Dubai January 25-Feburary 8, 2013

Wow!  I never thought that I would be writing about my visit to Dubai.  It just wasn’t a place that I thought I ever wanted to go to.  For me, it appeared to be way to opulent for my taste.  However, we have good friends Diane and Jose living there and they invited us for a visit.  It was a great opportunity to see them again and also, to visit Dubai.

Dubai is definitely posh!  It is a city of extremes….the biggest, tallest, longest and best!  One friend said it is Disney World for adults!!!  That just about sums it up.  I felt like it was a mix of Las Vegas, Florida and Disney World.  Vegas for the unique buildings and desert, Florida for the flat landscape and water and Disney World because it was such a clean city and the people, in the service industry, are so very, very friendly and pleasant!

It was wonderful to see Jose and Diane.  Jose and David worked together on the project in the Dominican Republic.  Jose left the DR and worked in Pakistan and is now in Dubai.  Diane and I were real close in the DR. I was sad to see her go.  So, it was great to be able to visit them.

They live in the Hilton Residence at the Marina area.  It was close to the beach, the train station and was a great place to just walk around.  Unfortunately, Diane had a torn meniscus in her knee and had knee surgery while we were there. That limited her mobility.  Jose had to work so David and I were on our own to explore, which was totally fine with us. It would have been nice to have Diane join us but under the circumstances, that wasn’t possible.

David and I arrived late, we stayed at the airport’s Holiday Inn Express the first night.  That turned out to be a very good plan as David’s flight was delayed by 2 hours and he didn’t get into Dubai until 3:00 in the morning!

The next day was Saturday, Jose was off from work and he and Diane picked us up.  Once settled in their apartment, we walked across the street to the beach and enjoyed a lunch and visit. After, David and I hopped the train to the Mall of the Emirates where the ski hill is.  In the picture, the ski hill is attached to the building on the left hand side.

The metro system was ceremonially opened on September 9, 2009 at 9:09:09 by the ruler Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.  It is fully automated without drivers and has the distinction of being the longest fully automated train system in the world.  The train cars were very clean and quiet.  The ride to the mall cost $1.60 for each return ticket.

The mall is the second largest in Dubai and offers a wide array of shopping from clothing to electronics, souvenirs and antiques.  The “Ski Dubai” is a popular attraction.  You can rent a complete ski outfit – clothes and equipment. Plus, they offer sliding and a giant ball run…you literally get inside a large ball and run down the hill.  They have a chairlift and t-bar.  On the outside of the “resort”, there is a restaurant that looked like a ski lodge with the fire in the fireplace and the rustic interior.  It was difficult to believe that it was sunny and a warm 75 degrees outside.

After walking around the mall, we returned to have a lovely evening with Diane and Jose.  Since we had the late lunch, Diane had snacks of nuts, fresh fruit, cheese, bread, chocolate and yogurt. It was just perfect!
The next day, we slept late.  Breakfast was a succulent buffet that is offered as part of the resident package.  My gosh, there was so many choices…eggs, pancakes, french toast, waffles, a selection of breads, muffins, croissants, wonderful fresh fruits, yogurts, meats, cheeses and vegetables.  We would have that and be good for the rest of the day, until dinner with Jose and Diane!
It was a quiet day.  It usually takes David a day or two to start to feel rested.  After breakfast, he took a nap, Diane had a pre-operation appointment and I worked on the computer.  Had I known that David was going to sleep as long as he did, I would have gone out and explored a little. 
Once David woke, we walked over the the Marina Mall to see the movie Zero Dark Thirty, which is based on the true story of how they found Osama bin Laden.  It was a long movie but all of the action, kept you riveted.  If you haven’t seen the movie, I highly recommend it. 
David and I took the Big Bus Tour.  It was a great way to get orientated and learn more about Dubai.  This tour is offered in many cities around the world.  They even have them in Las Vegas, San Francisco, Washington DC and Philadelphia.  It is on a double decker bus, like they have in London and you can hop on and off at the various stops around the city.  Ideally, it would have been better to get the 48 hour ticket but our schedule didn’t allow for it. 
Along with giving the background of various buildings or areas that we pass, they also give tidbits about the history and culture.  In the 7th century, the Umayyads, the first Muslim dynasty, were settled in the Dubai region and created a strong fish and pearl trade with the area of Iraq, Pakistan and India.  It is speculated that some of their ships even went as far as China.  Over the years, various tribes had control of the area.  The British came in 1949 to restore order between Abu Dhabi and Dubai.  However, in 1968 the British left and by 1971 the United Arab Emirates was formed. 
There still was friction between Abu Dhabi and Dubai until an agreement was reached in 1979.  It gave Dubai the ability to rule its own affairs and Abu Dhabi has control over the rest of the UAE.  To commemorate the forming of the United Arab Emirates, one of the worlds largest flag poles was erected.
All Arab flags are designed with the colors of red, white, green and black.  These colors were used in the Arab revolt of 1916.  The United Arab Emirates’ flag has the colors of red – security, white – peace, green – prosperity and black – natural resources.    
There are 8 million people living in the UAE and 1.8 million of those, reside in Dubai.  
Our tour started on Palm Island, the man-made island in the shape of a Palm Tree.  In 2001, the construction was started on this Eight Man Made Wonder of the World. It was opened in 2006.  At the end of the island is the Atlantis Resort, like the one in the Bahamas.
We hopped off at the Dubai Mall, the largest shopping mall in the world based on square footage.  There are over 1200 stores in this mall!  It also offers skating on a olympic size rink and boast of an aquarium and “underwater zoo”.  At night, there is a dancing fountain exhibit.  Next door to the mall is the worlds tallest tower, the Burj Khalfia.  
The Aquarium and Underwater Zoo
Dancing Fountain at Dubai Mall

