To be honest, I didn’t expect much from Dubai. I had a feeling it would make a good impression, but it was never really on my ‘top things to see’ list. Well, it turned out I was wrong. Dubai appeared to be such an interesting multicultural city with loads of different embodiment. In my opinion, Dubai should be ‘divided’ into 3 main touristy parts if we are to talk about it. Those 3 parts remain very diverse in compare to one another, and one could feel like visiting a different part of the world, not to mention a different district of an average-sized metropolis.
I find Dubai truly fascinating – in fact this city awoke my Middle East fascination! I remember I was looking at the Downtown skyline from the top of Best Western Pearl Creek hotel, wondering how incredible the empire of black gold appears. Did you know the oldest building in Dubai is 150 years old?
We decided to start our Middle East adventure in a place, where Dubai was born – at the Creek.
The Creek is ‘where it all started’. It is not necessary the area you would relate to Dubai as the wealthy city of gold. It is not the rich area, nor the buildings are ‘made of gold’, but it definitely has THE Middle East vibe. “The Dubai Creek used to be the central hub of activity for the Emirate, and as this started to change, the Creek has become where Dubai’s legacy truly lives.” says Stephan Vanden Auweele, General Manager for Sheraton Dubai Creek. Historically, the saltwater creek, formally known as River Zara, divided the emirate into two main sections – Deira and Bur Dubai. It was along the Bur Dubai area, where Bani Yas tribe first settled in the 19th century. At the beginning of the 20th century the Creek became the main harbor for the majority of dhows and ships coming from the Persian Gulf area, but also from the further destinations, such as India. This is when the Creek stated to build the commercial position of Dubai. What was the most important factor during that time? Dubai’s pearling industry – former MAIN sector of the emirate’s economy. The pearl fishers village was based in the creek as well. UAE produced the finest pearls in the world for over 7000 years, but that stopped in the 40’s with the discovery of oil. Summarizing, the Creek is the place with a lot (as for UAE) history, and it has to be seen in order to truly experience the city.
Where to stay?
Best Western Plus Pearl Creek****
We chose Best Western Plus Pearl Creek. The hotel is placed in a strategic location, just opposite the Harbor and only 10 minutes walking from the famous Souk. We chose to get around by a taxi, but the subway station is quite near (10/15 minutes). It takes only around 20 minutes to drive to Downtown ( Burj Khalifa area) and another 20 minutes to reach Marina.
Best Western operates about 4,200 hotels and resorts all over the world, which means you can find their venues in the majority of popular destinations. What I think is the most convenient about BW is their loyalty program – you can actually earn a free night (worldwide), exclusive discounts, constant rewards and surprises. Apart from that, you can get yourself their Travel Card you can pay for your stay with (cash or points).
The most important feature for me was the rooftop pool with some of the best views of Dubai – as you can see on the pictures. Apart from the rooftop pool, there was also a shisha bar and a café – both open till 1am. The gym and the wellness center is also located on the top floor, which is also a big plus. The breakfast was delicious, and there was a lot to choose from. There is also a stand with the Arabic coffee at the reception, where you can sit down and chill after the whole day of sightseeing.
Things To Do
Simple Stroll Along The Promenade
To me, a trip without strolling around the most precious sights is not complete. And the creek? It’s something incredible! Knowing this harbor made Dubai to be one of the major Arabic harbors in the world gave it an extra ‘importancy’ feel. You might get lucky while walking down the promenade, as the sailors are often keen on telling you some really interesting stories and perhaps even show you around their dhows.
Souk & Gold Souk
I can’t imagine visiting Dubai without visiting Souk. Remember ‘Sex and the City’ when Miranda and Carrie headed down to Souk to buy some spices and shoes? It looks exactly like the in a movie! Souk can not be missed! Apart from all the made in China ‘traditional Arabic souvenirs’,such as plastic ‘Arabic’ purses and something you could easily order from the famous Chinese e-bay called aliexpress, you can actually buy the authentic Arabic treasures, such as tea, coffee and loads of spices. I think it is just a great experience! And Gold Souk, located just around the corner, should undoubtedly be on your list as well 🙂 Retail gold rates in Dubai today (05.02.2018) are: 24K 161.25 AED, 22K 151.50 AED, 21K 144.75 AED, and 18K 124.00 AED – calculate yourself how much would you spend for the jewelry you want.
Dhow Dinner Cruise
Another must-see and must-do when in Dubai. This is the sort of real Arabic experiences I was after – sailing through the modern 21st century city in a traditional dhow while watching the Arabic show. This event was introduced in order to re-create the real Bedouin tradition as the guests glide down the shimmering creek on an authentic wooden dhow. What should you expect? On board you are welcomed by the grape juice (no alcohol allowed on dhow) followed by the sumptuous buffet dinner with non-limited soft drinks. We went on this trip with Happy Adventures and it was another well-organized event we shared with this company ( read about our desert trip here). The price of Dhow Dinner Cruise is 55 AED without the pick up & drop off service (120 AED all inclusive). The sailing time is around 2 hours, and you will be sailing through the creek.
Where to eat?
Cheap Street Food Allert! From what we observed, this is the only district where you would be able to get a 7 AED shoarma and 5 AED camel milk on a street, while walking the famous Creek Promenade. The shawarma bars are located on literally every corner! As for the alcohol, it is not easily accessible in Dubai. In fact, there are a very few places with the alcoholic menu, so be prepared for a little abstinence time 🙂
Party people – there are, however, loads of different pubs and bars selling cocktails and wine. The party venues aren’t located in a touristy places. One good tip to remember is to search for the so-called ‘Ladies Night’. Ladies nights in Dubai are the weekday parties – mostly from Sunday to Wednesday. You can score a free entry, free drinks (usually 2 or 3) and some free snacks. Just google ‘Ladies Night’ before you head to Dubai.
