Crazy Rich Emirates
Updated: Aug 19, 2019
Dubai. A city of extreme luxury and wealth with the perfectly constructed Burj Khalifa towering over all of the other skyscrapers. People drive Lamborghinis and Bugattis like there's no tomorrow. This city is where the rich and famous go on weekend shopping sprees - then there's me. I was fortunate enough to have a good friend living in Dubai, so I figured why not go visit and explore a city I had always dreamed of visiting?
So, onto my explorations! My favorite way to see a city the first night I'm there is through extensive walking. Walking is the best strategy because it tires you out to help you sleep off the jet-lag, orients you to the city you are in, and adjusts your body's systems by adapting to nature. So, with that being said, the first thing I did in Dubai was take a walk! I wandered all around the Dubai Marina and along the beaches to step in the water. Most of these beaches are private beaches, but just keep your head high and look like you stay at one of the hotels and no one will question you!
For my first full day, I was able to attend an event in the Mohammed Bin Ahmed Al Mulla Mosque in Dubai Marina. They opened the mosque up to non-Muslims to show their religious customs and to talk about their history or answer any questions people may have. This was one of the more enlightening things I've ever done as I've always wanted to see the inside of a mosque and learn more about Islam. It also adjusted me to the Muslim culture that I would be experiencing over the next nine days, which ultimately allowed me to understand Dubai more as a whole. After this, I wandered over to the Dubai Museum near Dubai Creek. Definitely visit this museum if you're looking for something educational to do. I learned SO much just by strolling through and reading the signs. The museum is fairly popular, so expect a crowd, but it's worth it because it shows just how impressive the city is through its extremely quick growth from oil industry wealth. By the time I left the museum it was only mid-afternoon, so I decided to explore the souks. Here I had to hold my ground against shop owners trying to drag me into their stores to buy goods. This area is wonderful because of all of the spices, ornate plates and jewelry, but I would not wear any clothing that is considered immodest because it is more conservative than downtown.
The next day I wanted to see more of downtown, but without the steep price of an Uber. So, I went to the nearest public rail station and bought a transportation card and put about twenty dollars on it. Using their public rail was incredible easy, efficient, and safe! There was even an entire car just for women if anyone felt more comfortable being separate. Once I was downtown, I got off at the Dubai Mall station and began walking towards one of the largest malls in the world. I had a general idea of what I wanted to do because the Burj Khalifa and Dubai Fountains are all in the same area, but I also wanted to explore the mall as much as possible - and explore I did. I don't think I've ever had that many steps recorded on my phone than in that day. This mall has a whole aquarium, dinosaur fossil display, theme park, and my personal favorite - The Cheesecake Factory.
So, I think you get the point that it's a massive building, but, better yet, it is also attached to the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa. Because I was saving money on a place to sleep, I splurged a little (probably too much) and decided to go all the way to the top of the tower. It did end up being night time by the time I went up in the tower, which was absolutely beautiful, but now I want to see it during the day time to get a concept of how far you can see! If you get the chance to go I would say get your tickets for about half an hour before sunset and wait at the top until its dark enough to see the lights. I will warn you it is fairly chaotic at the top because there are so many people running around trying to snap pictures or get on the elevator. If you don't mind crowds, I would say to go for it because you'll get the best of both views.
Once I came back down, I needed to grab some dinner, but I also wanted to see the Dubai Fountains so I walked around trying to find a place nearby where I could get some authentic food. That being said, I would like to give a personal shout out Abd El Wahab for making me the best hummus I have ever had in my life. I've inserted a picture below for reference!
Also, if you want to have a relaxing evening in town, definitely consider getting a table on the terrace of one of the restaurants (there are several in the same building as Abd El Wahab) so you can watch the fountains every thirty minutes at dinner time. I was by myself, so I didn't want to take any of the larger table and ended up sitting inside with a view through the windows which was just as enjoyable. Towards the end of the night I went outside to get a better view of the fountain show with the whole Burj Khalifa in the background, and it certainly lived up to my expectations. The fountains perform according to music played in the background while shooting hundreds of feet into the air. These performances last several minutes each, so it is easy to walk around to get different views during them. However, if you think you missed something, there's another performance just a little while later in the evening.
Have you ever heard of the Burj Al Arab? Well, you'll soon catch on that I'm a HUGE fan of interesting hotels, and this one is at the top of my list. The Burj Al Arab sits on an artificial island with an incredible view of downtown Dubai and the Persian Gulf. The front of the hotel is made from a sail, and with how many windows surround the other sides it take nine months to clean all of them and start all over again! It is also known as the only seven star hotel in the world. For years, (being the travel nerd that I am) I had dreamed of visiting the Burj Al Arab and staying in one of their luxurious suites. On this trip, that finally came true. Well, half of it at-least, I don't have enough cash to throw down like that. Instead, I got my nails done, which ultimately was just what I needed. Weeks before I arrived in Dubai, I scheduled an appointment at the Talise Spa in the Burj Al Arab because you can't freely explore the hotel unless you have a reason to be inside of it. After my Uber was waved in, I was escorted inside and told that the spa was on the eighteenth floor. I spent a little bit of time wandering the lobby and soaking in how meticulously designed the interior was.
I truly have no words to describe how awesome the experience was. The view from my manicure room - yes, a whole room- was picture perfect. It was by far the most expensive manicure I'll probably ever get, but so worth it because the woman who did my nails was so lovely that we talked the whole time. Turns out she has a daughter about my age also studying hospitality! At the end of my manicure, she offered to give me a pedicure too since we were having such a great time. Of course, I took her up on that, and at the end of that, after learning about my love of hotels, she gave me a tour around!
Still in awe of what had just happened, I walked down the road leading to the Burj Al Arab to get some good photos and decided to head over to the souk down the street. The Souk Madinat Jumeirah is a large market surrounded by luxury hotels, restaurants, and a creek flowing through connecting guests to various destinations. While exploring, I stumbled across a boat tour that took people around the creek, looking at the various hotels and shops. Naturally, I hopped on for the ride which was more than I could've hoped for considering I had no expectations. The area was super luxurious, just what you would expect out of Dubai, with amazing views of the Burj Al Arab.
Now I'm all for the "treat yourself" mentality, but in Dubai you have to be careful. Things add up very quickly because the city is targeting western travelers, so prices vary accordingly. Staying with a friend definitely helped tone the price down, so I was able to afford to do a few of the activities that were a bit more expensive.
For any women wanting to go to Dubai without a male accomplice, I'd say it's one of the more safe places you could go. I was totally comfortable walking everywhere alone, and no one bothered me while I was on my way. The only area I would say to have precaution would be the "old town" areas by Dubai Creek. There were fewer tourists around, so the experience was more authentic. However, the merchants are slightly aggressive, and they are not afraid to pull you into their stores. No need to be worried, but stand your ground and don't be scared to tell them no (multiple times).
Want to have the experience of a lifetime without the super high cost? Try Uber. No, I'm not advertising for them. They offer luxury selections in Dubai, and you may end up getting lucky with the type of car that picks you up! There is also an UberChopper option to let you quickly see the city from a unique perspective.