Given the amount of travel I’ve been fortunate enough to do, you would think that I would have visited Dubai before. Possibly even numerous times as a stopover on the way to someplace. The reality of living in Australia is that it’s a long flight to get pretty much anywhere, so stopovers are a fact of life. My usual choice is Singapore but on my trip to Europe last year, I thought it was high time I made my debut visit to Dubai. I’ll be totally honest, I don’t do much research into the places I visit. If it wasn’t something already covered during my education, or seen on some travel documentary, then I’m pretty much just going to go by word of mouth about what to do in a particular place. And I went into Dubai fairly blind on that point.
I stopped over both on my way to and from Europe. Like I said, breaking up the flight time is the name of the game. On my way over, I had only one day so I chose to catch up with a friend. We didn’t do any of the touristy sights. Just hung out, went to both the Mall of the Emirates (with its indoor ski slope … I know right?) and Dubai Mall, to window shop for furniture we can’t afford and tried to get lost in the biggest bookstore I’ve ever seen. Took in a movie and a cheap bite to eat at a local Thai place. But there was one thing that stood out, our sole nod to my status as a first time visitor – we went to the Aquarium in Dubai Mall. This aquarium is massive, just a mountain of glass in the middle of the mall, with a tunnel so you can walk under the sharks and sting rays. But there’s an additional little part where you can see a whole host of marine life and we made the decision to do a “behind the scenes” tour to get to know the resident otters. I love my wildlife, anyone who knows me will tell you that, but otters were an animal I had had very little contact with. Needless to say, I’m now their number one fan. Particularly of a little otter named Cato who saw fit to pop his little paws through the small perspex screen dividing us to shake my hand. And you wouldn’t believe the softness of their paws! So adorable 🙂 Out of the three days I spent in Dubai in total, this was my highlight by a long shot!
On my way back home after my travels, I stopped again in Dubai for a couple of days. I had been told that a desert safari was the way to go. And I desperately wanted to do one (I’ve done them in Jordan and they are awesome!). However, my timing wasn’t great. I was there in the height of summer and understandably, given the heat in a desert country, there were limited options and times for desert safaris. I ultimately ended up visiting the Old Souk instead that day. I could have done the desert safari on my first evening there but I had already booked tickets to visit At the Top, which is the viewing area of the 124th floor of the Burj Khalifa. For those who haven’t heard of it, the Burj Khalifa is the tallest building in the world. From the exterior it is a magnificent looking building, slim and shiny, the architecture is impressive. As is the view when you initially arrive on the 124th floor … but I confess, while the view was great, I had no idea what I was looking at and so after a relatively short span of time I had had enough. I’m one of those people who likes to soak up information and the few friends I had in Dubai all rejected my requests to do the tourist stuff with me. I’m sure my experience may have been different with a local willing to point out the various landmarks and help me get my geographical bearings from that high vantage point. I found the water display by the massive fountains at the base of the Burj Khalifa to be much more entertaining … and they were free! Bonus!
All in all, I hesitated to write about Dubai. I don’t feel I can do it justice based on my limited experiences there. I have since learned that the scope of things a tourist can do are greater than I had heard about. Abu Dhabi is only about 90 mins drive away, or there’s a zoo that offers a “mock safari” a couple of hours inland. There are apparently countless restaurants that would offer a stunning view over the Marina area while dining, and there are spots where I could’ve practiced my night photography of the Burj Al Arab unobstructed, from the seaward side. But ultimately I decided to include Dubai in my snapshot as it’s a reality of travel that not every trip is going to blow your mind, not every place will be to your taste, sometimes we misjudge the time required or don’t know enough of our options before setting off to explore. While my first visit to Dubai left me underwhelmed, I’m willing to leave open the possibility to try it again at a future date.
This post is part of my contribution to the April 2017 A-Z Challenge
Click Here for a list and links to my other challenge posts.
And for those interested in revisiting my 2016 challenge post for D; here’s the link: Dance … the other universal language?