There is a beautiful quote which goes, “So much of who we are is where we have been”. Being a person who has lived in 3 different countries (and traveled to a few more), I can vouch for that on many different levels. When we travel, we expand our knowledge and change our perception of the world and other cultures. We get out of the shell and see how diverse the world actually is. We get to see beautiful places, meet lovely people with fascinating backgrounds and experience things we never came across at home. That’s why, when it comes to the unique destination like Dubai, there’s no doubt, even the pickiest of travelers would find something they’d love about it. Personally, I loved it SO MUCH that my Dubai Diaries post had to come in 2 parts. Because a) there’s just that much to show and tell and b) it’s one special city and it deserves more than one blog post. Hope you are comfortable with the photo overload situation. No matter how much you try to narrow it down to a few, it’s not easy. But I am more than sure it will not be too sore to look at 😉 On top of that, I am sharing useful tips at the end of each category that should come in handy if you’re planning to visit Dubai one day.
Without further ado, here are the first 5 reasons why I will visit Dubai again. Part 2 goes live later on this week.
I don’t know about you, but whenever I jet off on a beach holiday, my number one priority is to relax. Of course, exploring, having fun and doing other million things is also on the list. However, beach means chill time. Dubai didn’t disappoint one bit in that department. We had the most amazing week lounging away under the sun in this stunning oasis of the city in the middle of the Arabian desert. Poolside life done right.
We stayed at Fairmont The Palm which is located on the Palm Jumeirah. We haven’t even realized before the trip what a perfect location (and the hotel!) we picked. It’s sitting on The Palm which also means you get your own private sandy beach and a breathtaking view of the Dubai Marina. As a big bonus, it’s situated close to other attractions on The Palm (e.g., Atlantis) and also, it’s quick and easy to grab a taxi and go into the city.
Obviously, relaxation isn’t all about lazing on the beach. Despite the fact that it’s a massive metropolis and one of the world’s biggest business hubs and tourist destinations, the atmosphere in Dubai is all about taking time to enjoy life. Keep reading to see what I mean.
- Even if you’re one of those people who tan easily, make sure to apply your sunscreen generously every time you’re heading outside.
- The water in the Persian Gulf / aka “sea” is very warm (if I could compare it to something, I’d call it “warm soup”), that’s why pool is your best friend because you will need to cool off A LOT.
- Hydrate ALL THE TIME!
- Plan your itinerary in advance – that way you will have a clear idea when you are off on an adventure and when you can lounge pool side without any guilt or thinking you might be missing something worth seeing/doing/exploring/enjoying.
There is a small “problem” you might encounter literally every other step you take – the need to pull out your camera and snap away non-stop. Who can complain about that when the scenery is so mind-blowingly beautiful? From the Dubai Marina panorama via your private beach, the city at a bird’s eye view from the top of Burj Khalifa, starry skies show from the sand dunes to stunning and shiny skyscrapers from wherever you are – Dubai will make you say ‘WOW’ a lot.
It’s actually not the easiest thing to grasp but Dubai used to be nothing but a desert. The city has literally sprung from the sand and is now ranking as one of the top world travel destinations. Why? Because everything will have you swooned and swept of your feet in Dubai. Especially, the hotels. If you have been to Las Vegas, you probably know what I mean if I say that those fabulous hotels “represent” the city. Dubai isn’t behind one bit. Quite the opposite, Dubai is all about making everything BIGGER and BETTER. For example, Dubai Mall is the world’s biggest shopping centre. The World and The Palm Islands are world’s most unique man-made archipelagos. IMG World of Adventure in Dubai is the world’s largest indoor theme park. You get the idea. Hotels in Dubai function as mini-cities and new skyscrapers emerge from the sand at the speed of light.
To take full advantage of the scenery, make sure to add a number of places to see on your itinerary. It doesn’t have to be only such iconic locations as Burj Khalifa (though, it IS a must-see!). I will list a number of them below so keep reading 😉
- Book a Hop-on Hop-off bus tour (we went for Big Bus) and tick off amazing buildings and sights off your list. Red Line will take your around The City, including Old Dubai (more about it in Part 2 of my Dubai Diaries). Green Line is a Beach Tour that will stop at the locations like Atlantis The Palm and Burj Al Arab. Blue Line offers a stunning Dubai Marina tour, including world-famous Pier 7.
- No matter where you go, bring sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses and water (lots of it!).
