I have a cold. Or I’m dehydrated. Or two long flights within a few days of each other are taking their toll. Or Hong Kong has an air pollution problem. Maybe a combination of all four, but whatever the reason, I woke with earache and a headache, and blowing my nose turned into a nosebleed (you’re welcome), so I’m sat in bed trying to find some get up and go.
I’m in Hong Kong, but let’s talk about Dubai. It’s wonderful. An amazing, luxurious start to our trip. Easy (and cheap) airport transfer (we opted out of the Town car extravagance) to a fabulous 5* hotel (thanks cuz).
For me, a bit of a weird one because it’s a part of the world I’ve been to before, it’s very similar to where I’ve lived before, and where it’s not similar it’s only terms of being more laid back. So, a nice way to ease in to this travelling malarkey. Arriving to a huge room, with a balcony overlooking the Burj Al Arab (the big sail one) and a large waterway in front of the hotel which connects to other hotels, villas and the resort souq, wasn’t too bad. Add in Ladies’ Night at one of the hotel bars and we were off to a flying start!
The next day saw us lounging by the pool and wandering along the beach, having done our ‘job’ for the day, i.e. book a Desert Safari trip. Later on we managed to get ourselves dressed and took the hotel shuttle to Mall of the Emirates, where we caught the Metro to Dubai Mall, and proceeded to walk 7 miles to get inside the mall, and a further three to find the Burj Khalifa. Honestly, I’m only slightly exaggerating. We had tea at a Lebanese Restaurant on the waterfront, which was extremely tasty, although I did fill up on eating my bodyweight in hummus and Arabic bread before my mains arrived.
We then wandered around to a bar/restaurant that I had assured my travel buddy had Ladies’ Night deals and a great view of the fountains for when the next show was. From 6p.m. each evening there’s a series of fountains which erupt to music – anything from Michael Jackson to traditional Arabic music.
Turns out the website wasn’t up to date and they didn’t do Ladies’ Night anymore. No problem, still a great view of the fountains right? ‘Yes, of course ma’am.’ We were taken onto the terrace, straight past the waterfront view, down the side, and behind a pillar. I wish I was kidding. Needless to say, we left.
It was nearly time for the next ‘showing’ for the fountains so we loitered by the water’s edge and watched from there. It was a brilliant view, much less crowded than the bridge over the water. Seeing the fountains was one of the things I really wanted to do in Dubai, and as the music started and the water cascaded, I got a little bit emotional. I was actually there, doing one of the things I’d planned, and it was wonderful. I know it sounds like a little thing, watching some fountains set to music. But, in that setting, with the Burj Khalifa all twinkling and glittery, rising up into the night behind these huge choreographed fountains, it was very powerful.
I would definitely go back to see them again, but for now I can tick them off my mini Dubai bucket list.
The only other thing on there really was dune bashing, or a Desert Safari. Turns out these are entirely different things, but I know what I mean! I wanted a little bounce about the dunes in a 4×4, dinner in the desert and perhaps some shisha for good measure. Apparently dune bashing is when you drive yourself about in a little dune buggy. Which sounds fun, but also highly likely to cause injury, and it seemed a bit early in the trip to be testing my travel insurance.
We booked through the hotel and went with a company called Arabian Adventures. They were fab from start to finish. Picked up on time from the hotel, driven into the middle of nowhere and the tyres let down (bear with me), then onto the sand and a bit further into the desert for our first stop – a falcon demonstration. On the way we saw a load of camels, and oryx just hanging out by the side of the road. I’ve held a falcon before, and been in much too close proximity to a 10 year old Qatari boy holding one and scaring his little sister with it, but to see one fly was brilliant.
Next up we bounded off into the dunes, a long convoy of 4x4s rolling up and down on our very own sandy rollercoasters. It was fun, and exhilarating and exactly like going over the top of a big drop on a rollercoaster. I tried to take pictures and video, but ended up with a lot of blurry shots, Blair witch-esque video (but with more laughter) and the start of travel sickness, so I gave up and just enjoyed it!
We stopped to watch the sunset and I dragged my poor travel buddy over several dunes so we were away from the crowd and could have a moment of peace and take uninterrupted photos. I got so much sand in my shoes that there wasn’t room for my feet, but it was worth it!
After the sunset we drove further on and ended up in a ‘village’ which was our final stop for the evening. We sat around a campfire and drank wine and had Arabic appetizers, had henna done, smoked shisha (no mint, but double apple was lovely), sat in a majilis (on a majilis??) and ate tea, watched some awesome belly dancing, had a blackout for stargazing, and had the mandatory Arabic coffee and dates. I’m trying to think of an organised trip I’ve been on that was better organised or a better experience, but I can’t.
We had just the right amount of time at each place, it wasn’t too busy even though there were quite a few other cars, we didn’t have to queue long for food, or henna, and we relaxed with shisha without feeling like there were people waiting. It was obviously touristy but didn’t feel tacky, the flow of the trip was just right and the service was exceptional.
The perfect end to the day was getting back to the hotel and walking straight in to one of my cousins, who I’d thus far failed to meet up with! We had a very speedy catch up over a cocktail in the hotel. I wish it had been longer, but contending with a busy work schedule and us only being in the country a few days, I think we did pretty well!
- Desert Safari
- Fabulous hotel
- Amazing customer service
- Burj Khalifa Fountains
- Ladies’ Night
- All you can eat breakfast buffet
Dubai’s ‘could do better’:
- Umm… Segways for Mall access?