Sunday, March 5, 2017

Travels | Dubai

Yesterday my husband and I came back from 3 days in Dubai. The kids stayed home with Oma and Opa. I was a little skeptical about going to Dubai, but it was a wonderful trip that I want to document here because I know I won't be able to put it all on paper before it disappears in my mind! (That's so true! I still haven't document my Paris trip from last October. *shaking my head with disappointment)

Anyway, back to Dubai.

1. Clothing

When packing for the trip, I read that knees and shoulders should be covered at all time. I tried on all my summer skirts and they are all just up to the knees so I gave up on those and brought only 3/4 pants, t-shirts and cardigans.

When we got there I realized that the no visible knees and shoulders policy was to take with a grain of salt, but when I was passing the fully covered locals, men and women, I was happy to be 3/4 covered. I felt good. Also, it was not that hot outside (25 degrees for most part) and inside (AC everywhere), so then again, I was happy to be covered.

There was this one time a women walked in the restaurant with a short skirt and a sleeveless and almost transparent top and there was a lot of tumult surrounding that "event"! I am sure glad I wasn't that person.

At the Beach

At the beach, I read that one should bathe with shorts and t-shirts (you know, the kind made for water). Well, there again, the information was not very accurate. I saw everything from bathing suit showing the whole bum to covered women wearing 3/4 leggings and long sleeves... both of them chatting with each other actually, like everything would be normal and all right. To each is own really.



At Night

The night life in Dubai is very glamorous it seems like. Women we saw waiting for taxis in front of our hotel passed midnight were wearing tiny skirts and deep decolletes, 4 inches heals and a lot of make up. When passing them I felt invisible and pretty good about that! lol

Men vs. Women

One thing that came out for me was that not only the women were covered, but the men as well. The women were all dressed in black while the men wore a white dress with sandals and a red and white veil on their head. Or a white veil tied with a black head band. I thought it was cool to see this. That not only the women were dressed like that. Coming from a western society, we think that women covering themselves are oppressed, but no, the men are covered as well.... in Dubai anyway. I don't know for the other Arabe countries.



2. Our Schedule


Thursday:

  • Dubai Mall
  • Top of the Burj Khalifa tower
  • Walk at the marina.


Friday:

  • Beach
  • Mall of the Emirates
  • Souk with view on Burj Al Arab
  • Marina Mall and Movie
  • Walk around the marina


Saturday:

  • Brunch at the Cafe Rue Des Arts
  • Tour in de desert
  • Evening at the marina.


More Details:

We arrived in Dubai Wednesday passed midnight after a very comfortable 6hours flight. We landed an hour early! And used that hour waiting in line for passeport and security. There were a lot of people arriving at the same time than us!

We went straight to the hotel and to bed. I had a double ear infection and a migraine from the ear infection and pressure in the plane so I was barely standing.

Thursday

We woke up late and went to the Dubai Mall. (I still wasn't feeling good at all!) We ate and strolled the mall until our appointment (4pm) to go to the top of the Burj Khalifa. We stayed there until maybe 7pm and then ate in a lebanese restaurant at the Dubai Mall, with view on the water fountains. It was great! We then took a taxi to the Marina, where our hotel is, and walked around the water. We ended up having tea, coffee and dates at Beteel (which became our favorite tea spot for the evening). We walked back to the hotel.


 Burj Khalifa


The Dubai Mall


View from the second stop on the Burj Khalifa.


Burj Khalifa and palm trees at night.


Pretty Dubai mall.


View at the Marina.


Having tea at Beteel.


Friday

We woke up late again (man it feels so good to wake up when your body tells you it's time to wake up and not when the alarm rings or the kids sit next to you with their iPads!), we took the water taxi and got breakfast at Beteel (the tea shop from the night before). We each took a Muesli with fresh dates and a lot of nuts and headed to the beach.


We opted for not swimming. (Not because it was written "no sea snakes today") We just wanted to walk in the sand a little bit. The water was freezing cold! I got used to it a little and walked in the water, ankle deep, and fished out some sea shells.




