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Dubai as I go - trip report

I am experimenting with the “report as you go” format for this part of my current trip. :)

I am currently in Dubai for an 11 night trip. Back in 2018, I spent two nights here just in transit on the way to Phuket (one night each way) and made the mistake of saying it was fine but I never needed to come back - so what did fate do but have my daughter move here. Lol! Anyway, I am back for a nice long visit. We’ll play tourist in the evenings and weekends and I will do some sightseeing on my own, however much I feel like, next week during the days.

You know, it is a long way over here from DFW. I originally had this trip planned for February and was glad, after Omicron came along, that I had rescheduled (for other reasons) to April. I am still an economy traveler but I got a really good deal from American for business class flights for miles and very little in tax/cash. Did I mention it’s a long way? Lol. So I flew Qatar Airways in their new Q-Suite and it was beyond amazing. I flew 14 hrs to Doha and changed for a 1 hr ish flight on to Dubai (was also a Q-Suite). I am going to be sad to go back to economy next trip. Lol! Real life!

Essentially I had free flights - and a free place to stay. Not a bad way to visit Dubai. Keeping my fingers crossed she moves elsewhere next year, though. :)

The UAE doesn’t mess around with antigen tests - it is all PCR and easily available. Just a couple of months ago, they did away with the “within 48 hr of departure” PCR test requirement for entrance if you are vaccinated. I was ready for it but I still had a half second of panic when I checked in and Qatar asked for my PCR test. Ha! It was fine - the agent was just forgot. Masks are still required inside here but not outside, although yesterday I saw laxness with that.

Jet lag hit badly this trip. I don’t usually have jet lag when I fly to Europe. But Friday I woke up at 2am, Saturday at 3am, and I seem to be back at 2am today as I write. Yuck.

Friday started off with a bang. She reserved breakfast at Atmosphere on the 122nd floor of the Burj Khalifa, which has 163 floors - but I think the 148 observation deck is as high as you can go. We stopped at 122. :) The restaurant has 360° views from its various dining rooms. Breakfast was great - and a 2 hr affair. The views are great and interesting, but I couldn’t call them beautiful. :)

Afterwards we drove through a clinic for a PCR test. We just drove up into one of 3 lanes, the technician came to the window for our documents and payment - then the test, and we were on our way in just a few minutes. The PCR test was quick and easy - and necessary for getting inside at any public buildings in the next Emirate Abu Dhabi, where we are now (Sat. night) and Sunday. I would say she had the email results in about 8 hours.

Saturday afternoon we went to afternoon tea on the QE2, which is parked in the harbor. I do love afternoon tea. Again a 2 hr affair, it was very nice and atmospheric. You can book any meal there, as well as booking a room - for something different. (I think Dubai may be all about “different”.) There is a tour of the ship, which we didn’t do - but we got a mini tour on the way from the “hotel lobby”, a separate building just in front of the ship furnished with original decorations, seating, etc. from the ship after its last voyage, to the Queen’s Grill. Our guide actually worked on board the ship for 6 years before it was retired and had made the crossing multiple times before that. He had met many celebrities, including the queen; but his favorite was the lady who was rescued from the Titanic as a 2 month old baby, whose mother didn’t make it into a life boat.

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1936 posts

Then it was on to Abu Dhabi - about an hour and a half drive. We are staying the night in a Hilton Resort and it is gorgeous. (She has a friend who works for Hilton who is staying tonight also and we have the room at the staff discount - or we would not be here.) So far I feel like I accidentally fell into a movie…..

If you haven’t been here, you should know about the Entertainer. It’s an app with a bunch of 2 for 1 offers (or other discounts). You buy a package and then can access all the offers. Generally you use one offer and have recouped your cost. It looks a bit involved for a first time user - which I am not even yet, since she is doing all reservations and has it as a work benefit. But if you were here for vacation, I feel like you would definitely want it. We are doing lots of evening meals and touristy things this week and they will all be 2 for 1.

Today we visit the Grand Mosque and the Abu Dhabi Louvre, then back to Dubai. I hope I can stay awake…..

Posted by
2788 posts

How fabulous it all sounds. Enjoy your wonderful, real-life movie!

