What Dubai Taught Me And The 10 Things You Should Experience There Too

Experiencing Dubai – A World to Travel-8

(Versiòn en castellano)

Hot as hell.

That’s how it felt once I stepped out of the airport with 2 boxes of Duty free beer and my reliable bag that had been traveling with me for a few months already. My friend was there to pick me up and I was planning to stay at his place for most of my stay so I hadn’t really looked up anything as I usually do before hitting a destination for the first time. Therefore I had no idea of how public transportation worked, nor that I was interested at that point. It was 2AM and I was just ready to hit the sack.

Of course 10 hours later the heat was way worse. And it wasn’t even Summer yet! That fact alone quickly made me realize that I would never be able to live in Dubai. So you won’t ever witness this city on my list of places I would move to on a heartbeat.

Luckily, 8 thrilling days and 3 months later the memories that arise are much nicer and richer than just the scalding weather forecast for late April in Dubai.

Skipping the hotter hours, and trying to put it into simply words, I had the time of my life there. Seriously fun times that took me into numerous and fairly diverse city explorations. Here’re my most cherished moments from that trip. The ones that I would repeat right now hands down. And the same ones I would recommend you had a look into if Dubai and the United Arab Emirates are on your list.

1. Realizing that everything I had watched and read about Dubai was true.

Dubai, as every big urbe, has two faces. There’s the one that everyone knows about. People are pretty. Cars are huge. Buildings are massive. Malls are ubiquitous. Capitalism rules.

That immediately brings us to talk about the other side of the city. It is a metropolis under construction at one of the highest paces I ever witnessed. Traffic is intense. Everywhere you look, there are cranes and workers – sadly many times in dubious work conditions.

2. Dubai is absolutely stunning at night

And one of your best bets to witness this is to head to a skyscraper’s top floor at sunset. I chose the colossal Burj Khalifa (829.8 m, the tallest building in the world these days!) to admire the skyline from its At The Top observation deck, snap tons of pictures with my beloved wide-angle lens before I crashed it in South Africa a couple of weeks later (oops!), become a privileged observer of the Mall of Dubai fountain show and rub shoulders with the busy crowd that had the same idea as I did.

After waiting for about half an hour and testing my patience skills, I finally took over a precious ‘first row kinda of’ spot. I left the premises feeling accomplished and with my SD card full.

As much as I love nature, buildings will never cease to amaze me. One of the reasons why I picked Architecture as my Major!

3. Alcohol is expensive – and forbidden in many places – and that against every preconception, is a great thing!

– Could we have a look to the wine menu? 

Alcohol can be bought and consumed in many places in Dubai – and expats with licenses can even drink in at home – since it is a myth than the city is a dry emirate, but in many others this would be a highly inappropriate question indeed.

I spent 24 hours in Al Ghurair Rayhaan by Rotana, a five-star hotel next to the Souks and Dubai Creek where alcohol has no place. During a whole day, I didn’t feel like leaving the premises and so I got to experience many of its special features without a single drop of booze. Yay!

– An exclusive dinner at its Shayan restaurant, where I tried Persian cuisine’s meat kebabs and other small dishes for the first time in my life. Notable design with many private rooms to host small and big parties. Excellent service, food and mocktails. I will be back!

– An outstanding full-body massage in Zen, the hotel’s phenomenal Spa, which made me forget the rest of the day in a whim.

– Breakfast and lunch in Liwan, an all-day dining restaurant with so many international food choices that you’d need a whole month to try them all.

And

– My out of this world premium suite with a king size bed, 2 bathrooms (the main one with a luxurious bathtub), a living room that could host a party of 30 and unbelievable dazzling views over Dubai’s Creek, the iconic skyscrapers and Burj Khalifa.

Although it was really peaceful and quiet, I had so much trouble falling asleep because of the excitement, since I couldn’t stop going from one side to the other picturing Dubai at night while feeling like Scarlett in Lost in Traslation peeking out of the oversized windows and watching planes taking off every 2 to 5 minutes right in front of my room (not hearing them at all!).