After an hour of walking, we went to the Emirates Mall. We were not so impressed, after seeing the Dubai Mall which was way nicer! We ate at the food court, watched the skiers on the slope and looked at the people meeting the penguins. Impressive, but not my thing. I mean, when you have a winter, you don't need a manmade ski slope inside a mall. We didn't stay long and decided to go to a souk from where we would have a nice view on the Burj Al Arab. We stayed there quite a bit so that Patrick could do a time lapse video. We waited until the sun went down and then took a taxi to the Marina Mall.


Burj Al Arab.



Marina Mall.

The Marina Mall. So many lights! Pretty. A small mall though. We quickly had seen it all so we decided to go to the movie theater, in the mall. It felt weird to be in Dubai and to go to the movie theater but when you think about it, it's something we can never do in Prague because we have the kids with us. We watched John Wick 2. Pure violence and action. It was ok. The arabe couple next to us left after half an hour. It was a heavy movie.

After that we walked outside. It was a nice clear night. The scenery is breath taking and there are so many impressions to take in: colors, smells, sounds.... we ended at Beteel for a tea and cappuccino. Came back home walking.

Saturday

We woke up with the alarm at 9am. We wanted to call to see if we could still get a spot for the desert adventure tour. We were lucky and got in. We had to be at the hotel for the pick up at 2:45pm so we went out, took the water taxi and had breakfast at the marina, at The Cafe Des Arts, a French bistro where we got a large brunch/buffet. It's so nice to sit outside by the water, eat and relax. We took a taxi back to the hotel and had some time in the room before the company for the desert tour picked us up. Of course, we waited had an hour outside and when the guy finally arrived he told us we were not dressed adequately so we had to go back to the room and change. Everyone was waiting for us. Oh man! We came back we jeans and closed shoes and a jacket for the evening. Apparently in the desert it can get chilly.

We didn't know that all the cars of the company meet at one point and then go in the desert all together (maybe 15 cars?) so we were late and our driver had to force things a little bit on the highway. It was a good 45 minutes drive. At some point he squeezed us between a bus and a huge van just before and went on full break because of standing traffic 10 meters ahead of us! There were some screams in the car.


 The tour included a one hour drive through the sand dunes (including stops for photos and sand boarding - like snowboarding but on sand) and a stop at the camp where we rode camels (one minute of pure silliness and fun) ate some lebanese food (I don't know if it's also the Dubai typical food?!) and a dance show. Our group, all women, was fun and played back. Our guide was great. He took plenty of photos of all of us. All in all, it was a fun experience. I was glad the kids were not with us though, because it was definitely NOT for small children!


Silly picture the guide insisted in taking of us.

We came back to the hotel around 10pm and decided to go for a stroll at the marina. We took the water taxi to the Marina Mall (we wanted to get an ice cream) but the mall, which was open until midnight the night before was now closed (at 11:00pm) so we decided we had a nice boat ride and we took the taxi back home to pack and get some sleep.

Sunday

Sunday was time to leave. We got up at 5am and left the hotel at 6. We had plenty of time at the airport to enjoy a nice breakfast (Bench) win a hidden restaurant on the second floor. It felt so good to be away from the thousands of people who were leaving at the same time than us. We also felt a little nostalgic to leave and go back toPrague. Prague is a fantastic place to live, but we honestly didn't feel like going back there at that time. We were missing the kids though.

3. How we got places

The best way to get through Dubai is to take the metro. What is fun about the metro is that it's not underground. I also love that it's turquoise. That's always a plus. Ha!


Look how we see the Burj Al Arab in the window. :)

Another way to get around is to take a taxi. There are fairly cheap and they are always around! When getting out of the mall, there is a taxi line, just like at the airport. We never had to wait very long.

Our hotel was at the Marina so we also took the water taxi. It was the best way to get to the other bank.



