Dubai is a rare place in the Middle East. Years ago, pretty much no one had heard of the tiny emirate (now part of the United Arab Emirates). While most of the Middle East depends on oil revenues to support their economies, Dubai set a different path, and many would say smartly so. They realized that oil would someday run out, so the ruling family of Dubai decreed that Dubai would be remade into a premier tourism and financial destination.
Um, it worked.
My Dubai report begins with, oddly enough, the movie Jurassic Park. There’s a quote often repeated by John Hammond throughout the first parts of the movie. The Ford Explorers? “Spared no expense”. The lovely dinner? “Spared no expense”. The featurette about how the dinosaurs were brought back to life? You guessed it, “spared no expense”.
That’s the best way I have of describing Dubai. They spared no expense. I was thinking that as I stepped into the enormous Dubai Mall, and (I kid you not) what was the first thing I saw?
My only conclusion at this point was that dinosaurs were going to come to life and eat everyone. Eh, probably worse ways to go I guess.
So how did I get there?
On a PLANE! A Lufthansa plane, to be more specific. I used United miles to book a one-way trip to Dubai from Paris, connecting in Frankfurt’s maze of an airport. Why I didn’t use Flying Blue points (from my Amex) to go nonstop from Paris I’ll never know, but oh well.
Crazily enough, on the short hop from Paris I ended up sitting in front of a good friend from my earlier post-college years in Dallas! He and his wife were on their way back to Houston, where they now live. It was nuts, I literally was sitting directly in front of them! We didn’t have much time to catch up after the flight, since we both had tight connections, so we went our separate ways and I made my way into the labyrinthine underbelly of Frankfurt’s airport. On the other side of the underbelly I ended up near the departure area of my A340 for the nonstop to Dubai. I had never been on an A340 before, so that’d be pretty cool I guess.
This A340 featured Lufthansa’s new First Class, and I was really looking forward to a good flight and enjoying it all, except for one glaring issue: my boarding pass was for a seat in Coach. Well, can’t win them all I guess.
The flight was very Coach-y. The one thing that annoyed me was whenever I’d try to lean my seat back, the gentleman sitting next to the seat behind me would tell me not to recline my seat. I was somewhat tempted to recline my fist in the middle of his face, but cooler heads prevailed and I settled for alternating rounds of reading and watching movies. This was right about the time that the Lego Movie started to hit in-flight entertainment, and I love movies like that, so I indulged.
The flight was actually much longer than I thought, especially because I was determined to stay awake since my flight landed late at night. I landed and made it through customs using my extensive knowledge of Arabic, which consists entirely of “Peace be upon you” “yes” “no” and “do you speak English?” (pretty much everyone did speak English). My hotel of choice for this trip was the Park Hyatt Dubai, which will be reviewed in my next post. To sum up the review of the Park Hyatt, it’s enormous, in a uniquely peaceful location, and wonderful in every way.
Ok now I’m in Dubai
I awoke the next morning with nothing on my itinerary outside of the most special of afternoon teas. So, what does one do in Dubai during the summer? Yep, I went to Dubai Mall.
As malls go, you guessed it: they spared no expense. It’s the largest mall in the world (by area). Featuring over 1200 stores, it has literally everything. Any type of clothing store you could imagine, they have it. Reebok CrossFit store? They have it.
Fried chicken restaurant that uses my state pride to lure me in and make me purchase some chicken? They have it.
Everyone’s favorite restaurant to go to when you’ve generally given up on things and Denny’s is closed? They have it.
(random note: IHOP was packed almost the entire time I was there, both daytime and night time)
So hopefully I’m getting the point across. Dubai Mall has it. I’m not generally a mall person, especially since most of the stores and restaurants were available to me anytime I wanted to go in Dallas, but I had to walk around the Mall, mainly because I got lost and had to try and find my way to the Dubai Fountain, which is like the fountain in front of the Bellagio in Las Vegas, only less expense spared-y. I finally found it (on the opposite end of the complex from where I entered, making it only about 30 miles away), only to find that the Fountain only runs at night. I guess it makes sense, because the heat was intense. I’m from Texas, so I’d like to say I’m used to the heat, but absolutely not. Dubai is HOT. I don’t really know what I expected, it’s built on a desert next to the Arabian Sea, so it wasn’t even the dry heat I thought it’d be. It was humid, hot, steamy, dense, thick, and suffocating. In other words, the heat spared no expense.
