On New Year’s Day 2015 we arrived in Dubai from Sydney. It was middle of the night, we were exhausted from long flight and almost a month of travelling, and we entered this last phase of our trip with a mixture of relief, as it was going to be purely about chilling and resting, but also with sadness that the journey is almost finished.
When around 4 am we entered our room in Jumeirah Emirates Towers hotel, the images I had in mind of Dubai, as a hub of luxury and splendour couldn’t take more realistic shape. We entered – and the room came to life: the blinds opened, lights went on and the music started playing, and breakfast was such an abundance of delicacies, that we felt like kings, or at least high aristocracy. Every single detail, whether we talk cuisine or hotel décor, was mastered to perfection. In the hotel shops you could find antique furniture and iphone and ipads cases made of pure gold. Forgive my prolonged description of just the hotel, but really we were totally amazed, we’ve never stayed in a hotel this class, and probably never will, so it was an experience in itself for us. In the hotel price (also luxurious) we had access to private Jumeirah beach and to great water park – Wild Wadi, situated right next to Burj al Arab, Dubai’s famous and one of the few in the world 7 star hotel .
Facts about Dubai
The main contributor to Dubai’s wealth is not oil trade, as it’s commonly believed, but tourism, real estate sector, airlines and transport development, and even though little black balls of oil are scattered on the beaches, Dubai isn’t in fact as rich as it looks like. New York and London for example are richer than Dubai, and there is more skyscrapers in New York and Hong Kong than here. What’s interesting, Abu Dhabi – the neighbouring emirate has far more oil resources and in general is a richer city. But the undeniable fact is that Dubai is growing rapidly, new projects and impressive buildings are springing up like mushrooms after rain. Every 4th crane in the world is nowhere else, but here, in Dubai, the police drive Ferrari and Lamborghini, there even are cash machines that dispense gold. 85% of population are foreigners, and it’s hardly surprising that so many people is drawn to this city – salaries are very attractive and there is no income tax (yep, it’s true).
But there are some less colourful sides to Dubai as well. The state law in some aspects is influenced by sharia, and in a way it gives green light to discrimination of women. And so flogging and even stoning to death can happen here, especially as a punishment for adultery, which is considered a terrible crime here. Kissing or hugging in public, sex before marriage or living together without being married is strictly forbidden, and a woman, who wants to re – marry, must seek permission of her “male guardian”, whatever the heck that means. Men can have up to four wives, which is quite common in traditional Muslim countries.
Dubai is full of paradoxes, on one hand we see modern, cosmopolitan and tourists friendly city, on the other – very strict and rigorous rules regarding acceptable behaviour, rules that discriminate women and limit their rights.
Dubai for kids
Apart from the sea and swimming pools there is lots other of attractions for kids, so it’s an excellent choice for family holidays. Just bear in mind that the city is massive, and there is no chance of walking from place to place. We used taxis all the time, but if you are brave enough you can rent a car of course:). At the moment number one attraction is Legoland, we missed that – it was built in 2016, and we were there at the beginning of 2015. It’s got waterpark, rides, interactive rooms for bricks building, there is also a Miniland, which is a panoramic view of Dubai made of 20 millions of lego !
Apart from mentioned above waterpark Wild Wadi, there is also big Aquaventure waterpark on the famous palm next to Atlantis The Palm Resort.
Another awesome place for kids is IMG Worlds of Adventures, opened also in 2016, the biggest indoor theme park in the world, there are rides and other things with a theme of dinosaurs and Cartoon Network characters.
In Dubai Mall there is an Aquarium i Kidzania – ever so more popular concept of the city for kids, where in the mini versions of shops, banks, restaurants or police station little ones can try out their favourite roles and play grown ups.
As you can see Dubai has lots to offer and it’s very easy to smash your entire travel budget in a blink of an eye!
Dubai for grown ups
Number one must see in Dubai is of course Burj Khalifa – the highest skyscraper in the world, everyone goes to the top to take that Instagram perfect photo with the view of the city from high above. Well it’s hard to deny – it really is spectacular.
Another activity for which Dubai is literally made for is shopping of course. Everyone, who has a child knows, that a little retail therapy that used to be so exciting and pleasant once, in the company of a 4 year old often changes into pure torture, so we decided to give it a miss and not to expose ourselves to massive amount of stress, and save our last remaining pennies for just in case.
We went on a desert tour instead, they tend to be a bit extreme in Dubai, and include racing in a 4 x 4 at full speed through the dunes, so that your stomach jumps all over your body. You can of course tell your guide that you are not very keen on this kind of entertainment and ask him to go steady, or you can go sand boarding instead (it’s like snowboarding, just on the sand), or like me, just walk around, a little it further from the noise and lost yourself in this amazing, eternal and a bit ominous landscape and in absolute silence (I love deserts).
We also went to the old Dubai souk, you can get there by short boat taxi ride. There is practically everything in here: textiles, spices, perfumes, fine china, gold, and it’s a great place to buy traditional and affordable souvenirs. There is also fruit, veg and fish market just round the corner, which we visited, but very briefly as our daughter couldn’t bear fish odour, and was very close to making a scene, so we had to run.
If you are up for an adventure a little bit further afield, it’s really worth to go to Abu Dhabi and see the most famous building in the whole UAE – the splendid Great Mosque.
Other local specialties you can buy on the market: