This week’s travel entry marks our first guest post ever! Elise Mooijman is a Dutch journalist and blogger. For more travel reads check out her blog The Beauty Suitcase.
Dubai: the city of oil and gold. A city where no architectural idea is too crazy and where money flows like water. I visited this city in the United Arab Emirates desert for one week back in September.
The first thing you’ll notice once you get out of the airport is (that is if you’re crazy enough to go in the summer like I did) the intense heat. I can best describe it as a hot blow dryer being turned on right in front of your face. At night it only cools down slightly. For someone like me who is from a colder country darkness and heat just don’t mix. Feeling the scorching heat while it’s pitch black (or as black as it can get with all the neon lights of Dubai) is a weird experience.
My father was in Dubai for work commitments and the company he works for was nice enough to let me stay in an apartment at one of the most luxurious hotels in the city with him. I hope this does not come across as bragging as I would never be able to afford a hotel room – let alone apartment – there myself, but staying in a place like that gave me a good impression Dubai’s high-life. However, the gap between the poor and the rich in Dubai is very large. Always leave a tip for the hotel staff as they earn little and work long hours.
Many Arab women in Dubai are covered completely from head-to-toe in black clothes, including a veil. But don’t let this fool you: Dubai is quite a women-friendly city for tourists. They for example have special women’s taxis that are driven by women only. Men are only allowed to ride in the company of a woman.
It’s important to dress respectful in Dubai: cover your knees and shoulders (it is mandatory inside the malls, so men: ditch those Bermuda shorts ;) ). You won’t be arrested or anything like that if you don’t, but locals will greatly appreciate your decency. I have heard of women (and men) though that were stopped on the streets or in the mall by strangers and scolded for their raunchy clothes.
Where to go: Hands down the Dubai Mall, don’t be ticked off by the word ‘mall’, because the Dubai Mall will be unlike any shopping mall you’ve ever been to. First of all it is the largest mall in the entire world, and with that in mind it might not come as a surprise that the Dubai Mall is home to an ice-rink and an aquarium filled with 2,64 million gallons of water and more than 33,000 living creatures (of which 400 are sharks). Standing in front of this giant while surrounded by stores feel very unreal.
Also in the Dubai Mall is the entrance to the world’s tallest building: the Burj Khalifa. From the observatory deck you’ll have a magnificent view, but I’ll be honest: I personally find the ledge experience at Willis Tower in Chicago more impressive. However, it never hurts to be able to stay that you stood on the tallest building in the world right?
If you want to see the historic and less polished side of Dubai visit the Souks. There is the gold souk, which offers silver and gold jewelry for great prices, and the spice souk where sales men will literally shove the most interesting spices under your nose.
The restaurants around the Dubai Fountain (right outside the Dubai Mall and at the foot of the Burj Khalifa) make for a great place to grab a bite. The food isn’t anything spectacular— you’ll find a lot of typical American chains like Red Lobster and Texas Roadhouse there—but eating while watching the fountain ‘dance’ to the most beautiful music is an experience that you’ll never forget. The water jets get as high as 500 ft. and after 6:00 p.m. there is a show every 30 minutes in which the fountain ‘dances’ differently to each song.
If you’re on a budget try Italian-Japanese restaurant Scoozi, but stay away from the sushi. Not that the fish is bad, but what is a California roll with nothing but crab inside? If you have a little more to spend I recommend having breakfast at the InterContinal Festival City hotel. I have never seen a breakfast buffet with so much choice (sushi for breakfast anyone?). It will cost you an arm and a leg, but you’ll leave with the fullest stomach you’ll ever have.
Thanks so much to Elise for sharing her travels with us! Interested in writing a travel guide? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.