Sunday morning, after a bumpy night on the Airbus we found our connection and arrived at our hotel, the Hues Boutique. Despite Thomson arranging an early check-in we were told we would have to wait and it could be 6 hours before a room became ready.
We left our bags in the hotel and went for a wonder to get our bearings. We were staying in the area of Deira, which we soon discovered is quite an old area and very residential. We chose this location based on the price difference compared to being near to the beach or city. As we walked down the street we begun to feel very uncomfortable. Everyone was looking at us, a few people were definitely laughing at us, and everyone speaks another language (obviously). However it was very judgemental of us, and to be honest I would be laughing if I saw a pale ginger guy in a cowboy hat! We found the nearest metro station and the fish market and then headed back to the hotel, feeling like fish out of water… make that very tired fish out of water.
Back to the hotel we checked into our room, freshened up and headed upstairs to explore the rooftop pool. Wow! It’s green for a start, and the water is so warm. The hotel is quite close to the airport and under one of the main flight paths, so there are frequent and noisy planes passing over. But I found them easy to ignore. After a lovely swim we ate in the hotel and enjoyed a quiet night.
On Monday we were being picked up at 3pm for the desert safari and a representative from Travco (the hotel-airport connection company) had arranged to come and see us in the hotel reception at 12 noon. He showed us a map of Dubai and pointed out the different sights, plus told us more about Deira and the laws of Dubai. He advised us on the best methods of transport and we bought tickets for the Big Bus (or the Big RED Bus as we nicknamed it). I was feeling a lot more reassured.
That afternoon our Safari guide collected us and another couple and we headed out of the city and into the desert. At what seemed a random point we took a quick turning off the motorway and onto the desert! We stopped and were allowed out to explore while we waited for more people. One by one we counted 19 other 4x4s pull up! All V6 Toyota Landcruisers, phaw.
We were called into the cars and off we went. Now I have done lots of off-roading at home before, in mud and water around quarrys and trails, but I don’t remember ever being so exhilarated. We zoomed up sand dunes, rode along the edge of drops, turned and slid down the sand, up and over dunes, around banking corners. Amazing! I did think we were going to roll down the hill at one point, but we didn’t. The sand is like water! We stopped a few times to have a look around before finally finishing at the base camp. Here we all had a short camel ride which was a little chaotic, everyone was fighting to get on at the same time, and then we headed into the evening area.
Hold a bird of prey, go sand boarding, have a drink. The first of the evening entertainment was a man who spun around a lot, he was really good, and then we had a BBQ, very delicious! Night fell and the evening finished off with a belly dancer and then it was time to go home. The whole experience was absolutely amazing! We were lucky to get the lead car in the 4×4 experience so we had no idea what was coming up. Definitely an incredible first taste of Dubai!
The next day we took the metro to Jumeirah Towers, with the intention being that we would walk around the marina and then catch the Big Bus in the afternoon. We had bought 48 hour tickets so we figured if we got on in the afternoon we would get almost three days worth out of them. Well the metro was easy (as long as you don’t mind being nose to nose with strangers) but the map we had been given for the Big Bus stops was useless. It wasn’t very detailed and then even when we did find a bus stop which we thought might be one from the map, they don’t say if the Big Bus stops there or not.
After an hour of walking around and getting rather annoyed, by pure fluke we saw the bus in the distance pull into a stop. Hurrah, although we missed that one at least we knew where to get on! The bus stop said nothing on it about the Big Bus which seems ridiculous to me. Anyway 20 minutes later and another bus pulled up and we were on! We got our headphones and plugged in to listen to the commentary. It was very informative with some great facts and it’s a brilliant way to see the sights. We toured around the marina and then onto the Palm Island, which isn’t quite as spectacular when you’re on it instead of looking down from the air. We got off at the Atlantis and used our Big Bus ticket to get free entry to the Lost Atlantis Aquarium. A lovely little aquarium! Back on the bus, we finished the Blue Route at Emirate Mall.
