The debut is hereeeeeee…….!
I am so excited!
As you can guess from the heading, the travel location for this post is…
Prides itself for having the grandest, tallest, and flashiest of things/structures in the WORLD!
If you told me a year ago that I would actually be visiting this amazing place, I would probably have laughed it off and thought it a wish.
But hey…..here we are!
So much to say….
In my short visit to Dubai, my group and I were lucky enough to set our eyes on some of the incredible structures Dubai has to offer. Honestly it felt like I was in a rich person’s playground with his humongous toys.
It seemed that the Dubai motto is ‘if you can perceive it, build it and make a statement while at it’.
Case in point, Dubai Frame. World’s biggest picture frame. Why? Because why not.
What about the world’s tallest Ferris wheel on a man made island. Ain Dubai, standing at 210 metres. This was however still under construction when we visited, and is scheduled to be open for business in 2020.
And is that a crescent shaped building? ‘Moon Tower’. Such a befitting name.
Anyway, having made my point, let’s delve into the review of places you can visit and/or things you can do while in Dubai.
As already noted, Dubai has quite a number of breathtaking structures spread out in the city. So a trip around the city will keep your eyes feasting on these incredible sites.
You can pay for and jump onboard city tour buses, or have a travel agency take you round in their tour vans.
On our second day in Dubai, as part of our package with our travel agency, we were taken on a tour around the city in a tour van. The driver did a pretty descent job in explaining what was what. We even managed to point out some places to visit later, such as malls.
Since the tour van was private, we had freedom of movement and choice as to which places we visited, the stops we made to take photos or just to take in the sites. This would not have been possible if we had boarded a tour bus, as they have designated routes and timelines to adhere to.
One of the stops on our city tour was the Jumeirah beach. This was in the morning hours temperatures being around 28°C, and the beach actually had quite a number of people.
Most establishments along the beach were closed at this hour. We were informed that the area becomes more lively in the evening as that’s when the entertainment establishments (including beach clubs) are open for business and most people come to the beach. So if you like crowds, and the beach party life, you know when to hit the beach.
As for me however, I like my beaches not crowded so I had a blast during the time we spent at the beach.
Located in Jumeirah, next to the famous Burj Al Arab Jumeirah. Has some amazing rides to enjoy , and they have something for both adults and children.
The funny thing about this place is that the entrance fee is based on your height. Persons who are 1.1 metres tall and above pay more than those shorter than that.
We however found the cost to be on the higher side, though facilities are amazing. To learn more on what Wild Wadi Waterpark has to offer you can visit their website at https://www.jumeirah.com/en/hotels-resorts/dubai/wild-wadi/
BURJ AL ARAB JUMEIRAH
Isn’t this a beauty? It is said that it cost so much to build this sail-shaped hotel that it is not known for sure how much it’s worth.
Probably the reason why it is so expensive to dine or spend the night here.
Marveling at this great work of art at close range was quite interesting.
Since taking photos at the entrance of this magnificent 7 star hotel is allowed,we made sure to indulge ourselves to the fullest.
While at it, we were treated to a free ‘motor show’ by the luxurious vehicles that made their way in and out of the Burj Al Arab.
Check out this beauty for instance;
SAGA WORLD DUBAI
Saga World is a luxury shopping mall located in Jumeirah. It is also part museum.
I remember the moment we walked in, our first view was this antic piece whose material was bright and shiny. The displayed furniture looked like something that is meant for just decoration, like a painting.
A nice gentleman met us once we came off the escalator and took us round the mall explaining the history of the items in front of us.
Picture hand woven carpets with gold, silver, and precious stones, in all sizes, big or small. This mall houses a vast collection of such carpets. These are the sort of carpets you frame and hang on your wall as decor. NB: They are all worth a small fortune, which on purchase you get a certificate stating their authenticity.
How about ancient design furniture, that once upon a time allegedly could only be found in the dining area of the royal families houses.
Have you ever seen a 3D woven art? Yes, woven. That is an actual form of creating art that you get to see in this mall. From a distance, they look like ordinary 3D paintings, but when you get up close, and even touch the fabric, you get to see their true nature.
This mall also sells luxurious jewellery, and watches.
One of the malls that you should not fail to visit when you are in Dubai is Dubai Mall.
Houses attractions such as the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo, VR Park, Reel Cinemas, and Hysteria (haunted house).
My favorite is the Aquarium which is way bigger than I had imagined it. What you get to see for free is so much thanks to the see-through barrier. The sea life in it is just too precious, and of various species, different shapes, sizes and colors most of which I had never laid eyes on before.
I loved this place so much that I visited it twice despite our stay in Dubai being short.
