United Arab Emirates

The tallest, the largest, the best, the only

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!


Categories: UAE | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

Dubai travel tips

Thinking of traveling to Dubai? Here’s five tips from us, of varying worth.

1. Getting a taxi from the Dubai airport when you arrive is quite simple. An attendant is there guiding each group in line to the next available taxi. All taxis (tan with red roofs) are metered.

2. In the UAE, pictures of government buildings aren’t allowed. Photographing Arab women is considered offensive (of course, taking a photo of anyone without their permission is rude in my opinion). Also, taking pictures of trucks/drivers/things on the road is also considered rude.

3. There are women-and-children only parts of the metro cars. Pay attention to those, because even though tourists aren’t usually charged fines for that, the fines are pretty heft (around 110 dirhams). Traveling by metro, however, is fairly cheap and very easy to do. There are only two lines and everything is also in English.

4. Two days is enough time to see Dubai. You can do a city bus tour, desert safari, chill on the beach, go to the malls, or do At the Top at the Burj Khalifa. Besides shopping, that’s about all there is to do in Dubai. If you do plan to spend more time in the country, consider a day in Abu Dhabi and/or a day trip to Al Ain, the garden city on the other side of the country, nestled in the Hajar mountains. You can even book a day trip or overnight into Oman (just on the other side of those mountains).

5. Book at least 36-48 hours in advance if you want to go up the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa (burj means “tower” in Arabic). There are two observation platforms, and the higher costs more. It isn’t cheap, either, but perhaps it’s worth it.

Categories: Practical Matters, UAE | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments

Dazzling Dubai

We didn’t think we were going to make it for a while. Our flight to Dubai was overbooked and then they didn’t want to accept our credit card.

But finally, at four in the morning we landed in Dubai with our luggage. We’re staying in an apartment we found through Airbnb. This is our second time to use the website, and so far we have been thrilled. Our hosts are incredibly kind and helpful. One is from Spain, while the other is from Argentina and the United States, so I listen to their small talk in Spanish. They have given us great advice for Argentina, which we will be arriving in two or three weeks.

Dubai, the glitzy playground of the rich and famous, is not the Middle East. At all, really, and several people have already told us that. Only about 20% of the population in the city is Emirati–everyone else are immigrants from everywhere.

There are tall buildings everywhere–big, nice, shiny buildings. It’s not as crammed as New York City (perhaps because Dubai is much newer) but it is rapidly approaching the city of skyscrapers status. English is everywhere–almost more than Arabic. The roads are new and nice, so we think we could drive ourselves through the area pretty easily if we wanted.


We’re doing a hop on/hop off bus tour for 48 hours. We enjoy them, even though it’s very touristy. Our stops today were in northern Dubai, near Dubai creek and in the Deira district. Above is Jordan inside the old Al Fahidi fort. It is now the Dubai museum. For anyone that likes history, this is a must-see. It gave me a much better idea of the history of Dubai, the UAE, and the Emiratis.

Basically, there have been people living in this Gulf region for thousands of years. A few hundred years ago, the Bedouin and semi-nomadic Bedouin began fishing and pearl diving off the cost here, near Dubai creek. A traditional home is pictured below (behind me!). They made most things out of palm fronds.


The village grew slowly until around 1930/1940 when the sheikh of the town put in an airport and began developing the area with health clinics and schools. Things expanded and grew through the 50s, and then in the 60s they struck oil. Dubai exploded after that. With no income tax and great business opportunities, the sheikh draws a lot of foreign investments and high-skilled immigrants (like Westerners) to the area.

There are seven emirates in the UAE, Dubai being the most well-known. Emirates are like principalities or states. They banded together to form one country, the UAE, in 1971. Each emirate is still ruled by a sheikh, a hereditary leader. These together form a supreme council, which is the country’s highest legislative body and executive body. All in all, the UAE has over 9 million people living in it, but only roughly 1.4 are Emirati citizens.

Emiratis are, to my understanding, regular Arabs, just like everyone else in the Gulf. “Emirati” is a nationality, not an ethnic group. However, not anyone can become a citizen. Millions of immigrants were actually born here in the UAE, but will never become citizens. The citizens like to think of themselves as more of an ethnic group, even though they’re not. They are also highly privileged. Although not all are obscenely wealthy from the oil, they are all given scholarships to university, guaranteed jobs, and given other benefits. Immigrants, while valued for the work and business they bring to the country, are usually at a disadvantage when there is a dispute between them and an Emirati. You can be sent to jail for giving a vulgar gesture (like flipping someone off) to an Emirati.

We can identify most Emiratis on the street because they still wear traditional dress, while immigrants (even other Arab immigrants, like Jordanians, Yemenese, etc.) do not. The men wear the long white robes with head coverings, and the women wear long black robes and hijabs, often with face coverings (like burqas).

Later that evening, we went out on a desert safari–something popular in the UAE. Sandboarding (which we both failed at), camel petting, sand dune riding, and eating Arabian barbeque while watching traditional dancing was the order of the evening. It was lots of fun and I even got a henna tattoo on my calf!


Dubai is a fascinating city that we’re enjoying, though it hardly seems like a foreign country. Soon we will see the famous malls and hotels, and perhaps tour another city.

Categories: UAE | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

Create a free website or blog at

Morgan Hazelwood: Writer In Progress

Sharing Writing Tips and Writerly Musings

Poetry Without Words

"There is more pleasure in building castles in the air, than in the ground. "

Chesca's Travels

Traveling in South America

Unexpected Wanderlust

Seeking adventure and disorientation while examining the world

Backpack Journalist


Grace for my Heart

Dave Orrison's thoughts on grace and more

Korea-The Final Chapter

Working, Living, Exploring in Korea.

Strolling South America

10 countries, 675 days, 38,540km

Le Voyage Extraordinaire No. 55

Sorin and Lisa's Grand Adventure


Building my own map, one trip at a time.

Pinay Flying High

a peek into the realms of my twisted mind

blodger's Blog

This place is great mate

Jeyna Grace ©

Imagination, the perfect form of escapism.

Writing Rhetorically

Classical Rhetoric and thoughts on the world around us

Spiritual Friendship

Musings on God, friendship, relationships


Our Adventurous Life