If you ever have an extended stop over time between flights in Dubai, I can thoroughly recommend asking your travel agent if they could arrange for someone to pick you up and show you around this fascinating place. I had an 8 hour wait at the airport on my way home from Egypt and Jordan in 2010. After a bit of asking around my travel agent managed to find a willing guide who was thinking about starting a tour business and was happy to use me as a test case. He and his friend drove me around to get a taste of some of the amazing and bizarre things that can be found in Dubai.
Khan Murjan Shopping Mall
There are nearly 70 shopping malls listed in Dubai and they seem to delight in making them as outrageous as they possibly can. Khan Murjan is built like a pyramid with Egyptian statues and gilded columns everywhere. The ‘peak’ of the pyramid is made of stained glass. Underneath the main shopping mall is a giant food hall and market area built like a 14th century souk with ‘streets’ representing all different countries: the Moroccan quarter, the Syrian quarter etc.
Mall of the Emirates and Ski Dubai
Ski Dubai is just the weirdest place that you wouldn’t expect to find in a desert. It is an indoor ski resort in the middle of Mall of the Emirates, one of the largest shopping malls in the world. It has an 85m high indoor mountain with 5 different ski slopes including a black graded run. It has a quad chair lift and sled and toboggan runs. It even has penguins!
Palm Jumeirah is the world’s largest artificial island, built on reclaimed land and shaped like a giant palm tree. There are very upmarket apartments and villas all along the ‘palm fronds’
Atlantis Hotel and Aquarium
Even the Hotels try to outdo each other in being as lavish and over the top as they can possibly be. The Atlantis Hotel is located at the top of the Palm, a five star hotel themed on the myth of Atlantis. According to Wikipedia: “The main attraction is a 17 ha water park with twelve water slides and a 2 kilometre river ride with cascades, tidal waves and rapids. There are two Mesopotamian-styled ziggurat temples reaching over 30 metres into the sky and featuring water slides two of which catapult riders in clear tubes through a shark filled lagoon. The Lost Chambers is an aquarium exhibit with over 65,000 fish and sea creatures including the Ambassador Lagoon, which is an 11-million litre marine habitat. The lagoon can be viewed at the base of the East Tower through a ten metre long, seventy centimetre thick viewing panel which looks into a representation of the ruins of Atlantis.”
Burj Al Arab
Burj Al Arab is shaped like a billowing sail and is one of the most photographed structures in the world. It is consistently voted the world’s most luxurious hotel, apparently reflecting the very finest that the world has to offer. I had to take their word on that.
Burj Khalifa is the tallest man-made structure in the world, at 829.8 m
Views of the City
The population of Dubai is about 2 million people but only about 10% of them are Arabic. Many of them are expatriate men coming to earn their fortunes in one of the richest cities in the world; they are often here alone having left their wives and families back in their home countries. There had been a massive building boom but the global financial crisis meant that when I was there much of the building had stopped, and many people had simply left the country (often just abandoning their cars at the airport).
For tours in this region see:
Peregrine Adventures (Comfort tours)
Geckos Adventures (for 18 to 30s)
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