Dubai is the largest and most populated city in the United Arab Emirates, known for its ultramodern architecture, spectacular skyline, luxury shopping and artificial islands. It is the ultimate destination that mixes history with modern culture. Contrary to popular belief, Dubai is nothing like Las Vegas (at least in my opinion). There aren’t any neon-lit signs or impersonators’, gambling is illegal and alcohol is only served at venues that are attached to hotels or private clubs.
I recently traveled to Dubai for Arab Fashion Week and had ALL the intentions of writing a realistic 24 hours in Dubai post but I have to be honest, the jet lag was brutal. I flew nonstop on Emirates Airlines from NYC to Dubai (which is about 15 hours) and had my itinerary planned out to perfection. But as we all know, not everything goes to plan and I was utterly exhausted when I arrived in Dubai. With that being said, I am now writing a 48 hours in Dubai post, or how about I just call it “My Dubai”. Needless to say, first and foremost, I highly recommend giving yourself some downtime before making your way through Dubai. An hour nap isn’t going to cut it…15 hours takes a lot out of you. But once you’re rested, plan on a busy day filled with fun and exciting activities.
I started my day off early by visiting Old Dubai where you can experience the city’s top souks (local markets). Although Dubai is a thriving modern city, the traditional Arabian markets are still a huge part of trade and daily life. Experiencing the bustling souks is an essential experience when in Dubai. My personal favorites are the Gold Souk and Spice Souk. Fittingly for Dubai or “the city of gold”, the Gold Souk is a must-see for visitors looking for precious metal and statement jewelry with alluring Arabic designs. The passageways through the souks are busy as can be, filled with artists and tradesmen. (Side note – prices are not set in stone so get ready to get your haggling game on)! The Spice Souk is right next to the Gold Souk and it is filled with vibrant colorful spices, herbs, and other exotic local flavors.
This is also a great place to buy textiles, pashminas and my personal favorite, Arabian Slippers! The souks are so rich in culture and I highly recommend everyone experience them while in Dubai. This is a great place to buy souvenirs for family and friends; I bought gold playing cards for my kids and a pair of slippers for myself. I also couldn’t resist the spices (actually, I ended up buying the dried flowers, I’m not much of a cook).
After visiting the Souks, I hailed a taxi (there are taxi’s everywhere, similar to NYC) and made my way to Downtown Dubai where the world’s tallest building is located, the Burj Khalifa. It soars 828 meters above Dubai and is home to over 900 residences, over 1000 meters of office space as well as the Armani Hotel and observation deck, which is located on the 148th floor! At The TopSKY is a record-breaking observation deck and definitely worth seeing while in Dubai. Going to the top of the Burj Khalifa is a surreal experience where you can witness incredibly stunning views. If you have time, I highly recommend stopping to grab a bite to eat at the worlds highest restaurant, At.mosphere; delicious food with a stellar menu!
The Burj Khalifa is connected to Dubai Mall, so naturally, I had to experience one of the worlds most luxurious and largest shopping malls. Dubai Mall stretches across 1.1 million square meters and is filled with shopping, entertainment and leisure. This is unlike any mall I have ever witnessed! There are over 1200 retail outlets, ranging from Dolce & Gabbana to Aldo, to West Elm! There is a section of the mall called “Fashion Avenue” which is filled with haute couture and the latest collections from some of the top designers such as Alexander Wang, Versace, Burberry and many more. If you are not much of a shopper, don’t worry; Dubai Mall is still worth visiting.
One of the most incredible Aquariums and Underwater Zoo’s is located right inside the mall. It is home to over 140 different marine species including 300 sharks and the King Croc, which is by far the most enormous Crocodile I have ever seen. As you enter the aquarium, you walk through a tunnel that provides a 270-degree view of the tank; so incredible! If you are super adventurous and want to get up close and personal with sharks, you can go diving in the aquarium, try the underwater Shark Scooter or take a ride on the glass-bottom boat. Can you believe this is all located inside a mall? The mall is also a great place to grab lunch- there is every restaurant imaginable! You can find everything from Shake Shack to Serafina to P.F Changs to local cuisine.
I know you must be thinking, why would I go all the way to Dubai and stay indoors? Well, I had thought the same thing until I realized the majority of activities are located indoors because of the extreme heat. It was so interesting to see billboards all along the highway saying “Stay Cool this summer and Visit Our Indoor Theme Parks”. Many theme parks and water parks are located indoors because it easily gets to be over 120 degrees during the day. If you want to spend most of your time outdoors, I highly recommend visiting Dubai anytime between November and March. I was just there in May, which is one of the hottest times of the year. With that being said, my next stop was the Mall of the Emirates, which was another incredible experience. Did you ever think you could go snow skiing while in Dubai? Neither did I! Mall of the Emirates has an indoor ski resort where you can go sledding, skiing, tubing and even meet some adorable penguins. Such a surreal experience to be walking through a mall and suddenly come across a snow covered mountain.
After visiting the malls, it was time to head to dinner at one of my favorite restaurants, Zahr El-Layoun which is located near Dubai Fountain. This is by far the most delicious local cuisine and a must-try restaurant while in Dubai. I love the fact that you can watch the beautiful choreographed fountain show while enjoying a delicious dinner right below the Burk Khalifa. They have air-conditioned indoor seating as well as an outdoor patio. I had to try one of the oldest traditions in the Middle East… shisha! When the waiter seats you and brings you the food menu, they also bring a shisha menu that has a variety of flavors. I decided to try the vanilla mint…when in Rome!
Stay tuned for part two of My Dubai!