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1131 posts

Travelmom, I'm so glad you're posting about this trip! Very interesting to read about, it's not a place I would probably pick to go for a very long time, but I would never say no to one. I'm glad you are having a great time so far, and keep updating about the lovely perks you are enjoying!

Posted by
891 posts

Thank you for the report. I heard great things about Qatar Airways.

Is Dubai a very expensive city? I just wondered if I should check it out on transit at some point, but was intimidated by its high cost.

Posted by
5710 posts

Dubai has little soul and 99% of it has been built in the last 30 years, but it’s interesting to see how much can be achieved in such a short time. It has few natural attractions other than the creek.

I had 4 nights there in February 2020 en route to Sri Lanka, just before Covid hit. The temperature was pleasant, but a former work colleague who lives there said it would be hot by April.

I didn’t go to the QE2 in Dubai. This former cruise ship used to serve the transatlantic route and therefore has no historical connection to Dubai. The Burj was awesome but busy when I was there.

We had a reasonably priced local hotel Downtown. Food is good value unless you drink alcohol, which will triple the price of your meal. The tube line was an afterthought so is limited in where it serves, but is cheap and the efficient. Taxis were cheap.

Four nights was enough. Glad I have seen it, but I would try Oman next time.

Posted by
3357 posts

Dubai has little soul and 99% of it has been built in the last 30
years, but it’s interesting to see how much can be achieved in such a
short time. It has few natural attractions other than the creek.

Not to mention that it tries to portay itself as a modern nation, but once you scratch the surface a bit, it is ruled by religious laws. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-23381448

And there are a lot of other issues: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tJuqe6sre2I

Posted by
1236 posts

Thanks for the updates. There are many places I personally wouldn't go but I love to read travel diaries from everywhere. Keep going especially for those who are still at home being cautious.

And yes, once you fly business class, going coach loses something. I am finally getting rid of a credit card and I have a last international business flight planned using up my miles. After that it's back to premium economy at best...:(

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1936 posts

I will undoubtedly have some conclusions about Dubai at the end of my stay, but will hold off on those till I finish up. And I do know my experience will be different, just because I am mainly here to visit my daughter who has been living here for close to 2 years. :) Glad you are interested!

Yes, April can be really hot but these few days have not been. We’ll see how it progresses. That’s one reason I had originally planned on Feb. But alas….

Sunday in Abu Dhabi: my green pass status was checked everywhere, just like the rules say.

After a short trip to the Hilton Beach Club just for fun, we headed to the Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque. It is free to enter but you need a timed reservation - at least for now - as well as a negative test and vax card. I won’t go into detail about that because it will undoubtedly change soon. But it was well organized, well signed, and well enforced…..

It is a relatively new mosque, built between 1997-2004. It is light and bright, with an immense amount of detail: numerous pools, columns, colors, and 3 gorgeous chandeliers. Sheik Zayed, the Emirate leader responsible for building it, died in 2004 and is buried in the large center courtyard. Abu Dhabi is more conservative than Dubai and clothing for women visiting is strictly enforced. But, you know, you enter from the parking garage into a shopping mall before heading into the mosque itself. :) We brought appropriate clothing: long pants, long sleeves, and a scarf to completely cover our hair - but it was actually fun (and respectful, we thought) to pop into one of the shops and buy the abaya (complete with scarf) to wear over our clothes for the mosque itself. They used to loan them but stopped during Covid, I think. The scarf was slippery and I had trouble keeping it over my hair (the one I brought would have been easier and appropriate). Having seen pictures of the mosque, this was one place I really wanted to see. And I am glad I was able to. One interesting tidbit is that photos are allowed but photo stops are designated - and enforced. It really seemed to be more about keeping people who are taking photos out of the way of those who aren’t, as opposed to limiting where you could take them.

From there it was on to the Abu Dhabi Louvre. I don’t know what I expected here but not exactly this. First the dome covering the entire complex looks like a giant forest of vines from some angles. The exhibits are in small wings and they are grouped by topic (not country) and somewhat by age. The complex itself looks new with modern concrete lines. It is not a huge museum and we covered it pretty well in a couple of hours, but I can see if you read everything it could take longer. What made it a good visit for me is that a goodly number of the displays were from areas I personally haven’t seen as much from: Cyprus, Iran, Libya, Afghanistan, Syria, Turkey, and even Mexico - as well as the usual suspects. And artwork was a small percentage of what was there.