We also walked a couple of times, when the last water taxi had already left. It was a fairly long walk (maybe half an hour) after a already long dat, but the temperature was so good (about 25 degrees, not humid) and we were never afraid. Except maybe that one time were a young boy insisted on selling us an iPhone in perfect condition. We said no 5 times and kept walking but he just wouldn't let it go. He finally did give up and we were relieved. That's the only time though.


4. Food and Drinks

Patrick isn't, but I am vegetarian. And I'm often afraid that I will not find food that suits my needs. Especially this time around, because I was so sick with my migraine and ear infection, I was worried. But I ate very well.

At the Dubai Mall, there is an impressive food court! You can find everything! Mexican, Thai, Indian, Sushi, Lebanese, Shake Shack, Five Guys, New York Fries, Subway, Tim Horton... you name it! I even saw people eating a "poutine" and if it wasn't of my head ache and nausea, I would totally have craved in! :)



Also, some of the restaurants in the Dubai Mall have an exist giving on nice terraces on the side of the water and the fountains. We had Lebanese at night with view on those said fountains. With the background of gigantic sky scrapers, it was just WOW!



The food court at the Emirates Mall is less impressive, but still. Lots of choices. I had lebanese, again. Not so good... but ok. At least I got my vegetable and proteins.

Around the Marina, where we were staying, there were lots of restaurants with terrace. That was great. Everybody though is smoking shisha on the terraces. It smells good, but it's still smoke.

On the desert adventure there was a large buffet. Lebanese (again!). Very good. It was impressive since we were middle in the desert. There was meat, but also plenty of vegetarian option. Oh and the deserts were SO good!!!

We didn't have a drop of alcohol. We sticked to water and tea. With fresh dates.. hmmm delicious!!




Tea, fresh dates and the lights in the palm trees. View on the water and the boats, all the colored lights of the buildings. It was just magical!


5. Culture, Language and Religion

When you arrive in Dubai, at the airport, the first thing you realize is that you are in an arabe country. The language, the way people dress. We read that we shouldn't hold hands in public or show signs of affection in public. No kiss! It was strange at first. And it's true. We saw maybe 3 couples holding each other by the hand, arm or waist. In 5 days! We broke the rule once or twice. And it was weird. Like we didn't know if we were disturbing the locals or if we would even get warned. There are cameras everywhere. So anyway...weird feeling, but nothing happened.

The signs are ALL bilingual. No problem for that. All the stores have their names written in Arab and in English. All of them!



Also, EVERYONE speaks perfect English! It was very easy to get around and ask. That was very different than Prague!

I already spoke about the clothing. Again, what stroke me is that both men AND women are covered and wearing their traditional dresses. And we also saw that the covered women are strong women and they often direct their husbands. Fiercely. lol It was nice to see this.


Only about 10% of the people were dressed with traditional costumes as you can see here in the Mall of the Emirates.


6. Skyline

So Impressive! I've been to New York, but this was still very impressive to me. The buildings are not only high, but they are beautiful. And different. They are lightened up and of different shapes. The fact that they are intertwined with the mosques and the fact that they are sometimes next to the water, sometimes next to the desert make it even more interesting and impressive.


The mosques right in the middle of the giant skyscrapers is quite impressive!



Here the same mosque from another angle.


The marina. That's where we had our hotel.


The view at night.


There is one building that caught our attention more than the others. We called it the "twisty tower". Its larger at the top than at the base, and the whole tower twists at it goes up...! It feels like it could fall anytime.




The Burj Khalifa, the highest tower in the world, is just, out of this world! Impressive and incredible. What can I add to that?! We went all the way to the top, to the 148th floor out of 154 floors. Just plain crazy. And nice.




The mosques, at night, was WOW!


One of the blue hotels on the right was ours.


7. Smells, Sounds and Colors

Everywhere we went, there was this smell we couldn't pin point. In the mall, and while walking outside.

In the mall, it was an incense, I think. Amber and Rosewood maybe? I also found a make of cloves in one of the store.... very peculiar and heavy smells, yet enjoyable. It was a weird feeling.

