Dubai City Tour

January 17th was our first real day in Dubai. We had free time in the morning and decided to get our feet wet with a couple of the “smaller” shopping malls. First, we went to the Bur Juman Centre, which is known for its high-end stores like Chanel and Chopard, which are a couple of my personal favorites. Those of you who know me know that I have a bit of an obsession with watches. I was amazed at the selection of haute horology on display in most of the shopping malls. It was the first time I had seen a Breguet in person! Sadly, a fine timepiece was not among my purchases on this trip, but a girl can dream! The only things I bought at the Bur Juman Centre were a couple of bottles of facial cleanser that are not sold in the US and some small boxes of dates for gifts from Bateel, which is like the Rolls Royce of dates.

After the Bur Juman Centre, we took a taxi to Wafi Mall which is known for its distinctive Egyptian themed decor. We looked around very briefly and made what was probably our most important important purchase of the day – water! We had been warned not to drink the water by our travel doctors. We were told to used bottled water, even for brushing our teeth. Let me tell you, it sure is difficult to remember to use bottled water when brushing your teeth! Never before has something as simple as brushing my teeth required so much concentration!

We took a taxi back to the hotel to get ready for the city tour, which was one of the few organized group activities with the travel company. We met the other people on the trip who were all from the US. Most of them were substantially older, as in retirement age, but there was a group of four friends from Chicago that were closer to our age. Our city tour included Dubai Creek, Dubai Museum, a water taxi ride, the Gold Souq, the Spice Souq, a drive by Jumeirah Beach (where we stopped to take photos of the Burj Al Arab) and Jumeirah Mosque, Palm Island, the Atlantis Hotel where we watched the sunset, a random stop at a store along the highway, and finally a drop off at Dubai Mall. Many of the stores in the souqs were closed because it was Friday, which is the holy day in Islam, but we were able to get the gist of the souq experience. I was actually a bit relieved that we were there when things were slower, because I think it would have been a bit overwhelming otherwise! It sounds like we did a lot this day, but our day was far from over. . .

























Retrospective UAE and Oman Blog Posts

These posts are a couple of months overdue, but better late than never! I was limited to WiFi data on this trip as my service provider doesn’t have good rates in the Arabian Peninsula. The rates are literally a hundred times more expensive than in Europe! The hotel WiFi was too unstable and slow to be able to upload any content. Anyway, enough with the excuses! Cue the flashback music and journey all the way to in time with me to January 15th, 2014. . .

I took the past couple of days off from work to prepare for this trip, yet somehow I only finished packing about an hour before leaving for the airport! I had been preparing for this trip for a while (reading travel and culture books, getting vaccines and travel medicine, researching what to wear, making reservations for activities, etc.), yet somehow there were still enough tasks left to occupy two days. One of the books that I read was The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Travel, which was a gift from my sister. I think it was meant to be a joke in part, but when I saw that the very first section was how to control a runaway camel, I wasn’t so sure! My friend and travel partner, Laura, and I have a camel ride planned, and hopefully this isn’t an omen of things to come!

Boarding the plane was a bit stressful. Even though we arrived at the gate with plenty of time to spare, nearly half an hour, we barely made the final call for boarding! We would learn on subsequent flights later in the trip that this extremely early boarding process is the norm with this particular airline. Walking down the jetway to the plane, we were intercepted by two boarder patrol agents who chastised us for being the last people to board the plane and questioned us about the amount of currency we were carrying. I felt such a sense of relief once we finally boarded the plane and got settled into our seats.

We had a direct flight to Dubai, which was 14.5 hours. It was the longest flight I had ever been on. That number was kind of meaningless to me until I had watched three movies, and half of the flight was still remaining! Despite being in flight for that long, I was grateful to get it all over with in one shot and not have to deal with any connections. Regarding air travel, I think that there are diminishing marginal returns to discomfort after 8 hours anyway.

We arrived in Dubai the next evening, on January 16th. The only sign of us being in an exotic locale upon arrival at the airport were the airport workers wearing Emirati national dress. A travel representative picked us up in a van and drove us to our hotel in the Deira section of Dubai. It was dark outside by this time and kind of difficult to get an idea of what the city was like. At this point, we were still wondering what kinds of clothes were really appropriate to wear and were trying to get an idea by observing people from the van. We had heard and read conflicting things regarding what is considered appropriate attire. We decided to err on the side of caution by bringing conservative clothes – nothing low-cut or shoulder-baring or bottoms that hit above the knee. We would later find that we were more conservatively dressed than we needed to be, but I think it was for the best as many places had modest dress codes.

After unpacking, we decided to explore the hotel a bit and went to a cafe in the lobby. We called it a night after that, as we were both tired from the long trip and not having slept much on the plane. We also weren’t sure what was within walking distance of our hotel. We hadn’t passed anything recognizable on the way there, and the places we did pass appeared to be closed. We would later learn that the big shopping malls are open quite late. Apparently they are typically open until midnight on the weekends, but some were open as late (or early?) as 2 AM for the Dubai Shopping Festival that happened to coincide with our trip.