Going from one of the poorest countries to one of the richest in the world can offer a lot of perspective. Nepal was wonderful, we really loved it. We went into Dubai with very few expectations. We knew there was going to be a lot of wealth and we pegged it as one of those places you had to see just because. From what we heard from people as we were traveling were not great things. They didn’t like Dubai, but they also didn’t really give it a chance, OR they had only been to the airport. Sometimes the airport of a place can be just enough, but after exploring Dubai, we beg to differ. It’s a place we both grew to enjoy and would definitely go back.
Scott said that Dubai reminded him most of Vegas, but cleaner, richer, and with a beach and river. So maybe not so much like Vegas? But it was a wonderful oasis. Dubai was probably the most ethnically diverse place we have ever been. People from all over flock there for the quality of life and access to anything you can think of. There is no formal dress code, and you don’t have to be as conservative as you may think. There are women in full covering, abaya and burqa, and men wearing ghutra (cloth headdress) and kandura (a long white tunic). But, also people wearing shorts and tank-tops. Neither type of dress looks out of place. The streets are immaculate, they have built up their infrastructure to withstand a massive population for the future, the grocery stores have every food you’d ever need, and the beach was calm and clean.
Our air bnb was in a tower of an apartment/hotel minutes away from the beach. We were staying with a Chinese family who had been living in Dubai for just a year. From the home we were able to access the gym, three pools, and a grocery store within the complex. There were also plenty of restaurants and shops at the bottom floors of the complex leading toward the beach. The air bnb was conveniently located close to the beach, but also close to the metro. We got to walk across the bridge over the man-made river every time we wanted to go on the metro, a good excuse for a pretty picture too!
In order to save money, we ate a lot of cereal, fruits, veggies, and other quick eats from the grocery store. Dubai isn’t ridiculously expensive like Iceland, but it is more expensive than most of the places we have been traveling. Their prices are basically equivalent to US prices for goods, somethings are even cheaper. So, it wasn’t a complete shock to us and not nearly as crazy as others had hyped it up to be.
We enjoyed things that we wouldn’t get in Asia for a few months such as fresh milk, burgers, and other basic foods. Milk is something that you don’t really think about until you’re in a place with poor refrigeration and that gets very hot. In Asia most of their “milk” can be kept non-refrigerated (as we found in some parts of Europe too) it’s usually chalky and doesn’t taste very good so we usually avoid it. However, in Dubai we found the fresh stuff, so we indulged.
We kept our days simple in the desert. With it being hot, flat, and dusty, we would workout in the morning (a miracle to have a gym so we took advantage of it) then go to the beach or pool or both (there was an encounter with camels on the beach). The water was incredibly warm, and the beach was generally quiet. After a snack we would head to one of the extravagant malls in Dubai (something it’s are known for) and wander around. Then it was back to the pool and out for dinner. Nothing too crazy but relaxing all the same.
The two main malls in Dubai are Mall of the Emirates and Dubai Mall. Our first UAE mall experience was mall of the Emirates. Home to an indoor ski lift, we were pretty set on paying the money to try it out, but when we saw it, we quickly knew our $100 would be met with quick boredom. Regardless, it was awesome to see a completely indoor snow wonderland. There were skiers, snowboarders, tubers, sledders, and a short 30 second slope. Not something you see every day!
We thought that Mall of the Emirates was nice, but then we experienced Dubai Mall. To start the mall stands at the bottom of the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world at 2723 feet (830m). We went at night so the whole building was lit up, advertisements and twinkling lights flashing across its enormity. At the base of the Burj and the mall is a plaza with a large fountain show every half hour from 7pm on. The fountains are accompanied by traditional music, and a light show projected from the Burj. It basically feels like Disney World and the Bellagio for adults.
We ate a lot of good food while in Dubai, but none of it was traditional to the area. I had Shake Shack for the first time (I’m hooked, thank goodness their cheesy goodness is in the States). We ate Peri-Peri chicken from one of Scott’s favorite spots, Nando’s. I also got to introduce Scott to one of my personal favorites, Din Tai Fung, a Chinese dim sum chain that is also located on the west coast of the US. It was fun to have a bit of change up on food since we had been eating curries, rices, and noodles, but we can’t complain because we love that food too!
Dubai was beautiful in a city-way, a complete culture change from Nepal, and a place we would come back to. Leaving the UAE we got to fly Emirates, one of the nicest airlines in the world. We were in economy of course, but regardless it was a treat. Their food was excellent, the service was incredibly attentive, there was lots of entertainment on board, and a ton of leg room (big plus for us tall people). The airline lives up to their hype! Our next destination is Sri Lanka, and we’ve got a little over two weeks there. It’s more time then we’ve spent in most places and we are very excited!