When my husband and I discussed possible destinations for our 38th anniversary trip there were many, but Dubai remained at the top of our list. We had heard so much about the city that we wanted to experience it for ourselves. So after studying brochures, websites and videos we were ready for the trip. The 15-hour flight from San Francisco to Dubai was the longest we’d ever taken, but Emirates Airline made it a very pleasant experience. We flew coach but still had plenty of legroom, 2 good meals, snacks, and excellent service from the flight attendants who even passed through the cabin handing out hot towels.
We arrived in Dubai surprisingly refreshed. The customs process was quite smooth, our baggage arrived promptly and before long we were hopping into a taxi and heading to our hotel. Since we arrived at night, the city was all lit up with mile after mile of sparkling skyscrapers that could only be described as dazzling. We used that word daily as we discovered the wonders that Dubai has to offer. We were dazzled by:
- The Al Maktoum International Airport that was bright, clean and very easy to navigate. All of the signs are in Arabic and English, so we had no problem finding our way around. There were also plenty of information booths with English-speaking staffers who could offer assistance.
- Doubletree Hotel and Residences Al Barsha our hotel, where the doorman quickly unloaded our luggage from the taxi and deposited it in the lobby. The check-in process was easy and we were treated to their customary warm cookies. Our room on the 10th floor was actually a king one bedroom apartment so it came with a fully equipped kitchen with microwave, refrigerator, cook top and washing machine. It was stocked with pots, pans, dishes, and flatware. They even supplied dishwashing liquid and laundry detergent. But wait, it gets better. There was also a large basket of fresh fruit, a dish of berries and muffins. The hotel is modern and in a great location, only a short walk from the Mall of the Emirates. They also offer a complimentary shuttle service from the hotel to Jumeirah Beach and the Mall of The Emirates. Downtown Dubai and other business areas are easily accessible via the nearby Dubai Metro.
- The Mall of the Emirates, which is much more than a mall. It is a multi-use shopping/entertainment/dining complex that has 560+ outlets, choice of entertainments like Ski Dubai, 90+ dining options (fine dining and food courts) – making it one of the best shopping malls in Dubai. One of our first stops was Ski Dubai since we’d found it hard to imagine skiing in the desert. Sure enough, it was like entering into a ski lodge and although we didn’t actually ski, we were able to watch others skiing, snowboarding, tubing and just playing in the snow. They even offer ski lessons! The shopping options are plentiful and there are choices for every budget from high-end designers to bargains. The mall even has a movie theater; VOX Cinemas offers the biggest blockbusters using the best and the latest in technology and comfort. And for a premium experience moviegoers can try VOX GOLD, a premium cinema with an exclusive lounge, extensive menu, waiter service and fully reclining seats. So saying that it’s more than mall is an understatement.
- The Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest skyscraper with 160 stories that offers a panoramic view of Dubai and the surrounding region. We were whisked up to the observation deck on the 124th floor in less than 60 seconds. The view was spectacular, as we gazed down on other skyscrapers. I’d never been that high….outside of an airplane. I looked up and saw a construction worked doing some work on the 125th floor…talk about having nerves of steel.
- The Dhow Dinner Cruise was a wonderful experience. We cruised on the Dubai Creek from 7pm-9pm enjoying the sights of the city, the souks and the skyline by night along with a delicious buffet of Arabic and international foods. The highlight of the evening was the entertainment, a dance performed by a gentleman in a costume that was illuminated by tiny colorful lights. Dazzling!
- Visiting Abu Dhabi on a day trip from Dubai, since we wanted to experience another Emirate. We’d booked a private tour so our driver picked us up at our hotel. He offered a wealth of information about both Emirates. The tour included stops at the Yas Marina Circuit Drag Racing Facility, thFerrari World Abu Dhabi (the largest indoor and first Ferrari theme park), Yas Marina Mall, and Heritage Village, a reconstruction of a traditional oasis village that gave us an idea of how the Bedouins lived on the marina in pre-oil UAE. I even sampled a delicious garbanzo bean dish and if it hadn’t been so hot I would have eaten more. From there we made a brief stop at the Emirates Palace Hotel, one of the most luxurious 5 star hotels in the world. It was indescribably beautiful and even had a vending machine that dispensed gold. Talk about lifestyles of the very rich and famous. The last stop on the tour was the Sheikh Sayed Grand Mosque, one of the most beautiful architectural monuments in the world. After removing our shoes we were led into the gorgeous interior where I was amazed by the marble, gold, Swarovski crystal chandeliers and one of the largest carpets in the world.
- The Cleanliness – Dubai and Abu Dhabi are by far the cleanest cities that I have ever visited; and I have visited cities in 22 countries. Even the food courts in the malls have attendants who pick up any remnants of trash left behind. All restrooms have attendants who are constantly mopping the floor and cleaning the stalls after every use.
- The Heat – Our visit was in October, so although it wasn’t during the hottest time of the year where the temperatures can soar well into triple digits, it still hovered around 95 degrees Fahrenheit. I expected the heat, but was not prepared for the humidity. But since it is considered a tropical desert climate, there was considerable humidity, especially after dark.
- The Architecture – The word that comes to mind is “futuristic”. There are literally scores of skyscrapers all over the city, each with its own unique design. There are 300 skyscrapers in the Marina District alone. They are marvelous by day and spectacular by night.
There were so many amazing sights that we kept our cameras handy at all times taking more than 1400 photos, and several hours of video. Dubai was the perfect blend of traditional and modern, Arabic and Western cultures. Although I cannot sum it up in a word, I will always refer to it as dazzling.