“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other places, other lives, other souls.” – Anais Nin
This blog combines more than 30+ trips to Dubai over the last 30+ years.
My most recent trip was Easter 2016. It all started very well with a flight out of London Heathrow on British Airways. Unexpectedly I was upgraded to Business Class from Premium Economy. I was so thrilled I somewhat over-did it on the champagne, wine and cognac. I had a laugh with the lovely British Airways flight attendant who offered me another cognac, which I declined. I thought I might have a hangover the next day, not realising that it was already the next day!
Arrived safely but a bit 'squiffy' to check into the wonderful Le Meridien Hotel at the airport, which is a dusty, but short walk from the airport. This is a favourite of mine because it is so convenient and has fabulous facilities.
This hotel is expensive so I had already booked a cheaper hotel - part of the Rotana chain in the Diera district. Very close to the airport but a non-alcohol hotel. Unfortunately, the weather wasn't great as it was the end of winter and beginning of summer. But it was a 5 minutes walk to a wonderful shopping centre, and managed to sniff out a bar opposite the mall at the Novotel Hotel.
Be warned, because if you like a drink, you won't find any alcohol in the restaurants, only in Western-type hotels.
Dubai has changed so much over the last 30 years. It was a tiny metropolis, a mere staging post for flight refuels for flights from Europe to Australia, and barely known to the Western world. Jumeirah was a main residential area, and the two main hotels on the beach were the Chicago Beach Hotel and the Jebel Ali Hotel down the coast.
The above photo is a very public convenience, but beautiful architecture on Jumeirah Beach.
It is now a very commercial emirate state with lots of attractions, hundreds of hotels with ice skating rinks, and water attractions, but you will have to go to understand more of what's on offer. I am not giving it all away, except to say the magnificent shopping malls are very expensive in comparison to years ago.
Dubai now has the Big Red Bus Tours which can take you on various tours around the city, and it has a metro which is fairly new and very helpful to easily get around. Taxis are cheap also but always make sure you get a taxi with a metre. One never used to get 'ripped off' in Dubai but if you don't take a taxi with a metre one is likely to get very 'ripped off',
One can also take a night-time desert safari or a trip on 'the creek' in a dhow. I did both of these years ago, when Dubai was quite unknown, and they were wonderful experiences and highly recommended.
There are way too many skyscrapers and hotels and the traffic is horrendous compared to how it was 30 years ago. Amazingly, Dubai is short of hotel rooms and the CEO of Marriott Hotel Chain appeared on TV to discuss the lack of hotel rooms. More hotels are being built and Marriott are now advising officials in China on how they can turn their major cities into major tourist attractions, taking lessons from Dubai. It is too late to see the authentic China, as I saw it in 1984, so this is progress in one way, that they are taking lessons from Dubai. However, on the other hand, China is losing it's amazing authenticity as it has become 'too Westernised'.
Make sure you make arrangements, if you are suffering jet-lag, to have access to some kind of sleeping aid otherwise you will be woken at 4.45am by the 'call to prayer' from the local mosque. It's really loud, totally appropriate for the local area, but definitely disturbs sleep.
To learn more about Dubai and it's history, google Wikipedia as this blog is just a taster and not meant to be the definitive travel guide.
I go to Dubai because of the guaranteed sunshine, although this time when I was there, it was windy, cloudy and raining. Global weather changes don't bypass Dubai.
Luckily, I found a wonderful bar at the Novotel Hotel, around the corner from the Deira Shopping Mall, so if one is stuck in an hotel because of bad weather, the Novotel is highly recommended for it's happy hour at 5pm where you can get 2 drinks for the price of one, and the food is very reasonable and excellent. Although you might have to endure the football showing on 3 different screens. If you like football, great! However, if one doesn't then you have to close your ears!
Be aware of the over-enthusiastic shopping assistants because they follow you around and hassle you. Just tell them 'I am just looking' and hopefully they will go away. They really spoil the shopping experience, even if one is just browsing.
All in all, I highly recommend Dubai as a destination if one wants to relax, catch a few rays and do a bit of shopping. I go to Middle East at least once a year but quite honestly prefer Abu Dhabi, as it's quieter, less arrogant and much more hospitable.
Nevertheless, it's a once in a lifetime experience and worth it, so do try Dubai at least once.