Much like Qatar Airways, Emirates offers a stopover in the city of their home base. In this case… Dubai. Learning of these offerings on our Maldives trip, I decided to research it in advance in an attempt to save some dinero. Glad that I did… for under $500 USD, we secured a an ocean view room in a 5 star hotel, the JA Oceanview Hotel in downtown Dubai. The hotel sat in a very urban, commercialized area, Dubai Marina, that appeared to be largely inhabited by tourists. Therefore, I was not forced to cover up quite as much as expected given the religious restrictions. While strolling through Doha, I felt compelled to cover my shoulders, and also, I had to sport pants in public (sadly, not wearing pants is frowned upon in public arenas… damn). Dubai, at least on the surface, appeared far more lenient and tolerant of the scantily clad, Western tourists. The area we were staying in was crawling with bare shoulders, slinky clothing, and bathing suits. However, some places, like Dubai Mall, highly encouraged following the “courtesy policy” of a strict dress code.
Arriving in Dubai had particular shock value given we were coming from a less-than-religious part of Africa, and that part was also on the less-than-financially-stable end of the spectrum. The stark differences were immediately obvious… Money and creature comforts being the most glaring ones. AC, continuous power, luxury vehicles, high rises, newly paved roads and working toilets being along them. The cars we watched zoom passed us on the roads cost more than I make in a month combined with what Hubs makes in a year. And sadly, their crime rate is far lower than ours in the States. What are we doing wrong?!?!
Anyway, JA Oceanview was a moderate ride from the airport. We utilized the wonders of whatever company Emirates contracts to ferry us to our accommodation from the airport. The lodging was a block from a white sand, wide beach. Our room was on the 9th floor of 25, had a small balcony looking out towards the water, a large bathroom and giant King sized bed. The 3rd floor of the hotel housed a pool, that pool’s bar, a sun deck, and a second restaurant and sports bar. The lobby level contained yet another restaurant, where we dined for breakfasts, and a small cafe. Not too shabby.
Unfortunately, we elected to visit the United Arab Emirates during the Muslim version of Christmas. The downfall of visiting this time of year is that everything closes insanely early… most businesses are shuttered by 1700 hours. That made dinnering a challenge. Additionally, no alcohol is served on these religious holidays. Not that alcohol is served everywhere, anyway. Restaurants are required to possess a particular liquor license, that I am guessing is not exactly easy to obtain. Travel challenges… whatcha gonna do?!
Dubai is home to the tallest building in the world, Burj Khalifa, standing at 2722 feet. Construction began in 2004, it was completed in 2009, and opened in 2010. It surpassed the CN Tower in Canada as the tallest manmade building. In fact, the structure ended up being taller than initially planned, as it towers over the city with 160 floors plus the spire at the top. The concrete that was poured for the foundation weights as much as 100,000 elephants. The building can house 35,000 people bustling about. It contains 24,348 windows covering the equivalent of 100 Olympic-sized swimming pools, all of which need to be cleaned regularly. It’s a mixed-use building, containing residences, shopping, corporate suites, hotels, and restaurants. The building has also been climbed, used by experienced base jumpers, and used as a method of suicide. The number of records the Burj Khalifa has broken, and awards given, is enormous.
We elected to partake in the $38 “At the Top + Sunrise Breakfast experience. Beginning at 0800, after taking an expensive Uber ride from our hotel to the Burj Khalifa, we aimlessly wandered the base of the building (encasing another mall), not sure how to get to the 124th floor or even find the entrance. Eventually, we deduced the entrance was on the ground floor of the mall. A slight maze, with details about the construction of the superstructure adorning the walls, lead us to the elevator bank… one of 57 such elevator banks. The dark elevator shot to the 124th floor, as they travel at 10 metres a second (fastest in the world). This particular level includes an outdoor viewing deck with glass walls and no roof on the northeastern side of the building. Continuing around the circular-ish structure, you stroll back indoors, through a gift shop, and around hallways with more glass walls. You are provided a 360 degree view of the surrounding city. Once we were done taking a large number of photographs of the building and cityscape, we took yet another dark, speedy elevator ride back down to the cafe, aptly named ‘The Cafe,’ on a lower level. Our sunrise breakfast consisted of a hot beverage of our choosing and a brunch sandwich.
Obviously, I had to find a way to do a handstand with the Burj Khalifa in the background. And one displaying the many views of the Dubai skyline with it’s abundance of shiny sky scrapers.
Another expensive Uber ride delivered us to the Dubai Spice Souk Market one evening. Alas, I forgot my scarf to cover my shoulders. I felt naked in this area of the city given it’s more traditional feel. So I purchased a scarf! I adore these markets… they are a mass of individual shops selling everything from scarves to food to spices to handmade glassware to colorful clothing. This trip mounted in price quickly. We bought saffron, spiced chai tea, yet another dress for me, and I feel like I’m missing something else… Oh well. Moral of the Story: One can spend a lot of time wandering the maze of alleyways lined with the numerous shops. Unfortunately, we did not make it to the souk until close to closing, but we still managed to visit several boutiques.
One of my favorite parts of this leg of our journey was having access to a gym. After spending almost two weeks devising HIIT-style workouts in our hotel rooms (the few that there were), as well as in the grassy fields of campsites, the most glorious sight ever was the amazing gym at the Oceanview. It had everything… ellipticals, stationary bikes, a rowing machine, multiple sets of weights, lifting machines, a complete set of kettleballs, and several weight racks. I was in heaven. Two days of intense cardio on the elliptical, plus upper body and core resistance workouts made me very happy, and very sweaty.
Other parts of our days in Dubai consisted of taking in the warmth of the sun, either by the pool, on the rear sun deck, or at the beach a block away from the hotel. Trips like these really make me hate Virginia winters (or just winter in general). Relaxing by the pool or beach reading was quite delightful. Plus, you get to watch camels randomly strolling along the white, sand beaches. Only in the Middle East…
Hubs and I decided Dubai is a place we could definitely see ourselves visiting again should the opportunity arise.
On a side note, I cannot say we were that impressed with the “World Class” Emirates Airlines. Hubs and I were far more impressed with Qatar Airways when we flew with them the previous year. Emirates not only changed our selected seats midway through security, snatching Hubs’ ticket and booting him to an uncomfortable middle seat and giving his seat away, but also completely forgot my diabetic husband’s meal. We had been given these seats specifically, so that we had a buffer seat between us, allowing me to elevate and ice my torn ankle ligament. During meal time, the flight attendants outright lied, claiming certain meals were no longer available, but then offered the same meal I had requested to the seat behind me. What the hell?! It was little things on ALL four flight legs. I suppose our expectations were too high. Boo… Emirates, you suck.
Alas, all good things, which obviously includes vacations, must come to an end. We arrived back in Virginia to snow… Yay, winter.