Our second and third days in Dubai were more relaxed. Shopping is the biggest thing to do in Dubai, and the annual shopping festival was far underway while we were there. Jordan and I didn’t buy anything while there, but going past store after store of precious gems, Gabana stores, and all sorts of European high-end fashion stores was really interesting.
We rode more of the hop on/hop off bus through the beach area and down in the hotels. We saw the only six star hotel in the world (it’s built to resemble the sail of a dhow), five star resorts, and the palm islands. Everything was shiny and new and the biggest, best, and brightest in the world. It was staggering, honestly, and I’m still not sure how I feel about it all. Striking oil was the best thing that’s happened for this country, and the level of development that’s happened in only 40 or 50 years is astounding. It’s given new wealth and life opportunities to many people, including the migrant workers that come. However, whenever I saw another shopping mall or yacht or light display, I couldn’t help but think, “that would cure malaria.”
The Atlantis resort has underwater hotel rooms and restaurants, as well as an aquarium and aquaventure park. We toured the aquarium for free through our bus tickets. The Mall of the Emirates has the indoor ski slope, which we stopped by to see, and we walked through a souk at Wafi shopping mall designed to replicate a 14th century common souk. I hadn’t expected to love the Middle East as much as I have. All the colors, fabrics, and architecture has really surprised me with its vibrancy and beauty. I’m not a shopping person at all, but I could’ve wandered through that souk for hours just looking at the scarves, traditional abayas, lamps, and furniture being sold. The building itself was worth long looks.
We met two friends from the Egypt tour that night. While both are American, one lives and teaches in Abu Dhabi and the other is a permanent resident of Australia. The Aussie had a long layover in Abu Dhabi, so the two of them met up with us at the Dubai Mall (which we got lost in). The Burj Khalifa had already sold out of tickets the night before, so we were unable to go up to the highest observation deck in the world. Jordan was quite disappointed, but we watched a water and light show at the foot of the tower instead. The Dubai Mall has an ice skating rink, movie theater, aquarium, and probably many more things. We wandered through most of it. In the parking lot we tried to get pictures of as many expensive cars as possible. Throughout our time in Dubai we saw several Ferraris and Lamborghinis!
The next day, our last day in Dubai, we went on a bus tour of Sharjah. This city/Emirate is only about a 30 minute bus ride away. Sharjah is the cultural capital of the UAE and houses many local museums, mosques, and theaters. While these are all great places for locals, they weren’t things tourists could really see in an afternoon. Honestly, the Sharjah tour wasn’t really worth our time, but it was nice to get outside Dubai and be in another part of the country. Below is a photo of the top half of the Burj.
That night we flew out of Dubai to Istanbul, through flydubai. We won’t ever use flydubai again and don’t recommend them. The plane and the actual boarding process was fine, but two weeks before our flight they cancelled it and told us our only option was to move to the next day (which we did, giving us three days in Dubai and only two in Istanbul). They offered nothing in return except some vouchers for our next flight with them—no hotel accommodations or anything. We were able to use our travel insurance to get another night through Airbnb, but were very disappointed in the airline.
Flydubai also operates out of Terminal 2 of the Dubai International Airport, which is hard to get to.
For anyone attempting to get to Terminal 2, here was our process:
- Take the metro (red line) down to Airport Terminal 1
- Leave the metro and go to airport arrivals. Leave the terminal
- Find a taxi outside arrivals (rather than departures) because it is less expensive. All taxis in Dubai have meters. Prices start at 12-20 dirhams.
- Depending on time of day, it will be a 10 to 25 minute drive
Goodbye, sunny skies and Arabian gulf!