Dubai was never a city high on my list of places to see. I knew the sights would be amazing but I thought without a big budget to really enjoy the high-roller suites and other amenities the city ahs to offer, there wasn’t much of a point in visiting. However, after 9 months of living in Kyrgyzstan and stuck in the middle of winter, we were ready to escape. It turned out there were direct flights to Dubai and a quick look at couchsurfing.com showed many of hosts so we planned a trip. The agenda: food, sun and more food. We arrived early in the morning and immediately headed out to walk around the city. A head’s up: it’s very difficult to walk around this city and taxis are cheap! If you need to get somewhere far away you can also taxi to and from metro stops and use the cheap & efficient metro to get around.
On Day 2 we started our trip to the Burj Al Arab for a tour. Normally you can only access the hotel if you are staying there or have booked a meal or afternoon tea but they invited us to come see it and I’m glad they did! This hotel is simply incredible. For a photographer, the possibilities are endless. The unique design of the building lends to interesting photographs that you can’t create in any other building in the world. I’d love to stay here some day and spend more time exploring. The cheapest rooms start around $1700 per night but if you’d like to experience the hotel the best option is the Afternoon Teas that start around $130. We weren’t able to make it for that this time but next time we’re in Dubai we’re hoping to make that happen.
After our tour of the Burj Al Arab we boarded the modern, driver-less tram that connects all of Dubai and quickly arrived in the older section of the city that surrounds Dubai Creek. This is the less-known area of the city but for a photographer or budget traveler it’s amazing. Food is very cheap and there is plenty of cheap or free things to do and photograph such as visiting the Sheikh Mohammad Center For Cultural Understanding, exploring the Bastakiah neighborhood, taking a $1 ride on a water taxi across Dubai Creek or exploring the spice or gold souks (recommended in the evening.)
Morning of day 3 we started out with a trip to the observation deck of the Burj Khalifa (full disclosure, we were comped tickets for this.) I have mixed feelings about visiting this. The numbers are amazing and the tour is well laid-out but at $35-55 per ticket, I’m not sure it’s worth it. You are so high up things just look a little surreal. If you are interested in going I’d recommend going on a crystal clear day (ours was not) or book a window seat at At.mosphere, the restaurant near the observation deck. It’s a minimum spend of approximately $75 but you can get a couple drinks and enjoy the view in peace plus stay longer.
Following this we went to Abu Dhabi, about 90 minutes away. The best thing to see here is the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Free to get in and absolutely stunning. Completed in 2007 at a cost of $545 million USD, the mosque is cavernous and stunning. Amazing details everywhere you look, the intricacy of the design is memorizing. Guidebooks and websites will tell you how to dress when you go but I’d recommend wearing whatever you plan on wearing the rest of the day, the mosque has clothes you can borrow if your outfit doesn’t match the strict guidelines.
So that’s my highlights from our quick trip to Dubai. Expect a couple more blog posts on Dubai soon including a photographer’s guide and a list of the best free or cheap things to do in Dubai. I hope you can see why I recommend visiting Dubai!