A Look Back on My 1st Trip to Dubai.

A Look Back on My 1st Trip to Dubai.

I was in NYC for Christmas holiday, when I first heard that I would be going to Dubai. While curling my hair in a tiny NYC hotel bathroom, I heard a muffled statement through the wall that came from my boyfriend. It sounded like “something…were going to Dubai…something”. I stuck my head out into the hall so I could clarify what I’d surely mistaken and asked again…

“What did you say about Dubai?”

“We’re going” he said. “In September.”

“what?! Really? _ why?”

“The Points Guy just posted a round trip airfare special for only $300 per….so I bought it before it booked up” he explained.

The fact that this trip started out on the notion of a economical chance to explore Dubai, would soon become comical.

I was over the moon, I mean who gets to go to Dubai on a whim? I could not have been more enthusiastic about this trip; everything I had ever read, heard or saw about Dubai was pinnacle, exclusive and spectacular.

Not soon enough, September/2/2015 came, and we were on our way. On a stroke of luck, we became eligible for a last minute upgrade to business class, that was about 3x the amount of the original airfare, but included lay-flat seats and all you can eat/drink from a 5 star menu. Considering, that we bought the tickets at such a steal and it was a 14+ hour trip, it was a no brainer.

 

 

Up to this point I had only ever traveled out of the country to Nicaragua and Guatemala for philanthropic reason. This would be my first time on an international flight for a vacation, and the experience, having no room for improvement, made my entire trip. I could have literally turned around and gone home without protest, I enjoyed it that much. We were treated like royalty; greeted with champagne upon seating, as well as, gifted an impressive toiletry kit that included prestige skincare, dental kits, socks, eye masks and ear buds. We were even given a pair pajamas for the ride. Since then, I have been on a few international flights, but this was my first one and I will never forget it. Alas, the upgrade was worth every penny.

 

 

I’m sure it was obvious the entire flight that I was pretty excited and a first-timer at that, if made apparent by none else than my eager exploration of all twenty buttons on my personal control pad.

 

pictured below brimming with excitment.


We landed in Abu Dhabi, which is about an hour from Dubai by taxi. On our way to the hotel, I passed by this McDonalds ad and I don’t know why but the “McArabia” tickled me; perhaps because it was just so obvious.

 


The Etihad Towers hotel in Abu Dhabi is immaculate, and structured unlike any hotel I have ever seen in the US. If you look closely in the photos below, you’ll see that the apothecary in our bathroom is a miniature replica of the buildings themselves that make up the “Etihad Towers”; so cute and so appropriate.

 

 

We would only reside in The Etihad Towers for 2 of the 6 days of travel, which we later regretted not booking the majority of the trip in Abu Dhabi. Personally, we enjoyed the culture and atmosphere in Abu Dhabi a little more than that of Dubai.

 

 

I brought plenty of scarves to cover my hair and shoulders, as I rather enjoy respecting and embracing the cultures of the places I visit. After all, I am a guest in their home. Even though it is only required that you cover your hair and shoulders upon entering/visiting  a mosque, it is encouraged pretty much everywhere else in Abu Dhabi to be conservative.

 

 

This picture was taken while on a much needed break from the sheer TERROR of the sand dune rides that we booked. It’s ironic that this photo is so serene, considering that this is the same place just moments earlier that our driver was getting a big laugh out of frightening the American tourists.

I mean honestly, f*** a trust fall, if you really want to build your trust with someone, then jump in the back of a jeep while they navigate, the ever-changing, 25-30 foot sand cliffs; not to mention, doing so whilst there are other drivers doing the same thing on the opposite side of the hilly-blind drives. With that said, it was truly an adventure, one ill never forget, and I’d do again ;).

 

 

Oh the camels, what can I say, except that they’re pretty great if you can’t tell from the expressions on their faces in this picture I took. They live a pretty good life here; they each have names and wander free. The farmers told us that not a single one is wild, and that they all have owners which mark them accordingly.  This is how they’re allowed to  roam the desert on their own accord without issue, they also know when to come home. Amazing.

That pretty much sums up our time in Abu Dhabi.


We left for Dubai pretty excited of what we might encounter there. Upon arriving at our hotel Zabeel Saray  we were humbled by the awe-inspiring architecture and design, this place is majestic.

 

 

I discovered that a stairway to my bathtub is a must and that there is such a thing as an “Alaskan King”.

 

 

The views were calming and peaceful, but eerily still.

 

 

The hotel was one of the most desirable parts of Dubai, sadly the rest of the area is extremely commercialized and wayyy overpriced. Im not talking like a $15-cocktail-in-Miami overpriced, I mean a $100-salad & sandwich-with-water-to-drink overpriced. For reference, we paid $60 for sunscreen at the scorching water park in Atlantis. Moreover, the cocktails all started around $25 and they were made intentionally weak; a far cry from the American resorts that tend push drinks until your total spend increases with the heightened euphoria. My guess is that in addition to the money grab, it’s partly because drinking is pretty much frowned upon and only really allowed in hotels and private clubs. Instead many establishments heavily push “mocktails”, which are just varied creative combos of local juices. Yay, so fun.

FUN FACT: As a citizen you can only spend a certain % of your annual income on liquor and you must have a license to do so, furthermore, these licenses are only available to non-muslim residents.

One warm evening while in Dubai, we took the liberty of booking dinner at a the Red Dunes Desert Safari. We watched the belly-dancers do their thing as we ate dinner. Afterwards, we smoked some of the best hookah I have ever had, which might owe part of its noted quality to of the magical scenery of the Arabian night.

(photo from reddunesdubai.com)

 

Lastly we visited the local market place; in which, we got harmlessly heckled by a store owner, coerced to try on the local garb and browsed the beautiful crafts.

 

That pretty much sums up our visit to Dubai.

Thinking back, we probably should have hired a host, because we left slightly unimpressed with what Dubai had to offer versus the hype that is promised throughout the media. However with that said, I wouldn’t hesitate at giving it a second go, but I would want to make it an event-driven trip and I would probably attribute more time to exploring Abu Dhabi.


Side note: After experiencing the pleasures of business class, there was no way we could revert to spending 14+ hours in chair formation on a tiny typical airplane seat. So we decided to upgrade our flight on the way home. We were were initially told no several times but kept calling back, ha! Don’t give up folks!

The upgrade(s) plus the crazy priced everything in Dubai made our “deal” a complete joke that we still laugh about today. Regardless,  I remain incredibly grateful for the trip and the full experience.

 

 

 


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