I mean, what would you do if you could enjoy this suite for a night?

4. Brunch is taken seriously in Dubai

Actually, the good life can be experienced in so many ways. Take for instance, the Four Seasons Resort Dubai at Jumeirah Beach.

This hotel’s privileged location makes it for the perfect spot to evade the city madness and enter a peaceful oasis in the middle of the chaos. I visited it for a Japanese themed brunch in its Sea Fu restaurant and then toured around the facilities. That only made me want to go back madly. From its roof top terrace overlooking both Dubai’s skyline and the lush gardens cramped with pools by the sea, to its sumptuous indoors salons with live piano music and upscale Spa, it’s already on my list for my upcoming visits to the city.

5. There’s no better way to enjoy Dubai’s Marina than from a boat

Little I knew what I was getting into when I accepted an invitation to join a Dubai Marina’s Yellow Boats tour around the Marina, the Palm and the renowned Burj Al Arab building among other well-known Dubai landmarks.

What I thought it was going to be a tranquil jaunt in an inflatable boat turned out into a thrilling ride I wasn’t ready to take in just then.

Therefore, I’d recommend you leave all your valuables home and get ready to experience this hands free. Since I had no idea, my laptop, DLSR and lenses were with me all the time and I couldn’t stop thinking about how much harm the crazy speed could make them. Fortunately, I left the boat 2 hours later with all my gadgets unscathed.

Apart from that, being a spectator of how the city transitions from day to night from the sea was a worthwhile experience I wouldn’t mind to repeat anytime.

6. United Arab Emirates might be the most organized, clean, polite and safe country in the world.

Conservative but showcasing state-of-the-art features, spotless and immaculate, where everything seems to work just fine and you never feel insecure, that is how the Emirates and specially Dubai have been conceived.

You can walk around with the most expensive gadgets anytime of the day or night and just forget that something could happen to you. Critical info for girls as well, since no one will touch you or try to harm you in any way. Punishments are just too strict!

And that is just awesome. Because thinking that if there’re no sketchy alleys, crime and weird things going on travel makes no sense, is for idiots.

7. A stone throw away from Dubai there’s a major jewel: Abu Dhabi

And its Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.

I won’t compare it to Agra’s Taj Mahal because the two are awe-inspiring paradigmatic buildings but to me, both of them are quintessential places you can’t afford missing even when they are insanely crowded.

Again, lacking preparation I didn’t know that even fully covered I wouldn’t be able to enter it. Long trousers, long blouse and a proper scarf only took me to the changing room before entering the mosque grounds. From there on I had to dress with an abaya (traditional robe) and a shayla (headscarf) on top of all the clothes I was already using.
I won’t lie to you. It was hot and I barely could move while trying to keep everything in place and not show my hair as the shayla would keep falling down. It felt everything but comfy or appropriate in the beginning, but as I walked inside and saw every other girl in there dressed all in black as I was, I soon got used and forgot about this issue.
After that, I focused on taking pics and patiently waited till the sun went down to shoot the blue hour.
Wherever you go…

 

8. Getting up at 4AM in Dubai could mean you got lucky!

Because if you didn’t get up that early for work, chances are you have something really exciting lined up. In my case, I was headed to Dubai’s nearby desert for a hot air balloon ride by Ballooning AE! I have already talked about this experience in this other article of the most exciting flight experiences I had in my life.

Head there for more info and pics like these:

 

9. Snapping long exposure shots in front of Dubai Metro is seriously amusing

And unusually cheap for what’s worth. It will only set you back a few dirhams, depending on how long your journey is. Something to take into account in Dubai, where there is not such thing as cheap anything.

Just run to the front of the driverless fully automated train and get ready to enjoy the ride!

10. There is a lot more than Dubai to UAE. Like, for instance, Fujairah

With 7 Emirates, if I were you I’d start preparing mini escapes using Dubai as your base. Fujairah is merely 90 minutes outside the city but the landscape makes it look like a complete different country altogether.

