I love that there are so many different cultures and religions in Dubai, all respectfully sharing the same space. Plus it’s such a clean, contemporary, safe city. The biggest danger was tripping over one of the many floor sweepers keeping everything tidy. And it felt soooo peaceful after being harassed in Egypt for 3 weeks.
Rather than stay close to downtown, where many tourists stay, I got lucky and found a new hostel in a high rise near the Dubai Marina Walk. It didn’t even have any reviews yet when I first saw it, but it was perfect to be on this end of town. The Marina Walk was 5-10 minutes away and the beach was about 15-20.
Dubai Marina Walk
The Marina Walk is almost 4.5 miles of wide, winding boardwalk over an undulating canal. The area is filled filled with high rises, restaurants and shops with yachts parked in the canal and various boats traveling up and down the canal.
I found a way to walk along the boardwalk every day to relax and people watch. There were many families walking, kids riding go-cart style bicycles, joggers, tourists, etc…
It was also beautiful at night. I loved how they lit up this mosque, set up against the high rises.
To me, Dubai felt somewhat like a super-sized, but more chic version of Disney World.
Family is very important to the Muslim culture, so there are a lot of family style activities here.
This giant park has buildings representing 70 countries, with local food, shops and entertainment inside. The park doesn’t open until 4PM and the darkness shows off how lovely it is lit up at night….
The Taj Mahal, below, was full of gold jewelry….
The USA was represented as the wild west, with cowboys, which is how many who have not been to the US still see us…
Global Village also has amusement park rides…..with blaring western music…
Being a Muslim country, there was no alcohol at Global Village. This, however, added to that “Disney-esque” feel. Alcohol is only sold at the larger hotels in the area.
They claim this is the largest flower garden in the world. It is 230,000 feet and has 45 million flowers in unusual arrangements. After seeing the gardens at Kuekenhoff, Netherlands, I found this interesting, but dissapointing….
There was a variety of dress here. Muslim men wear the long white robe, called a “Thwab”, with a white or red and white headscarf. Women wear the black “Abaya” with a hajib (black headscarf), while many also wear the niqab, which only leaves the eyes visible. There were also people from India, Pakistan, Asia, Egypt, Europe, Canada, the USA, etc, so it was a huge mix. The locals are tolerant of western attire, but request dressing modestly and not showing too much skin outside the beach and water parks.
The beach here is on the Persian Gulf. It is also super clean and has its own boardwalk with more restaurants and high rises. You can and you can see the edges of Palm Jumeriah Island in the distance.
There was a mix of clothes on the beach too, with westerners wearing bikinis and Muslims wearing their niqabs and thawbs….although since their Muslim dress is not a requirement here, it is possible that they may have joined the tourists in their western wear on the beach….you never know…
There were many different water sports available. I tried paddle boarding for the first time. Even though the waves were gentle, it was not easy to paddle board in the ocean….luckily, I didn’t injure anyone ?. They also had a giant inflatable park floating on the ocean for kids to play on.
Palm Jumeriah Island
Palm Jumeriah island is the most famous man-made island. There is a large boardwalk circling the outside of the island that has food vendors along it. I took the monorail out to the island one day and walked around the Atlantis hotel and along the boardwalk. There are still many hotels under construction here.
This is a photo from the boardwalk on Palm Jumeriah island towards the Marina walk.
It’s also a great place to watch the sun set.
The Marriott nearby had a ladies night in their 52nd floor, 360 degree bar that overlooks the island. They need to clean their windows though, so my photo of Palm Jumeriah is not the best. They had a great deal for ladies night, 3 cocktails for 19 AED, or about $6 USD. I wasn’t planning on having all 3, but there really didn’t seem to be much or any alcohol in them…..even though they were advertised that way.
I took a sunset catamaran ride out past the island and Burj Al Arab, the famous “7 star” hotel…
And watched the sun set behind the city….
I ate dinner at the French restaurant in the Burj Al Arab. The food was fantastic….but very, very expensive. Just my glass of wine was over $100, while the meal cost many days worth of traveling expenses. A rare splurge. Seabass with foie gras and figs sautéed in a port reduction sauce.
