Dubai In a Day
Dubai is one of the seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates. It is rather like an independent city-state and is the most modern and progressive emirate in the UAE, developing at an unbelievable pace in the tourist and trade sectors especially... From a humble fishing village to a modern bustling metropolis in just over three decades! Dubai has burst on to the global scene as perhaps one of the most happening cities in the world with its ambitious projects and unique events.
As with Cairo, Dubai was technically a layover for me, getting in early in the morning and leaving in the evening, allowing me to check out the city and meet up with Sarya - a good friend of mine that I have not seen since we graduated from the Ohio State. As it was a pretty short flight from Cairo, we got in just before 4 am local time, but it was 2 am 'my time'. As there were no arrival lounge I could use and no reasonably priced accommodation available nearby, I had to settle in for a not-so-comfortable chair in the arrival hall and wait for the day to come. Thankfully, they had free WiFi throughout the airport so I was able to kill some time and look up things to do in the city (although it did not work with my laptop for some reason).
Burj Khalifa Visit
The first thing on the agenda was the trip to Burj Khalifa - the tallest building in the world. They have two types of tickets to get to the observation deck - the immediate one costing about 400 dirhams/$100 and one that assigns a time slot to come back at but also costs 100 dirhams/$25. Needless to say, I was hoping for the later so I jumped on the metro to get there when the observation deck office opened at 10am. The walk from the metro station to Burj Khalifa seemed pretty straight forward on the map, but it took me a while as to get to the observation deck ticket sales. It turned out I had to go into the underground parking garage, then follow (sometimes confusing) signs to the entrance. Once there, I found out that the earliest day the 100 dirham tickets were available for was Wednesday. Being there only for a day, that obviously did not work for me so I paid 400 and went up.
The self-guided tour starts at the bottom with a number of different boards telling the story of the tower as well as a quick video (most of which I skipped). After that, the high speed elevators whisk people up to the observation deck which provides approximately 270 degree view of the city and a somewhat-enclosed outside portion with the rest of the view. Semi-enclosed is because it also has glass panels, but with about a foot slit in them to let the (hot) air in and allow for the pictures to be taken without the glass in front of the camera (a clever idea). The view from the observation deck was pretty amazing with a mix of the desert and the developed areas, most of which have some sort of greenery and/or large pools/lakes to contrast the sand. There was another contrast between the areas of high-rise buildings on one side of the main highway and the traditional arabic houses and buildings on the other side, stretching out to the Persian Gulf.
The biggest let down about going up to Burj Khalifa is that the observation deck is not actually at the top of the building, but rather at 452 meters/1483 feet, still making it the highest outdoor observation deck in the world. I knew that coming there, and for 100 dirhams it would be a decent value, however, it is not worth 400 dirhams in my opinion. I later learned from a friend that there is a restaurant either just below or just above the observation floor that one can go to and get the similar view for less than 400 dirhams (with the dinner included). I may try that next time to get some night shots of the city as well.
Wondering around Dubai Mall
After getting back down from the observation deck, I strolled through the Dubai Mall in search of some WiFi. The mall offers it for free, but you need to provide a local cell phone number that the system texts an access code to so that did not work for me. I ended up buying a shake from a coffee place hoping to use their wireless, but the access code did not work on either my laptop or my phone. Dropping that idea, I went to search for a shipping place to see how much it would be to send my White Shark adventures DVD back home. DHL quoted me 400 dirhams/$100), which was way too much, but I have heard that the hotel has a mailing service so I made my way there just to find out that it is only for postcards. On the bright side, that got me an excuse to get into the hotel and while on the patio, I was able to use their WiFi to get some real-time advise from my friend Dave on what to do next in the city as he has lived here for a while.
I ended up jumping back on the metro and going to Dubai Marina - one of the new vibrant developments on the north side of the city, next to the sea. Getting off at the Dubai Marina train station, I jumped on the bus and got off by some hotel on the beach. It took me another few minutes to find a walk through to the beach, but eventually I made it out there and immediately regretted not bringing my swim shorts with me. Instead, I took the shoes off, rolled up my jeans, and started walking south along the water line. As I was walking, I could not stop thinking how it reminded me of South Beach in Miami - nice, big beach lined up with skyscrapers. Similar to SoBe, the beach area is separated from the mainland by the Dubai Marina channel which plays home to many private yachts and motor boats.
I had to start heading back to catch the subway to go back toward the old city area where I was going to get into a Regus office and use the internet to try to get a hold of Sarya. Walking back to the subway station, I stopped by the small grocery store at one of the resorts and was pleasantly surprised to see that a 500 ml bottle of Sprite costed only 2 dirhams which translated into about 40 cents - the cheapest bottle of pop I have gotten anywhere on my trip. Once I got back out to the main road that has the metro line running next to it, I could not help but think that that area looked very similar to Poznjaki area in Kiev where it set up similarly - a large highway with the subway running under ground, surrounded by new high-story building developments. However, Dubai Marina looked completely different with mostly glass building of different shape and form as well as metro stations looking aesthetically pleasing versus the gray look of Poznjaki and their somewhat chaotic organization of the area surrounding the subway stop.
Regus Office at Burjuman Tower
I took the metro back to the Khalid Bin Al Waleed station and walked over to the Burjuman Tower where a Regus office is located. Burjuman turned out to be another shopping center and it took me a while to figure out where to go - I had to take an elevator to the third floor, then walk through one of the hallways to another set of elevators to take me up to the 18th floor. The Regus business lounge was very basic - with only two regular seats next to each other. The coffee machine was free to use and snacks machine seemed to be reasonably priced. The meeting rooms were located alongside the windows so I could not see what the view was like from there.
Within a few minutes of getting online, I received a message from Sarya saying that he was getting off work so I called him on my google voice just to find out that he is in Dubai Marina area. So much for heading all the way back here. I packed up and jumped back on the metro to get to Dubai Marina station where Sarya was already waiting for me. We headed out to one of the beach-side bars to grab a few beers and catch up. I shared with him that I thought Dubai was pretty cheap and it turned out that I was fooled by Sprite and metro fare card - the rest of costs in Dubai were pretty significant. Oh well, I would still like to come back to spend more than just a day here and get the feeling for the rest of the city. Soon it was time for me to head back to the airport to catch my flight to Bangkok so Sarya dropped me off back at the good ole Dubai Marina metro station.
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