I’ve recently returned from a five-week trip with my family. We decided to trade our Aussie summer for a white Christmas – more on that in forthcoming posts because our first stop was Dubai.
Travel from Australia to Europe usually involves refuelling in either Dubai or Singapore. As it was the kids’ first long-haul flight, we decided to break it up and stay in Dubai for two nights (it had the desired result – no jet lag when we eventually got to Munich).
It was my first visit to Dubai. Based on what other had told me, I expected heat, lots of buildings that were the ‘biggest and the best’, and a huge mall.
We didn’t get heat – the friends that had warned us of insane weather in Dubai had been there in July when it averages 41°C. December is the best time to visit – it’s ‘winter’ (although I think locals divide the year into two seasons – ‘hot and hotter’) and we enjoyed a pleasant 27°C.
We did get a big building though. On our first afternoon, we visited the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa (note that towers will be a theme in these holiday posts).
The view from the top was incredible, the other skyscrapers appearing like a toy town below. Oddly, when you’re at ground level, the Burj doesn’t dominate – I think because it is so tall, you don’t often look way, way, way up. Of course, we did look up for the evening Burj light show.
The next day we took a Yellow Boat tour for views of the Dubai waterfront and of the seven-star Atlantis Resort. Our guide gave us all sorts of insane facts about the resort – 400 chefs; an ATM that dispenses actual gold (why?!); that it’s the fourth most Instagrammed hotel in the world (see my totally un-Instagram-worthy pic below) ; 24K gold-flecked guest soap; and so on – if there’s a way of out-doing what has been done previously, you’ll probably find it in Dubai.
Naturally my kids asked why we weren’t staying in one of the underwater suites at the Atlantis and the guide helpfully provided a rough outline of the rates (which shocked even the children) – the penthouse is US$35,000 per night, minimum stay three nights and the underwater suites start at US$15,000 a night – we’d need two because we’re a family of six!
We swapped the sea for the desert and spent the afternoon on a tour of the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve. On the way to the dunes, our driver pointed out a huge mountain of rubble that he said was left-over from various land developments around Dubai. Engineers had decided to ‘build’ a mountain in the hopes of changing the micro-climate to bring more rain to Dubai. The environmental scientist in me was alarmed… I can only assume they had the best and biggest advice before starting that rubble mountain?!
The desert was beautiful (and quite different to desert I’ve seen in Australia). Very fine sand, endless gentle dunes and the sun setting in a pastel sky. We spotted an Arabian oryx (which was on the brink of extinction before the Reserve was established in 1999) and some birds of prey.
We finished with dinner in the dunes. We drank Arabic coffee that was bitter and deliciously spiced, served with sweet dates. We ate tasty chicken shawarma and had a beetroot hummus that was perfection.
And that was our introduction to Dubai. I would certainly go back to see the older and more traditional parts of the city. I won’t be staying at the Atlantis though because by the time I return the newer, better and bigger Royal Atlantis will be open 😀