This is the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world.  Are you seeing the pattern with Dubai…like I said earlier, Dubai is a city of extremes…the biggest, tallest and longest!  Construction began in 2004 on this building and the outside structure was completed on Oct 1, 2009.  It officially opened in 2010.  At The Top is an outside observation deck on the 124th floor.  It is quite the impressive building, don’t you think?

Back on the bus, we headed for the older section of Dubai.
This appeared to be a really interesting area full of character. It had the old souks or markets. There was a souk or market for spices, gold, perfumes, cloths and fish.  They were located near the Dubai Creek in various parts of the older city.

Unfortunately, when we got there, it was towards the end of the day and we really didn’t get to explore the old city like I wish we could have.

Dubai Creek is a bustling seaport area.  There are boats, which hardly look seaworthy, loading and unloading every imaginable thing….televisions, washing machines, dryers, refrigerators, cars.  It was definitely a bustling area of the city and full of colorful characters!

Nearby this area, we visited the Spice Market.  As you can imagine, the smells were marvelous. Everyone wanted you to come to their stall for a look.  Of course they had the best price for saffron, which is relatively inexpensive in Dubai compared to other parts of the world.  We didn’t buy anything, just had a look and a smell or two.

I only wish we had more time to spend in the older, more historical section of Dubai.  It looked really interesting.  Maybe, next trip!

I must admit that we did indulge once while there.  David, Diane and I went to have “High Tea” at the Burj al Arab.  It is the building built like a billowing sail in the wind and probably the most building people associate most to Dubai.

It is described as a seven star hotel….did you realize that they had a rating of seven stars?  I didn’t!  The only way you can go inside the building is if you have a reservation to stay in one of the luxurious rooms or eat at one of the restaurants.

High Tea is served at the restaurant on the 27th floor.  We took the outside elevator to get to there.  The elevator is on the water side and is glass so we got an incredible view of the Persian Gulf and the man made islands “The World” and “The Palm”.

Our table at the restaurant had a wonderful view of the Persian Gulf as well and we could watch the yachts of the “rich and famous” go cruising below us!  The “High Tea” was quite the experience!!!  We started off with glasses of champagne and a fruit tart with strawberries, raspberries and blueberries.  Next, we had a plate of dainty finger sandwiches – tuna and chili peppers, salmon and caviar, cheese and cucumbers.  All was presented so nicely and all were very tasty.  Finally, it was the dessert tray that came in the shape of the resort.

All were yummy!!!  When we left, we were full, full, full! It was such a lovely afternoon.  The piano playing in the background, the amazing view of the water and islands and sharing it with Diane and David made the $375 bill well worth it.  I told you that we did have one indulgence!!!  Honestly, I am grateful that we looked up the price on the internet so we didn’t have an “Oh My Gosh” moment at the restaurant!!  
Our last night in Dubai, we spent at the Holiday Inn Express airport as David’s flight left early in the morning.  Before leaving Diane and Jose’s, I was posting pictures of Dubai on facebook.  I got a message from our friend, Henry.  We met Henry 2 1/2 years ago in Costa Rica. He currently lives in Shanghai, China….anyway, he messaged me asking if I was in Dubai because he was there on business and could we meet!  How exciting!  Henry had been in London for 4 days over Christmas and we didn’t connect then.  After sending messages back and forth, it was determined that we couldn’t meet….he had a business dinner and was flying out that night.  So close and yet so far!  However, I am convinced that we will cross paths again sometime this year and will have a wonderful visit!
David made it back to Saudi and I made it back to England safely.  We both flew Emirates airlines. I must say, it is a great airline.  Before taking off, the flight attendants come through the cabin with warm facecloths to freshen up with….even in economy class!  Silly me, though, my favorite part of the flight was the real silverware that we received with our meals!!!
It was a great time spent with my wonderful hubby and our dear friends, Diane and Jose! Thank you, you two!!!

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