5474km away from home. My first trip on my own. What could possibly go wrong? This was also the first time I travelled with Emirates and I don’t think I could travel with another airline again. The economy seats; spacious and comfy with the service on board first class and I was kept occupied with the online entertainment services and finally watched Finding Dory!
My hotel was a hidden gem (find it here) within the Gold Souk, which was a sight on its own! It is located in eastern Dubai, Deira. I had never seen so much gold before! Gold from ceiling to floor and the Souk stretched as far as I could see! All the pieces were so ornate and beautifully designed.
Top tip: Exchanging gold can be confusing and difficult, especially as the price per ounce can change on any given day. The screens show the buying, selling, dealing and trading prices and can differ from each place, so pay close attention and learn to haggle!
Adjacent to the Gold Souk is the Old Souk (also known as the Textile Souk or Bur Dubai Souk), where you can buy fabrics, clothes and souvenirs. It is located on the southern side of the Creek and you can catch the metro and alight at either Al Fahidi Metro Station or Al Ghubaiba Metro Station. For the Gold Souk, Al Ras Metro Station is the nearest station. You can also catch a water taxi, known as an Abra to cross the creek from as little as 1 AED (0.21p)!
About 15 minutes walk away is the Naif souk, you can find traditional Emirati clothing, such as the kandura for men and abaya for women. The kandura is a long white shirt, that finishes at the ankles woven in cotton or wool and the abaya is a full-length black over coat.
All of the above can be done in a single day, it is the old part of Dubai which is more traditional – maybe something you wouldn’t imagine of when you think about Dubai.
Top tip: Some of the hotels have really delicious food and usually cheaper than you would find in restaurants and cafes. Worth having a look at the menu if they have one.
The new Dubai however is a sight to behold! I couldn’t get over at how this state is essentially built in a desert over the last 50 odd years, due to the discovery of crude oil. Dubai has grown into a travellers paradise. The first place I wanted to visit was the Dubai Mall, (the largest shopping Mall in the world by total area) and Burj Khalifah (the tallest skyscraper and structure in the world) standing at a massive 829.8 m (2,722ft) high.
To get to the top of the Burj Khalifah, you have to go through the Mall to the ground floor (opposite the restaurants). I bought a ticket through Dubai Groupon (find it here), but just remember to activate the account before hand as you will be turned away when you get to the fast track lane. The fast track ticket allowed me to skip the queue in front of about 200 people! Just be ready for people to stare at you! The elevator ride to the 124th floor is super fast (less than a minute to climb) and it takes you directly to the observation decks where you get a new perspective of the Dubai Skyline. I went at night (ticket through Groupon doesn’t have a set time or date) and I managed to see the water fountain show. The show is jets of water reaching 140m high synced to lights and music. A more detailed schedule can be found here.
The next day I went to the Marina, I took the Dubai Marina red line metro to get there and then hopped on a boat ride on the Persian Gulf. On the ride I saw so many of the famous buildings, like the Princess Tower, Cayan Tower, Burj Al Arab, Ocean Heights and the Atlantis hotel to name just a few. The boat trip was around the Palm Jumeirah Islands and from space it looks like a palm tree! You can also take a sunset ride and have a dinner cruise on board. The prices depend on which company you go with.
On the same red line, I got off at Ibn Batutta, I heard there was this really fancy Starbucks. Usually I avoid it, but this one I just had to check out as it was beautifully decorated. Dubai doesn’t do things by half at all! I had roasted turkey in a toasted ciabatta bread with an extra chocolatey hot chocolate.
In the evening I went to the famous JBR (Jumeirah Beach Walk) beach for a walk and to dip my feet in the sea, the beach stretches out a long distance. Some evenings and even during the day there are activities going on, check it out here. There are plenty of cafes and restaurants along the walk, I stopped by at Mövenpick hotel for an ice cream and another little cafe for a mint mocktail.
Top tip: You can use Jumeirah Lake Towers Metro at one end, and Dubai Marina Metro on the other end of Jumeirah Beach Walk.
The Chillout Ice lounge is seriously cool, it’s basically a cafe in sub-zero temperatures. I found out about it on Pinterest (check out my Pinterest here!). It’s hidden right at the back of Times Square on Sheikh Zayed Road. You have to pay, but it’s really worth it. Fee is AED 80 for adults and AED 60 for children between 5-13, then you have to buy food/drinks inside. You do get your first drink free, either a coffee, tea or hot chocolate. You are provided with a jacket, hat, gloves, socks and thermal shoes, so don’t worry about lugging thermal clothings around all day just for the cafe! There are always activities going on, so check out their website here.
Top tip: If you book online with agents for the ice cafe, it’s much cheaper.
In the evening I decided to have a look at BoxPark. The concept of BoxPark is colourful shipping containers stacked to create a unique shopping experience, (similar to Container Park in Las Vegas and BOXPARK in London.) It has many shops, and it’s nice to look at, but unless shopping is your thing, there’s no point in going. It took me almost an hour and a half to get there and I had to catch a bus and a metro. I did however have a meal in the evening at a restaurant opposite the bus station. I had Sturgeon fish with pomegranate and a freshly squeezed orange juice. Oh and by the way all bus stations have air con, so you’re not caught out in the blazing Dubai heat. Neat!
On a Sunday there is usually an open air cinema on a rooftop at the Wafi at the Pyramids, you know you’re there because the building looks just like a pyramid. Turns out it was a wasted effort, when I got there it seemed non-existent, I even asked a few people working there, but they had no idea what it was, so I didn’t get a chance to see it. Turns out they were taking a break for a couple of weeks. Just my luck!
One of the reasons for my trip was becuase I had been offered a job as a graphic designer, in the end I declined, but thought it would be nice to check out Dubai and what it would be like to live there etc. I went to business bay and the design district, where most people work and where the job would’ve been. It was basically just a load of fancy buildings which I wouldn’t have been able to enter! So another wasted effort! But oh well, a bit more of Dubai seen!
I had such a fun time at Ski Dubai (find out more here). It‘s an indoor ski centre at the Mall of Emirates. I don’t know how to ski but luckily there is so much more to do there! Prices range from AED200 to AED510, depending on how much access you want to the park. There is a ski school to help you learn or you can just have fun on the slopes. You can go snowboarding, tobogganing, go down the tube slides, rolling around in a giant Zorb ball, sight see on a ski lift and meet Penguins! You can also warm up by getting hot beverages. Get ready for steamy glasses!
The last thing I did on my trip was a desert safari. This was a highlight of my trip. It cost me about AED100, which was cheap considering how much was offered in the evening session. We started off with 15 minutes of dune bashing, you are driven in an air conditioned land cruiser by an experienced driver to the main desert area. You then have an option to go on a camel ride so you can get your own photo taken. If you want a longer ride, you have to pay a bit more, I’m not sure exactly how much, as I decided not to. I did buy the photo after they offered it to me a few times. I gave in right at the end and bought it at a cheaper price. Wearing traditional Arabian clothing you can pose for a sunset photoshoot, as well as getting a traditional henna tattoo. The desert safari includes live entertainment including a fire show, tanoura dance and a belly dance show. You are offered welcome drinks of gahwa, (Arabic spiced coffee) or tea and dates, followed by a barbecue buffet dinner with options for vegetarian and non-vegetarian food it also includes drinks.
Top tip: You can buy a ticket online through Groupon, just remember to activate your account. You will need a printed ticket, most hotel receptions can accommodate you.
5474km away from home. My first trip on my own. Turns out nothing went wrong!