Travelling back home to Munich from Cape Town, the city I now live in, I chose to do a stop over in Dubai. My head was filled by the classical “Dubai clichés”: Soaring sky scrapers, fancy cars, rich sheiks and artificial parklands in the middle of a desert. These clichés, I learned, are there for a reason. Still, I was yet to be surprised during my three day stop over in town, partially by the intense heat of more than 40°C during summer days.
My stop-over package was perfectly organised. Even before border control, all of us were welcomed and handed our travel vouchers and documents. Just a little later, I was on the bus with my fellow travellers from Australia and America. I was the last person to be dropped off at their respective hotel, but this proved to be to my advantage, as I got half an hour’s worth of a free city tour – including a glimpse of the highest building in the world, Burj Khalifa. The world-famous Burj al Arab Hotel also came within sight during this first little trip through Dubai.
Arriving at our beachside hotel and city-touring at 42°C
After a short lunch break at our Ocean View Hotel (yes, it really offers fantastic seaside views!), we embarked on our first real city tour. It was by then early afternoon and the temperatures had climbed to an intense 42°C ..! Our guide from Morocco joked mildly, “Not that hot today, actually!” But me and my fellow Australian group of travellers only found it mildly amusing, having just arrived from winter on the Southern hemisphere to the summer heat of Dubai. The tour offered of us a good overview of the most important sights of Dubai, including a photo stop at the Burj al Arab Hotel, the Jumeriah Mosque and the beautiful Palace of Dubai. Head over to Dubai museum in order to learn more about why and how Dubai is what it is today. It’s also nice and cool inside, a good place to survive and escape from the blazing heat …!
Time travelling to another society
One of my highlights was a ride in a traditional Abra boat across Dubai creek. It felt like finally arriving in the “Orient”. At the other side of the river, we suddenly found ourselves right inside this fairy-tale world from “Thousand And One Nights“: Merchants barking, advertising their goods, and within aromatic distance – the Spice Souk. All you have to do is follow the enchanting curry flavours to get there. I honestly and truly have to say that I’m quite glad to have been part of a tour group that day. With my love of cooking, I was really looking forward to a visit of the spice bazar. But strolling around in peace, as a woman on my own? It simply would not have been possible, and I was kind of shocked by the looks of the men whose way I crossed. Nevertheless, I picked up all my confidence and carried on: Stay open for whatever comes your way, is my travelling motto after all. In the end, I ended up exploring the bazar together with an elderly couple from Australia, who were very sweet, “We’ll just pass as an Australian family right now.” No one pestered me again about wanting to sell me for x amounts of camels that day! 😀
Making our way through the dazzling Spice Souk, we finally arrived at the world famous Gold Souk. It really is worth your while spending some time there: After all, where are you able to see so much gold in one place? With our city tour coming to an end after nightfall, I remember taking a good look at the sparkling skyline of Dubai, thinking: This place is unique all over the world. High on my emotions from Day 1, I opened up a bottle of wine taken from my hotel’s my mini bar (perhaps the most expensive gift to myself that day). Sitting on my balcony, at a ‘mild’ 36°C, overlooking both the city as well as the ocean, I took a deep breath of Dubai – another city that never sleeps.
Dubai Mall, Marina & Palm (trees..)!
The next day started early with a fantastic breakfast buffet at my hotel. Despite being a vegan, I could really choose from a lot of things and felt full of energy. Together with my new friends from New Zealand and Australia, we went to see Dubai’s famous palm-shaped, artificial island. Our first stop was the legendary Atlantis Hotel along with its stunning architecture. Together, we visited the local aquarium as well as the so-called “Lost Chambers”. Going back was fun, as we took the Monorail, an automated train without a driver. My fear was quickly replaced by the rewarding views of the skyline of Dubai: Now, I would even recommend you to take both ways, looking at Atlantis Hotel as well as Dubai on the way back. The train runs very smoothly, you can easily get up, walk around and take photographs.
Next up, our tour took us to see Dubai Marina. Another truly amazing dimension of this utterly fascinating city. We only walked around a bit, as it was simply too hot, but looking at all the soaring skyscrapers around is already worth it. All shopaholics (like me) should then head over to Dubai Mall, a kind of super-sized shopping centre. With Dubai being known for its malls, I felt like being in heaven. My tour ended here with yet another highlight to come: Taking a lift up the highest building in the world, Burj Khalifa.
Floating above the heavens of Dubai
The entrance is located right inside Dubai Mall and I had about two hours to spend in there. Luckily, my ticket to go up was included in the tour price, so I did not have to get in the queue! I therefore opted for a small lunch snack and subsequently made for being “At the Top”, a panorama lounge at the 124th floor of Burj Khalifa, soaring 828 metres into the sky. Even thinking back as I write this, my head still goes dizzy. It only takes 90 seconds (!) to reach the 124th floor, leaving you in a state of utter and complete amazement.
Hard to put a view such as this one in words. So many impressions, feelings and emotions go through you. For once, there is this masterpiece of architecture and technical calculations, for the other, there are all these views across Dubai, the desert landscape, appearing like a miniature world. Once you are up, you may spend as much time up there as you wish. I’m quite sure I spent many hours up there in the sky of Dubai, trying to take it all in. Feeling three days are clearly not enough, I am already planning my next stop over in Dubai for another exciting mix of Middle Eastern traditions and modern times.
And you: Have you been to Dubai before? Would you go there (again)?