I returned last week from my trip to the UAE and wanted to find a way to tell you all about my travels without writing long and drawn out paragraphs. What better way to get to the gist of my trip then to do a list! This way I can narrow down what is most important and not give you all unnecessary details.
1. Etihad Airways provides great customer service- Traveling to the UAE we had an 11 hour flight. Coming back to the states it was 14 hours. On both flights we were given a pillow, blanket, flying pouch with socks (your feet swell when in the air for a long period of time), ear plugs, headphones, eye mask, toothbrush and tooth paste. We were served two meals, one sandwich, and plenty of drinks, including alcohol. If your flight is not full, you can move around and find a space comfortable for you. I do however suggest you bring your own snacks and water/juice, especially if you have children. Although we were served two meals and a sandwich I wanted snacks and more water.
2. Check the weather! Beware of sand storms- When we landed it was a really bad sand storm and many of the touristy things that we could do were not available because it can be quite dangerous being out in a sand storm. Have a back up plan of things to do inside during a sand storm if your plans for the day was outside.
3. Exchange your money for dirham- We ran into quite a few problems because we thought we could pay USD, but 90% of the places we went only accepted dirham or credit cards (mainly Visa and Mastercard). Hotels can exchange money for you, but you may be limited to a certain price per day i.e. $100 usd per day. Notify your bank if you plan on using your card while oversees. With identify theft and scammers running rampant, you do not want your bank to but a hold on your card and you do not have access to any money.
4. The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is AMAZINGLY BEAUTIFUL. Our cab driver said they were doing construction so we ended up walking around the entire mosque before we got to the entrance. We didn’t mind because it was definitely a site to see. Although I am a believer in Christ I can appreciate beauty and words cannot describe how it felt to see the mosque in person. Ladies, an abaya (traditional dress for women) can be borrowed. You need to have a picture ID (not a passport) The lines are long so if the tour starts at 5, I would aim to get there around 4 to get an abaya pending a long line. You do not have to rent an abaya if you have the right clothing (hair, arms, and legs covered).
5. The Dubai Miracle Garden is FASCINATING. As soon as you walk in, you are greeted with an amazing fragrance of flowers. Now my boyfriend isn’t really fond of gardens and things, but he was amazed at how beautiful everything was. The level of creativity shown at the garden was just simply amazing. We literally sat down and “smelled the roses” and just relaxed and took in the amazing views.
6. Food Nom Nom Nom- I have never seen so many Chili’s Restaurants in my life. They are literally everywhere. So is McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s and even TGI Fridays. In the malls you had of course all of the chain/franchise restaurants. We tried our hardest to eat at places that we did not have in the states. We ate at Lemon Grass (Thai Restaurant) even though they have one in Brooklyn, it beat going to Fridays. We opted for ice cream first at London Dairy rather than Baskin Robins or ColdStone. The best food we had was at a restaurant at the World Trade Center Souk in Abu Dhabi called Tarbouche. They serve Lebanese food and the food was DELICIOUS. We started with Kebbeh as an appetizer, then for our entree we had Chicken Mousakhan (arguably one of the best chicken dishes I ever had in my life) and Kabab Instanbul. You can find the menu here. We had breakfast at the hotels and they served a typical American buffet breakfast with Arab cuisine sprinkled in. I did however have lamb sausage and other Arab delicacies for breakfast. For desert we pretty much had gelato. Across from Tarbouche there is a gelato and nut shop called Tawadoh and the pomegranate gelato was TDF. I also tried the saffron and pistachio which was interesting.
7. Ride an abra down the Dubai Creek- Most people that go to Dubai or Abu Dhabi tour the marina on a yacht. Some have yacht parties and that is great. We however chose to tour the Dubai creek in an abra- this is a boat that was meant to take residents from Bur Dubai to Deira. It costs 1 dirham to ride from side to side, but to ride up and down the Dubai creek it will cost approximately 30 dirham per person for 30-60 minutes. The view of Downtown Dubai, Deira, and Bur Dubai are amazing. It was a peaceful ride down the creek. There is a gelato stand near the abra docks that serves camel milk gelato and YOU HAVE TO TRY IT. I mean, it was so sweet and delicious.
