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Our first day in Dubai was rather lackluster from a tourism standpoint. After we realized Elizabeth forgot her sunglasses we walked to the Dubai Marina Mall to buy her another pair. We grabbed lunch at a hip spot called Salt. Their menu consisted of sliders and french fries.
After lunch, Elizabeth and I finally hit the wall. We'd spent the last two nights sleeping on airplanes and exhaustion finally caught up with us. Went back to the InterContinental Dubai Marina for a "nap" and ended up sleeping for close to 16 hours...
The next morning we felt re-energized and ready to tackle Dubai. Elizabeth and I started our day with a delicious breakfast at Eggspectation Restaurant.
First up on our list were the Souks in Deira, or often referred to as "Old Dubai."
We strolled through the Textile Souk and then crossed the Dubai Creek in a traditional UAE Abra. These small water taxis shuttle people across the Dubai creek for One Dirham, which is basically $0.25 cents. In our case I didn't bring any change and couldn't speak the language so they let us ride across for free!
On the other side of the creek we visited the Spice Souk and their world famous Gold Souk.
Walking through the Souks was an interesting experience. We made sure we got there right when they opened, which I think worked against us. Instead of getting to enjoy the hustle and bustle of the markets, I got harassed by every shop owner trying to sell me their finest linens.
Elizabeth and I decided to ditch the Souks for a more modern shopping experience in The Dubai Mall. With over 5 million square feet of retail heaven, The Dubai Mall is the largest mall in the entire world. Since we had a couple of hours to kill before our visit the top of the Burj Khalifa, Elizabeth and I explored some of the 1,200 stores and even caught a glimpse of their famous waterfall.
Pro Tip: The balcony of the Apple store had great views of the Burj Khalifa and the Dubai Fountains.
At 4:00 PM we were scheduled to go to the top of the Burj Khalifa. In typical Dubai fashion, they don't construct anything small. After its completion in 2008, The Burj Khalifa claimed the title of tallest building in the world measuring in at 2,722 feet. It's outdoor observation deck on the 124th floor is also the highest in the world at 1,483 feet. This building is an architectural feat for the ages!
After we made it back to the ground level, we watched the sunset over the Burj Khalifa and enjoyed The Dubai Fountain show.
In typical American tourist fashion, Elizabeth and I had dinner at Eataly in the mall before heading back to our hotel for the night.
For our third day I'd booked a two hour dune bashing tour through MX Dubai. We got picked up at our hotel just after 9:00 AM and strapped in for the hour long drive into the desert. You almost have to book their pick-up and drop-off service because there is no chance anyone else can find this place. The last fifteen minutes of the drive didn't even have roads, just sand. Once we made it to camp we were fitted with shirts, helmets, goggles, and gloves. Our guide gave us a brief rundown, told me to follow his tire tracks, and we took off into the desert!
We had a lot of fun to tearing up the desert in our ATV. I'd strongly recommend booking your next dune bashing trip with MX Dubai.
While I'm not the most adventurous foodie on the planet, I still wanted to try something Middle Eastern while I was in Dubai. Since everyone in Dubai is an immigrant it's a tough place to find "local" food. We ended up having lunch at Operation: Falafel.
By the time we made it back to our hotel, Elizabeth and I just sat by the pool and relaxed the rest of the day.
Brunch in Dubai is a HUGE deal. While the local Muslim population spends their Friday afternoons praying, the tourists pile into hotels across the city for the brunch experience of a lifetime. For the most part, every hotel has a similar set up. The food is all-you-can-eat and it comes with three different drink packages: Non alcoholic, alcoholic, & premium alcohol with champagne. Prices can range anywhere from $50 - $500 per person!
Elizabeth and I spent the weeks leading up to our trip trying to find the best brunch in Dubai. There are so many good options, it's really tough to choose. We ended up making our reservation at We Brunch DXB.
When we arrived, we were greeted with a welcome cocktail and escorted to our table.
The buffet had everything from fresh seafood to home made pasta and all sorts of things in between.
At no point was my champagne glass ever empty and at one point I had three drinks in front of me. They certainly don't hold back with the booze!
We spent all three hours eating, drinking and enjoying the beautiful Dubai weekend.
After brunch came to a close, we grabbed an Uber and started our trek to the Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi. Do you know what's funny? It only cost me $70 for the 80 mile Uber ride from Dubai to Abu Dhabi, but I couldn't get an Uber for any less than $50 to take me to the airport in New York City!
Elizabeth and I only had a couple of things we really wanted to do in Abu Dhabi, so we spent the majority of our time relaxing by the pool and the beach.
That afternoon we'd made reservations for afternoon tea at the Emirates Palace.
We booked their Royal Afternoon Tea Affair. Here's how it's described on their website:
"The Royal Afternoon Tea Affair is ideal for those who like a special touch of elegance to their afternoon tea, and this truly is an Afternoon Tea Affair to remember. As with the Traditional Tea, the Royal Afternoon Tea Affair comes with freshly baked scones, savoury tea sandwiches but also includes exquisitely refined finger sandwiches, such as 24K Gold-dusted salmon pinwheel sandwiches on pumpernickel bread, Pepper-Crusted Tuna, King Crab on Brioche and an elegant Mille Feuille of Foie Gras, sprinkled with 23K Gold and the finest Chocolate. On the sweet side, guests will be treated to golden touches, such as lime and marshmallow almond tartlets and vanilla “petit pots“and caramelized Sichuan pepper pineapple."
It truly was an elegant experience!
On our last full day in Abu Dhabi we visited the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.
Construction of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque finished in 2007 and cost roughly $545 million when it was all said and done. The courtyard is the largest piece of marble mosaic in the entire world.
The main prayer room can hold up to 7,000 worshipers at once and is home to the third largest chandelier in the entire world.
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is the most beautiful structure I've ever seen, hands down. It's worth a trip to Abu Dhabi alone.
Elizabeth and I had a great time in the UAE. I know I was a little underwhelmed by my first impression, but the UAE has grown on me. It's definitely a tourist hot-spot (literally), but if you can scratch the surface of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, I think they're truly worth a visit. I look forward to getting back again soon.
What's your favorite thing to do in Dubai or Abu Dhabi?