48 hours in Dubai

I’m currently on a holiday travelling around Greece. That has been our main destination, but our stopover was in the UAE. We are at the tail end of our trip, and will be back home within a week’s time. There has been a good balance of both relaxing and sightseeing, but we had a short stopover in the UAE and chose to spend two days in Dubai after our flight landed in Abu Dhabi.

A selfie of me, Georgie, and Nick. We are wearing masks and standing in front of the iconic “Departures SYD” sign at Sydney airport.
Taking a photo with this sign is a bit of a trope, but we did it, haha

I find flight details pretty boring – unless you are an aviation geek like Nick, I guess – but the main thing is that flying from Australia to many places in Europe is a flight that can last at least 12 hours, unless you break it up along the way. Our flight was 14 hours to Abu Dhabi and then we had a 5 hour flight to Athens two days later. Mitch asked me a good question about how we did our trip, which made me realise that people really do opt for different methods. I’ll keep it brief: we have flown business class a couple of times paying by points, but not everyone can afford to just straight up buy a business class ticket where you are guaranteed a more comfortable flight, so assuming we will be flying in economy most of the time, we still prefer to deal with an uncomfortable flight (including sleeping in a crappy seat) and get to our destination sooner, rather than splitting up the journey and using the time we might normally use on sightseeing at our destination.

Everyone has their reasons, but we have found that adjusting to the local time zone wherever we will be, and shifting our sleep to that time zone a few days earlier, results in less jet lag. We left Sydney at 9:00pm, and while it was really tough getting sleep on the flight, we arrived in Abu Dhabi at about 5:00am local time, and were able to stay awake for another 18 hours. 🤯
Since Dubai is only about an hour’s drive from Abu Dhabi, mostly on the highway, we chose to rent a car instead of getting a taxi transfer. Nick is a competent driver and adjusts easily to driving on the opposite side of the road to home. The car rental cost about the same as a taxi and we could get moving straight away. The difficult thing was not having our hotel room ready that early in the morning, but we were able to freshen up using the hotel change room, and they let us have breakfast in their buffet.

Dubai was hot. After all, it is in the desert. On our first day we ticked off many of the tourist hot spots including The View at the Palm Jumeirah, which was really nice! We also went to level 125 of the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. There is a viewing platform at least another 25 levels higher, but that ticket cost quite a bit extra, so we chose not to do it.

A view of The Palm in Dubai, man-made island areas in the shape of a palm. A road goes between the “fronds” of the palm.
The View at the Palm. Pretty much the best photo I got, as a lot of the glass windows at the viewing platform have obvious metal framing

I must admit that the view from the Burj Khalifa wasn’t that interesting. Perhaps it is because Dubai has quite a few skyscrapers that make up most of the view, and much of the area is desert, and perhaps I just love a view with more colours of green and blue. Because of the skyscrapers, I guess the “wow, so many tiny buildings from this height” factor isn’t really there. It is definitely impressive that the elevator to get to that level is very quick, though.

A view of Dubai and its many buildings as seen from the tallest building in the world. The sky is free of any clouds but hazy.
One of the many views from the Burj Khalifa

I did like The View at the Palm though, because the palm looks interesting from a high vantage point. I’ll be honest, I didn’t care much for Dubai when we were planning our trip, as the sights there didn’t pique my interest. I also didn’t really think the Palm, in itself, was that impressive. 😅 But it deserves credit for how it was built. If you have to choose between the view at the Palm or Burj Khalifa, I would choose the Palm – in my opinion, the Burj Khalifa is more impressive from the outside than the inside.

We spent a lot of time browsing the Dubai Mall. There was a lot of entertainment inside, and these photos really only scratch the surface of the entertainment and what you can see and do in just one mall in Dubai.

The inside of a shopping mall in Dubai, with at least 4 levels visible. Many shoppers are in the mall.
Lots to see in the Dubai Mall
A water feature inside a mall, that is several storeys high. It depicts a waterfall, with several statues attached to the wall that look like male swimmers.
A water feature spanning the height of some of the levels
A brightly lit entrance to a cinema, with a trailer for a film playing on a big screen above the entrance.
Such a clean, inviting cinema. I’m used to these areas feeling “dark”
An indoor skating rink, with seating around the sides, and a lot of digital and static advertising around the sides of the rink.
Yes, there is even a skating rink in here.

Wondering how locals deal with the heat, we learned that it is much like the situation in other desert climates, where people stay indoors. So the mall was buzzing with people. We went to the food court and tried a place known for its chicken and chicken nuggets. There was a long line already, so it was definitely popular!

A food court with kiosk named “Al Baik”. There are some people sitting at the tables and colourful displays showing the food on offer.
We grabbed a bite to eat here after seeing it featured in a YouTube video

Literally the only thing I may have been excited about in Dubai was the Gentle Monster sunglasses store (and Nick joked about this, haha) – a brand I have been very interested in since I bought my first pair of sunglasses from them in 2018. They have a handful of stores in major cities around the world, so they are not in abundance. (There isn’t one in Australia but it looks like they are building one in the departures terminal of Sydney airport, which we saw on our way out.) I do wear sunglasses almost every day, so even though they are an expensive designer brand, they are worth the cost per wear for me. I had been looking for a metal frame pair since I have two acetate ones, and I found a pair I liked there. The thing I like about Gentle Monster stores is that they also have some kind of interesting art installation or different theme in each store, so they feel like an experience.

