Amazing Dubai

Emirates airlines launched new daily direct service from Seattle to Dubai on March 01 so I took advantage of the 14 hour & 50 minute non-stop flight.   The flight departed at 5:30PM so I had plenty of time to drive the 2 ½ hour route from Vancouver the day of departure.

There are plenty of economical long-term parking lots around the Tacoma area. I selected Park n Jet – 8days USD56.13 including taxes and complimentary 8-minute shuttle ride directly to SeaTac Airport.

The Emirates check-in was very quick and easy. I saved time by using the online check-in 24-hours prior and printing my boarding pass.  The onboard service was professional, efficient and the flight crew extremely pleasant, they appeared to love what they do.

It was a long flight in economy class but there was plenty of complimentary movies, TV shows, radio stations etc. to keep you occupied.  The food selection had something for everyone. I selected a vegetarian meal but there was no need to since every meal selection had a vegetarian option. One of the flight crew allowed me access to view the first and business class cabins.  The atmosphere was very calming and guests seemed very comfortable in their lay-flat beds in business and their individual compartments in first class…very nice!

I arranged my own UAE Visa over the Emirates website. The cost was USD75.00 and took 48 hours to process.  Instructions were easy to follow.

For the first 5-nights I stayed at the 4-star Emirates Grand Hotel located in the Financial District of Dubai. I suggest this area for the first part of your travels if you have arranged tours because it is very central, an 8-minute cab ride from the Dubai Mall (nightlife, restaurants, entertainment, etc.) , the Burj Khalifa and half block from a Metro Station. Taxi cabs are very inexpensive and are the most economical and efficient way to get around the city. It cost USD3.00 to the Dubai Mall, a 6-minute drive and USD15.00 from the airport, 15-minute drive.

The Emirates Grand Hotel is a luxury, 47-storey high-rise offering studio, 1-bedroom, and 2-bedroom accommodations equipped with kitchenette facilities.  It was good value, great location, and friendly staff and offers a roof-top pool with fantastic city views

The last two nights I transferred over to another luxury 4-star property, Amwaj Rotana Jumeirah Beach Residence it is located at Jumeirah Beach and Dubai Marina. Every night I would stroll along “The Walk”, Dubai’s famous strip known for its restaurants and shopping. The hotel is located at the entrance of hotel row which is across “The Walk” to the beach which is wide, long, white sand scattered with shells from the Arabian Gulf and the warm and crystal clear blue waters and views of Palm Island.  I would highly recommend this newly built property mainly for its warm hospitality and professionalism. The Hilton (1st built in this area still stands) and the Sheraton are two other options.

I also had the good fortune to be able to tour some of the more luxurious hotels the city-state features, such as the Burj Al Arab, the world’s only 7-star luxury hotel, and the Atlantis Palm Island and Marine & Waterpark. Both were wonderful, featuring 44 and 19 different restaurants each as well as bars, lounges and activities. This really made it so that if you wanted to you wouldn’t ever have to leave the hotel/resort.

The city’s hotels, shopping malls and boulevards offer a diverse range of outdoor dining, coffee shops (even a Tim Horton’s), specialty restaurants and fast-food outlets.  The restaurant options are unlimited and there is a budget for everyone, independent restaurants are less expensive than dining in hotels. I recommend Pauls Restaurant – ambiance, food selection and price was outstanding and also suggest sampling some of the cuisine from the Middle East and other local regions – ie. Hummous, Tabbouleh and Fattoush. Dubai is a great destination if you are a seafood lover.

I like to be active and experience as much as I can while in a new destination and Dubai had too much to choose from.  I had arranged several tours by two separate local suppliers:

Gulf Ventures – private ½ day Dubai city tour: visits included Dubai Museum, gold and spice Souk, cross the Creek by ferry ride, entrance to the Burj Kalifa, rest stop at the  Mall of Emirates and to view Ski Dubai, photo stop at the Burj Al Arab, Dubai Marina and Jumeirah Mosque.

Gulf Ventures – Evening Desert Safari: trained safari guides drive 4X4 vehicles over towering sand dunes through the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, not good if you experience motion sickness. Visit a camel farm, take a camel ride and inside the camp experience an Arabian nights dinner with Bedouin-style seating, water pipes, sand art, henna designers and top the evening with entertainment including a belly dancer and Arabic music.

Arabian Adventures – full day Abu Dhabi Tour: visits include a scenic drive, the impressive Grand Mosque-largest in the world holing 30, 000 worshippers, Abu Dhabi Cultural center of art and learning, Heritage Village, Port Zayed area and views of the magnificent skyline and Emirates Palace. The last stop is at the Yas Marina Circuit home of UAE’s only Formula 1 circuit.

Arabian Adventures – All Points East Tour, full day to Fujairah: visits include a spectacular, scenic drive across the country, see the mosque shaped Sharjah International Airport, oasis of Dhaid, fishing village of Dibba, town of Masafi for its craft, pottery and carpet market, Bidiyah Mosque, smallest and oldest in the country, coastline drive to the town of Khor Fakkan, the Fujarirah Musem and swim in the Indian Ocean at the Sandy Beach Hotel and Resort – popular with international travelers.

Dubai is a multi-cultural, relaxed and tolerant city with a wide variety of attractions including stunning beaches, 5-star service, legendary hotels, outlandish shopping malls and skyscrapers.  The climate is warm year-round, months to avoid June through September where it becomes too hot and majority of restaurants and venues close for these months.  Taxi cabs and inexpensive and gold and spices at great deals.

They have their own currency the Dirham AED which is divided into 100 fils. I recommend exchanging Canadian Dollars upon arrival at the airport or any bank. Hotels do exchange but their rates are not as good.

Credit cards are widely accepted.

Dubai is a Muslim country and you must educate yourself with their customs and rules. It is prohibited to show any signs of affection in public and you could get arrested.  Clothing is conservative and bathing suits are only permitted at the beach or hotel pool.

Of all my travels I have to say that Dubai is one of my favorite next to Tahiti.

I loved the weather (45C plus), the hospitality, culture and elegance of the city. I plan to go back and recommend anyone travelling towards this part of the world to include Dubai as a stopover, you will not regret it!