take a dhow ride, check out the largest gold ring at Gold Souk, enjoy a day at the Aquaventure water park, explore old Dubai (this tour has glowing reviews), marvel at the underwater museums, take a day trip to Abu Dhabi, skydive and really see Palm Jumeirah, spend a night in the desert via a safari, go for afternoon tea at Burj Al Arab (book your spot months in advance). In the winters, promise that you’ll check out the Miracle gardens?
And finally, some helpful things to know, before you go, go, go.
Good to know:
- If you like walking and exploring a city on foot, you can forget that in Dubai. The roads are highways!
- The metro is convenient but many spots like JBR beach are further connected with a tram.
- Whatsapp calls aren’t gonna happen here (Sep ’17). There are plans to unblock that though.
- Uber is more expensive than a local taxi.
- AED and Dirhams are the same thing.
- Going to the tip of the Palm Jumeirah or to Hotel Atlantis is possible with a tram or taxi.
- Night swimming is possible at Umm Suqeim 1 Beach.
- Wearing bikinis is not frowned upon at beaches.
- Drinking is possible at hotels, restaurants and at homes – just not in the open public areas.
- While recording videos, ensure you take permission if there are people (especially women) in the frame.
- Grabon Dubai has some sweet deals for tours.
- Do not miss the Marina walk. Taking a dhow ride here could be a good idea, especially at night.
- Miracle garden is open only during winters.
- Desert safari is best recommended in winters.
- There are supermarkets like Carrefour, Waitrose where you can pick up pre-packaged food, snacks, and gourmet cheese. I recommend the labneh, tabouleh, fresh bread .. mmm the works.