I was lucky to have the opportunity to go to Dubai, with all expenses paid, because my boyfriend needed to go there for a trade show for work and I got to reap the rewards. It was a place that I knew very little about and so I did some research before I went and got advice from other people’s experiences to figure out what to expect.
The toughest thing about the entire trip was the plane ride. Spending 18 hours on a plane is not what I would have wished for because it is physically, emotionally and mentally draining on a person, but it’s what you have to do to go to the other side of the world. When we finally arrived it was nighttime and I had officially lost a day of my life because of the international dateline. (I expect to have that paid back to me in full someday on a vacation.) So when we arrived we really only had time to go back to the hotel, get refreshed and head out to dinner, at 10 pm or so.
Similar to Europe, in Dubai people dine late at night. I suppose in desert culture it makes sense to avoid the heat during the daytime and rejoice in the evening by spending time outside once it has cooled off. I was surprised to see that families were eating out at 10 or 11pm with their young ones but it seemed to be customary since the children weren’t fussy at all. The restaurant we were at was packed with people and only began to die down after midnight. I was in awe as my mind started to settle and I realized where I was and I began to notice my surroundings. We were seated at the base of the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa, and watching a water show that occurred at a fountain that was centered between the different shopping malls in a city that only 15 years ago or so was nothing but a desert. I felt like I had taken a time traveled to the future, or maybe it was a strange case of jet lag.
In the morning I woke up early to the sound of the adhan, or the call to prayer, that I could hear echoing faintly outside in the streets. My body had not adjusted to the time difference and there was really no point to it since I was only going to be there for 5 days. I woke up and went out on the balcony to see my surroundings in the daylight. Off to the right in the distance were some buildings that had the faces of the Emiratis and below there were people on their way to work. I am always interested in the scent that the air carries in a new place and in Dubai the air smelled very clean.
The first day we spent going to the trade show to set up the booth and then exploring a bit of the downtown and Gold Souk.The Gold Souk is what I expected when I thought about visiting the Middle East; people bustling from place to place, people shouting in Arabic (now I know they weren’t actually shouting but to a newcomer’s ears Arabic naturally sounds like everyone is yelling), and we negotiated with vendors for deals.
The next day I spent shopping in the malls because that is what you have to do in Dubai since there are malls everywhere. I took the metro out to the furthest point and I could see the world’s most expensive hotel, the Burj Al Arab, from afar. I spent the next few hours getting lost in the continuing hallways of the biggest mall, the Mall of the Emirates, where they have Ski Dubai and an aquarium. I didn’t bother to go to Ski Dubai because I had just left Wisconsin in January to go to the desert so I wouldn’t have to see snow and deal with the cold. When I finally decided to head back to the hotel in the later afternoon I didn’t feel too well. On the metro ride back I started to feel very hot and I ended up having to run off and into the bathroom because I got sick. But I didn’t let that stop me! I still had a lot more to do!
In the evening we had tickets to to go the top of the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa. We had to stand in line for a bit so the elevator could take us to the 124th floor (which is still not the top). The ride in the elevator actually only took about 60 seconds and it was so smooth that you couldn’t really feel yourself moving and didn’t have to unplug your ears either. When the elevator doors opened, we stepped out on to this large patio that went almost all the way around the tower and we were outside! The walls were made out of glass and appeared to be almost invisible so you felt like you were literally on top of the world. It was very foggy at the top because you are so high up, it is where the clouds form. I have a great fear of falling so it took me a minute to go to the edge and look out the windows. It was a breathtaking view and is something that I definitely recommend. You can visit the site here to learn more, and I guess now they have opened another deck on the 148th floor.
The following day I went on a desert safari. The tour group came and picked me up from my hotel and then drove us out about a half hour into the desert. In order to drive on the sand, they had to let out some of the air from the tires of the SUVs. We spent the next half hour or so driving through the sand dunes and the colors of the landscape were indescribable. Even the pictures that I took do not do it justice.
We drove to a Bedouin camp that was set up for tourists where we spent the rest of the night. There was an amazing array of food, camel rides, a belly dancing show, and a station to get henna tattoos.
The last day I took a walking tour of the city. I believe that seeing a city at a walking pace gives you a better perspective on what it is like to live there. Dubai is a very quiet city although it is always crawling with tourists and international businessmen. I would say that although I was by myself most the trip, I never felt unsafe or really out of place. Overall, people were very kind and polite in Dubai and I felt welcomed everywhere I went.