- Taxis are very cheap, and it’s the best way to get from point A to point B. Use only the official Dubai taxi service.
Prepare for the “sightseeing” like you’ve never experienced before because Dubai has a lot to offer when it comes to things to do and places to see. To be honest, it will start the moment you land. When we arrived at Dubai International Airport, I was amazed at how beautiful the terminal was. I am not kidding. White marble pillars, shiny glass everything and lots of indoor palm trees. Sign me up for those kind of travels any day. On our way to the hotel from the airport, Dubai Downtown was shining in all its glory. On the next day we were ready to start exploring.
We booked our Burj Khalifa tickets a few weeks before we took off from the UK. You’re given an option to choose between the non-prime (8am to 3pm and 6pm to closing) and prime hours (3pm – 6pm) and between levels (At The Top or At The Top SKY). Our tour started at 12pm and we went all the way to the SKY. The view was immense. To say that it takes your breath away is an understatement. Plus, you get to check the tallest building in the world off your bucket list. Make sure to snap the iconic picture of the fountains. Speaking about fountains, one thing I couldn’t recommend more is visiting Dubai Mall in the evening and watching the fountain shows which are on every 30 minutes. The Dubai Fountain is the world’s largest choreographed fountain system (move over, Bellagio). I’m sure you see what I meant when I mentioned Dubai’s unofficial “bigger and better” motto. Also, you might remember this little video of mine from the “top of the world”.
SOUK MADINAT JUMEIRAH & BURJ AL ARAB
When we hopped on the Green Line, the main stop we were interested in was Souk Madinat Jumeirah and Burj Al Arab. The architecture of the place is so incredibly beautiful. The Souk is also known as the Little Venice of Dubai. It’s got a selection of different shops, restaurants and entertainment. It’s a traditional souk (aka marketplace) in a modern way. Peeking through the palm trees, Burj Al Arab will keep you outside in the heat for a while because the view is just picture perfect. If only it was that easy to go inside the world’s only and most luxurious 7-star hotel.
Only for the sake of not making this post as long as my uni master’s paper, I decided to cover two of the most popular sightseeing attractions in Dubai. There are so many more incredible locations worth visiting and I will share about them a little bit in Part 2 of my Dubai Diaries.
- Pre-book your Burj Khalifa tickets: that way you know you will definitely make it to the top on the day and time you want.
- Burj Al Arab is definitely a must-see but ridiculously expensive to visit. If you want to pop into the hotel for a cuppa, you have to be ready to spend a minimum entrance fee, which is whooping £150! Thanks but no thanks, there is Tim Hortons at Dubai Mall for that 🙂
If I could “label” myself as a certain type of a tourist, I would go for “a beach bum who likes adventure”. I am extremely lucky because both hubby and I are 100% on the same page when we travel: we like our poolside time and we are really into our explore-the-world moments. So when it came to booking something “fun” to do, apart from sightseeing, we opted for a full-on desert experience.
Arabian Adventures Land Cruiser pulled up at our hotel just after 3pm and we met our adventure buddies, a lovely couple from Australia. The drive out of the city to the sand dunes was a lot of fun and we talked non-stop about Dubai, England and Melbourne life. Our Sundowner Dune Dinner Safari package started off with pulse-spiking sand bashing (more about it in #5) which was followed by a fun-filled evening at the Bedouin-style camp in the middle of the desert. For the first time in my life I rode a camel, and, my goodness, it was something else! I think I made the camel go deaf by squealing and screaming as much as I did, especially when it was getting up and sitting down. It wouldn’t be the desert experience if there weren’t stalls with shisha, henna painting and lots of little “shops” with Arabian knick-knacks.
When the sun started to go down, we had our desert-style BBQ which was a 3-course buffet with unlimited number of cold drinks. Then we were asked to get to the centre of the camp and sit around this “stage” where we watched a few performers, including a male dancer performing Taunora, traditional Arabic dance, and a female belly dancer (this kind of entertainment isn’t included during Ramadan or other religious holidays).
Watching the sunset in the middle of the desert just outside Dubai was definitely once in a lifetime experience. The sand and the air cooled off a bit which helped to manage being outside for so long without AC. Also, we bought shemaghs (traditional Arabian scarves) and had a Bedouin wrap it for us around our heads. That picture is too grainy to post on the blog but it was on my Instagram here.
