Dubai has become one of the world’s top tourist destinations. Rightly so, with all the interesting buildings and skyscraper, huge shopping malls, good public transport, nice beaches and deserts and of course lots of sun! And now that they bagged the World EXPO 2020 with their theme “Connecting Minds, Creating the future”, it will definitely attract millions more of visitors.
Last year my husband and I went to Dubai for a short visit as it was anyway our layover from the Philippines back to Germany. My sister and her husband live there together with our youngest sister so it was fairly convenient on our part (having our personal tour guide and chauffeur plus free accommodations!!! sweet ;-)).
We only had four days so we intended to experience Dubai to the fullest in this short time we had. We tried to fit in everything in our schedule and here are the highlights and some personal tips about things to do in Dubai:
Dubai has a lot of malls of different shapes and sizes and of course, they have one of the largest in the world, if not the largest, the Dubai Mall. Going to malls in Dubai is more than just for shopping or dining... it’s an experience all on its own.
So make sure that you make time to visit these malls at least:
One of the largest malls in the world and still expanding, Dubai Mall offers varieties of shops, restaurants, and entertainment. A whole day is not enough to see the entire mall but be sure to see, in the least, these two highlights:
The famous Dubai Aquarium holds the world record for having the largest viewing panel. This aquarium houses more than 33,000 live animals including about 400 sharks and rays.
And do not miss to watch the Dubai Fountain, the world’s largest dancing fountain, in action. Shows are daily, twice in the afternoon that starts at 1 pm but the evening shows are much better, starts from 6 pm until 11:30 pm with 30 minutes interval. Now, I will give you an insider tip, reserve a table at T.G.I. Friday’s and ask for a table on their veranda. This will give you a perfect view to watch the fountain while relaxing and having a great dinner.
IBN Battuta Mall
This is the world’s largest themed mall. It was named after a famous Arabic explorer and so the theme is about the various travels he had made around the world. Make sure to see the entire mall from one end to the other as we did. It was like entering a different time and place with every section you visit.
Mall of the Emirates
Before Dubai Mall, Mall of Emirate (MOE) used to be the biggest mall in, well, whole Emirates. It houses the first indoor ski resort and snow park in the Middle East, the Ski Dubai with 22,500 square meters of ski area. Tip: If you are looking to buy presents for people back home at reasonable prices, check the Carrefour Hypermarket on the ground floor.
Go “At the Top”!!!
See Dubai from the top. At the Top is the observation deck on the 124th floor of Burj Khalifa, which is only the tallest building in the world.
Being At the Top is not free but if you contact them early enough and get a schedule, tickets are cheaper AED125 for adults and AED95 for children 4-12 years old instead of AED400 for both.
If you can, get inside Burj Al Arab
Ok, note that I said if you can because the Burj al Arab is not open to all visitors who want to go inside. Only guests staying at the hotel or dining at the eateries or those with good connections can see the interior of “the world’s only 7-star hotel”.
Luckily, we are one of the later 🙂 or else we will not be able to see inside as I doubt we can afford to stay even just for an overnight or eat at one of the very expensive eateries without choking.
Here's what's waiting for you at the lobby upon entering:
The architecture of this building from outside to inside is just amazing. At the entryway, grand staircases at both sides with a fountain in the middle will welcome you. Floor to ceiling aquariums at the sides of the staircase will entertain you as you go up. And it just gets better from there. Too bad though that at the time we came to visit, the underwater restaurant was closed to visitors.
And this from inside Burj al Arab, looking up.
Take a journey to Dubai’s Past!!!
If you want to see how Dubai was and how it all began, then I recommend going to the Dubai Museum. It is housed in the Al Fahidi Fort, the oldest existing building in Dubai that was built in 1787. The museum showcases a rich collection of objects including local antiquities as well as artifacts at the time when Dubai was trading with African and Asian countries. You will also find dioramas showing the old Arabian lifestyle before they discovered oil. One point of interest is the exhibit of 3,000- 4,000 years old complete grave dug from the Al-Qusais archaeological site.
