Among all the trips that I have been on, I want to write about my Dubai trip first. Every place that we visit leaves an impression on us and the experience is what sets each place apart from the other. My friend Marcus and I work together at Amazon and that’s how we met. When he visited Banglore city in India on his work trip he was in love with India and me being from Mumbai obviously wanted to show him my city. So this time I took him with me on my once in a year mandatory Mumbai trip and we decided to spend New year’s in Dubai on our way back. And that was the best plan ever as Dubai is only a 2 hours flight from Mumbai and tickets were cheap around that time. (Around 150$ from Mumbai to Dubai since it was December period; I am sure its lot cheaper in off season. But when does Dubai go off season? lol)
We had reservations for Al Bustan Rotana Hotel, as soon as we walked out of the airport, we had a swanky Mercedes waiting for us for our ride to the hotel. I was already impressed but even more blown away when I saw the hotel. It was very close to the airport and was absolutely everything that you could ever imagine being in Dubai. Dubai just doesn’t let you down. On our night in the hotel, we had a nice bottle of champagne waiting for us in our room with a chocolate cake( At that point I did not know what to do with myself and what had I done to deserve this 😛 #smallhappiness)
Next day we decided to check out Abu Dhabi the capital of the great United Arab Emirates which is a 3-hour bus ride away from Dubai. We booked our tour tickets on Viator for 59$ per person. Although Abu Dhabi is not the same old reserved place anymore as it used to be since tourism kicked in, I was cautious and decided to wear my kurta and palazzo pants and covered myself head to toe (I love Indian wear and just need a reason to wear it or maybe not ;)).
- On our tour, we first saw Ferrari world which is this humongous place that has all the Ferrari merchandises, cars, rides, shopping centers etc. I am not a huge fan of cars but I loved the way they had set everything up.
- We stopped at Yas mall near Ferrari world for some drinks. However, it’s a UAE rule that they don’t serve drinks in the mall 😦 So we took our asses to a coffee shop instead and we had a really good coffee at Amorino which is a small coffee house inside the mall and also serves gelato carved in rose petals in a delicious waffle cone.The next stop was Formula 1 racetrack (Mandatory things to do ;))
- We then witnessed the most beautiful thing in Abu Dhabi and that is the Emirates Palace. Apparently, it used to be a palace before it became a 7-star hotel. The palace had a breathtaking view of the skyline.
4. Heritage village was our next stop. This is a small village set up which gives insight into the pre-oil era of Emirates. We had nice lunch in Al has a Restaurant here which had buffet option only during lunch. We spent most of our time monkeying around the village.
5. Our next destination was souk market and I got a click below in the market, just because.. :p. The souk market had all kinds of stuff from spices, jewelry, dry fruits to diamond beaded burkas.(I was very close to buying a burka :p)
6. Our next stop was the Grand mosque Abu Dhabi. Yes, that’s what it’s called since everything in the United Arab Emirates is so grand. On our way to the Mosque, we saw around 20 palaces owned by the prince of Abu Dhabi and they all belonged to his close and extended family and friends. We were mesmerized by the architecture of the Mosque and by the fact that it was dove white:-0. The mosque had domes made out of real gold, I am not surprised at this point. Before entering the mosque our tour guides made sure we were fully covered from head to toe according to the tradition. At the entrance, we had separate lines for men and women and once we entered the Mosque it just felt so pristine. We tried capturing its beauty but pictures didn’t do justice at all (I mean what can you expect from iPhone camera’s, I know I need a better camera). We were at the Mosque for over an hour and it was a very calming experience to be amidst so many people but the noise just fades away by the grand and soothing beauty of the place.
We were done for the day and the tour dropped us back to the hotel.
It was 31st of December and so we decided to shop for New year’s in Dubai Mall and check out Dubai as well. Dubai Mall is the most famous mall and is a must see. The mall has all the brands and an Aquarium (For crying out loud, an aquarium?). As we were browsing through the mall, we stopped at a small counter inside the mall which was a studio where you dress in Arab style and take pictures. We took some very cool pictures and it was a fun time.
After that, we kept shopping in the mall until we realized it was 5 PM and time to leave the mall as we had dinner reservations in Four seasons on Jumeirah beach. But little did we know that it was actually too late to leave the mall at that point. Since it was new year’s eve and Burj Khalifa is located right next to the mall, people started pouring in for the fireworks. We then found out that cabs and other modes of transportation were all blocked for the same. We panicked and had only one option left: ‘Metro’. The mall has a metro station and is within 2 miles of a walk. We got to see how crazy people are about the fireworks on our way towards metro as it got unbelievably packed. We finally made our way to the station after an hour and a half of walking and waiting in line. We got into the train and got down a stop after the mall so we could catch a cab from an area away from the mall back to our hotel. We luckily got a cab. We rushed into our room, changed into our dress code for the dinner and left (This was the fastest I ever got ready to go somewhere). We were happy we made it to the dinner as I would have totally regretted missing out on the lovely time on Jumeirah beach. We had an amazing five-course dinner and got drunk on martinis. After dinner followed a walk on the beach and then we drove back to the hotel just to see another kickass party in our hotel lobby. It was all lit and we made it just in time for the fireworks. As soon as we hit the dance floor it was time for the countdown and to welcome 2017. It was the best new year of my 25 years of life.
- Next day we decided to check out Broadwalk restaurant which is located in Dubai Marina.
2. Dubai Marina has many other restaurants and water activities like fly boarding, fishing, sailing etc. After our lunch, it was time for desert safari, the much-awaited part of our trip and also the best way to the end it. This trip was also booked via Viator. The pick up was from our hotel and it was an hour long drive to the desert. We could select from the options to ride ATV’s, hummers etc on the sand dunes but we chose 4 wheel ride and the driver took us through the sand dunes for about half an hour and then about another half an hour drive to the camp area where dinner and hookah was served with a belly dance show. The food was amazing and so was the show. All of it was included in the tickets we booked via Viator (89$ per person)
I must say Dubai knows how to treat their tourists with the best experience. Everything in Dubai was grand, beautiful and worth every penny and every minute.
- If going to Dubai for New years, I would recommend making the hotel reservation at least 6 months in advance.
- Abu Dhabi: Grand Mosque, Emirates Palace, souk market, Ferrari world, Yas mall, Formula 1 race track
- Dubai Mall is good enough for shopping as it has all the major brands if you are looking for name brand items and it also has a secret opening for souk market within the mall. The Souk market itself is a hidden mall.
- Boardwalk Restaurant in Dubai Marina has really good food, you can also check out Donut BBQ where you float on donut shaped tubes and go fishing in the water, catch fish and bbq them on the tube (tube is equipped with bbq grill, I know right! Awesomeness)
- Check out Jumeirah beach
- Desert safari is a must and Viator has really good deals for any kind of excursions in Dubai.
- During New years, do not stay in Dubai mall past 2:00 PM. You won’t find a single cab outside or even near the mall. Even hotels won’t be able to send you a cab to pick you up ( Believe me you don’t wanna walk to metro connected to the mall)
- No drinking in the mall (smoking is allowed only in designated areas)
Dubai was Awesome and I would love to visit again and check out Burj Khalifa (tickets were super expensive due to new year’s eve (150$ per person, usually it’s 38$) and we were broke by the end of the trip).