The flight to Dubai was long but uneventful. I had paid extra to have a seat in the emergency aisle which was well worth the price, having that extra bit of leg room made a big difference. I even managed to doze on and off for a few hours – only about 10 minutes each time but a big improvement on other trips. I had a small child about 1 in the row next to me who didn’t cry the entire trip. He spent most of the time sleeping or smiling, and waving to anyone he could get to interact with him.
We arrived in Dubai at 530:am and were met by a rep from the Arabian Nights tour company. Once we got through customs we put our bike boxes in storage for two days and were then dropped off at our hotel. We are getting picked up tomorrow by the company to head off for the overnight stay in the desert. The temp is around 28 degrees, so not too hot but hotter than what I am used to. In summer the temp gets up to 50 plus degrees. Thankfully not now.
We are staying at the Raddison Blue hotel which is central and has a view of the creek with all the Dhow boats going up and down. Although it’s called a creek it’s actually wide and fast flowing, more like what I would call a river.
We decided to have a 2 hour quick nap and then head out to see the city.
We got tickets at the hotel for the big bus tour, which is a hop on hop off bus that gives access to 3 bus routes, a Dhow creek cruise, and a harbour cruise (unfortunately we didn’t have time for this one). The red route takes you around the city, the green route to the beach, and the blue route to the palms area (a new man made area with reclaimed land, shaped like a palm with all the building on each frond having beach front access). All three bus routes intersect with each other.
The big bus stop was a couple of blocks up from the hotel and the buses come past approx. every 20 minutes. We didn’t have to wait long.
Dubai is full of huge skyscrapers, amazing architecture, wide roads, and large shopping malls. Plus, Palm trees all over the place which I discovered later are not native, and the roads were surrounded by beautiful garden strips – each plant is hooked up to the irrigation system as there is no much rain here. The water supply is desalinated sea water.
Most of the red route bus stops on the first half are at shopping malls. The malls are huge! One mall has an aquarium, another a zoo, and another a ski field complete with ski slopes and chair lifts and penguins. They all seem to have cinemas – one has 24 different screens. There are about 700 shops. Currently another mall is in progress which is going to be 7km long and is going to have over 1000 shops!
We stopped at the Emirates mall which has the ski field and had a look at this from the outside. We also went into the food hall, it was enormous. Every kind of take away you could imagine.
We then swapped onto the green route and went out to the beach area. The beach was beautiful and white, and even though it was very windy lots of people were walking or swimming, but not many just sitting. There are some very opulent hotels, one has its own man made coral reef, and at another you can catch a submarine to get into the hotel’s underwater restaurant.
There was one mall that was Egyptian themed and had Egyptian statues outside. I didn’t go inside but I imagine the theme continued. Shopping and malls are not my idea of fun so sorry not much more detail to add about what type of shops etc.
The green route also took us out past the marina area which 10 years ago was barren desert, now it has clusters of skyscrapers, a number of which are apartment buildings, restaurants, shops, and of course a large mall, plus a huge outlet mall.
There is construction everywhere you look but there is also great infrastructure with wide roads, over bridges, mono rail stations and buses.
We got off the green route and hopped onto the blue route which took us out to the Palms area. The houses are all along the fronds of the palm with beach front. Depending on which frond you are on depends how expensive your area is. Some of the houses are palatial, others are apartment blocks. There is an area of shops and restaurants plus of course a huge mall which boasts the usual hundreds of shops and cinemas, but also has a replica of the lost city of Atlantis. On the way back home I am stopping over here and staying in the Palms so will be interested to come and see this.
General observations of Dubai is that it is very wealthy, very clean, and beautifully laid out. There are no beggars and no graffiti and almost zero crime rate. There is zero unemployment and the workers’ pay no tax apart from a vat (5%) gst tax introduced in 2018. Petrol costs the equivalent of 30 cents a litre. There is no gambling and as the country is mainly Muslim there not much drinking. There are hotels that sell no alcohol at all. The hotels and restaurants that cater to the tourist trade sell alcohol. If you are a resident and you want to drink you have to have an alcohol license that you need to have renewed every year. If you are caught drink driving you go to jail and pay a hefty fine. If you are not a citizen (Arabic or have permanent residency) then you are also deported.
We got back onto the green line to take us back to the mall which you have to go through to get to the world’s tallest building the Berj Khalifa. There is a building under construction already in Dubai that is going to be bigger.
The Berj Khalifa has 168 stories and as well as being the tallest, it is also the tallest free standing structure. We had got tickets to go up to the 148 floor viewing platform at 6pm to watch the sun set. This is the highest viewing platform. The lift up takes 75 seconds! to the 125 floor, where you have to change lifts to go up to 148.
We watched the sun set and then watched the lights coming on below and then went back down.
We only had to go through two gift shop corridors on the way out! We should have stopped to see the spectacular outside fountain at the mall but tiredness had set in time and it was time to get back to the hotel.
The big bus had stopped running so we went to get a taxi. We found out that you can’t just go out to where the taxis are outside the mall, you have to go through the mall to the waiting place where you queue. Thankfully it wasn’t busy, however the traffic was and it took a while to get back to the hotel.
The hotel has a number of restaurants so we decided to try the Persian one. I had fish stew which was very bland and Brett had lamb ribs which were quite nice. This was accompanied by a huge plate of salad to share, topped by a mound of fresh mint. The salad consisted of lots of chopped lettuce and 2 pieces of tomato.
We were going to get a bottle of wine but the wine here is very expensive. There was a bottle of Villa Maria on the menu which would cost at most $23 in NZ, but would have cost NZ equivalent $160 here. We had beer instead. Have to say I am not a fan of the beer here; it is fizzy but pretty tasteless – clearly I have been spoilt by all the NZ craft beer.