Then back to Dubai, nap, and a stop at the Spinney’s grocery store. :) Tomorrow I will venture out on my own during the day and then we’ll have an evening iftar.

Posted by
1268 posts

Interesting report, Travelmom! I had a former client who lived in Dubai - she was a vet at the Dubai Equine Hospital, and it was always interesting to hear her stories about living there. She was there for quite a while (with her young daughter) and liked it a lot.

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1936 posts

Mardee, I saw the sign for the Equine Hospital!

Taxis: I have downloaded the actual taxi app called Careem - but it works exactly like Uber. There are a number of things you can use it for: a larger car, taxi, groceries, food delivery, etc. The taxi choice is “hala taxi”. I have my credit card connected and have yet to wait more than 5 minutes.

Ok, Monday morning I hopped a taxi to the Dubai Miracle Garden. This is just a cute little seasonal place that has a multitude of flowers and statuary. I think I spent about an hour wandering. I paid a little extra inside to hold the falcon and let the handler take pictures with my phone. No idea what it had to do with flowers, but it was fun. :) After that I got a taxi to Shakespeare and Co. Cafe, which is a chain here for breakfast and lunch type food. Just cute and good.

Ramadan: During this month Muslims fast (both food and drink) from daybreak to dusk, then share a meal together with their families after dark. It is a month of prayer, fasting, reflection, Quran-reading, and charitable giving. Practically for a tourist this means: no eating or drinking or smoking is public but most restaurants are open and operating as normal, perhaps with shorter hours. Non-Muslims are expected to be respectful but not expected to practice abstinence themselves. My daughter is careful not to eat or drink in front of her students at school during the day. And days are shorter at schools this month.

Iftar is the meal after sunset. There are plenty of places to attend iftar at a hotel or resort or restaurant, which is what we did last night at a place called Bab Al Shams. It was impressive. The resort is out in the desert, with the “restaurant set up outside. Lights strung overhead, rugs over the desert sand, and easily 170 tables of all sizes. It was a buffet and I couldn’t even begin to count how many different things there were to eat - easily 100. After most people were finished eating, the shows started: dancing, singing, instrumentalists, horses and camels and goats, and more. I know it was touristy but far from everyone there was a tourist - I think it is more like a special occasion. This was a really cool benefit of being here during Ramadan.

Tuesday: I thought about the beach but that’s not as simple as it sounds. So I opted to head to the Arabian Teahouse chain for breakfast (closer to lunch time). It has quite a variety of Arabic food - I had a simple Tanoor bread and cheese - kind of like naan stuffed with halloumi cheese. And a “special date milkshake”. Mild date flavor and not as ice creamy as we might expect, but good! Then over to Souk Madinat Jumeirah mall for souvenir shopping in a really atmospheric building with views of the Burj Alarab.

I think tonight will be a “stay home and relax” night. :) I figure it any of this catches your fancy, you at least have names to Google. Ha!

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1936 posts

I am going to do a bit of a finish up here - and would be more than happy to send anyone a better report on the rest of what I do this week. :) Last night I did a cool desert safari and this morning am heading to a Heritage Tour to learn more about the Emirati culture. Then will see the craziness that is the Dubai Mall, followed by the fountain show tonight.

Barkinpark, my first visit here was a one night airplane layover (each way) and I wasn’t impressed. With such a short time, you don’t have to time to get any kind of good idea about the place. If you do a stopover, I really would say several nights are needed and maybe don’t get sidetracked by glitz.

My conclusions are probably very similar to Jennifer’s, though. I have found multiple fun things to do here - and that is not even with staying at a resort area. There IS a culture here to find, but it’s not at all easy. And yes, everything is new, whereas I do like places with a sense of history. I can see that it is a great place to pop into for a relaxing week of vacation (and tons of people do - just not usually from the U.S. because of distance). For me, it would be like spending a week at Disneyworld - fun things to do but not historical or cultural travel. So if you come, you need to temper expectations. And in spite of all the tall fancy buildings, nothing feels cohesive.

I would be more than happy to send you a more detailed report if you are really interested - or if you want a report on my week in Jordan next week - but am taking a break from the forum for a bit. Feel free to message me (Tammy) if you want to hear more. :) Safe travels!