Dubai – the city of dreams was my first international trip and holds a special place in my heart.With its spectacular skylines and gold souks, wealth at its best display with giant shopping malls, indoor ski, miracle garden and fountain shows… it’s a must visit destination.
My trip was in April, just before the peak summer. Though October to March would be the best time to visit, or even better during Dubai Shopping Festival and the fun and frolic would sweep your feet away.
There is no better place to fulfil your fantasies about of the sexiest cars on the planet than Dubai. Arabs love to flaunt the latest models and you can drive some of the most luxurious cars in the world and even gold plate them.
Being a budget traveller, Dubai metro seemed like the best option for city transport. Right from the airport to shopping trips, I would have taken so many rides on this super comfy, no driver on board trains, connecting many of the best malls and City Centre. Tickets range from AED1.80-5.80 per trip, and you can travel all over Dubai for a day for AED14. Taxi’s are affordable too as they are all metered.
And girls there is no better place than Dubai if you are a shopaholic… I couldn’t wait to get to the famous malls.
The Dubai Mall
The Dubai Mall is one of the world’s largest shopping mall, elegantly designed jewellery shops, brands at its best display, accessory outlets. I had a blast trying out clothes and sunglasses to perfumes. And to watch those pretty Arab girls in hijab try Mascara on their luscious eyelashes. How I wish I had that lovely skin and brown eyes. Well, well…it’s been a dream date for the crazy shopper in me. Besides the retail therapy, the Olympic-sized Dubai Ice Rink and watching the kids skate was refreshing.
After a tiring shopping marathon, you could delight your senses by experiencing the Dubai fountain performance, accompanied by syncing lights and music.It’s the world’s largest choreographed fountain system, set on the 30-acre manmade Burj Khalifa Lake. Loved it so much that I went back post-sunset for the visual treat.
A short walk to the world’s largest tower
Adjacent to the Dubai Mall, you can take the escalators up to get to the ticket counter of the Burj Khalifa. The queue was kilometres long, they do sell tickets online I believe. This is a test of your patience. I skipped the elevator ride and went for a walk instead. The building is surrounded by a park, both tower and the park is based on the flower of Hymenocallis, a desert plant. Interestingly the plants in the park are watered by water collected from the building’s cooling system.
Next Station – Emirates Mall
The announcement on the metro train woke me up from a short nap.The architecture of the complex combines Arabic and Mediterranean elements and looks royal. Their tag line “Shopping is just the beginning” struck a chord. Spend a lot of time and money at the Carrefour (largest department store).
I was soo excited for Ski Dubai. Having never experienced snow before I really wanted to know what it was like.An amazing mountain-themed wintery setting where you can enjoy skiing, snowboarding, tobogganing, and meet the Snow Penguins! –
Before you get in you have to rent the Ski Dubai jacket and pants, as well as the snow boots and socks. You can rent a locker on a cash deposit basis to keep your things safe while you enjoy the winter park. The uniforms are included in the ticket price but the gloves you have to pay for.
Heritage Walk – Dubai Creek
The is the old business district of Dubai. In olden times this was the heart of trading in the middle east. Flowing between Deira and Bur Dubai this historic centre is home to Grand Mosque and the blue tiled Iranian Mosque. There is also a Hindu temple between the Grand Mosque and the Creek.
Hop on the Abra at the creek (a traditional small boat ) to experience the history It cost only AED 1. When riding the Abra from Bur Dubai, make sure you are sitting at the right side of the boat for the best view of the Heritage Village.
Spice & Gold Souk
Across the creek, you’ll find Deira another town in the Old Dubai. Walk a little further for the Spice Souk where you can get anything from tea leaves to the finest saffron from Iran. Don’t forget to taste the finest dates and take home some cinnamon or vanilla beans.
Just a few blocks from the Spice Souk, is the Dubai Gold Souk. Perfect for all those looking for some bling on a bargain which is literally a heaven for jewellery lovers. I’m not into that very much, but you really won’t realise just why this is the city of gold unless you see the gold souk. I haven’t so much of gold …there are gold corsets and bodysuits, rings that’s the size of a bangle. Crowns and other accessories which are like huge chunks of gold and great detailing with precious stones.
