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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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. 👀
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. 😎