A Musement staffer reflects on her three-day stopover in Dubai…which, though enjoyable, wound up not being enough time in the Gold City.
I’m not really sure what I had expected from Dubai, but I do know that I wasn’t expecting to love the Gold City as much as I did. I thought I’d enjoy it, yes, but I had no idea I’d be so enamored. My three-day stopover–though an incredible introduction to this colossal city of superlatives–wasn’t long enough, and I can state with utmost sincerity that I can’t wait to go back.
You have to see Dubai to believe Dubai. The emirate holds Guinness records for world’s tallest building (the Burj Khalifa), the world’s largest shopping mall (the Dubai Mall) and the world’s tallest hotel (the Gevora), among others. The blinged-out 24-karat gold-plated iPads amenities at the Burj Al Arab, one of the world’s only seven-star hotels, should come as a no surprise in a city characterized by a blinged-out gold souk.
Prior to actually visiting Dubai, I had erroneously regurgitated the opinion of others who had stated with conviction, despite having never been there themselves, that Dubai was like Disney World for adults. Or Las Vegas. But this isn’t true. Now, I realize some of the newer additions to the Vegas strip are less gimmicky and more “resorty”. However, while I have nothing against Vegas or Disney, they are bolstered by a strong element of make-believe rather than the pioneering mindset that characterizes the most populous emirate. Dubai, rather, brims with unwavering ambition. It is vividly real and sparkling new. It is both now and the future. By 2020, Hyperloop trains will literally travel on air to jet passengers between Dubai and Abu Dhabi in just 12 minutes at the speed of 1200 km per hour. Yes, this seems like something straight out of “The Jetsons”, except Dubai is not a futuristic 1980s cartoon–it’s real.
Dubai comes from, in the words of Bethenny Frankel, “a place of yes”. It is a city where anything is possible. People dream big and act bigger, and the end result feels–and I mean this in the best way possible–dystopian: twinkling and pristine like the backdrop of an episode of “Black Mirror”. Can a city really be so clean? And function so well? And feel so safe? Yes, it can.
I took advantage of Emirates airline’s free Dubai stopover, and I covered a lot of ground in the three days–but it wasn’t long enough…there’s still myriad places to see and things to do, and I can’t wait for next time. But if you’re planning a trip or have the opportunity to stop over, you should. Here are some ideas for you.
1. The Louvre Abu Dhabi and Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
If you’re spending two nights Dubai, it would be criminal to not head to Abu Dhabi, the UAE’s capital. Not only is it just as futuristic and breathtaking as Dubai, but here you conquer two major bucket list items: The Louvre Abu Dhabi and the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. This tour hits up both, killing two needs with one deed. The jaw-dropping Grand Mosque crowned with 82 snowball white domes is the largest in the world outside of Mecca and Medina and incorporates materials from across the globe such as Tuscan marble, an Iranian carpet (the largest in the world), and German chandeliers (again, the largest in the world).
The Louvre Abu Dhabi sits comfortably on Saayidat Island, its white exterior juxtaposed against the turquoise Persian Gulf. Most spectacular is the Jean-Nouvel-designed dome, overlapping iron latticework that “rains light” for an effect that is simply mesmerizing. The museum cleverly recounts the history of humanity through 600 artworks curated into 12 phases. And unlike its exquisite Parisian counterpart, it is possible to see the whole museum in a single day.
2. Private tour in Style
While Dubai did not mark my first time in the Middle East, I am able to associate the city with a different milestone: my first Tesla ride! Musement’s very own private tour took me for a spin on the fabled Palm Jumeirah where I, of course, stopped to snap the unmistakeable Atlantis Resort and place my feet in the sparkling turquoise water. We walked around the JBR and enjoyed lunch, and drove by the Dubai Marina, and it was such a wonderful way to absorb the city. The best part? Being able to look up through the Tesla’s windowed ceilings to see the towering skyscrapers presiding over the roadways.
3. Evening food walking tour
If you plan your travels to suit your appetite, this evening street food tour lets you sample the eclectic bites that characterize Emirati cuisine, which blends influences from the different cultures that have settled there. The tour doesn’t stop at the grand restaurants with Michelin-starred chefs attached to their names, but rather the eats influenced by the local and immigrant population. This tour was led by the affable and knowledgable Mounir, who has lived in Dubai for twenty years. In Little India, we sampled fried delights like a meat-and-vegetable filled samosa, vegetables served crispy pakora style, banana-stuffed malpuri, and zesty gratifying bhelpuri. Next, it was on Lebanese eats like dreamy creamy hummus, refreshing fatoush, lemony tabbouleh, delightfully smooth and garlicky toum, and succulent lamb kebab all complemented by Khobz el Saj bread. The final stop: a typical restaurant where guests sit on the floor and eat with their hands…a traditional Emirati expiercne. The food tour was a satiating way get a feel for Dubai’s discreet side, with a stroll through the spice souk, Little India, the gold souk and an abra ride as well as a visit to a Hindu temple.
4. The Burj Khalifa
When in Dubai, a visit to the Burj Khalifa, (currently) the world’s tallest skyscraper, is a must! There are two main ticket types: floors 124 and 125, and floors 124, 125 and 148. If you’re there, go big or go home…get the tickets that include access to the 148th floor that’s more than double Top of the Rock)! The views are unimaginably extraordinary and they serve juice and pastries! You can read more about my visit here.
5. Other ideas
Sadly, my time was limited and if I learned one thing, it’s that three days in Dubai wasn’t enough! Other ways to keep one’s dance card full include a desert safari, a dhow cruise on the Dubai Creek, exploring the arty Al Quoz neighborhood, afternoon tea at the Burj al Arab, or just spending some time on the beach!