On Christmas day 2014, my gift to myself came in the form of a flight to the United Arab Emirates!! I had just finished eating and decided to check The Flight Deal’s website. To my surprise, there was a glitch in Etihad’s system and flights to Asia and Africa were priced at $200-$300. A wave of excitement came over me, followed by a rush of anxiety. I had visited the Caribbean several times, but this would be my first international flight. Aside from this factor, planes were missing, countries were being bombed, and tourists were being abducted. I decided a long time ago that I would not let fear drive me, so I created a facebook post to see if anyone wanted to join me on this excursion. My friend and her boyfriend were the only two willing to accompany me, and we never looked back.
When we arrived in Abu Dhabi, we took advantage of Etihad’s free shuttle service to Dubai. Uber is also available, and we chose this method of transportation to get to the hotel once we were dropped off. Our accommodations were at the JW Marriott Hotel Dubai. This hotel was very nice, and the rooms were very comfortable. A store was conveniently located across the street from the hotel, and the train station was within walking distance. Do NOT, I repeat, do NOT chew gum on the train or you will be fined! Ask me how I know…go ahead. As we were getting off the train, a lady was waiting outside for us, requesting my friends’ passports. She saw them chewing gum and was attempting to write them a ticket. Long story short, they refused to pay because the signs were not posted in a visible area and we were detained. After we were set free, we were ready to resume the day’s activities.
We purchased a Groupon for dune bashing in the desert. Talk about an adrenaline rush!! I felt like I was on a rollercoaster ride but better! This lasted for about 20 minutes, followed by camel rides, a desert BBQ, and entertainment. Unfortunately, I was sick the entire trip and had no appetite, so I did not get to enjoy the local cuisine. Over the next two days, we visited Ferrari World and rode Formula Rossa, the world’s fastest coaster; the Dubai Mall and caught a glimpse of the fountain show and the Burj Khalifa; and the Palm Jumeirah, one of two man-made islands. Note: the seats on Formula Rossa are extremely tiny. If they suspect that you may not be able to fit, you are going to have to sit in the demo seat and fasten the belt before you are granted access. Let’s just say that I was one Zaxby’s club basket away from being unable to experience the thrill. Because we visited Dubai in the fall, we were unable to visit the Dubai Miracle Garden. Sadly, this attraction was at the top of my list. When I return, it will definitely be in the Spring.
After exploring Dubai for several days, we headed over to Abu Dhabi where we received a warm welcome at the Courtyard World Trade Center. In the room, a tray of fruit and chocolate awaited our arrival. In addition to being attached to the World Trade Center, it was also within walking distance to the souks. After we got settled, we headed to the Emirate’s Palace for some afternoon tea at Le Café. There is only one word to describe the Palace…BEAUTIFUL!!! I had never seen anything like it, at least not in person. We made reservations, but there were several tables available. We were required to spend at least 100 AED, which is about $28 USD. In order to meet the requirement, I paired my tea with dessert. I tried a chocolate cake with a hint of cherry flavor, while my friend tried the blueberry cheesecake. As we conversed, a pianist played “A Whole New World.” I am a human karaoke machine and could not resist the temptation to sing along. When tea time was over, we explored the palace and tipped out back for a quick photo shoot.
We spent the next day exploring the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. I thought the Emirate’s Palace was beautiful, but the Grand Mosque was breathtaking, so pristine. Because we did not have our own, we rented traditional attire in exchange for our I.D. After getting dressed, we explored the Mosque barefoot, adorned in abayas and a dishdash. Yes, I said barefoot. All visitors are required to remove their shoes before entering. Free guided tours were available, but we opted for the self-guided tour.
Now, I know a lot of you may be wondering about the dress code. When I began packing, I made sure I packed maxi dresses, jeans, shirts with sleeves, etc. I did not want to offend anyone in any way. I do advise you to conduct research on the venue you wish to visit in advance so you will not be disappointed when you arrive. For example, The Dubai Mall asks its visitors to wear respectful clothing that covers shoulders and knees. The dress code for each venue may vary, but it’s just better to play it safe. Better safe than sorry.
To say that I enjoyed myself in the UAE would be an understatement. It would take several pages to discuss everything I got myself into, and I know you all don’t have that kind of time. I did attempt to squeeze as much of it as I could in the post; I tried. What sites and adventures would you recommend when visiting the United Arab Emirates?
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