- When you are looking for a real desert experience, book only with companies that have been on the market for ages and know what they are doing (I definitely recommend Arabian Adventures).
- Wear comfortable clothes and shoes so you can manage walking in the sand, enjoy all the physical activities and cope with the heat.
- Drink plenty of water (I am sure this is a reoccurring piece of advice).
- Don’t eat before going dune bashing, especially if you struggle with motion sickness (more below).
- Stay away from smoking shisha (even though you would see them everywhere, even on the menu in your hotel restaurant/bar!). Not only you’d be taking in a smoke that equals a few packs of cigarettes, but also you are exposed to various air-transmitted nastiness that can be passed down (shisha is usually shared).
Who doesn’t like just a pinch of adrenaline rush here and there. See, it’s not even a question. There’s no question mark there. Not only adrenaline makes us feel “alive”, it surely guarantees memories that will never be forgotten. Dubai is, undoubtedly, one of the places to go if you’re an adrenaline-seeker.
I am usually not the one who would dare to do things that are out of my comfort zone (especially the ones that could potentially hurt me). But when we got an opportunity to do sand boarding (mind you, I’ve never even stood on a snowboard before – yup, we used SNOWboards to go SANDboarding) in the middle of Dubai Desert, you can’t miss out on it.
Another thing was also a part of our desert experience. Have you ever done dune bashing? If you haven’t, definitely do it if you ever get a chance! It will make you squeal and will definitely get that fight-or-flight feeling spike up, especially when the driver (more like a Formula 1 racer – desert edition) hits the breaks when you’re on top of the hill and about to go down. You’re left “hanging” there in a rollercoaster emoji way. They do all kinds of stunts with sand flying everywhere (thankfully, it’s not going inside the vehicle!).
So, I am usually OK when it comes to traveling. I can handle a turbulent flight. I am generally good on a boat (if it’s not too rocky). I love rollercosters, if I am feeling well, apart from spinning rides. Those are always a massive no-no for me. Naively, I thought I would be perfectly fine with dune bashing. And I was. Until the last 30 seconds. I am not even kidding you. We had less than a minute to go until our dune bashing experience would’ve been over but I couldn’t stay in that car a second longer. It was actually mid-stunt when I realized I am getting very light-headed, dizzy and nauseous. I told my husband I needed to get out because I wasn’t feeling great. Thankfully, the drives was on board with that very quickly and let me out right away. Don’t worry, there is no TMI to follow because I was perfectly fine the moment I got out and drank some water. I wasn’t sick. Basically, I was just extremely dehydrated so it was one of those “I-am-so-hot-and-thirsty-I-am-about-to-pass-out” moments. The best thing is, though, because we got out of the car before we arrived at our next stop, we had to walk across the hill on foot (the sand wasn’t too hot as it was late afternoon) and I LOVED it. See, little things make me happy. Walking on the desert sand is an experience on its own if you’re doing it for a few seconds haha. I wouldn’t cope with that kind of heat and exercise (!!!) for longer than 15 minutes. But here are our footprints.
There are many more incredible adrenaline-filled activities you can do in Dubai, such as helicopter ride and skydiving. HeliDubai is the best, so I’ve heard, when it comes to luxurious aerial helicopter tours. The Palm Tour sounds like a hit (we haven’t done it but we are going to do it next time we visit Dubai) because it includes Burj Khalifa, Burj Al Arab, Atlantis Hotel and other stunning locations. Skydive Dubai offers two different options: The Palm and Desert Campus. If I was ever to do it (my hubby is definitely doing it on our next visit – I am still thinking about it, haha), I would go for The Palm because you get to see the city and The Palm Jumeirah in all its glory while falling at a speed of 120 miles per hour!
- I can’t stress this enough: stay hydrated. At all times. Learnt from the experience, as you already know 😀
- Make sure not to eat much before going on adrenaline-filled activities, especially if you struggle with motion sickness.
- Step out of your comfort zone and do things you wouldn’t ever think you’d do (think safety first no matter what). Your 80-year old self will be grateful for those memories.
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Hope you enjoyed this travel post, lovelies.
Leave a comment and let me know if you’ve ever been to Dubai.
If not, would you like to go?
If yes, what did you love about it the most?
As you could tell from the size of this post, there is SO MUCH about Dubai I want to share.
It only took me a few days to get Part 1 ready.
Stay tuned for Part 2 because it will be just as beautiful and special.