I was invited to spend one night in the Radisson Blu Fujairah, in Dibba, a 4 star hotel spreaded along 500 m of a private beach.

There you can practice all sorts of water sports such as diving, snorkeling and wake boarding, have a drink in the poolside bars where DJs are playing mainstream dance tunes all day long, chill and get treated in the on-site Spa O2, dine at Breeze restaurant and wake up to magnificent Arabian Sea views from your room’s terrace.

What’s not to love?

 

Disclaimer: I was invited to some of the experiences featured in this article, but the words are my own and weren’t influenced in any way by the different companies / DMO. Thanks for the following:

– At The Top Observation Deck at Burj Khalifa, as coordinated by Dubai Tourism.

– The Yellow Boats Sightseeing Tour in the Marina at sunset.

– 24 hours in Al Ghurair Rayhaan & Arjaan by Rotana, its restaurants and Zen Spa.

– Brunch at The Four Seasons at Jumeirah beach.

– 24 hours at Radisson Blu Fujairah, its restaurants and O2 Spa.

– Hot Air Balloon ride over Dubai’s desert at sunrise by Balloon Adventures Dubai.

Finally, thanks to Vijay aka FeelFreeorFly – go check his website! – for inviting me over to his place. I had a blast!

 

Still, I can think of many other cool things I’d love to experience in Dubai. Take for instance, skydiving, an overnight stay at Dubai’s desert and properly exploring the Creek which – shame on me! – I hadn’t enough time for during this trip.

Expect me again soon, Dubai, because I am already planning my next visit!

 

Have you ever been to Dubai? Are the United Arab Emirates on your list of places you’d like to go soon? What would you be interested in doing there? Can’t wait to read your comments!




There are 54 comments

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    • Inma

      Hey! Thanks for stopping by. It’s been an awesome trip. Let me know if you make it there anytime soon! Would love to follow your adventures.

    • Inma

      Thanks Anna! You know sometimes getting pics of oneself gets tricky 🙂 That’s why I took over mirrors for this one. Might keep it as a signature pic for more articles to come!

  1. Sarah

    The picture are really incredible, especially the night-time ones, but it does sound so frantic and crazy, not a quiet liveable place at all! Just a good place to stop by and gawp at perhaps…..

    • Inma

      You are completely right! As I said in the beginning of the piece, I wouldn’t live there at all, anyway it is a place I’d love to visit every once in a while. I just found it terrific!

  2. Travelwith2ofus

    Such wonderful photos. I have never read or seen so much detailed information about Dubai from any travel bloggers before. Well done!. Dubai is one of the places I want to visit so badly. We were supposed to do it this year, but our plans did not work out. Now I remember why I want to visit it so much.

    • Inma

      Happy that you found it interesting. So glad this one is getting so much attention. I spent a well 2 days and a half crafting it. Nice to see that work paying off! 😀

  3. Hugo Cura

    Wow! Amazing photography. As a keen photography myself, this highly inspires me to go to Dubai.

    Plenty of things to enjoy as well! Cheers.

  4. mags

    Your photography is amazing. I especially love the shots of the city at night. Dubai is definitely on my to do list. I fully support any place that gets behind brunch… the alcohol thing however, might take some getting used to.

    • Inma

      Hey Mags. You are right. In the beginning I thought the alcohol thing was actually going to be a ‘thing’ but it wasn’t at all. As tourists you are never very far away from a drink if you want. I just chose not to for some hotel stays and really liked to soaking in everything else. We are so used to the ubiquitous beer than the solely thought of spending a day without one was a bit crazy haha

  5. heysocialbutterfly

    Great share! You take some amazing pictures! I spent half the time just looking at them! Thanks so much for all this great information!

  6. Jennifer

    I love taking photos at night, but your have shown me that I really need to up my game – gorgeous! Dubai is on my list, but honestly the expense and heat have kept it low on my list. Maybe I should reconsider?