Outside, it's the smell of the shisha smoked by people sitting on the terraces. It smells like fruit. A light  and enjoyable odor, but, it's smoke, so I didn't breath it in much... I can't stand smoke.

The colors of the buildings: grey, silver, black, white, sand color..... we also saw a lot of turquoise. Beautiful. Some of the mosques are white with golden roofs. Some other are a sandy color. When lighten up at night, they are purple or blue.




This is the view we had when we were on the beach, both feet in the water.

The sounds... a mix between all sort of languages coming from the crow of tourists. Also, we hear the sound of the call to the prayer. A music, in arabic, not agressive at all. In fact, it reminded me to be thankful and to live the present moment. I thought it was quite enjoyable. The first time we heard it, we were in the Dubai Mall. That was weird. We looked around but nothing happened. Everybody kept walking and doing their thing. We also heard it once while we were drinking tea on a terrace. There again, nothing special happened. Nobody started praying or stopped. Everybody kept walking peacefully, talking, taking pictures... very peaceful.


8. Our Hotel

We stayed at the Grosvenor House. A beautiful, yet affordable hotel (for Dubai) at the Marina. It made our evenings so enjoyable!! And it was so easy from there to take a taxi to anywhere! Or even to walk to the metro station, which we did only one time, to get to the Dubai Mall.


This was in the entrance of our hotel. It was gigantic! They also changed the colors of the flowers every day...


Told you!

The room was big and nice. The bathroom as well. We even had our little thingy to clean our feet which was very useful when we came back from the beach and the sand dunes. :)

We had a pool, but we didn't see it. We also had access to the pool and the private beach of the Meridian hotel, which was only a short walk away. Beautiful pool that one. Actually the Meridian has many pools!! Really an awesome space for families with kids.

The view from our bedroom was on the beach and on the marina. We had a balcony. We were on the 23rd floor. Perfect height to see well and not feel too dizzy.


View from our room.


Our room number. Arab and roman numbers.


9. The top of Burj Khalifa

Imagining I wasn't sick... (Even sick, actually, this was a wonderful experience!


We took the expensive option, to the very top, floor #148 (out of 154 floors!), with some drinks and sweets at the top. We first waited in a living room, sitting on comfy couches, eating 9or not!) complimentary dates. The guide explained to us how it would work and scanned our tickets and then we all left together.

We took a first elevator to the first platform and went straight ahead into a second elevator which took us to the top. This is the fastest elevator in the world. I was afraid. Because of ears and head ache and ...just because, as well. But besides the pressure in my ears, I didn't feel anything. I didn't feel anything move and I didn't have an empty hole in the stomach like on a ride. In the elevator there was some sort of light show. They were picturing on the walls of the cabin other well known towers around the world: the Eiffel tower, the CN tower, etc.



When the doors open at the very top, a man offered us drinks and sweets. I took a lime and mint lemonade and a luxemburgerli. Yum!! We then went around the tower and started looking down and taking pictures. The view was majestic. Like looking down from a plane. The sky wasn't clear that day so we didn't see the Sail like hotel or the Palm Island with the Atlantis hotel. Unfortunately. But we still managed to stay up there 1,5 hours! Theres a platform to go outside as well. It was very impressive and a lot of fun!





We then decided to start our descend. We had to stop on the middle viewing section, where the less expensive tours stop. The view was still amazing, but very different from the top. It was crowded and the feel was very different. We stayed another half hour there, at most and went down to the lowest observation deck. We stayed there only a little while before we decided to end this. I must say that the very top of the tower (it costs around 100USD) was well worth it. I don't know how much the other levels cost, it was probably also worth the price, but if you get a chance, go to the top!

10. The Dubai Mall

I was really eager to see one of the biggest shopping mall in the world! I wasn't deceived!


The Mall is right next to the Burj Khalifa tower. This is what it looks like from outside. You can see on the left, over with the row of palm trees, the terraces of the restaurants. That's where we ate at night. The fountains are in this bassin of water.


