Arabian Nights

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.

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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.

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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.

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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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The Middle East

21 thoughts on “Arabian Nights

  • December 4, 2016 at 5:54 PM
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    What a Christmas gift! I may have to give myself something like this! 🙂 It looks like an amazing experience, and I love that you covered dress code and even gum chewing conduct. We sometimes forget that different areas of the world operate in a way and have customs we are not used to, and it is good to be prepared and respectful!

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    • December 12, 2016 at 2:02 PM
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      You def should! I’m hoping there’s a glitch this Christmas!! Visiting the UAE was a memorable experience. I conducted extensive research in advance because I did not want to have any mishaps when I got there.

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  • December 4, 2016 at 9:53 PM
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    What a fabulous trip for your first international flight! I’ve spent a few days in Dubai but haven’t made it across to Abu Dhabi yet. Your hotel sounded lovely and I would love to explore the mosque. It looks so pristine and elegant!

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    • December 12, 2016 at 2:13 PM
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      If I had to compare the two, I’d have to say I like Abu Dhabi more. Abu Dhabi does a good job of preserving its history and culture while Dubai reminded me of Miami. Make sure you also visit the Emirate’s Palace whenever you visit AD.

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  • December 4, 2016 at 10:38 PM
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    That mosque looks divine! Arabian architecture is so magnificent, with all its fine detailing. Look forward to seeing that monument in person.

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    • December 12, 2016 at 2:14 PM
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      I encourage everyone to see it in person if they can. Pictures don’t do it justice!

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  • December 4, 2016 at 10:55 PM
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    Dubai is indeed a veritable treasure trove of attractions. The bubble gum rule is something I did not know about. It is nice that you have highlighted this as it would help travelers to be prepared. Hope to get to Dubai soon.

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    • December 12, 2016 at 2:18 PM
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      I was not aware of that rule either, and I made sure I researched rules and laws in advance. Another one I did forget to mention was seating on the train. Men and women could not stand/sit together. I’m used to getting on a train and sitting wherever there’s an available seat. After reading the signs on the train, I had to tell my friend’s boyfriend to move because he was in the wrong section.

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  • December 5, 2016 at 1:17 AM
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    I am confused, is that last picture of the Grand Mosque sideways? Sorry to hear about the gum thing on the metro. I had never heard of anything like that before but I guess you have to pay attention while traveling.
    I have been watching these error fairs but I am usually too chicken to take them. How did you handle booking everything knowing the fair may be cancelled when you got to the airport?

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    • December 12, 2016 at 2:33 PM
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      In the last pic, I was taking a pic of the columns that lined one of the breezeways outside. And I could not agree more. Pay close attentions to signs when you travel to any foreign country. I conducted research before I visited, and some rules were not mentioned. Anytime you purchase a flight during a glitch, I recommend waiting on an email confirmation that includes an itinerary and ticket number. It will also state that the reservation is confirmed. I suggest waiting until you receive these confirmations because not all airlines honor glitch fares. The US Dept of Transportation will subject them to huge fines and other penalties if they don’t. This only applies to US airlines though.

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    • December 12, 2016 at 3:30 PM
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      I see what you mean about the pic now. I’m currently on a PC and the pic is sideways. My personal computer is a MAC and it shows the pic right side up.

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    • December 12, 2016 at 2:39 PM
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      That makes two of us. I still can’t believe I took that photo! I def recommend visiting the UAE. If you visit Dubai in the spring, please be sure to take pics of the Dubai Miracle Garden 🙂

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  • December 5, 2016 at 4:32 AM
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    I’ve also booked a surprisingly low fare for travel on January next year while the Philippine Airlines domestic bookings had a glitch. Glad you overcame your anxiety over bad things that MIGHT happen and went ahead to enjoy your first international trip…And you had me at singing along the “A Whole New World”. hahaha

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    • December 12, 2016 at 2:40 PM
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      Nice!! Where to?

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  • December 5, 2016 at 1:57 PM
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    I love when airlines make that kind of mistake and you can get an expensive flight for next to nothing! We went to Hawaii for $50 per person once due to a glitch. But Abu Dhabi looks amazing and loving your pic’s there.

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    • December 12, 2016 at 2:53 PM
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      I know!! I’m hoping I can gift myself another glitch flight this holiday season :). $50? Wow! Lucky you! I’ve been waiting on a flight deal to Hawaii, but I seldom see any from the east coast.

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  • December 5, 2016 at 2:38 PM
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    The middle east is a great place to visit. The place has a lot of history. Only if they could go easy on the laws atleast for travelers.

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    • December 12, 2016 at 2:58 PM
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      You’d think they would be a little more lenient for those that may not be familiar with their rules. It’s okay though. Visiting the UAE was at the top of my list, so I did not mind their rules. I just made sure I conducted research in advance. I don’t know that the US would go easy on foreigners unfamiliar with the laws. It’s just one of those things we have to abide by if we want to visit other countries.

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  • December 5, 2016 at 10:35 PM
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    What a great trip! And good on you for not letting fear get in the way of new experiences and opportunities – that’s a good philosophy. I haven’t yet visited the UAE but it’s been on the agenda for a while. Sounds like such a fascinating place to visit – and sounds like it was quite the adventure for you!

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    • December 12, 2016 at 3:00 PM
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      I had so much fun! Fascinating is an understatement! I can’t wait to visit again 🙂

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