Sunday, October 10, 2010
We booked our flight from Cape Town to Delhi a while ago when we were in Kenya. The cheapest flight was on Emirates, which meant that we’d fly through Dubai. Yann suggested that we just stay in Dubai for a night so we could check out the city. Brilliant idea!
Bummed to be leaving Cape Town, especially with gorgeous weather, we arrived at the airport well ahead of time. It appeared that most people on our flight were making their pilgrimages to Mecca—they all had backpacks with a logo to that effect. Yann remembered while we were in line that we were going to be flying in a 777 and that they were supposed to be really nice. Hopefully it would take the edge off of the 9+ hour flight.
We were seated in row 48, but didn’t really think much of it since we knew it was a really large plane. Upon boarding, however, we realized we were in the next-to-last row—UGH! It actually turned out to be a blessing—the last five rows of the flight had only two seats by the window instead of three, so we were all by ourselves. The plane was super nice—everyone had their own screen with movies, TV, music, etc., it was clean, and the flight attendants were pleasant. We settled in and each watched two movies, had a glass of wine and tried to get some sleep. I think I had more luck than Yann did.
[I know a lot of people already know this, but I am consistently impressed with how much nicer it is flying overseas (even on domestic flights) than it is back at home. You don’t get treated like complete garbage, it’s amazing. Except for Southwest…we all know Southwest is awesome.]
We arrived in Dubai at 5:25 AM (where it was already 90 degrees) and a driver from our hotel met us once we cleared customs. In the car, he opened a cooler and handed us each a cold towel and a bottle of water—fancy!
I had a hard time picking a hotel in Dubai. First of all, there are about a million of them ranging in price from $50-1,500/night. Since we’d only be there one night and it *was* Dubai, afterall, we wanted a little bit of a splurge. However, Burj al Arab is the hotel that is shaped like a sail and The World is the hotel that is set on manmade islands that look like the seven continents and they started at $1,200….I finally found something that was highly rated on tripadvisor.com and much more reasonable!
At the hotel, they told us they’d be able to check us in early (it was barely after 7:00 AM) and that we could have a late check-out the following day. *What* a relief, that was so nice of them. They handed us a list of things to do for the day and we headed up to our room. We quickly realized that most things didn’t open until 10:00 AM, so we decided on a nap first of all. Afterwards, refreshed, we headed to the first mall.
Yann had actually wanted to go crab hunting or shooting...you can do all kinds of weird, different things in Dubai. However, since we only had the one day (and I wasn’t really that keen on either activity), we decided to try to take in as many of the sights as possible.
Dubai is completely centered on shopping. And since it is so unbelievably hot, they put everything inside in the air conditioning. So that means that the malls really are the sights. Weird. We were within walking distance of the Dubai Mall, so we arrived completely drenched. I don’t know how it’s humid in the desert…I guess it has to do with being on the water, but it definitely caught us by surprise. Just before the mall, there was another indoor shopping area that was supposed to be the “Old Town Souk”. Nevermind that the “market” was built after the “mall” and that these “traditional” shops were just in a different mall-esque building….
One of the main attractions at the Dubai Mall is that right next door is the Burj Khalifa—the tallest building in the world! It was built to be a “vertical city” and has everything: a gym, restaurants, hotels, condos, you name it. It is more than 200 stories tall and you can take the elevator up to the observation deck on the 124th floor. The view was really spectacular and we got to see all of the amazing hotels that we couldn’t afford—there is some amazing (and egregious and excessive) architecture.
There was also a huge aquarium that boasted shark diving. For just $200, you can get into a cage in a stocked tank and have the mall watch you go diving. Dubai definitely takes fabricating every activity you can think of to a whole new level.
Otherwise, the mall has an ice skating rink, an indoor theme park, a bazillion stores, and every chain restaurant known to man. Since we were eating at the food court, we went for some Baja Fresh. Then we headed back to our hotel to catch a shuttle to the Mall of Emirates.
As most of you know, I am not a shopper *at all* and all of the mall stuff was really starting to get to me. However, the Mall of Emirates was going to be really over the top—there’s an indoor ski slope! Wonder what that utility bill looks like. Oh, nevermind, it’s the UAE, so it’s probably only like $30/month! For about ten seconds, we actually considered renting some equipment and buying a lift ticket just to say we did, but then we realized that was probably the biggest waste of $200, especially when we have skiing that is actually good back at home!
Since we were close(ish) to Burj al Arab (the hotel that looks like a sail), we figured we’d stop by for a drink so we could at least see the amazing architectural feat. About two minutes away, our cab driver asked us if we had reservations. Huh? No, we’re just going to the bar to have a drink. It turns out that the hotel is sooo fancy, that you can’t even enter the property without a reservation for high tea at $100 apiece. Yann snapped a quick picture before we were asked to leave. I was torn between thinking that they were a-holes for having such a policy and being really disappointed that we weren’t welcome at such a cool place!
Back at our hotel, everyone was very welcoming as usual. We made a dinner reservation (y’know, back at the mall), had a cocktail, freshened up, and were off for the evening. We had dinner on the terrace overlooking the dancing fountains surrounding Burj Khalifa. These definitely put the Bellagio fountains in Vegas to shame—they were so elaborate and over the top, just like the rest of the city. Every thirty minutes, they had a different “dance” choreographed to a different piece of music. I could tell the Russian prostitutes at the next table were also impressed.
After a dinner that was more fancy and expensive than delicious, we walked back to our hotel. I swear it was still 90 degrees at 11:00 PM.