    • Inma

      Yes you should! For night pictures, these weren’t even taken as well as I should have.. no tripod except for a couple of shots where my friend lent me hims. For instance, all the night shots from the Burj Khalifa were snapped among tons of tourists trying to see what was going on with the fountain show and stuff. Pretty stressing to be honest 😀

  7. lesleycarter

    Absolutely fantastic photos. As beautiful as it is, the traffic does bother me. I thought traffic was insane in California until I drove in Dubai.

    • Inma

      Seen that road full of cars? Yay. I feel you! Traffic is pretty intense all day long. That, added to the fact that the weather is scalding, makes it worse! haha that is why I loved Dubai Metro so much as well! Takes you places in a whim!

  8. thetrustedtraveller

    Hi Inma,
    Firstly I have to say this is the first time I am visiting your blog and already I love it. Your photography is so beautiful and after reading through this post I feel that I know more about Dubai.
    I’d love to go someday. My parents have been twice and disliked it the first time but really enjoyed it the second time mostly because they were a bit more relaxed.
    Thanks for sharing your insights.

    • Inma

      Thanks so much! It happens all the time I guess. When you get to a new destination and feel the urge to see and do everything. Now I like to travel at a slower pace, although some days I still feel exhausted but little by little we learn! 😀

  9. Zofia Bałdyga

    Great images and a great read. Most of the entries on Dubai I’ve read so far were just a short notes from longer layovers. Your post gives a bigger picture which is an informative lesson. For example, I’ve never knew what one should see in UAE outside of Dubai. Now, that mosque looks really unique and beautiful.

    • Inma

      Glad you liked it, Bethany! Dubai had been a long time on my list as well, finally I made it happen last April. Let me know when you are headed!

  10. Laura

    We’re going to Dubai next year so I really enjoyed reading your recommendations. The Four Seasons food never disappoints. Everything looks delicious. I can’t wait to see the city at night. Those are incredible photos that capture the beauty really well. What a crazy place.

  11. Megan Claire (@mappingmegan)

    Loved every single one of your points, I’m so disappointed that I didn’t get to Abu Dhabi during my time in Dubai – I spent a week there, so that should have been plenty of time since it’s so close! Guess it’s the perfect excuse to get back for a return trip!

  12. Tim Kroeger

    wow, amazing photos, especially the night shots! Good job. I also have been to Dubai earlier this year. I wouldn’t want to live there for a longer period but I will go back for sure. There is so much to see and experience.

  13. Sandra

    Oh my god the heat! Totally agree with you, could never get used to it. I’d probably go back once more now that I’m prepared for the sensory overload and the filthy rich all around us. Everything is just so massive that you can get easily overwhelmed.

  14. Kira Smart

    I am a travel lover as well and just returned from Dubai. To tell the truth, these flights take out all energy. Mostly I hate to wait for a taxi at the airport. This time, I booked a taxi in advance from the airport to hotel. It saved me lots of nerves.

    • Inma

      Hi Kira
      You’re right. Waiting in line for a taxi s*cks. Luckily this time my friend was there to pick me up. It saved me the trouble. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  15. Grahame Massicks

    Your photography is absolutely awesome!! I know Dubai, not well, but I was working in Kuwait a couple of years back and my company sent me there a couple of times for visa runs. I hated it!! Shopping malls full of designer junk and motorways… Not my thing at all! I was on a ‘Spartan’ budget and did zero research… This post has opened my eyes to what I missed… Great work!!

    • Inma

      Thanks so much Grahame! We really appreciate your comment and get where are you coming from. Thing is that Inma was pretty lucky in this Dubai exploration and could see also a very vibrant and kind of luxurious side of the city. TTYS!

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  18. Nimasha

    Hi Inma, thank you for an amazing post. Me and my girlfriend planing to visit Dubai as our honeymoon destination. Your blog post gave me quite a few things to do there. Love the pics too 👍


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