Textile souk- closed for afternoon siesta:
From the museum, continue your adventure from the past and see the old Dubai, walk along Bur Dubai and pass by the Grand Mosque, although non-Muslims and not allowed to enter the mosque but can take a peek at the “minaret” (lighthouse) and take pictures. As you walk on you will pass by the Textile Souk where you will find all sorts of embroidery, weaves, and colorful draperies, clothes and fabrics. Walking a bit farther out to Khor Dubai (Dubai Creek) take an “Abra” (water taxi) for only AED1 to get to the other side of the creek to where the Gold and Spice Souks are.
This is the Abra or water taxi:
At the Gold Souk, you will see various jewelry designs and assortments and if you are into gold, this is the place to buy them. This is also where the world record holder for the heaviest gold ring is.
One of the many stores at gold souk:
And here is the heaviest gold ring in the world, the Star of Taiba:
As you keep on walking, just follow your nose and it will lead you to the Spice Souk, where you will find, in colorful displays, all different kinds of spices. Foreigners need not worry about language barriers in this area, you will learn that most of the shopkeepers are multi-lingual and speak in various tongues.
Some of the spices on display at the Spice Souk:
German stores in Dubai???? We didn't find any but German-speaking shopkeepers, a lot!
Join a Dessert Safari!!!
This is the part I enjoyed the most, I must say. It is a half day event and it is better if you book for it in advance. The drive on dunes was really exciting like having a ride on a roller coaster only better. But no worries, the drivers are very well trained and are given special licenses to be able to do this. After the exhilarating ride, we went to see camels in a camel farm for taking pictures. Then we were brought to an Arabian Bedouin Camp in the middle of the desert where other visitors were brought as well.
This is our Arabian Bedouin camp:
Arabian coffee and dates greeted us as we enter the camp. We also had some Shawarma while waiting for our turn to have our Henna tattoos, and all the while hot and cold drinks were served at all times. Take note that all these are included in the package tour and it is not expensive at all.
There are some souvenir shops and a store that sells carpets. Other activities were going on but we were content to wait while watching the sunset. At around 7 pm dinner the Arabian barbeque buffet table was opened for dinner and food was really good and there were a lot! After eating the entertainment began and it lasted until around 9 pm and afterwards, we headed back to Dubai.
watching as the sun sets, beautiful!:
Take a boat ride to or a Dhow cruise??? Or both
There are lots of cruises or boat trips to choose from. If you are staying longer and have enough time, you might opt for a Dhow cruise that includes dinner on board. You may also choose which view you prefer, the old or the new Dubai as they offer the dinner cruise either along Dubai Creek, that shows the charming old tradition of Dubai or along Dubai Marina, which displays the more sophisticated Dubai, where the new and modern skyscrapers and the upscale residences are.
Dhow cruise along Dubai Marina:
As for us, we took a ferry ride excursion from Dubai Ferry. We chose the route from Dubai Marina that took us half round Palm Jumeirah and back. There is also another route starting from Al Ghubaiba that gives visitors a closer look of The World Islands. Both are man-made islands, Palm Jumeirah, named so because of the palm tree shape of the island, is where Dubai's rich and famous reside, while the World Islands is of course shaped into the continents of the world.
View of Dubai while on-board the ferry:
Take the Dubai Metro to Atlantis
We wanted to get a closer look of Palm Jumeirah and decided that the best way to do it is to take the metro that runs through the center of the palm. While inside the train, you can have a glimpse of how Dubai's cream of the crop live. Each one of the houses has its own beachfront, how cool is that.
View inside Palm Jumeirah from inside the metro:
At the end of the ride, the last stop would be Atlantis, a five-star hotel beach resort. If you have time (and the funds) you can enjoy their marine, waterpark and other amenities by booking a day pass. But you can also take a look around for free or if you are famished, there are restaurants within the premises.
Atlantis, The Palm:
See the wonderful Miracle Garden
You have to be in Dubai at the right time for this since this is not open the whole year round, they usually close for the summer season when it gets too hot and will make it impossible for the flowers to survive. Unfortunately, we were not able to see the Miracle Garden although we were there at the right time, the problem was we did not have enough of it. My sisters and brother-in-law went to see it and say that it was too bad that we missed this one. It only means another reason to come back for a visit But next time we come to visit, it will be on the top of the list.
Our special thanks to my sister and her husband, Andrea and Jonnel David for the free accommodation, pick-up and transfers ( :-P) and for showing us around and the special places in Dubai that otherwise we will never see or know about and also to my youngest sister Dawn, for accompanying us when she had the time away from work.
Until next time...