Visiting Dubai – Part 2

“Twelve days is not enough time to visit Dubai!”

Before we embarked on our journey I heard this statement from different relatives (and cab drivers) several times. I thought No way, twelve days is more than enough. My kids start to beat each other up after five! Terrible but true. We seem to have a limit to how much time we can be trapped together in one place.

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Notice the irritation on my husband’s face. He’s saying, “Take the damn picture already.”

Boy was I wrong. I think we could have spent an entire month in Dubai and still not seen it all. It’s packed with opportunities to sightsee, shop and entertain yourself in ways not available in other countries. After all, how many times have you skied inside a mall? How about visiting an aquarium or petting penguins . . . also inside a mall?

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Because of the variety of options I highly recommend visiting a site like TripAdvisor to plan how you’ll spend your time. In some places reservations are required and are easily secured online before you go. Like the time we had tickets to go inside the Burg Al Arab. They took one look at my husband’s t-shirt and turned us away from the guard station.

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So we had to watch this rich person land his helicopter from the outside.

Our family each picked a few “must do” items. On our list was: dune bashing, strolling in the Miracle Garden, petting penguins, mall shopping, skiing, riding the world’s fastest roller coaster at Ferrari World, swimming in the Gulf of Oman, seeing the fountains at Burj Khalifa and sightseeing in general.

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The inside view of dune bashing.

Twelve days was not enough.

If you enjoy people watching the place is a smorgasbord. I swear I felt like the whole world was there: Saudis, Americans, Kuwaitis, Indians, Europeans, Asians and people groups I couldn’t even identify. It was mesmerizing.

 

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I don’t think we have this store in America.

We went during high season so if you’re not into crowds, I’d suggest going another time. But not in summer or during Ramadan (June 6  because as one Bengali cab driver told me, “You can go dancing at the club but music is not allowed.” Nor is eating or drinking during the day. So . . .yeah.

Whenever you go be aware that Dubai is a city under construction – they’re even building in the ocean. Our view was obstructed by the building of the Dubai Eye which is like the London Eye – only bigger of course. But our view from the hotel was amazing.

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The view from the Amwaj Rotana in JBR

It’s fast and noisy place with few truly peaceful moments but a unique opportunity to see a city taking shape before your very eyes. We will definitely go back again . . . and again.

Travel: Visiting Dubai – Part 1

“How was your trip to Dubai, did you feel safe?”

“How do they treat their women? Did you have to wear a burka?”

“Can you drink alcohol?”

“Where exactly is Dubai anyway?”

“Did you see that hotel fire on New Year’s Eve?”

These were just some of the questions friends and acquaintances peppered me with when I got home earlier this month. The questions were interesting, amusing and made me aware just how little we Americans know about the Middle East. So here’s a snapshot and quick history of this fascinating place.

 

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Some of the many skyscrapers

Dubai is one of seven emirates that make up the federation of the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.). Six of them were founded in 1971 and the seventh in 1972. Emirate is another name for sheikdom and each one is ruled by a sheik – an Arab ruler or prince. It’s located along the Persian (Arabian) Gulf and borders Saudi Arabia and Oman.

This vibrant, innovative and luxurious place is defined by its wealth and extravagance. Although it’s Islamic, they are very tolerant of other religions and welcome tourists and expats with warm hospitality. It may surprise people to know they’re strong allies of the U.S.

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This Christmas tree in our hotel was too big to fit in the picture!

I wore my every day outfits and of course didn’t have to wear a burka, although they’re prevalent among religious Muslim women. However, in respect to the country, it’s important to wear modest clothing in most places. We actually bought my daughters some clothes before we left because we live in a beach town and flaunting shoulders and bellies isn’t acceptable there.

Dubai defied my expectations and I was surprised to discover how “western” it seems. Picture a clean (and by clean I mean sparkling) New York City. I felt safer there than I have in any other city I’ve visited. They’re extremely safety conscious and security cameras are everywhere because tourism is their chief export.

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Christmas display at JBR

You can get anything you want but pork is hard to find – a pork license is required! Alcohol isn’t served in restaurants but is easily obtained in hotels. Drinking is allowed in private homes, however, drunkenness is frowned upon. Not only will it get you in trouble from the police, you can be expelled from the country. Also, alcohol is super expensive, often costing more than the meals itself. If you want to drink, I suggest purchasing some liquor from the duty free shops at the airport for personal use.

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Diamonds are a girl’s best friend

We stayed in the Jumeira Beach Resort (JBR) area located on the gulf. We left our hotel early on New Year’s Eve as it’s a prime party area packed with tourists. Instead, we went celebrated with family at amazing party in the suburbs. Like many people, we watched the inferno at The Address Hotel on television. It was a real testament to the ability of the fire department – with no loss of life, thank God! At midnight, several of us kissed our loved ones and drove to the side of the highway and watched the fireworks with hundreds of other folks. Months of planning and millions of dollars were spent on the dazzling display.

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New Year’s Eve with family

It was an incredible way to start the new year!