8. The Burj Khalifa and Dubai Architecture- only one word can describe this and that is a monstoristy. I mean the skyline is outrageous and more developments are going up. the Burj Khalifa is unbelievable. We went to the observation deck on the 124th floor and the view was amazing. The view of the Burj Khalifa from the highway, the Dubai Creek and other places like hotels is simply amazing. We learned about the history of the building and downtown Dubai on the way up to the observation deck.
9. The Gold Souk- I heard the prices were incredibly cheap, but I’m not sure according to whose standards. Even with haggling prices aren’t as cheap as people said. It was great to look at the gold, especially the world’s largest handmade gold necklace, but I don’t think it is worth being harrassed by local vendors trying to get you to go down side streets and alley’s to buy fake bags, watches, weave, and fake jewelry. They literally follow you throughout the entire souk. When we would go in stores they would wait outside for us. It was very annoying. We left quickly. It was nice to look at the gold, but unless you have any intention on buying it, I would pass, it is not worth the hassle.
10. The Desert Safari- Let me first say, make sure you book your safari with a reputable company. We waited until the last minute and almost did not go on the safari and that would have sucked big time. We were able to secure a spot at 11pm in the Dubai Mall for a safari our very last day. We were cutting it close, but we took the chance and luckily it worked out. Some people paid for a tour and the drivers never showed up. My boyfriend and I were paired with 4 women from England visiting a friend who works in Dubai. Most tours advertise a 6 hour safari, that includes pick up, the ride to the desert and the 45-minute layover for the drivers to let air out of the tires for dune bashing. During the 45-minutes we rode ATVs in the desert which was awesome! Beware, during this stop the local vendors just start dressing you in the traditional headwraps. I thought it was free then the guy asked for 25 dirham. After the layover, we went to the sand dunes. You have to drive through the dunes to get to the camp site. There is no way around it. Dune bashing was like a 20 minute roller coaster. Our driver, Raj, was very skilled with different tricks. We were literally driving on two wheels, jumping from dune to dune, nose diving into dunes, it was so much. I can’t even begin to describe everything. If you have a weak stomach ask the driver to go easy because you will get sick. Have a plastic bag and lots of water, you are in the desert remember that. We stopped for photo opps along the way to the camp site. The desert is beautiful and peaceful. I didn’t get great pictures because I was to nauseous from the dune bashing. When we got to the site we could either get on line for the camel ride, our camel ride was very short (like only a minute) I didn’t mind though. I was scared on that thing lol. We took pics with the falcon, had arabian treats, and watched live entertainment. There was plenty of water to drink and soda. You had to pay for alcohol. The food was great too. The only thing was the organization of getting the food. There were lines for men and women and some people never had food in their lives so they were being a little barbaric. There was PLENTY of food for everyone. There was enough for people get seconds, thirds, and fourths. Once we finished eating and the entertainment (belly dancing and men’s folk dancing-they were all really talented) it was time to hit the sand (no road). We drove through the desert in the dark (no street lights of course) and it was quite terrifying honestly. Especially since our driver still wanted to show us his tricks, but this lasted on 5 minutes. We had to wait to put air back in the tires and then we were all dropped off at our different destinations.
Honorable Mention- The Malls- I think we went to like 4 malls (Mushrif, The Dubai Mall, The Abu Dhabi Mall, Al Wahada Mall, World Trade Center Mall). They had many of the same stores like Nike, H&M, Inglot (I was shocked at this) Forever 21, Aldo, Adidas, etc. The Dubai Mall had everything and more including tons of designer stores. We didn’t come across anything special so we didn’t buy anything.
There is so much more that I can write, but this is just a small portion of my experience. Overall I enjoyed the atmosphere and culture of Abu Dhabi more than Dubai. I may be in the minority with this, but in Dubai I always felt like I was on the go like in Manhattan, I’m not sure if it was me always moving or just the nature of the city life. In Abu Dhabi, I actually felt like I was on a relaxing vacation. I would definitely go back to both places though in the future.
Have any of you gone to the UAE? What were your thoughts?
*All pics were taken with my iPhone 6*