I strategically got some frozen yogurt (at 11am, don’t judge) and relaxed indoors and people watched for a little bit. What I try to observe when I people watch is how everyday folks commune. Basically, I try to figure out where the “living room” of the culture is. In Dubai, believe it or not, it’s in the malls. There are over 40 malls in Dubai, and that’s where people go to get out of the oppressive heat. Everywhere you looked, people were walking their kids, meeting friends, laughing together, and everything in between. It was really fun just watching people find their community even amidst such a megastructure.
After my froyo, I walked around the Mall some more, taking time to appreciate the myriad sites the Mall had to offer.
The Dubai Mall Aquarium is enormous. The sharks, I’m told, spared no expense. Above the Aquarium was an incredible fiber optically lit darkened “sky” to make the Aquarium stick out.
For a certain amount of money you can walk through the Aquarium, but I chose not to, primarily because of the billions of children in the site when I happened by. You can also scuba dive in the Aquarium, and I regretted not being able to do this! (my flight was leaving the next morning, so I couldn’t scuba dive within 24 hours of it)
There’s an enormous 4-5 story waterfall over on the other side of the mall from the Aquarium with figures of men diving down its face.
Oh yeah, there’s also the tallest building in the world.
It’s incredible how tall it is. You really can’t put it into words. For a pretty hefty amount of money you can go to the observation deck, but I decided to leave that for another time. I tried to get a cool artistic shot of me looking up at the skyscraper, not really sure how well I succeeded but I sure did sweat a lot in the heat trying to take a good picture.
If you think the Burj Khalifa looks imposing during the day, just wait until you see it at night! (no, literally, wait, it’s like two pictures from now)
Like I mentioned before, my itinerary featured the most famous of afternoon teas, at a pretty amazing structure you’ve probably seen before.
The Burj Al Arab. When I say they spared no expense on it, I truly mean it, since it’s widely thought that no one actually knows how much it cost to build. It’s the world’s only Seven Star hotel (according to…the hotel) and has an amazing afternoon high tea for posers like myself to feel rich and cultured. I’ll review the tea in-depth in a couple of days.
After my tea I made my way back to the Park Hyatt for a little nap. Once the sun set, I grabbed a beer in the hotel’s nightclub (the only places where alcohol is sold to the public are in hotel nightclubs) then made my way back to the Dubai Mall so I could see the fountain show.
The Burj Khalifa looks incredible at night.
So does this building behind me when I was looking at the Burj Khalifa
So how was the fountain show? Well, you’ll never guess it, but they spared no expense. Here’s a really short instagram video I took of it.
I was clearly the only one with the idea of going out and seeing the show. Looking at the below picture, I think eating at TGI Fridays would be a good move, their outdoor Fountain seating looks amazing.
Wrapping it all up
All in all it was a good day. No doubt I missed a lot, but I will definitely come back to Dubai soon, I absolutely loved it. I’m looking forward to seeing the older part of Dubai, called Bur Dubai. It’s the more cultural, less-blingy part of Dubai which retains the heritage of the small emirate (it was a little-known fishing town until the mid-1900’s). I did see more than just the Mall, which I’ll get into in future posts, but I was only there for one full day, so I kinda stuck to the highlights this time. It’s kind of how I travel: as if I’ll come back soon!
Stay tuned for reviews of the Park Hyatt Dubai, afternoon tea at the Burj Al Arab, and the worthy conclusion to this trip, First Class on Etihad Airways! Until next time, I leave you with some lovely and musical latte art from the Social House restaurant just inside the Mall from the Dubai Fountain.