Inside the mall. It's just GIGANTIC! And pretty. And you can find all the stores you find in the States. Well, we didn't see a Target, but I told Patrick that a Pottery Barn was missing and he answered: just wait! Well, later, we found it! Here you can see L'Occitane en Provence and the Sephora.


This was the luxury aisle with all the very expensive stores. I love all these butterflies hanging from the ceiling. It was grand and just so beautiful!


This is us looking down to the gigantic aquarium. We didn't get inside. Look at the size of the people next to the glass and it will give you an idea of the size of that thing!


Of course, there is an ice rink in the mall. And it's a normal size ice, where there could be a hockey match. I find it funny to see the man with his traditional robe looking at the kids skate.


This was one of my favorite store selling typical things from Dubai.


I should have bought one of these lamps. I regretted not doing it.


Love these colored glass next to the silver dishes.


And look at the service table. It cracks me up. :)


Another cute table. Love the color of the ashtrays. Although I certainly don't need an ashtray!


This was a candy/tea store that was really nice and stylish.


How cute this?!


And this?!! Love the gold and black!! It reminds me of an assignment I made for Get it Scrapped some years ago. :)


11. The Sand Dunes expedition

We tried to book a spot the night before but the tours were all full, so we out the alarm clock at 9am the next morning and called. And they just had a cancellation! How lucky for us! So we went to the expedition. They picked us up around 3:00 at the hotel and we drove an hour to the dunes where we joined many other cars that would drive with us. It's good to drive with other cars, because if something ever happen, the guides all look out for each other.


After a (much needed! DON'T ever go to that expedition with an empty bladder!) bathroom break, we started driving in the sand dunes. We quickly found out that it would be like a roller coaster.... that never ends. We ad a gal with a fragile stomach in our car and it wasn't nice. Our guide took it easy and still, it was rough. The guide gives gaz to group the dunes and once up there, he aims for a descent, letting the car slide sideways. Remember, other cars are with us, so it quickly turns into a ballet of cars crossing and passing by each other, sliding as they get to the top of the dune. We saw some cars at only some inches from our car. I don't feel like it was calculated. It all worked out, but I think we had (also) some luck.


We stoped a couple of times to take photos in the desert and to "sand board". It's like snowboarding, but on sand. Since the sand was wet, because of the light rain, the board didn't slide that much, but still, people had fun. I didn't even try. Pat did, and he had sand in his face, mouth, nose and ears the whole rest of the trip.




We left the sand dunes and went to a camp in the desert where there was a short camel ride (a one minute ride), a bird show, food and a dance show. We were all sitting on poufs at some very low tables surrounding the area where the shows took place. The food was a Lebanese buffet. Very good. Plenty of vegetarian options. And really great deserts! We stayed there for about 2 hours before we headed back to the hotel. The ride back was longer because of the traffic of everyone coming back from the desert at the same time. All in all it was a crazy, scary, and fun experience that one has to do. But I would let out little kids. Both my girls would have been car sick in there. It wouldn't have been fun.


The one minute camel ride was my favorite part, as you can tell! :)


My selfie with Mike, our camel.


Not a great picture, but to give you an idea of the camp where we ate and watched the shows.


The food was really great!! And yes, this is a mini coke.



In conclusion, our Dubai vacation was GREAT! The sickness sucked 2 days of fun out of it, but the ambiance, the feel of the place, the activities we did made up for the rest of the time. We would both go back in a heartbeat!


4 comments:

TracieClaiborne said...

That was so much fun to read!!!!!! I hate that you were sick! I love all your pics and thoughts since I will never ever venture there. Thanks for sharing all that

Marie-Pierre Capistran said...

Thank You Tracie!!

Nounette said...

Quel magnifique reportage!!! Tes photos sont toujours superbes! J'ai eu la chance d'y aller il y a quelques années, un peu sceptique mais au final j'ai également passé un très beau séjour!

Gab said...

Such great pics! I love Dubai! The architecture is just amazing!