The minute I landed in Dubai, I could feel the money flying out of my wallet. Everything is expensive here! Especially after Egypt, it feels like a luxury city. I wasn’t feeling overly excited about my visit to Dubai, to be honest. From everything I had heard, it was a city for the rich and famous to come and spend exorbitant amounts of money on anything that they could dream up. It seemed like a place where capitalism has gone horribly awry.
It was a stark contrast in Egypt, in so many glaring ways. From the buildings to the streets to the people, it seemed like I was on a totally different planet. I find it amazing that they built so much of this city out into the ocean. Everything is artificial and unnatural, especially the Palm Jumeriah and the map of the world islands. There doesn’t seem to be too many locals in the city, mostly temporary visitors and expats. And with only chain restaurants and shops to choose from, it feels very inauthentic. And the Emirates is so obsessed with being the biggest and best. Biggest mall, biggest building, best shopping, best nightclubs, whatever it may be.
With all that said, I actually enjoyed my visit. I found Dubai to be very clean and super modern and the architecture really beautiful. All the buildings are glass sided and have interesting shapes or unique details on the tops. As an American, I also thoroughly enjoyed how clean and orderly the streets were. It felt so comfortable walking around or riding in taxis.
During my 48 hours in Dubai, I honestly didn’t do a whole lot. On the first day, I wandered around the Dubai Mall, which is the biggest mall in the world. It has more shops than I ever imagined. Every major brand and designer has a shop inside. Some designers that I didn’t even know had shops, like Alexander McQueen and Fendi. But also the cheap brands, like H&M, Forever 21 and Topshop. It was such an indulgent day inside, seeing all the fancy shops and eating some decadent ice cream and sandwiches.
Attached to the mall is the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. At a towering 2722 feet and 163 floors, this tower is nearly double the height of every other building in Dubai. It is a distinct addition to the skyline that can’t be missed. You can take a tour up to the top, which I of course did! While waiting in line, you wander through a museum about the tower. Construction started in 2004 and was completed only 5 years later in 2009. They had some reall cool interactive maps, where they inserted the Burj Khalifa into the skylines of other major cities for scale. It was so weird seeing a picture of the tower in Chicago! Then you take the elevator up to the top, at a speed of nearly 3 floors per second! Once at the top, floor to ceiling windows give you a complete 360 view of the city. And there is even an outdoor observation deck that you can walk out on to feel the wind and air at the top. The city looks so amzing from above, you can see how expansive and modern it really is. And then you peer down to the fountains and mall below, leaving you a little dizzied from the height!
That night, I hung around the Dubai Mall for dinner, but also to check out the water and fountain show with the Burj as the backdrop. Much like the fountains at the Bellagio in Vegas, the Dubai Fountain has three large circles of fountains that perform to music every 30 minutes at night. The water shoots high up into the air and the accompanying light show makes it a true spectacle.
During my stay in Dubai, I did Air B&B for the first time. I’ve been wanting to try this site for a long time, because I think it’s such an awesome idea. Staying with local people in their homes, versus a sterile hotel. Love it! And I am happy to report that I had an amazing first experience. I stayed with a woman named Gail at her beach front flat in Jumeriah beach. She’s got a lovely apartment, very spacious (four bedrooms!) and comfortably furnished. It also has a balcony with a lovely view of the ocean and amazing sunset spot! And she was an absolutely amazing host, so friendly, helpful and generous. She was feeding me delicious food every day and would accept nothing in return! I had an excellent conversation with her and her friend about Dubai, the Middle East and their thoughts on poilitics and tourism. She also had some other visitors there during my visit, so it was a great way to meet new people. Loved every minute I spent there!
On the second day of my trip, I did something a little crazy. I sky dived! Before I left for my trip, my dad gave me a bit of spending money and gave the stipulation that it had to be spent on something I wouldn’t normally have done for myself. And I knew right away, this would be it. Through the reputable SkyDive Dubai, I woke up at an early 6:00 am to get ready for my dive. It was only about 15 minutes walk from Gail’s apartment, right on the waterfront. When I first arrived, they told us no one was jumping due to strong winds and we could wait it out, but there was no guarantee. Since I was on such a tight timeframe, I didn’t have a choice. I couldn’t reschedule! Luckily, after 3 hours of waiting, the winds died down and we were able to jump. I had a female tandem diver with 9 years experience, so I knew I was in good hands. We got a quick instructional about diving techniques, and then off we went. We were taken up 13,500 feet into the air by a dual prop plane. And then they open up the door, and in comes the rushing cool air. That’s when I really started to get nervous. But you’re attached to the instructor by then with no looking back. We climbed out to the edge of the door, and I’m just staring down at the ground. That was the only moment when my heart was in my throat, my only moment os hesitation. And then next thing I know, free falling through the air. There was a photographer who jumped with us, circling around snapping photo and video. And omg, the view. WOW! so amazing. I have never experienced anything like it. You can see the palm from above and the entire skyline and ocean. It was so spectacular. After about 60 seconds of free fall, out goes the parachute and then silence. You are just floating over the city with nothing but the noise of the ruffling parachute. It was so beautiful and peaceful, but holy cow, my heart was racing and the adrenaline was pumping so hard. After a view minutes with the parachute up, we were back down safely on the beach. It was all over so fast and I just wanted to go back up and do it again! I am so thankful my dad supported this little venture, such a highlight of my trip!
The rest of that day was spent relaxing at Gail’s pool and the nearby beach, catching a last few minutes of that dry Arabian air. After this, I’m off to Sri Lanka during the rainy season, so I know humidity and moisture awaits. I managed to stave off sunburn, but boy was I sweaty from the heat. During the summer (which we’re at the tail end of) Gail was telling me temps can reach almost 130!!! WHAT!!! That is insane. How do they live? But overall, I had a good time in Dubai, although so different and less culturally enlightening than the rest of my trip. It’s a perfect spot to take a few days and soak in some relaxing luxury. Not one of my favorite cities in the world, but certainly worth a visit. And after my red eye flight tonight, I’ll be in Sri Lanka. The adventure continues!