Dubai is a shopping mecca. There are many malls and Dubai Mall is not only the largest here, but also the largest mall in the world (by area). It’s 13 million square feet, which is about 50 football fields. They also have fancy cars inside if you need a ride.
The malls are not just for shopping, they also provide family entertainment, like the Discovery Center, which was featuring Shark Week, an aquarium, an underwater zoo, lots of cinemas (featuring western movies) and an ice rink….just to name a few things. The Emirates mall has a ski lift and run in it!
The Muslim community is very family focused and there were a lot of shops devoted to kids clothes…many of them designer kids clothes, like Dior, Dolce and Gabana, Armani…
I couldn’t find a total share footage of mall space in Dubai, but did tally about 1 billion square feet from a list of malls noted online. Insane!!!
The Burj Khalifa (Burj means tower in Arabic) is located near Dubai mall and is the world’s tallest building. It’s 2,717 feet, which is over half a mile high. It was designed by Armani. I bought a ticket to the 124th floor, which the elevator ascends to in 60 seconds. They also sell tickets for the top floor, but they were almost $200 USD. The view from the 124th floor was good enough for me and made the freeway and high rises look like miniature toys.
The blue area at the base are the fountains, which have a show to music every 30 minutes….similar to the fountains in Vegas.The fountains were down for a while as the UAE held three days of mourning for officials killed in Pakistan, so they were not running when I was in the tower.
I did come back a few days later to watch the show. It’s very popular and people were lined all around the waters edge. The show I saw was to American music, but they also sometimes use Arabian music.
The Burj Khlaifa was impressive day and night and is so large, you cannot get a photo of the entire building near the complex. This was during the fountain show.
Dubai has a growing contemporary art area. I walked around several blocks of art galleries that featured various artists and saw some really interesting work. I fell in love with the work of this lady from Herare, Zimbabwe. Even then her artwork is relatively new, it was too pricey for me…plus it’s very large at over 6′ wide.
I also visited the Gold Souk. I have never seen so much gold in my life! People come here from India and Pakistan to buy gold. It was all too ornate for my tastes though. There are over 300 shops in the gold souk, plus there are many other places to buy jewelry, like the gold and diamond park and various other places.
I was told that if you look western, they jack the starting point for prices up even higher….
This store even had a replica of the famous mosque made in gold. This seems very counter to the Muslim religion to me….??
More About Dubai
Before visiting this area, several people commented how fake and superficial it was. Although I can see what they mean, since it is so clean and everything seems to be done to excess, but I found it refreshing to visit something more contemporary.
Dubai does have a history before becoming known for its’ skyscrapers. Some think it started as a fishing port in the 18th century. It was also famous for exporting pearls until the Great Depression in 1930’s and the development of cultured pearls. When the pearl industry failed, Dubai went through it’s own depression with many people needing to move away to avoid starvation.
In the late 1960’s, oil was discovered. The economy prospered and the population grew almost 300% over the next decade, with foreigners arriving for work. Oil and the increase in population, fueled substantial development of infrastructure. The oil reserves, however, were limited, so now, oil only makes up 5% of the economy. Today tourism, real estate, financial services and aviation account for the bulk of the economy.
Expenses for my 11 days here were $95/day. Three things drove my costs up. One was my expensive dinner at the Burj Al Arab. The second was some shopping I did to replace some items and stock up on stuff again. The third was a contribution to a friend that is trying to raise money for a bone marrow transplant. Victor was the tour guide for my 6 weeks in Africa. Shortly after the trip was over, he learned he had a rare, deadly disease that requires the transplant. The cost for him in Kenyan dollars will be over $6 million…which is a frightening amount. I sincerely hope everything works out for him…
I offset these costs by taking a cash back deal from my credit card expenses over the past 11 months. Without this cash back deal, by costs would have averaged $116/day. The costs below have the cash back deduction in them.
Food was $31/day, my hostel was $33/day, transportation was $21/day (mostly the cost of my flight averaged over the 11 days), and entertainment/fees were $10/day.
Overall, it was more affordable than I expected. Since the weather was perfect and costs were not too bad, I extended my stay here twice….?
i also would definitely like to come back here….this sign in the art area was calling me….