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2023 Dubai Redo

So after seeing photos of my trip to Dubai last year, a couple of friends asked if I would plan a week there for them and take them. The reason I said yes is that my daughter lives here and my friends are fun people to travel with - and it’s the right time of year! :) They wanted to see the “opulent” side of Dubai (which isn’t hard). So my choices below were based on that, while also trying to balance cost. I thought I would do a quick report again, although many things are a repeat from last year…..

Day 1: Slow start after a 1 am arrival.

Pool sitting - then Shopping at Souk Madinat Jumeirah, a maze of small cute shops inside a building designed to remind you of elaborate tents. Good views of the Burj Alarab.

Dinner at Arabian Teahouse Jumeirah Beach: restaurant chain featuring traditional not very expensive Arabic food. This one was small with no inside tables and about 8 or 9 tables outside right on the beach. I do love this chain.

Day 2: Devoted to the extremes that are the Dubai Mall.

Shopping (I watched), followed by an afternoon elevator ride to the 125th floor of the Burj Khalifa for 360° views. But the mall has an ice rink, huge wall fountain feature, aquarium, dinosaur, plus every kind of store you can think of - and a LARGE food court.

Evening abra (traditional wooden) boat to watch the Dubai Fountain Show from the water. I like water, so even though it was short, it was my favorite part of the day.

Day 3: A day for a bit more of old Dubai.

Heritage Express tour: This bus tour, decorated to resemble elements of a traditional tent home, leaves from the Al Seef area and drives by some of the older areas of Dubai (none of which qualify as old in the European sense). It ends with a stop for tea and dates next to a mosque. However the part my friends liked the most is your guide is an Emirati and open to all kinds of questions about the culture. Emirati make up only about a tenth of the UAE population and you really will rarely come in contact with them.

Abra (boat) across Dubai Creek (10 minutes) and a wander through the spice, gold, and fabric souks (markets).

Global Village evening: one friend described it as Epcot on steroids. It is a fantastically lit up collection of buildings meant to evoke many different countries, each one selling products their country is known for. There are lots of inexpensive food stands for dinner and coincidentally we ended up there on family night.

Day 4: Abu Dhabi and dinner

We checked out of the first hotel, taxied to the second where we dropped luggage.

Abu Dhabi: I opted to pay for a half day tour instead of renting a car. Another option would have just been to book a taxi both ways. All viable options. The tour picked us up at our hotel and returned us there, along with about 5 other people.

The mosque itself is beautiful. I had been last year and was happy to go again. It’s free but you have to make an online reservation if coming on your own (which is easy).

Al Hadheerah: A beautiful outdoor restaurant at the Bab Al Sham resort in the desert. There is a dizzying array of dishes: meats, fish, salads, vegetables, breads, rice, soups, and desserts. The entertainment includes instrumentalists, singer, dancers, and camel/horseback show. Not cheap but really nice. My daughter joined us so she drove, but even at an hour away, a taxi is an easy solution.

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Day 5: Pool/beach and Desert Safari:
Having moved to a resort with large pools and private beach access on the trunk of the Palm yesterday, we spent the morning here.

Desert Safari: Safaris are pretty generic and usually composed of “dune-bashing” (riding the sand dunes at top speed in a death-defying experiment with gravity), dinner, a falcon encounter, and some kind of entertainment. We opted for the only option that is slightly different - which features either an hour’s camel ride or a ride in vintage Land Rovers through a desert nature preserve instead of dune-bashing. And chose the camel ride.

Dinner is under tents, low seating, and is meant to introduce people to typical Bedouin food that would have been prepared for company. Included is pick up and drop off at your hotel.

Day 6: A Mix

A morning tour of a Special Needs School: One of my friends has a son with Down’s Syndrome and the other works with special needs students in the public schools. The week before we left, the mom wondered if we could tour a school teaching special needs students. I found a couple of options, times we could get there, and she emailed to ask. And we were invited to come visit!

I will say this was one of the best things we did. I won’t go into details about it all (a lot to write, although I am happy to, if someone PMs to ask), but it was a priceless easy casual visit talking to kids, getting hugs, and singing with them.

Mall of the Emirates Ski Dubai: Grabbed a taxi from the school and went to this mall to sit with a cup of coffee and watch the indoor skiers, snowboarders, etc.

Afternoon Tea on the Queen Elizabeth 2: Lovely afternoon in a slightly unusual setting. Plus, it was dinner…..

Day 7: One last food extravaganza

Brunch (a Dubai tradition): After morning packing and a bit of pool sitting, we headed to the Taj Exotica Resort Raia Rooftop Restaurant for brunch (which translated means all you can eat and drink all afternoon). It was fun to see yet one more resort area and the views and food were fabulous. There must be hundreds to choose from: by type of food, price, location, vibe, etc.

