On my way from Thailand to Jordan I decided to make a stopover in Dubai since the flight was so long. Seven hours after leaving Bangkok I arrived in UAE with just 24 hours until my flight to Amman, Jordan. I was hoping to see a bellydance show at a high-end restaurant in Dubai but was told all the shows start really late so decided to just rest up that evening. I hired a driver through my hotel concierge to show me the major sights in Dubai for the next day, ordered room service for dinner, and thoroughly enjoyed my swanky hotel (I had been staying in budget places in Thailand so my 4 star Dubai hotel felt very luxurious).
I decided to hire a driver for two reasons: I need to try to cram in a lot of sights in a short period of time and I need to keep my luggage with me but my two bags are too much to cart around sightseeing. If it weren’t for these factors I would have used public transportation which seems easy and excellent here.
Not yet used to the 3 hour time change from Thailand, I woke up at 4:30 AM and hung out until the gym opened at 7:00 AM. I hadn’t been to a gym in a month and a half so it was novel and fun for me to work out, especially with the view of Dubai from the 30th floor!
After working out, I showered and changed into swimwear and tried to take advantage of the hotel’s rooftop pool which looked gorgeous but the water was absolutely freezing so I just laid in the sun watching some Russian ladies do a swimsuit photoshoot before getting a buffet breakfast.
My driver, Jamal, picked me up from the hotel and we set off for The Palm, Jumeirah. Drive over a bridge and you’re suddenly on the huge palm, a man-made island where the ultra-rich (and those who want to feel ultra-rich for a day) live, vacation, and hang out. There are three man-made Palm Islands in Dubai but only Jumeirah is currently completed.
It is an absolute marvel and I couldn’t keep from smiling and shaking my head thinking I was on an island created by people in the Persian Gulf that was shaped like a palm frond, how crazy is that? We drive the island for about an hour, making lots of stops to get pictures and walk around. I can’t believe people live here!
We drive to the Jumeirah Al Qasr Hotel so I can see the golden horse statues and Jamal tells the security guard we are just turning around. I ask him if he will get in trouble if I hop out to grab a picture of the river next to the hotel where Jamal says lots of rich people live alongside. He says “take it quick” and I do! Isn't it gorgeous?
Next we head to the Wild Waterpark where there is a great view of the famous Burj Al Arab hotel. Then it’s on to the beach where I walk in the sand and dip my toes in the Gulf Coast with the Burj Al Arab in the distance. It's totally unreal and I feel like I'm in a movie.
As I’m taking pictures at Burj Khalifa the security guard says “give me your camera” and I think I am in trouble but instead he takes the best picture of me in front of the tallest building in the world. I want to go inside Dubai Mall to see the attractions but Jamal says it is “too expensive” and takes me to the City Center Mall instead. I gamely go inside but it’s just a mall, nothing special. Then it’s off to the airport for my flight to Jordan.
Jamal is from Islamabad and his wife and two daughters are still there. He returns home every couple of months to visit and bring home money. He is fiercely proud of his girls and shows me a video of his oldest dancing in a princess dress on his phone. Jamal tells me lots of things about Dubai on our tour, from it is a city of immigrants to cars with license plates that start with an A and end with a number belong to members of the king’s family. He hands me a business card and insists I call him “next time you’re in Dubai.”
All in all, I enjoyed Dubai way more than I expected to because I always thought of it as the Las Vegas of the Middle East - a bit artificial. The city is clean, beautiful, and full of sights that boggle the mind. My only regret is that I didn’t go inside the Dubai Mall to see the aquarium but I’ll add it to my list for the next trip!
What are your favorite places to visit in Dubai? If you have yet to visit Dubai, which places are you most looking forward to seeing?