“Amazing!” that’s the one word that comes to mind when I think back on my visit to Dubai.
The United Arab Emirates, specifically Dubai, has been one bucket list destination I have longed to visit and I certainly wasn’t disappointed. The UAE is a small country, only 83,600 square metres, and is home to ten million residents. Two million of those reside in Dubai. What shocked me the most as I learned more about the UAE is that only 11% of the population are Emirati, the other 89% have relocated to the UAE from all over the world with a large population of Pakistani, Indian, Filipino, British and other Middle Eastern countries now making the UAE their home.
Dubai, while not the capital city, is the largest and most metropolitan in the UAE. Dubai has risen as a major metropolitan city in a relatively short time. In only the last 50 years, Dubai has become an architectural masterpiece. It’s obvious that new construction design is approved not only for functionality but also for unique design, beauty and creativity. From the airport terminal, metro system, shopping malls to the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, I found Dubai visually scintillating. The Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, is where you can, for a fee, visit the top to take advantage of the scenic, bird’s eye view of Dubai and beyond offering a great photographic opportunity. The Burj Khalifa is attached to Dubai Mall which makes for a great day trip. Dubai Mall is not your average mall, the vast selection of International shops had me believe I could have very well been in London, Paris or Rome until….I came across a Tim Hortons (what??) As unusual as I found it, Tim Hortons is actually very popular in Dubai. You can usually find one in a shopping malls or even along a street. It was definitely not a sight I had ever expected to see.
Not only is Dubai Mall an incredible shopping experience but it is also home to The Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo. The Aquarium even offers guests, who are adventurous and want to be one with the fish, to snorkel up and join them with a guide – for a fee of course. A unique opportunity for those who are a little more adventurous. I myself, was happy just to watch. Dubai Mall combined with a visit to the Burj Khalifa is a great place to spend your day and evening as you can finish off your day in one of the vast variety of fast food through to fine dining experiences.
Another must visit is Palm Jumeirah, an artificial/man-made island shaped as a palm tree. Palm Jumeirah is the first of three planned islands to have been completed. The reasoning to construct these islands was, because the UAE shoreline is limited in size, to increase the shoreline. The creation of Palm Jumeirah alone has added 520 kilometres. Located here are beach and golf resorts, one of the most famous being the Atlantis. The Atlantis is famous for its marine and waterpark where you can spend a day enjoying their dolphin and sea lion aquariums, waterslides and river rides, to mention only a few of the many experiences offered here.
The Deira section of the city is considered the ‘older’ city of Dubai. Located near the famous Dubai Creek, it is a lively location to stay when visiting the area as it offers a variety of hotel and long stay options. It is in this area that you will find the famous Dhow Dinner cruises, a popular attraction that takes you on a traditional Dhow boat for a dinner and show while cruising the Dubai Creekside. The Gold and Spice Souks are also located in this area and can be reached by water taxi, a traditional wooden dhow, a very inexpensive way to travel from one side of the creek to the other. The Gold and Spice Souks, located in the Deira district are also a must see and can be reached by water taxi. Whether interested in purchasing or simply just taking in the sights of the Gold Souk or the scents of the Spice Souk, the Deira area gives you a nice insight into the older Dubai experience.
There are many excursions that can be taken beyond Dubai including day trips to Abu Dhabi, the capital city of The UAE, where The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, the largest mosque in the UEA is located as well as the Famous Emirates Palace Hotel. While many mosques are closed to the general public, the Sheikh Zayad Grand Mosque is open to visitors. Dress code restrictions for the mosque visit must be strictly adhered to. Long pants for men and for women, long dresses with arms and ankles completely covered and a scarf to cover the head and neck is mandatory. If your dress fails any of the requirements, entry will not be allowed.
Day trips are also available to other cities surrounding Dubai. Al Ain, known as the Garden City because of its greenery and as being a holiday spot for locals is also where the Mountain Jebel Hafeet is located. The Jebel Hafeet straddles the border with Oman and while the drive up this spectacular mountain (at 4,098 ft.) is not for the faint of heart, once you reach the top, the birds-eye view of the landscape below is an amazing photo opportunity.
From Desert Safari’s, Camel Rides, Hot Air Ballooning, magnificent waterparks or having high tea at The Burj Al Arab (the only hotel rated as a 7 star accommodation), Dubai and the UAE, as a whole, is a destination filled with stunning architecture, spectacular shopping, incredible sight-seeing, remarkable dining options and most of all, very friendly and welcoming people.