Dubai , United Arab Emirates
A couple of months ago I set out on solo trips to Brussels, Ghent, Bruges and Amsterdam with a quick stopover in Amman. These were actually some of the best solo vacation experiences in recent memory, I really enjoyed my time in these countries. Please click on the cities to view my posts.
My friends wanted to go to Dubai UAE and began planning the trip last year. My initial thought was that I really didn’t want to go because I felt we’d primarily be shopping and eating all day so instead of going directly to Dubai I decided to stop along the way in Europe. So instead of 6 days I had 4 in Dubai.
This was actually a perfect idea for me and it made Dubai that much more enjoyable. Since I prefer to indulge in historic sites, museums, parks and walks I was able to satisfy that urge in Europe. You pretty much have very little of this in Dubai. Having said that I actually loved Dubai because by the time I arrived I was ready for a party atmosphere.
As usual I took public transportation from the Dubai airport to my hotel. I stayed at the Fairmont Dubai while my friends were right next door at the Conrad. I chose the Fairmont because I have the Chase Fairmont Visa card. The card had a 1k minimum to receive two complimentary nights at any property worldwide, suite and room upgrades, $100 in food vouchers, $100 in Spa vouchers and other nice treats.
I advise using the metro when ever you can. The metro goes to both Dubai and Emirates Mall and it’s very clean, safe and efficient compared to taxi’s which can be expensive and slow due to traffic. The metro has a first class car and cars for women only. The first class ticket cost a little more but tends to be less crowded. Ladies, don’t expect men to give up their seats for you, just not going to happen and it tends to get a little crowded but I preferred it over a taxi when possible.
I was especially impressed with the beach area. Although the area near the beach is very walkable, in general if you are going anywhere in Dubai you probably have to use a vehicle or metro. The city is not very pedestrian friendly I assume mostly because of the extreme heat.
Our hotels were great in the Financial District but we all agreed that if we were to return we would stay in the beach area. We actually wanted to stay there originally but procrastinated so long the rates went sky high. The shore line here is about a mile, not huge but large enough to enjoy and very family friendly. I was surprised to see that women wearing bikini’s which I didn’t expect. This area reminds me of Miami with a walkable path near the beach, shopping, restaurants and an actual outdoor movie theater. In other words there is plenty to see and do here but dont think they have metro yet.
I guess I should make the point that you should assume that pretty much everything I mention about Dubai can be prefaced with very nice, upscale, chic, luxurious or opulent etc. The architecture is over the top (literally).
The only other city scape I’ve experience that can come close is Shanghai.
Very exciting and innovative architecture. I’ve never seen so many high end cars in one day. You name it you will see it in Dubai….except a Tesla, don’t think I saw one of those. Also, service in general in Dubai was outstanding. The service industry really strives to make sure you have a great experience from the lower to high end venues. Instead of “is everything okay” its more “is everything to your liking” ….there is a difference.
Bottom line is there is no shortage of luxury items in Dubai, yes its true. Ladies make sure to pack your best outfits, think Vegas on steroids. Well maybe not steroids but whatever you would pack for Vegas you’d pack for Dubai. There are so many venues to see and be seen as far as clubs and restaurants so don’t be shy. I was very surprised to see that the women where dressed in everything you’d see here in the States for a Friday night on the town. Backless, shoulders exposed, miniskirts and hot pants! YES with no issues. Again, you have to understand that we were not in the local neighborhoods although it seemed that Arab men and women were everywhere we went and did not appear offended by the western wear at all. I am not advocating just reporting what I saw. I’d actually recommend having a shawl on hand if you wear something that exposes your shoulders or cleavage.
It’s true the shopping here is phenomenal and extraordinary. You can spend 2 days alone at Dubai Mall. I didn’t get a chance to go to the Mall of Emirates but was told that Dubai mall was better and I think I agree. Anything your heart desires will be found at this mall from shoes, jewelry, handbags, cosmetics, perfumes, scarfs, tea, lingerie and of course clothes. All the high end designers and everything in between is represented here in ABUNDANCE. Simply amazing.
I suggest you post a spending limit on your credit cards because you will lose your mind with all the choices. Outside of the malls are the traditional souks or markets. I am not a knickknack or flea market shopper so I was not interested in going to the souks but if that is your thing be sure to ask your concierge on which is best….you want the one where the locals shop.
I lost my mind in this TWG Tea shop. I spent way too much here but outside of Singapore this is the only other TWG Tea store. OMG they have all sorts of lovely teas so nicely displayed and also a quaint cafe to enjoy nosh and tea….ahhh it was heavenly.
We enjoyed hopping from one hotel to the other to experience the bar scene. This was a great idea and we had a blast. This gave us a great way to experience the various flavors of the city. Alcohol is legal in Dubai but seems to be limited to some restaurants and hotels. For example, the restaurants at the Malls did not serve alcohol, not even beer or wine while hotels and other stand alone restaurant serve everything.
We decided to attend the afternoon tea service at the Burj Al Arab. It was expensive but we enjoyed it. The service was well done and the sweets and savory items couldn’t have been better. I am just not sure that it was worth the price but how can you pass up tea service at the Burj Al Arab?
There were two restaurants in particular that I’d like to recommend. Buddha Bar and Qbara.
Buddha Bar is fairly well known worldwide and is located in a Starwood property , Grosvenor House. Absolutely fabulous, the sushi was amazing and the venue was very impressive.
Qbara was almost as sleek as Buddha but more lounge like. They have a DJ spinning live cantilevered over the dining area. The food was amazing.
We spent one day in Abu Dhabi. We did visit a museum but we were not impressed. We also made a visit to The Grand Mosque and it was beautiful. Women must cover their heads and may rent coverage – the rental and admission are free.
The Desert Safari is very popular so we decided to give it a try. Its probably not what you think. Try to recall the Hawaiian Luau, its sort of like that only with more sand, camels but no pork! Its a very large group of people with a buffet dinner, traditional entertainment, a hawk demonstration and time to ride and walk the dunes. It was actually more enjoyable than I expected despite the size of the crowds and the buffet was very good.
We used Arabian Adventures for the tour. They picked us up at the hotel in the late afternoon and it was about a 45min drive to the desert. The entire tour was about 4 hours then the return back to the hotel. You can make the reservation online in advance.
I’ve heard various reports about Dubai from friends. Some good some not so good. Some women complained that they were not treated very nicely by locals. Well, we didn’t have this problem, actually just the opposite. We felt very safe and well accepted. So bottom line, if you LOVE shopping, great food, spas and nightlife then you will probably love Dubai. If you want to experience culture, museums or parks then it may not be the place for you.
I recommend using Dubai as a stopover on trips to Asia or from Asia to the west.