When we initially booked our flights we decided to do 22 hours in Dubai on the way back. We flew on Emirates (which I highly recommend) and their main hub is in Dubai. It was a new place and the long layover didn’t cost us any more to book so we figured, why not?
We landed in Dubai, after a seven hour flight, at around 4:00 a.m. We had booked an airbnb for the day because we knew we would want a home base and we had very weird hours in terms of arrival and departure. We took a “pink taxi” to the apartment which is a taxi driven by women specifically for women and families. I guess they could sense that Tamir, David, and I were family? Men are not allowed to ride in this taxi alone or as a group, they must have at least one woman with them. It is an interesting concept and definitely made me think about what it would be like to have more women cab drivers in New York.
The host left a key with her doorman and we went up to the air conditioned studio and slept for a few hours. The temperature was 120 degrees basically all day so we were trying to stay indoors as much as possible. Our first stop was to the Dubai Mall and the Burj Khalifa. The Burj Khalifa is the tallest building in the world (for now) and they offer tours to the 125th floor. The building is connected to the Dubai Mall so that you don’t have to walk outside to get to it. To give you an idea, the Dubai Mall is over 13 million square feet, which is more than 50 football fields. We walked around a lot, got breakfast, and I am sure we did not even get to see half of the mall. It reminded us a lot of Las Vegas and just your average very upscale indoor mall.
From the mall we went to tour the Burj Khalifa which was very fascinating. I think we all enjoyed the timeline of how the building started and how long it took in addition to the way they actually executed the construction. Workers sometimes worked through the night because temperatures during the day were too harsh. After the view from the top we walked over to a restaurant and got lemonades and juices while we watched the water show outside the mall. We tried to convince this restaurant to let us sit outside so we could have a good view of the show (supposed to be an awesome water fountain music thing) and they actually thought we were crazy. They were like it is too hot to be outside. They weren’t wrong but we didn’t mind the heat that much (or at least I didn’t) so we sat outside. The show was cool but was not the most amazing water show ever – maybe thats the American in me talking? We definitely enjoyed it and we were glad we saw it, after all we only had a day in the city so we wanted to see as much as we could.
The city seemed very abandoned during the day and we felt like we were the only people around at certain points. One cab driver explained to us that this is because it is so hot outside people just don’t leave their homes. He also said a lot of people from Dubai leave the city for the summer and vacation in other places to escape the heat. We learned a lot from this specific driver like why everyone is driving around in porsches and lamborghinis? It is because taxes are very low on goods produced outside of the country making luxury items more affordable in the United Arab Emirates. The royal family has deep ties in oil and throws a lot of money into subsidies. Gas is also extremely cheap there, it costs more for a liter of water than it does for a liter of gas. It sounds corrupt of course, and I am sure that pieces of the country are, but it seemed like people living there were happy. The UAE has also stayed away the Arab Spring which at least makes me feel like citizens are content.
After lunch we went back to the airbnb and relaxed before heading out on our sand dune adventure. Tamir booked this half day excursion for us which included sand dune bashing, hookah, henna tattoos, barbecue dinner, and belly dancing. The car ride was terrifying and I would not recommend it if you get car sick. They basically speed up and stop and swerve over these large sand dunes in the dessert for 30 minutes. The ride was very fun and rollercoaster esque. We were terrified for our lives but also had a great time. The vans drive in a caravan through the dessert so that if one van gets into trouble the others can be there to assist. There was a van that rolled in our caravan, everyone was fine, but the experience was pretty shocking. I think they prepare for it because nobody seemed shocked and all the cars had roll bars installed.
We stopped for sand boarding and then got back in the vans and headed to dinner and dancing. The area was set up with pillows and tables on the sand and areas for hookah and henna. It was really fun and the food was great. We got back in the car and drove back into the city so we could shower and relax before leaving for the airport at midnight. Our flight left Dubai at 3:00 am and we were homeward bound!
My next adventure will be with Zev, we are heading to Nicaragua and Guatemala for three weeks. Stay tuned.