POST 12 – January 21st 2019 – Destination
Dubai and the U.A.E : Leisure or just stopover destination ?
During this trip, I went twice to the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E). The first time was for 3 days before going to South Africa and the second time was after, also for 3 days. As it was my first time in the country, I was quite excited to see Dubai, which is now one of the most visited cities in the world.
First things first, let’s start with some geographical details about the U.A.E. Everybody knows Dubai nowadays, but the actual capital of the U.A.E is in fact Abu Dhabi. The country consists of 7 partly autonomous emirates, with Dubai being the most famous, while some others, like Abu Dhabi or Sharjah, are slowly gaining more popularity with tourism.
As I was alone on the first day, I decided to « visit » the two most famous malls of Dubai : The mall of the Emirates, with his famous indoor ski resort, and the Dubai Mall, with his gigantic aquarium, and located right next to the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world.
Both of those places were accessible with the Dubai Metro, which is the most convenient way to travel in the city.
Dubai is certainly the city of superlatives and there is always a competition between the malls and companies on « who is going to have the biggest, the craziest thing happening ».
The second day was spent visiting the (relatively small) Dubaï museum and visiting the historic city and the souks. While being certainly one of the hotspots to see in the city, it has became very touristic and the sellers get quite excited – and insistant – with the tourists when it comes to selling their products (pretty much like in every souk…) Negociating the price is an absolute must here, and one should not buy anything without getting at least 25% rebate. Next to the souk, you can cross the river using an old « abra » for a ridculously low price.
Although the city has already radically changed in the past 10 years, you can still see a sky line of construction cranes in the sky. You cannot find any area where there is no construction going on… One of the newer districts of Dubai is called the « Dubai Marina », and you can take a boat to cruise on the canal. Here, the boats are more modern than in the old town. From the Marina it is also possible to take a bigger boat and have an hour long cruise on the shore of Dubai. There was quite some wind that day and the boat ride was quite shaky, but you can still spot the fancy resort area of the Palm Deira, Palm Jubail, and the Burj Al-Arab.
About 140 km away from the city of Dubai, is located the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, where the capital of the U.A.E is. Depending on the traffic, you will need between 1 hour and half to 4 hours to get between the two cities. Abu Dhabi is quite different than Dubai. I had the feeling it was more relaxed, less agitated, more focus on the culture and spirit than its neighbour. A lot of world class museums and Universities, such as the Louvre, the university of La Sorbonne, have branches in this emirate.
Also, the great mosque of the Emirates, is located in Abu Dhabi and is one of the must to visit places in the area.
We stayed only two days and one night in the island of Yas where new amusement parks have recently open (Ferrari World, Universal studios and Sea world) and where still a lot of construction is happening.
Finally, we spent the last day doing a desert safari. While I really enjoyed the one we did in the jeep in Namibia, I enjoyed this particular experience way less and got actually quite sick half way. The driving skills of our guide was very agressive and the fact the land cruiser was packed to the brim (we were 7 passengers) with no fresh air and limited visibility to the outside due to the tinted glasses probably contributed to the poor experience (on my side at least). Nethertheless, I managed to get some nice pictures of the desert before feeling horrible !
It is important to note that unlike the desert expedition we did in Namibia, where we were almost alone, this safari was a mass tourism activity where dozens and dozens of white Land Rovers are following each other.
At the end of the ride, we were dropped off in a desert camp for sunset and different activities, such as camel riding, traditional costume dressing, open-air dinner with star glazing and traditional dances. This part was nice, although, it was clearly a touristic thing.
The last day, I dropped Myriam at the airport for her flight back home and I decided to visit the Burj Khalifa by myself as my flight to Oman was departing in the evening. There are different packages available to visit the Burj Khalifa and I opted for the most classic one (still about 50 Euros) where you go as high as the viewing platform on floor 125. The more expensive package (about 90 Euros) allows you to get until floor 148.
An « early-bird » package is also available for a cheaper price but you will need to get there before 2.30 pm and it will be about 15 Euros cheaper…
Although the viewing point is called « At the top », you don’t actually get to the top but a bit higher than half way to the top of the Burj Khalifa.
Since I booked online (it is better to do so as you are guaranteed to get a ticket for a specific time slot), I could not get anything else than my electronic receipt as a souvenir (i.e no physical paper ticket was issued). This is unfortunate for this price !
Some interesting presentations, including some movies are displayed at the entrance of the tower, before taking the elevators up.
Once upstairs, an « open-air » observatory is available but you don’t get to see all the angles from it. For a complete 360 degree view, you will need to go on the floor above, but the pictures will have to be taken through glass windows.
When I decide to visit a tower, I prefer to go there an hour before sunset so I can enjoy both the day and night views. Obviously, a lot of people do the same as me, and this time was no different. The place was quite packed and you had to push a bit to get a nice viewing spot !
Starting at 6pm, and every 30 minutes, a fountain show is performed at the bottom of the tower. While the sight of it on the ground is pretty nice, it is also quite nice to see it from 400 meters above.
I felt after visiting the Burj Khalifa that something was missing. I think I figured out : Yes, it is probably one of the highest point I ever been on a building, and it is the tallest building on earth, so you get a nice view… but on what ? The city is still under massive construction and I was probably missing a nice skyline. Also, I could not see very well the desert or the sea that day. So I think overall that, although it is the tallest building I’ve been to, it is not the most impressive, and it is certainly overpriced for the experience I had.
After twice being in the U.A.E for a couple days each, I felt like I was in Las Vegas, but without the casinos. Just like Vegas, I was happy to arrive there, but also happy to leave. The U.A.E, and especially Dubai is a place where you need to have (lots of) money to really enjoy it. A lot of things are simply overpriced. And unless you are a big fan of amusement parks, I consider Dubai as a good stopover destination, for a few days between two long flights, rather than a destination on its own. Abu Dhabi on the other hand, seems to have more cultural places and museums, although all those places are not really « historical », as most of the museums are brand new and spinoffs of major international museums. If I was to go back to the U.A.E, I would probably stay more in Abu Dhabi, or visit different Emirates of the country, like Sharjah, and this would be on the way to somewhere else, like Asia, Africa or Australia. This is a personal opinion of a single guy in his 30’s, families on the other hand may have a different opinion…
And on a fun note, this is the first time I was seeing air-conditioned bus stops !
COMING (AT SOME POINT) : VIDEO EPISODE ON DUBAI AND ABU DHABI…