Various retail shops showcase designer brands from clothes, shoes, perfume, electronics and what have you. If designer brands are your thing, Dubai Mall is a gold mine. I basically went there for the attractions and a window shopping session at the retail area.
The Dubai Metro can also be accessed from the mall. However be prepared for the long walk through the metro link (820 meters long elevated footbridge) before you reach it.
At the exterior backside of the Dubai Mall is where you will find the ‘dancing fountain’ or rather the Dubai Fountain . Words cannot explain the sight of this fountain in action. The fountain is programmed to shoot water up to 500metres high to choreographed music . You can check out videos of this performance on YouTube to get a better feel of it.
Burj Khalifa, the current tallest building in the world, is also not far from Dubai Mall. If you have Kshs 10,000 to spare, you can ride to the top of the Burj Khalifa to enjoy the aerial view. Or just view this building for free from the streets of Dubai.
Other malls you can visit in Dubai include Mall of the Emirates, and Wafi Mall. On your way to Wafi Mall, you will get to see The Frame (pictured at the beginning of the post) at close range.
If you are into the Egyptian theme, then head on down to the ‘Wafi City’, a complex that houses the Wafi Mall, as well as a hotel, restaurants, residences and a nightclub.
So word on the streets (at least that’s what we were told on the ‘streets’ of Dubai) is that the ruler of Dubai was sitting under a palm tree when he looked down and saw the shade of that tree drawn out on the sand, and thought to himself, ‘what if we have an island in the shape of a Palm?’ And voila!The idea of The Palm was born. True or false? I will let you be the judge of that.
All in all it is astounding how so much can be created on a man made island. Apparently this is just one of the three scheduled Palm Islands to be created in Dubai, and as a matter of fact, it is the smallest of the three. Didn’t seem that small when we did our tour on it.
Majority of the hotels on the Palm are lined up on the crescent, including Atlantis.
Okay guys, if the idea of being a home owner in Dubai resonates with you, this could be your chance to make that a reality. There is a long stretch of residential apartments on the trunk of The Palm going for around Kshs 25,000,000. Apparently they are open for grabs by anyone, including none residents. There is actually a funny story connected to these apartments, all detailed in next week’s post on ‘HOW WE GOT ‘CONNED’ IN DUBAI. Make sure to follow this blog so as not to miss it when its published.
I have to say that my favorite day in Dubai is when we did the desert safari. This was an adrenaline filled journey.
Again, this was part of our package, thus all arrangements were handled by the travel agency.
We were picked from our hotel in the afternoon and took a drive in a Lexus to the desert. It seemed like there was a silent rule that this was the type of vehicle to take tourists to the desert, as we later on discovered.https://www.instagram.com/p/Byfd6H9HXDS/?igshid=17xusoott86bf
First stop- quad biking area.
This is a secluded area in the desert where you can rent and ride a quad bike. The topography of the said place is amazing for adrenaline junkies. There is a possibility of falling off the quad bike. But don’t worry, the sand acts as a cushion so you probably wont get hurt. Probably.
Disclaimer- If you are renting a quad bike, make sure to negotiate and renegotiate the price. Note that the attendants may take advantage of your tourist status to see how much they can get out of you. For instance we were informed it costs 250 dirham per person for a 30 minutes ride but we ended up paying 50 dirham per person. Also consider the value in your home currency and weigh if it is worth it.
Oh! And if someone stops you in the middle of the field while biking to take your photo, know that it is so that he sells the same to you later. Kind of like what photographers in Kenya do whenever there are celebratory occasions, such as graduations. If you choose to buy the photo, don’t be conned out of your money. Again, employ your negotiation skills, and consider the value of the quoted price in your home currency to determine what is acceptable to you.
Traditional Arab outfits including the shemagh (what we loosely call ‘arafat’ in Kenya) are also sold here. The arafat goes for 35 to 50 dirham.
Second stop- Dune bashing area.
Adrenaline junkies, you think the desert quad biking was something? Wait till you experience the 4×4 dune bashing.
I mean, quad biking has its perks, as you are the one in control. But dune bashing takes adrenaline rush to the next level, especially if your driver (like ours) maximizes on the steepest of the sand dunes in your drive. This guy kept us screaming for our dear lives, and clutching our chests. But you know what, if I had the chance, I will do it again and again as it was so exciting.
The first time the driver made a quick u-turn upon reaching the peak of a steep sand dune and started descending (which felt like we were free falling), my travel buddy who was seated at the front passenger seat was startled. He ended up dropping his phone that he was using to film the ride, in panic. The driver actually slowed down and apologized to him while trying so hard not to laugh. This was so hilarious to watch, and unlike our driver, we couldn’t contain ourselves so we burst out laughing. Sorry buddy, we had to.