Monorail from Atlantis to Nakheel Mall to go up to the 52nd floor of “The View from the Palm” for 360° views of the Palm all lit up after dark. Then early bed for an early morning departure!

Lodging:
4 nights at the Grand Hyatt Dubai, through booking.com
4 nights at Hotel Fairmont the Palm, booked direct

We could easily have stayed in the same place all 8 nights, but the first location was a little closer to downtown and the Fairmont was more expensive, but on the Palm with a beach. So we split the difference. Dubai can be - no, IS - a bewildering place to decide on hotels. It helps to decide what your purpose is and what you are doing. You could easily pick a place to just stay and lounge at all the time. Or you can fill your time with activities or shopping - and base your location on where those activities are.

Flights:

It’s a long way…. I left 2 days early and flew business on Royal Jordanian with my American miles, with changes in Chicago and Amman (and spent 2 nights with my daughter). My friends flew Turkish, with one change in Istanbul.

Entertainer:

An app with a lot of 2 for 1 offers. It didn’t do us any good for hotels but we saved some money using it for other things.

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Taxis:
Taxis are easy and everywhere. All but one time, we took a regular yellow taxi with a meter. They are relatively inexpensive and very reliable. A few times we were offered a private car at a significant mark-up, but always told the price ahead (so no scamming). Once we needed to move quickly and accepted but refused the other few times. Hotels all seem to have a doorman or two to help with the taxi process. The malls all have a designated drop off and pick up location, with organized lines (if needed) and security in charge. The Careen app lets you call a regular taxi if one isn’t handy.

Thoughts:
Dubai actually seems to be a good place to live the resort lifestyle - but it’s not my thing. But it’s also possible to live here without living the opulent lifestyle - just like any big city. Still from the U.S., it’s a long way to come for either way. Maybe not so bad if not so far.

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Thanks for your report! You have adventurous friends. It sounds like an interesting week. Dubai is not on my list but it is interesting to read about it as I sit here on a dark, rainy morning picturing the sun and lots of delicious meals. You have written a great review for those who might be interested in visiting!

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I’ve flown through Dubai airport twice now. Last time on our way to Egypt, we would have loved to stopover because the World’s Fair was happening. Sigh. Maybe next time we will have time to do a stopover. Thank you for your report, a fascinating part of our world. 🌍

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Great trip report! A former client of mine lives there. She is a vet at the Sultan’s equine hospital and kept telling me I should come over and visit. I never took her up on it and now it’s been long enough that I probably wouldn’t, but it is a fascinating country.

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So interesting to read about. We should all be so lucky as to have a daughter living in Dubai... and other interesting places to visit. Thanks for letting us ride along on your fun trip!

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Thanks, all! But now, other than leaving my kid, I am ready to get to Budapest for a week!

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thanks for the report, TexasTravelmom. It sounds interesting but the conspicuous consumption wouldn't be for me. I worry that they are turning their back on the environment. Glad you and your friends had a good time, and mostly that you saw your daughter!!!

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1977 posts

Thank you for your trip report it was an interesting read and it sounded like you had a good time seeing the "good"side of Dubai.

Unfortunately I couldn't go after reading how they treat the migrant workers on the bottom half of society. Yes,Dubai is glitzy and glam for the select few. For the migrants who actually do the labor it is far different.

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Well, this popped up again with what I view as a spam post - and have reported.

heather, I agree with conditions for some of the migrants. I know I have never come in contact with the many workers who do the manual labor of building and maintaining buildings and roads - who come from the other very poor Arab nations surrounding the UAE.

However we should be careful about lumping everyone into one category. I spoke with taxi drivers and migrants who work in the tourist industry and universally those people talked about how much better life is for their families because they have a job and can send money back home (I love having conversations with random people). It had a very similar ring to the stories I heard from taxi drivers in Warsaw who were from places like Georgia and Tajikistan. It’s that age-old dilemma of whether we help or hurt by withholding our travel dollars.

I looked back at my report and saw I did not mention in this year’s report that the only reason I go is because I have a child who lives and works there as a teacher and I visit her. Glitz and glam are not my thing but my friends wanted to see it. So I took them.

As a funny aside, my child was watching tv with her friends the other night and looked at who was gathered in her living room: with 5 of them with 5 different kinds of jobs, 5 countries were represented. It is the most international place I have ever been.

So…. I never suggest Dubai as a place to go because resort living not my thing. It is far far far from perfect, but, as with various aspects of culture in the U.S., they are making progress. I tend to see the good everywhere I go, while knowing (like everywhere) everything is not good.