Dubai isn’t a place either myself nor Rich have ever had a strong desire to see; however; we had to stop there during our flight from Johannesburg to Perth, and as we knew we wouldn’t be going back anytime soon, we decided to add a day to see a bit of the city. We arrived about 7pm at night and jumped in a taxi to take us to our hotel downtown first. We were concerned that things would be closed or closing soon (as that had been our experience throughout most of Africa), and we were keen to get to Dubai Mall to wander around before then. We needn’t of worried however; as we found out whilst checking in that Dubai is most definitely a night time city, and the mall and surrounding area would not be closing till well after midnight. The mall was only a 5 minute walk from the hotel, so after putting our stuff in the room, we made our way over.
And were pretty disappointed.
I guess disappointed maybe isn’t the right word; however, we were expecting this amazing thing and in actuality it was just a mall. Granted, it did have an aquarium and some cool water features everywhere, but it really just looked like a slightly newer verison of West Edmonton Mall. Even still, it was fun to do some window shopping (definitely no shops in our budget there!), and for the first time since we left the UK, we had a food court where we actually recognised most of the places. The most important one obviously being:
We made our way through the mall and towards the fountains and the Burj Kalifa, which is the tallest building in the world (at the moment). Every evening, they put on a light display and a watershow to music, and the only thing big enough I can think to compare it to is Disneyland. We watched the show (which goes every 30 minutes), and by this time it was after 11 so we headed back to the (air conditioned 😁) hotel to hopefully have an amazing nights sleep after the iffy beds in Africa.
We had the entire next day in Dubai before our flight left at 3am the following morning, and as we had to be at the airport just after midnight anyway, we didn’t book a second night in the hotel and instead opted to head to the airport and try to get a couple hours nap before boarding. This meant we had bit of a lie in before we dragged ourselves out of bed to explore the city.
We hoped on the train and first headed towards the Spice Markets for a look around. They were a lot like the Spice Markets in Marrakech, and I slightly wish we had been headed home after this because I really wanted to buy some spices, but it didn’t make sense to bring them to Australia and cart them around for a year with us. So, some major spice regret there; however, we did get a good deal on a Dubai shot glass as one of the vendors was impressed with my arm muscles, so there’s that. 😂 Next to the Spice Market is the Gold Market – aptly named as all you can buy there is gold, and lots of it. I was wary of taking pictures – one – because there were so many people around from so many different religions and beliefs, and – two – every time you take a picture the vendors use it as an opportunity to try and engage with you, which often meant they then followed you through the market (it’s slow going as there are so many people) for the next couple of minutes.
Once we’d had our full of spices and gold, we hopped onto an Abra, which is a little boat, and made our way across the river towards the Al Fahidi historical district. This is an area that has been rebuilt in the same fashion that the original people of Dubai used centuries ago and I was really looking forward to this bit, as there are a few museums and interactive areas within the district, as well as shops and restaurants. However, once we got there, we found that a lot of the places were closed and we didn’t actually get to see much of it except the outside of the buildings. That was slightly disappointing, but I consoled myself down the street at the markets by buying 2 different pairs of trousers that I fell in love with (and that were super cheap to boot).
Having thoroughly done the markets and spent our money by this point, we stopped at a restaurant for some lunch, before heading back to our hotel. We were meeting our friend Mark at the mall during the afternoon for a catch up and so we didn’t have time to go see the Jumeirah Mosque, which was the only other thing we had wanted to see in Dubai (although we are not allowed to enter it anyways as we are not of the Muslim faith). We spent a really chilled afternoon catching up over some drinks before Mark had to head off (he lives in Abu Dhabi which is about an hour away from Dubai), and we only had a few hours hours before we had to go to the airport. When we checked out of the hotel, they had allowed us to store our luggage in the lockers for the day, and when we explained that we had a few free hours before the airport, they said we could use the facilities until it was time for us to leave. This ended up working perfectly, as Rich spent an hour in the gym and I relaxed in the pool before we both had showers and spent the rest of the evening at the restaurant.
After a full day and dinner at the hotel restaurant, we donned our backpacks and made the 30 minute train journey to the airport to check in and try and get a bit of a nap. Dubai has a pretty good airport, and if you’re willing to part with your money, there are some really neat options for catching a few zzz’s (fancy sleeping in a pod?). We, however, had no money to part with, so it was hard airport chairs for us! We did luck out and were able to snag 2 of the reclined seats next to each other (where people circle like wolves looking for a chance to get one), which, although not massively comfortable, gave us the ability to stretch out and shut our eyes for a bit. All too soon, our flight was being called and we blearily made our way onto the plane and to our seats. Too tired to wait, we promptly got settled, pulled our eyemasks down, and said farewell to Dubai. Next stop: Perth!