Nick also had a pretty good experience with requesting a repair from them after he accidentally broke the nose pad attachment, which obviously cost some for the repair work, but also cost a little to deliver to Seoul. It happened during the pandemic and their customer service was pretty communicative in that the shipment was delayed until they were allowed to send goods to Australia, but the process was fine. I even dropped by their LA store after I lost one of the decals on the side of one of my pairs of sunglasses, and they replaced it for free. I also took the risk of wearing one of my acetate pairs in a water park (!!!) and despite all the water, after a little clean, they were completely fine and unscratched.

Anyway, giant tangent aside! Our feet and legs were so very tired from walking a lot and generally just having sat on a plane for 14 hours, that we took a break and had coffee and snacks in a cafe. I was aching for a lie-down, just anywhere! Also, the mall didn’t seem to have seating anywhere, probably because they just want you to shop til you drop. 👀

The Burj Khalifa, tallest building in the world, in Dubai, seen from a man-made lake that is in the foreground. The sun is close to setting
There are many places in which you can see the Burj Khalifa, but I am pretty glad I got this shot!

We watched a short fountain display outside the Dubai Mall at 6:00. It was sooooo hot, and my legs were so tired. My ankles had actually started to swell and looked visibly bigger than their usual size. The heat, I could handle, but the sore legs and feet, I could not. I sat on the hot pavement as we waited for the fountain display for 20 minutes. I wasn’t bothered because it felt like a break. The display was shorter than I expected but there was a nice view of the Burj Khalifa as the sun was going down (but not quite sunset).

The Burj Khalifa from a similar viewpoint to the previous image, but is slightly to the left to show the fountains on display in the lake. A boat is taking passengers around the water
A simple but impressive fountain display

We had a lot of opportunity to use the metro when we were in Dubai. They, too, were air-conditioned! I hoped to get a seat on some of our rides, but that didn’t happen. They were not too crowded though. A thing to note about the Dubai Mall stop, though: the actual mall is a fifteen minute walk (undercover, with travelators) from the station. 😂 A bit silly, but it is what it is. The ticket machines were only accepting cash at the stop we got on at, which was a bit inconvenient, but we were able to take some money out of an ATM.

The inside of a metro station in Dubai, with the glass doors closed and no metro currently at the station. A display from the ceiling shows the next services.
Pretty much the first taste of the metro in Dubai

On our second day we headed out to the souks, in the old, traditional town of Dubai. The experience was akin to that of a market, with many vendors calling out to you, trying to sell you their goods. Many of them sold the same thing, but there was a gold souk for gold and jewellery, a spices souk, a textiles souk, and a couple of others that we didn’t see. We mostly walked through them and took it all in – we weren’t planning to buy anything. I did have someone call me “habibi” and “Lady Gaga” in presumably a cat-calling fashion, but I’ve learned from gawking people in Indonesia making similar comments, to just walk on and ignore them. I did find it funny that they thought I looked like Lady Gaga, though.

A view down the middle of a market in old town Dubai. A brown wooden sign from the ceiling reads “Gold Souk” along with other hanging posters promoting jewellery. The sides are lined with jewellery shops and some people are sitting on benches or standing in the walkway.
The gold souks
An assortment of earthy coloured spices in different cylinders at a market in Dubai
They were really trying to get us to buy the saffron!

We went to a middle eastern restaurant and ordered a platter to share, with some salad, and some drinks. There was a lot of food but we managed to finish most of it. It was a nice experience – although the food was authentic, the restaurant may have been somewhat catered to a western audience or to tourists in general. I didn’t mind that too much, since it probably made the experience of visiting the old town bit more comfortable.

A big plate of middle eastern food, of different kinds of meat, rice, and vegetables
There was a lot of food, but it all tasted great
A plate of middle eastern style doughnut balls covered in sweet syrup and sesame seeds, served on a plate on a placemat
Lukumades, middle eastern style 🍩🍯
Me, Georgie, an Asian woman with short dark hair, standing behind a frame anchored in front of a wall. The wall is decorated with flowers
I had to get a photo. 😄

We took a small boat across the water to head back to where we were staying, which was an interesting experience as well. Got a nice view of the old town while we were on it.

Slightly run-down buildings seen from the water. The water has a bit of a current and is not completely still
Old town Dubai

In the evening, we spent time exploring the marina where we were staying. It had been very hot during the day, some 40º that we really tried to avoid. It was much cooler in the evening, but still warm. We walked around a bit and took some photos of the buildings with all their lights on.

The Dubai marina, showing the beach with many beach beds, and a giant ferris wheel to the left.
A great view from our hotel room
A colourful mural at the middle point of a wide set of steps near large plain hotel/apartment buildings
A nice mural near where we were staying
A view of some of Dubai’s skyscrapers down the river.
A nice shot down the river
A view of the buildings at the Dubai marina at night.
The marina at night

Our next stop was Athens! We were really excited to finally arrive in Greece. The flight was five hours. It was a bit of a mess in that it was really busy and there were many queues to use the restroom during that time. Not fun. 😅 We had to get a bus from the gate to the plane. That didn’t bother me too much, as I’d done it before, but I guess it can often feel like a bit of a bother to most people. There was also a long queue to get through the passport checks, and we had to get a local SIM card for the rest of our trip, and we may have ticked off our taxi driver when we had to get him to drive us to an ATM because he only accepted cash, but we finally made it to our Airbnb in Athens. That’s where I’ll leave this post, but stay tuned for the next series of adventures. 😎

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