Our long awaited Honeymoon was finally here! We set off to Heathrow Terminal 3 for our 20:40 flight to Dubai. Although we had booked through Qantas this flight was serviced by Emirates and we were very impressed; the flight left on time and had great meals, in flight entertainment and even webcams to watch take off and landing from the nose of the plane! The food was the best I had had on any plane so far (slow braised beef yum) and the service was really good.
We arrived in Dubai on time at 6:15am, collected our bags and got a taxi from the airport to our hotel, Citymax, which cost 50 dirhams (approximately £10.50). When we arrived at our hotel it was still very early and we couldn’t check in until 12pm and so we grabbed a drink and then left our bags securely with the reception staff and wandered over the road to the Mall of the Emirates. The mall is the worlds first shopping resort and boasts copious, shops and restaurants, a cinema, a theatre and even Dubai Ski an indoor ski resort.
It was truly massive and we only saw a small portion of it before we headed back to our hotel to check in. The hotel was as described; we had a double room on the 10th floor and the room was small but suited our needs. We headed up to the rooftop to check out the pool and the views from the top.
After a well needed swim and a rest we headed out for our exciting evening planned. In advance we had booked drinks at the Skyview bar in the Burj Al Arab. This was booked through the contact details on the webpage below and you have to prebook or you will not be allowed in at the gate.
The Burj al Arab is the 3rd tallest hotel in the world and is a 5* hotel but is sometimes referred to as the worlds only 7* hotel, although this has never been claimed by the hotel’s management itself. The drinks in the bar were subject to a 350 Dirham per person minimum spend (approx £73!). This was extremely steep and if it wasn’t a special occasion we would not have considered this visit; never the less we arrived via taxi from our hotel for our 7pm reservation. We were wowed from the moment we stepped into the entrance.
After ordering drinks which included two signature Golden Paradise cocktail, a Mojito, a grey goose vodka and some water we settled down enjoying the views. We were also given copious bar snacks which were very tasty. We were able to have a cigarette next door in the Gold Bar, somewhere we would have missed out on completely if we didn’t smoke and that really had the ‘wow’ factor. There were real gold ashtrays!
We settled up the astronomical bill of 650 dirhams (they let us off 50 so it was “only” £135 however water cost £11.50!) and headed outside to enjoy the night views of Jumeirah Beach before catching a taxi back to our hotel. The Burj al Arab was an extravagant experience and one we wouldn’t have done if it wasn’t our honeymoon. Was it worth the money? probably not and it is something we would never do again but nevertheless we enjoyed the time we spent there and the drinks and service were very good. In a nutshell if you can afford it and/or its a special occasion then go for it just for the experience.
After such a long day we grabbed a cab back to our hotel (20 Dirhams) and managed to get some food at the City Cafe in the hotel; those snacks in the Burj al Arab didn’t fill us up! We checked out the Maxx music bar and had a laugh at the rules at the door but decided against going in, instead heading to bed ready for next day adventures!
For our wedding gift list we requested vouchers from Viator in order to book some tours and adventures whilst we were away. For our second day we had booked in advance two activities, the first was a trip to the top of the Burj Khalifa. We booked the trip on the viator website for 10am at a cost of £59 for both of us. We got a taxi from our hotel which cost 30 dirhams and were dropped at the Dubai Mall, the largest shopping mall in the world. and also where you enter the bottom of the Burj Khalifa. The mall itself was very impressive with amazing waterfalls and floors of different shops and restaurants. It also has an ice rink and an aquarium, neither of which we visited.
The Burj Khalifa is the highest building in the world which measures 828 metres tall and we were really impressed by the views from the top. What was apparent was how arid the whole area surrounding Dubai is. This is well worth the visit if you get the opportunity. Unfortunately because we were there in the daytime we didn’t get to see the fountain display at the bottom of the Burj Khalifa which are supposed to be pretty spectacular.
We went outside by the fountain area which was pretty spectacular in itself and then headed back to our hotel for a short rest and a swim before our next adventure for the day.. a desert safari!!
We were collected from our hotel by a 4 x 4 vehicle slightly later than scheduled at approximately 3.45. Also in the vehicle were 5 other people who had also booked on the same tour. This tour was booked again through Viator at a cost of £78 for both of us. We headed off into the desert to begin our 6 hour adventure.
The first place we stopped was Al Tamayuoz which was a market with shops selling souvenirs, fresh coconuts and food and drink. Also available was camel rides and quad biking. This was a bit of a tourist trap however we both dressed the part for our Arabian adventures and posed with a camel.
It was about as hot as it looked at approximately 32 degrees so we were very grateful when we returned back to our vehicle which had pretty good aircon.
Next on the agenda was one of the highlights of the tour – dune bashing! This involved our vehicle driving over massive sand dunes and was great fun! We had a brief stop at Pink Rock in the Sahara for some pictures.
We next headed off for some more dune bashing before making it to our final stop which was the Sky Land Tourism Camp where we were spending the rest of the evening. We reached here just as the sun was setting.
The camp had several activities going on including camel rides, picture opportunities with a hawk, henna tattoos, a bar, free coffee and soft drinks. We had a camel ride and had our pictures taken with the hawk before settling down at our table ready for the evening
After sampling some rather surprisingly delicious arabian coffee we were called up for food. I found it quite strange that men and women queue separately here although it seems the women get served quicker than the men! The food itself was ok there was nothing particularly outstanding but eating food in the desert sat on the floor was quite an experience! Whilst we were finishing our meal the evening entertainment started. We were graced with the Spinning Man, belly dancing and a fire dancer all of which were quite entertaining!
The evening entertainment finished around 9pm and we were given a short amount of time to have a look round the stalls and use the facilities before heading back. We stopped on the way back so the tyres could be re-inflated (apparently they are deflated somewhat for desert driving and dune bashing) and then dropped back to our hotel at around 10pm. We headed off to bed and packed all our stuff as tomorrow we would be heading on our long flight to Sydney and then on to Fiji!
I had reservations about visiting Dubai; not because I didn’t believe UAE were a nice place to visit but because of the different beliefs and rights of men and women there. I was concerned I would be judged for the lifestyle I have as a western woman and that I would have to be careful about how I dressed and how I behaved. We carried our marriage certificate with us in case there were any concerns about our relationship especially after reading the local laws and customs however this was not required. At one point when I gave absentmindedly gave Nigel a peck goodbye in a shopping mall and saw the look from the security guard I realised how easy it was to offend unintentionally. We were very cautious of public displays of affection after that.
I actually felt more judged on the desert safari by the family from Pakistan in our vehicle who appeared horrified that I smoked and that I drank a beer. I was questioned throughout the trip about my lifestyle; whether I worked, what I did, how old I was and they were shocked to find I worked full time. I also heard the father say to his daughter that she would not grow up to act like these ‘western woman’. Nigel was also told by the same man that he should be ashamed he lets his wife drink and smoke! I did not feel comfortable being me there but that was not the fault of the people from UAE that was from visitors from another country. Dubai itself was actually very accepting and quite liberal; however you still have to respect their laws and customs or face the consequences.
We both felt there were couple of things we didn’t see we would have liked to such as the Burj Khalifa at night and the fountain show and we would definitely not rule out a return visit to Dubai possibly on a stop over to somewhere else 🙂
Carol & Nigel