Wednesday was our Burj Khalifa day! We took the metro to Dubai Mall and found the At The Top entrance point. Through security and then you enter a room with a window that looks up at the building. “You are going up there!” the tour guide says. Off we go, walking along corridors that tell you all about how it was built and different fun facts about the building. We watched a video of two guys that parachuted off the top as well as the men whose job it is to clean the windows. Finally you enter the World’s Fastest Elevator and hold on as you ascend 10 floors per second! It’s a bizarre experience, the elevator goes dark and there are funky lights and music and you watch the numbers scrolling up at speed. Apart from my ears popping a little you don’t feel anything weird at all. Out of the lift and there you are! So high up! It was a little misty which was a shame but the view was still wonderful. It’s surreal looking down onto skyscrapers! I don’t think my mind could quite comprehend it.
The first terrace is open top with glass walls and then the second section is indoors with a shop. It’s crazy looking up at how much of the building there is still to go! I wish I could see the view from the very top. After a good hour we headed back down and into Dubai Mall for some lunch. Then we took the Big Bus, this time on the Green Route and rode it around Downtown Dubai and along the beach route past Jumeirah beach and the Burj Al Arab. Back to Dubai Mall we had a final walk around and found the MAHOOSIVE aquarium! Three stories high! Sitting in the middle of the mall. Wow!
Outside the mall we sat down in a beautiful Italian restaurant, on the waters edge right next the Burj Khalifa to wait for the Dubai Fountains to start at 6pm. We were still eating as the first fountain display went up and it was just breathtaking to sit in comfort with an ice-cold drink and watch the display. And what a display! I’ve never seen anything like it. The fountains are timed to the music and it’s so fun and moving and simply amazing! We stayed for two more displays, there is a different one every half an hour. Fantastic.
Thursday, oh my gosh this week is flying by, we had our final day on the Big Bus. The Red Route! We went from Wafi Mall around Old Dubai and The Creek, past Gold Souq and Spice Souq and all the Souqs! We knew that Souq meant market, but it turns out their Souqs are a group of buildings or an area of shops, not quite like Hanley Market in the bottom of Potteries Shopping Centre! We hopped off the bus and onto a free boat ride up the Creek. More pushing and shoving to get onto the boat (apparently it’s only a British thing to queue) and we enjoyed a lovely and informative cruise up and down the creek.
Back onto the bus just before our ticket ran out and we finished back at Wafi Mall. Lots of the malls in Dubai are themed on countries and Wafi is an Egyptian theme. The building is a pyramid and inside are lots of hieroglyphics and a brilliant pyramid stained glass window. We played glow in the dark mini-golf and grabbed some tea in the mall to end our evening.
Friday, our final day on holiday! We opted for a lazy day and headed up to the pool for a few hours of sunbathing and swimming. It was lovely. In the evening we went to Deira City Centre (another mall) and ate in the Texas Roadhouse restaurant. Delicious!
I really enjoyed the experiences and adventures we had in Dubai, but I’m not quite sure if I enjoyed being in Dubai. I was sat on the Red Bus one day and turned to Ash and said, “I’m still not quite sure if I like Dubai or not.” I had a great time, and doing things like the desert safari and the tallest building in the world was absolutely amazing, but I’m not convinced on Dubai. We quickly found it to be a safe and friendly place, and the nervousness we experienced on day one soon disappeared as we got used to our surrounding and the people.
Would I recommend it to someone? Probably not. Would I go again? No. Did I enjoyed it? Very much so! (Confusing right).
We arrived back home on Saturday evening to temperatures barely above freezing and it felt good to be back. It was amazing to see Guinness, I missed him a lot! I missed dogs!! There are not many dogs in Sydney and Tasmania, and even less in Dubai.
I had an absolutely amazing three weeks! I experienced things that I have never even come close to before. I have done things that I never thought I would do, and quite possibly won’t do again. I saw family, an old best friend, and spent a great three weeks with the constant companion of my best friend and soul mate.
It was a dream… now let’s get back to dog training!