After our drop off at Dubai Mall, we ran through the basement of the mall to the taxi stand, Amazing Race style. We had to hurry to the Mall of the Emirates to make our reservation for the Penguin Encounter. We ended up with the craziest taxi driver I have ever experienced. This guy makes Italian drivers look cautious! He almost ran over a pedestrian, sped away from a security officer who saw him almost run over the pedestrian, burned rubber slamming on his brakes to avoid rear-ending another taxi, and then made his tires squeal driving around that taxi while cutting off another!
One of the big, over-the-top tourist attractions in Dubai is the indoor ski slope at the Mall of the Emirates. We wanted to experience this, but I don’t know how to ski and certainly didn’t want to break a leg trying! Luckily Ski Dubai offers something even more exciting – the Penguin Encounter, where you can meet and hug a real, live penguin!
After checking into the Penguin Encounter, we waited in an extremely slow moving line to pick up our rental boots/clothes, and then changed into them. First we watched a couple of short videos about the rules regarding the Penguin Encounter and information about the program. We walked through a snow cave to an aquarium where penguins were swimming around. We saw some of them hop up a walkway into the aquarium. They were absolutely adorable! We were led to a seating area and met one of the penguin trainers. He brought out a couple of Gentoo penguins (small penguins like the kind that were in the movie Mr. Popper’s Penguins with Jim Carey). One of the penguins is named Lucifer. I can’t remember the name of the other Gentoo penguin we met though. He told us about their species and how they are trained. He showed us how they can do different things on command. Then each group sat on a bench and he had the penguins sit by us and we had our pictures taken. Next we went to a different area where the trainer brought out a king penguin named Jumeirah, which means beautiful in Arabic and is also the name of a neighborhood in Dubai. He told us about their species and how they are trained. Then we were all able to get up close with the penguin and have our pictures taken. We got to pet, hug, and kiss the penguin! I went to lean in for one of the pictures, and at that exact moment, Jumeirah whipped his head around and hit me in the mouth with his beak! It was pretty funny. Now I can say I’ve been beak-slapped by a penguin.
After changing back into our regular clothes, we had dinner at Cafe St Moritz near Ski Dubai then looked around the mall. The mall is normally open until midnight on Friday, but due to the Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF), it was open until 2 AM when we were there. We didn’t stay that late though and ended up getting a taxi back to the hotel around midnight. Some of the special things relating to DSF are extended shopping hours, lots of sales, prizes such as cash and luxury automobiles like Bentleys and Lamborghinis, and fireworks.