After the adrenaline filled dune bashing, we were taken to the area set aside for the evening refreshments, food and entertainment.
Immediately you walk into the tent fenced area, you will notice a centered stage with seating areas strategically placed around it. The seating area is comprised of low tables and throw pillows to sit on.
There is also the ‘VIP’ area, which is in tents at the perimeter area whereby you had to pay 50 dirham to secure your place. You also get a personal ‘waiter’ throughout the night, instead of queuing for food (food that you have actually already paid for when you paid for the desert safari). That to me seemed like a rip off. It will cost you nothing if you adhere to self service. I mean the food tent is just a stone throw away. But to each his own.
At the perimeter area, apart from the part occupied by the ‘VIP’ tents, there was a section for purchasing a variety of souvenirs, a henna tent, where you could get either a complimentary tattoo and/or a paid for henna tattoo, and washrooms. I gotta give it to the henna lady. Not only was she pleasant, but also very talented.
Outside the tent, there was also a complimentary camel ride. If you want a longer ride, you pay for it.
If you want to purchase an arafat, you can do it right outside the tent at 10 dirham. You can imagine our disappointment after discovering we spent 3 to 5 times more on this head scarf at the quad biking area…smh.
There was a diverse line up of entertainment in the evening/night, that went on as we enjoyed the variety of foods and drinks prepared for us. This included the revamped belly dancing, and some impressive fire acrobatics.
‘Enchanting’, ‘intriguing’, ‘delicious’. Those are the words used by our travel agency to describe the dhow cruise with dinner.
Indeed, it lived up to the description. At first glance, the dhow didn’t appear to be much.
However once we were on board, we noticed it had this snug feel about it. We sailed on the still sea under the moonlight, as we sipped on the drinks served upon us and later on had dinner. Afterwards, we were entertained with the Tanaura Arabic dance, and a magic show.
Check out some of the interior videos on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/slychronicles/
TRY OUT PUBLIC TRANSPORT
When we had no activity lined up by the travel agency, we still wanted to explore the city on our own. The mode of transport that we found readily available to move from point A to B was the buses, Dubai Metro, taxis, and Uber.
Cultural shock on Uber. The vehicles that are listed for Uber in Dubai are the likes of Lexus. Sisi na ma chapchap zetu na ma Vitz tusimame wapi? (Us and ‘our’ Uber Chapchaps and Uber X Vitz, where should we stand?)(lol). By the way, good luck in locating any of those models on the roads of Dubai.
The taxis/cabs like the one pictured below are metered thus making them inexpensive since you pay per distance covered. It is even way cheaper if you are cost sharing, and also convenient since it takes you exactly where you are going, unlike Metro and the buses.
For the bus, you need to know which number plies the route you are going to so as not to get lost.
Metro has the red and green trains. The color refers to the route the train plies.
For both the bus and Metro you need to purchase a Nol card which is the means by which you will pay your fare. Just make sure that your card is never below 7 dirham or you will be penalized (so we were told).
For all the trips we took with Metro, despite the distance, we noticed that we were only charged 5 dirham. Pretty inexpensive.
One cannot go without eating. So why not make it an opportunity to explore other cultural foods while on holiday. You can do that or simply stick to what you are familiar with. (The latter was our choice.) Either way, Dubai restaurants got you covered.
From our tour of Dubai, we discovered that there are actually several hotels and restaurants specializing in different kinds of foods. Whether its fine dining or eating on a budget, you are sure to get a place suitable for you.
Our breakfast was provided by the hotel we resided on, and a few dinners were organized by our travel agency to be taken at the events we were attending on those nights. Apart from that, we were left to fend for ourselves.
We were lucky enough to meet our country men (Kenyan citizens) who are resident’s in Dubai while we were out and about, and they were willing to give us pointers to help with our tour of Dubai. One of those pointers was to dine at Index hotel in Deira. https://maps.app.goo.gl/1Wci8XDGLZFfjbTb8
We loved the restaurant at Index Hotel so much because it felt like we were back home as they served familiar food, and of course their affordable price. Those who visited this place were mostly tourists from African countries especially Kenya and Nigeria.
The food here is on an all-you-can-it basis and you only pay 25 dirham per person.
You may be asking ‘Ice skating in a desert country?’ Simple! Its an indoor activity.
There is an ice skating rink located at The Galleria which is adjacent to the Hyatt Regency Hotel Deira.
They are open daily from 10.00am to 9.30pm on Sunday to Wednesday, and up to 10.00pm on Thursday to Saturday.
There is also an ice skating rink in Dubai Mall. The rink is bigger than that of The Galleria. This one however cost a little more than the Galleria rink.