“City of Gold”, “21st Century City”, “The city of the future”
8th to 11th of October, 2011
Our second adventure in the Middle East bring us to the shiny spectacular city of Dubai. First stop over before continuing on to South East Asia, the main point of our trip. And what best way to fly here than with Emirates, the flag airline of Dubai, on the A380? That was amazing experience to fly on that plane which I am looking forward to a next one anytime soon, does not matter which airline.
Leaving London with barely over 12 degrees and landing little over 6 hours later with over 35 degrees is priceless. What I did not expect was the shock once the doors to the street opened at the airport. The heat is such and so, so dry, that it is hardly to stand. Thankfully we were prepared and changed our cloths from winter to summer while in the airport.
It was not long after we were already inside a rental car heading to our hotel. And what a experience was that. Sheikh Zayed Avenue heading north passing such a wonderful collection of skyscrapers. A city of the future, feeling out of this planet. This avenue was a hint of what is yet to come. The Burj Khalifa follows after more or less middle of the way to the Mall of the Emirates. And on and on, the collection continues.
What seemed to us to be a small city, it is not at all. It’s very long, covering many kilometres from side to side, and when you think there’s no more, suddenly the Marina appears, encompassing 200 skyscrapers just on the side by the coast, who knows how many on the other side across the main avenue. And then the Palm. Everywhere you look there is a crane, eagle construction 24 hours. What you see now it’s just a small part of what the city will be in few years time.
On the opposite side, there is the are called the Bastakiya. This is where Old Dubai is, the once small fishing city where all began. With many souks, mosques, the fort and tiny streets, it kept the charm it deserves back to back with the new city.
Looking for food it’s not complicated. You have any possible Western chain, but for a more authentic food, you need to try Shawarma (meat in pita), which costs only around AED5 for one. With 2 you are quite full already. The Karachi Darbar is a chain of restaurants you can find around the city where you can get great Arabian and Indian dishes.
What to see and do in Dubai:
- Burj Khalifa Next to the Dubai Mall. Currently the tallest man made tower on earth, it is spectacular in all senses. But the most astonishing way of visiting it is by going up to the level 120 where the viewing platform is (as a note, there are still over 60 floors on top of you). You need to prebook your tickets in advance, this will save you a lot of money too. But remember, you will need to attend for the time you booked it, and cannot be changed for other date and time on the day of your visit. You can amend this with enough time in advance. The best time to go up is one hour before sunset, this way you will get to see 3 in 1. Daylight, sunset and night time.
- Dubai Fountain At the bottom of the Burj Khalifa. Shows are every 30 minutes from 6pm to 10pm on weekdays and from 6pm to 11pm on weekends. Definitely worth it so see more than one show.
- Dubai Mall This is the mall where you will find the largest acrilic aquarium glass in the world. Of course the aquarium itself is amazing, right in the middle of the main atrium.
- Mall of the Emirates Where one of the largest indoor sky slopes is.
- Bastakiya District This is the old traditional Dubai. A maze os little streets, bazaars, the gold market, spices market, the fort and many mosques.
- Dubai Creek It is the river passing through Old Dubai. There is no visit to Dubai if you don’t experience an “abra”, which is a small barge to cross it.
- Jumeirah Mosque Jumeirah Road, opposite Palm Strip Mall.
- Burj al-Arab The so celebrated 7* hotel. It’s shape has become a worldwide icon of the city. Although you can not go inside unless you are a resident, check for some tours. You will need to go well dressed though.
- Dubai Marina At the time of our visit, this place was in full speed construction, and although the original plan includes 200 super tall apartment skyscrapers, about half of them were built. This area without doubt must be spectacular in few years time.
- Sheikh Zayed Road The iconic main throughfare of the city, aligned with skyscrapers from all shapes on the sides. It is best enjoyed if you drive through in a car, othwerwise the metro runs all the way along it and elevated.
- Palm Jumeirah One of the prides of Dubai, fully finished in our visit. Only few lots were still empty to be build. You can take the monorail along it.
- Hotel Atlantis Right at the end of the Palm, is this now world famous hotel. The monorail ends in Atlantis. The views from this point towards the Dubai Marina are surreal out of this world.
From the airport, Terminals 1 and 3 are served by the Dubai Metro, where you can connect in the old city centre for the line running parallel to the coast line.
A day pass valid for unlimited rides on the metro and buses costs Dh14, while the Nol Silver stored-value card costs Dh20 (including Dh14 worth of balance) and gives you a 10% discount on both metro and bus fares.
The main bus stations are Gold Souq Market (in Deira) and Al Ghubaiba bus station (in Bur Dubai). The flat fare is 2 AED. Clear route maps and timetables are placed inside a few bus stands. The front seats are reserved for women.
The metro is the most convenient and fast way of moving around, although it does not cover the coast line itself, so be prepared for walking from the metro station to anywhere down the coast like the Burj al-Arab and beaches nearby. This can be extremely difficult because of the intense heat and no shade to cover. But in the other hand, it will be most likely a one off and tick in the list of sights. For the Palm Jumeirah, you will need to take the metro up to nternet City or Nakheel, and then walk towards the Palm Monorail.
A very handy bus line connecting many of the sights is Line 8. It does start at the Gold Souq then takes the tunnel under the Creek to Heritage Village, and then sets off down Jumeirah Road (just behind the beach) and all its hotels and malls, up to Burj al-Arab and Wild Wadi Waterpark. Terminates near the Internet City, while its 8A variant goes down a little further and also serves the Mall of the Emirates.
In Bastakiya, the best way to cross the Dubai Creek is by “abra”, essentially a small ferry. The cross-river trip costs 1 Dirham, and you will get the best views of the Creek itself. Frequencies are basically one after another.
Dubai must be one of the few cities with such a vast and incredible choice. But be prepared for high prices. 4 and 5 stars hotels are very expensive unless a good deal is available. In any case, a 3 stars hotel has the quality of what a 5 stars one would be in many European countries. This was for example, our experience. Hotel Centro Mall of the Emirates, Road 329, Al Barsha 1, PO Box 115060. Was a great property, comfortable, super clean, offering a fantastic breakfast, and having an splendid pool on the roof top terrace which we could use every day morning and night. Their opening times were very long like no other hotel, and it was matter of time they were going to open it 24h.
The hotel is conveniently located close to the Emirates Mall and Metro Sharaf DG station.