July 5, 2017

3 More Days in Dubai

I'll be honest, I didn't love Dubai the first time we went there. To me, it felt like Vegas. I was this giant, cosmopolitan city in the middle of the dessert full of gorgeous hotels and shopping malls. The Pilot loved it. He had been trying to convince me to go back for awhile and earlier this year, I finally caved.

We landed at about 9pm on a Saturday night and by the time we got to our hotel and checked in, it was close to 11. My legs were stiff from the long haul flight, so I headed straight to the hotel gym for a quick run to shake out my legs. After a quick dinner in the hotel bar, it was time for bed. 

Day 1: 
Sunday morning, our first full morning in Dubai, we met up with some friends who had recently moved to Dubai for breakfast and coffee and a cute little spot called, The Sum of Us. After breakfast, we went down to the Marina and strolled along, browsing the little shops and stands and soaking up the sun. It was snowing in DC and I was very grateful to be in a place the locals already considered was getting too hot!

Our next stop was the Dubai Miracle Garden. I had wanted to go to DMG when we were in Dubai the year before but it had already closed for the season. (It's only open for a few months throughout the year). Lucky for us, it had just opened.

The DMG is located in this complex called Dubailand which was supposed to be a metropolis of amusement parks, think Ferrari World, Universal Studios, etc. all of which fell through in the aftermath of the financial crisis. It was pretty desolate aside from DMG and you could still see signs for where Universal was going to be.

The Miracle Garden was really cute. I absolutely loved the Emirates plane (so did The Pilot) and all of the little houses, plus, the flowered archways were gorgeous! We spent a few hours there strolling the grounds and looking at all of the flowers.

Day 2: 
I was up early again on Monday morning and a little bit at a loss for what to do. Eventually, I decided to head to the Al Fahidi neighborhood in search of a small coffee museum I had read about. I hopped on the metro and made my way to the furthest stop I could before getting out and walking through a neighborhood full of textile shops. On my way to Al Fahidi, I stumbled on the Dubai Museum and decided to stop in. It was a fascinating museum that shows you just how far Dubai has come in a remarkably short period of time. The Museum has artifacts dating all the way back to the first century!

I learned so much about Dubai! Dubai has always been a center of trade in the Middle East but preserved it's Bedouin tradition and reflected the "Old Arab" world until almost the 1960s when Dubai invited the British to trade and started the path toward becoming one of the world's most significant metropolitan areas in the world.

The museum is a really fascinating way to see that growth and change. It was really well done but I would caution against the giant tour groups that made the experience a bit less than enjoyable.

After the museum, I went in search of Al Fahidi. I had a hard time finding it at first because what I didn't realize is that, it isn't a neighborhood in the sense I'm used to. The Al Fahidi Historic District is more like a complex.

Surprisingly quiet and seemingly hidden, it looks like an area with a bunch of quiet, empty laneways until you discover that beneath every hidden door is a new gem waiting to be explored...art galleries, museums, artisan workshops. I got lost in here for hours, continually discovering more and more. I've decided to dedicate a whole post to Al Fahidi, which I'll share next week! (Promise! It's already written!)

Eventually, I got hungry and made my way to lunch before heading down Ali Bin Abi Taleb Street to explore the Hindi Market. This was one of my favorite experiences of the trip. While walking through the market, the call to prayer sounded and men in dishdashas rushed out of nowhere to the nearest mosque to answer the call, scrambling to take their shoes off and stumbling up the steps to make it in time. Just behind the mosque, I stumbled one a celebration of Holi with celebrants laughing and throwing powdered paint at one another.

I spent some time wandering along the water and taking in all of the sites from Bur Dubai. This was a neighborhood I had walked through on our last trip to Dubai but hadn't explored at all and I loved it. This, to me, felt like the real Dubai - the preserved history hidden among the rising construction (which is everywhere!) - and tall, gleaming buildings make Dubai the fascinating place that it is.

For dinner, The Pilot and I headed to the Madinat Jumeirah Resort and took in the stunning view of the Burj am Arab changing color in the moonlight.

Day 3: 
Tuesday was our last day in Dubai but fortunately, our flight wasn't until after midnight.

Our first stop of the day was the Burj Khalifa. We had missed out on this last time we were in Dubai but decided not to skip it this time. It is very pricey ($55 during prime hours) and we only opted to go to "At the Top," the lower of two levels but the view was still incredible, not simply because it's the tallest building in the world but because you can truly see what Dubai has become in the middle of the desert. You can even see into one of the neighboring Emirates, Sharjah.

If you're wondering what the difference between "At the Top" versus "At the Top Sky" is, this photo below shows you just how much more of the building there is. We were on the 125th level. "At the Top Sky" takes you to the 148th.

Once again though, the experience was made somewhat less enjoyable by the buses of tourists with selfie sticks that unloaded as we had arrived, making it impossible to see anything without being hit in the face with a selfie stick. I recommend getting there as early as possible. We had booked "off-peak tickets," which I thought would prevent that, but apparently not!

We left the Burj Khalifa and wandered around the mall for a bit before heading back to Al Fahidi. We had planned a visit to the Sheikh Mohammed Center for Cultural Understanding for one of their Cultural Meals. On our last trip to Dubai, we had done a mosque tour through the Center but I had been disappointed to miss the Cultural Meals. These include a traditional Emirati meal shared in a group with an Emirati host about the UAE's culture, traditions, and religion. It was fascinating. The food was wonderful and I loved the opportunity to learn about Dubai from a local. Our host was a Tunisian woman who has lived in Dubai for the last 20 years. It was so interesting to hear her thoughts on the ever-changing Dubai. Not to mention, the food was remarkable.

I hadn't realized this the day before but the Sheikh Mohammed Center is in Al Fahidi. We had learned the day before that Sikka, Dubai's Art Festival was going on but had been there too early in the day to experience it. It was just starting when we finished lunch, so we wandered in and out of galleries, exploring even more of Al Fahidi then we had seen the day before!

Our last stop of the day was a rooftop gallery/museum/bookstore/coffee shop that I loved, called the AlSerkal Cultural Foundation. We were the only ones up there and it was so quiet except for the mosques all ringing their calls to prayer, a sound that, Every time I travel to a Muslim country, I fall even more in love with.

Our plan was to take a ferry back to the Marina but as we were walking, it started raining and the ferry for canceled. I was really bummed because it had only rained for about 5 minutes but I guess it doesn't rain that often in Dubai so when it does, people are at a loss for what to do!

So that wrapped up our trip! We took the metro back to the hotel and packed, I got in a quick run, grabbed a quick bite, and then took a nap before heading to the airport to catch our flight!

I'm so glad I gave Dubai another chance. I really loved it this time around and it has really opened up the possibility for me to revisit some other places I haven't exactly loved. I would go back to Dubai again in a heartbeat, only this time, I'd like to explore some of the other Emirates too!

Have you been to Dubai?
If not, is it on your list? I hope it is now!

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