A lil ahead in one of those lanes you would find the aromatic shopping streets, Perfume Souk which has a narrow passageway lined with small shops selling perfumes ranging from local Arabic attars to branded international perfumes. You can also buy scented incense in powder, crystal and even wood; Frankincense is a famous one, check out samples of Silver and Hojari.
Loved those little shop souvenir shops that make sand art in a bottle. It’s really interesting to watch them do it Different colours and sand mixed to re-create the monuments in the City. Give fridge magnets a break and try this unique souvenir idea.
Dubai has two faces, one the glamorous malls and Gold souks where the wealth flows like a river and the other the “dreamland” for the thousands on a work visa ( from India, Philippines, Bangladesh etc) Most of the Taxi Drivers, retail assistants, nurses are all migrant workforce. Their lives revolve around Bur Dubai and Al Karama, the budget department stores (Lulu Mall and Dragon Mart)
Al Karama is a poor man’s paradise, a world away from Dubai’s sleek malls. Here you can practice your haggling skills on handbags, perfumes clothes etc.
The best way to shop is to walk around Karama and look in at the shops. A lot of the stuff here are counterfeit and does not carry an international warranty (Eg: electronics/mobile phones) the fakes are sold in “secret” back room stores.
Beaches, fun and Frolic – Jumeirah – Burj Al Arab
I have only been to 5 start hotels, so have no clue how a 7 star could be. But they say “the world’s only 7-star hotel” is in Dubai- The Burj Al Arab i. Though I didn’t go in enjoyed the blue water at Jumeirah Beach, you can stroll around the cafés, or simply grab a mat, lay back, and take it easy while the sun sets.
Atlantis – The Palm Dubai, a surreal structure in the Dubai skyline. Built on the theme of the lost island of Atlantis, an underwater city. It has a mammoth aquarium housing 65,000 fishes , not to miss out on the Dolphin Bay in the Desert land.
The Water park Aquaventure has towers that are called Ziggurats, similar to old stone temples that look like terraced pyramids. Lots of rides and slides for kids or get up close and personal with sharks or sea lions.
Our next destination is an Arabian camp somewhere in the middle of the desert, for AED 45 its a half day tour post lunch. We take a pit stop at the assembly point of the highway. Actually, this is where the drivers prepare their SUV’s for the safari. Our Mitsubishi Pajero 4×4 was at its best performance. After taking a de-tour from the highway and before driving out to the desert the wheels are deflated to be able to handle the loose sand and soft terrain.
The drivers are fantastic at navigating their toys, but it can be an extremely dizzying experience for the passenger. I was holding tight onto the handrest, praying for my life…taking deep breaths. You could see the other jeeps fly through the dessert. Glad I didn’t have a heavy lunch. And there we reach the camp jump before the sun set. Ideal setting for a sunset shot. The colours of the sky match the colour of the sand dunes. Inside the camp, it feels kind of like a fair. There are Dirt Bikes and Camel Safari.
Long rows of dining tables set atop a long carpet with pillows for chairs. At the centre of the camp is a stage. There are booths/huts for food and one for henna tattoos, plus an open area to smoke shisha (with juice!) to your heart’s content. I tried the henna tattoo and some shisha. The food was delicious too.
Belly Dancing – A Tempting Affair
A beautiful Lebanese belly dancer comes up on stage. Wow- she is a true Arabian beauty.The costume which is worn by the dancers is called as the ‘bedlah’, a bejewelled bra-like blouse, a belt, and a skirt or harem pants. It is decorated with sequins, crystals, coins and are also richly embroidered. The music is mostly zaidi (cheerful) or Masmoudi kabir (serious) and the movements are very vibrant and fluid. She is enigmatic, busting out some real moves that completely capture the attention of all the females in the camp. Hahaha…No not the guys! Am sure every other lady was wondering how to get a butter smooth, flat belly like hers…
Centuries ago belly dancing in the Middle East was to worship the Arabian goddess and was performed by women for women. But today, the dance is just a form of performing art for the tourist.
Pic courtesy – Dessert Safari
Next up we have the Tanoura dance performed by our male dancer, It is a form of folk dance with connections with Egypt. The performers’ wear very interesting costume, a big skirt a round one and swirling actually refer to the circle of life or the universe. So the performer is spinning around in a circle at various speeds, using his long colourful costume (with LED lights) to tell a story. Gosh, how much control the dancer has over his head and dizziness. And he keeps going round n round.
This has been my best experience in Dubai – The Desert Safari.