When we arrived at the Dubai International Airport, my first thought was: what kind of airport is this? A huge shopping mall? I had no idea what I was still going to see…
Are you feeling the heat? The sun on your skin? Have you seen the skyscrapers? That Ferrari over there? Is that really a shopping mall? An American hospital? A Canadian University? Wait, if you are at the desert what is that beach doing over there? Welcome to Dubai, the most populous city of the United Arab Emirates and one of the most extravagant cities I’ve ever been.
In Dubai, the possibilities are innumerous: to shop at the biggest shopping mall of the world – the Dubai Mall – and try not to get lost among its more than 1,000 stores, where you can also ice skate and dive with sharks in one of the largest aquarium of the world; to test your fear of heights by going up the tallest building of this planet, the Burj Khalifa; to pay at least 20 EUR for a cocktail at the Skyview Bar of the only 7 stars hotel in the world – the Burj al Arab – where the cocktails are exotic and the view is breathtaking; trust me, its worth it.
Maybe you want to buy souvenirs and gold at the souks, but if you don’t want to be bothered with salesmen begging you to buy something with them, give it a try at the Souk Madinat Jumeirah; pay a visit to the desert just around the corner and ride a camel; what about having dinner at a dhow cruise? Or you can just decide to relax at the beach and see how long you can take the heat!
To me everything in Dubai seemed to be a little too much: a competition of skyscrapers – the tallest, the most luxurious or the most intriguing – and of the most expensive cars. A city between the sea and the desert, where you can go skiing or ice skating while its 40C outside; where you can find food from everywhere and inhabitants of the entire world; and where everything seems to be possible, thanks to oil!
Dubai, an intriguing and surprising city; where money, gold and luxury are highly exposed. A paradise for shopping addicts and business investments. An extravagant city of a young country dependent on oil, which welcomes approximately 8 million tourists per year.
Good to know before you go
Official currency: dirham
Temperature: varies throughout the year from 14C to 40C, sometimes reaching 50C.
Hottest months: June – September
It can be a bit tricky. Normally you apply for your visa through the airline company you are traveling with. Visit the website of the airline and apply online, you will get a maximum of 30 days stay as a tourist. Some things will facilitate getting your visa, like being married to a national of one of these countries. More information about getting a visa you can find here.
Islam. In the UAE there are many rules related to Islamism religion you should be aware of before going, for example: no kissing and drinking alcohol in public places, don’t take pictures of locals without permission and women should always cover their shoulders and knees.
Can only be found in liquor stores and you should have a special card, which authorizes you to buy it. So unless you are a restaurant or bar owner you cannot buy alcohol in a liquor store in the UAE. But, of course, you are allowed to drink alcohol, only in hotels restaurants and bars. I warn you: it won’t be cheap. You can enjoy the duty free at the airport and buy some.
What to pack:
As a man: t-shirts, shorts, and jeans. Simple!
As a woman: any piece of clothing that covers your shoulders and goes at least until your knees. Sounds simple, the problem is: don’t forget it is going to be very hot and that at the same time you should remember to be respectful. You might want to pack jeans, t-shirts and dresses.
General: sunscreen, sunglasses, bathing suit, flip flops, sneakers, hats and anything that will make you feel comfortable with the heat!
What to wear: now you might be wondering how is to be on the beach in a country with rules that restricts what you wear. I tell what, wear what you normally do when you go to the beach. Yes you’re allowed to wear a bikini, that is why as soon as you get there you will see a huge sign filled with rules, and one of them is: taking photos is prohibited (that is why I don’t have pictures of this sign nor of the beach for that matter).
Safety: in every beach there is a flag that alerts you to weather you can or can’t enter the water. So if the sign is red, don’t enter, there are probably jellyfishes or a snake. No it’s not that bad, but it can happen.
Useful link: http://www.dubai.ae/en
Facts about my trip:
1. Travel companion: W, my husband
2. Airline company: Qatar Airways
3. When: October/November 2013
4. How long we stayed: 4 days
5. Where we stayed: Mercure Gold Hotel Al Mina Road Dubai
6. W and me were in our honeymoon, which was weird having to watch out and not kiss in public. But its ok, then we went to the Maldives.
7. We rented a car with GPS at the airport, though we ended having to use a paper map to find our hotel since our car didn’t have the GPS we ordered! It took us almost 2 hours to get from the airport to our hotel. What are we without technology?!
8. Would we go back? Yes!