The most iconic and the most expensive part of Dubai. It is home to the tallest building in the world, Burj Khalifa and the ‘beating heart of the city’, Dubai Mall. This district covers the area of 2 square kilometers and generates an estimated cost of US$20 billion. Impressive?
Where to Stay?
I would always choose the hotels with the best views. Taking Downtown into consideration, I would go for the properties on Sheikh Zayed Road, but the ‘sea side’ – it would guarantee the best views. Most of the hotels in Downtown posses rooftop pools and restaurants.
What to do?
Well, as for Downtown I doubt it would be something you would not have on your must-see list, but let me tell you what we did.
I was working in Westfield Stratford during my studies in London, so shopping malls aren’t on my fav activities list, but Dubai Mall is so much more than just a place with loads of shops. Dubai Mall is a heart of Dubai – at least the way I see it. It’s the meeting point of Dubai’s residents and one of the main attractions of the city. Apart from admiring the wealth of this place, you can also admire supercars outside the mall – the activity you would have to pay quite a lot of money for back in Europe or in the US. I also enjoyed the mall’s aquarium with 10 million liters of water, around 400 sharks as well as over 33 000 sea life species.
Burj Khalifa and the Surroundings
We choose to skip going at the top of the highest building in the world. Perhaps another time. I was more keen on exploring the rooftop bars surrounding Dubai rather than an actual main sight of the city. I was not convinced by the photographs from the top I saw on Instagram, but we might still decide to go to the very top next time, only just to tick it off the list. There are two options of seeing the world from the top :
1.You can either go to ‘At the top’, which is Level 125 + 124 for 130 AED or
2. You can go all the way up to the so-called ‘At the top Sky’, which is Level 148 + 125 +124 for 370 AED
There was no massive que, and from what I found out you don’t necessary have to book it ages in advance. Also – just to remember, you enter the building via Dubai Mall, you have to enter the shopping center in order to go up.
There is a spectacular Fountain Show set on the Burj Khalifa Lake, between Dubai Mall, Burj Khalifa and Souk Al Bahar. Performances are held every day and take around 5 minutes. The evening performances (much more spectacular) start at 6 pm and repeat every half hour until 11pm. There are also two performances during the day – at 1am and 1:30 am. Make sure to arrive early enough to see it.
Stroll Around Downtown
Stroll around the Downtown area to be able to see the ‘real Dubai’ you know from the books and movies. You will be able to witness the wealth, the majestic architecture and some of the most impressing buildings in the world. I was really keen on seeing the Downtown Palace, which is a place of numerous photo shoots of the fashion magazines and the blogs I follow.
Where to Eat?
Comptoir102 is located just off the nearest public beach from Downtown Dubai, Jumeirah Public Beach. Let me say it was tricky to find this sort of beautiful café in Dubai. I read these are not popular in UAE, but I will never understand why – there is nothing better than a place with a soul. I was so glad I found Comptoir102, I totally felt the vibe of this café and I came back with loads of different meal ideas! I also found out this place is a winner of the What’s On Award of the best Healthy Café in Dubai! As they advertise : ‘The philosophy behind the café is to offer a more conscious and healthy lifestyle by bringing more sustainable and nutritious food to its guests, in harmony with our body, our souls and our environment...’. They are known for using the healthiest and Eco ingredients and they change their menu on a daily basis. I especially loved my charcoal black lemonade and a delicious quinoa curry. Apart from their yummy food, you can also enjoy from a mini tour around their showroom and the furniture store. It is also important to mentin Comptoir102 was awarded the best furniture store by Harper’s Bazaar celebrates beautiful craft and design, mixing the bohemian ethos of comfort with a trendy unconventional direction. It means you are eating in a very lovely and chic place 🙂
Jumeirah Public Beach
I must admit Dubai is not the perfect beach destination. I found the beaches quite interesting, but definitely not idyllic. In fact, the public beach was way too ‘exposed’ for me. I haven’t had enough time to explore the private ones, but I was told they are much more intimate. Jumeirah Public Beach was quite small and not very beautiful if I’m being honest. The promenade was designed in a modern way, every stand/shop looks the same from the outside, which kind of gives you the impression you are in a city not on the beach. Maybe it is just not my thing.
Some people say Marina gives you a Singapore feel. I have never been to Singapore, but this area reminds me of London’s Canary Wharf and Manhattan – what a discovery, huh? It definitely is the most sophisticated, and by some named as the most beautiful, boroughs of Dubai. Dubai Marina is an artificial canal city – built to accommodate more than 120 000 people in residential towers and villas.
Where to stay?
There are plenty of lovely hotels, and the prices vary. Be prepared to pay a little extra for staying at Marina – it is very chic area, known for the high prices. Perhaps you could also consider Barsha Heights as your headquarters – it is close and the prices are much lower.
Where to eat?
How about Mediterranean food? Ostro Restaurant would be a perfect place to do so. It is located around 10 minutes driving from Marina, but the food is worth going for it. We had a lovely lunch! Ostro is known for using the best and healthiest ingredients, for their dishes to have an extraordinary taste. It is a non-alcoholic restaurant, but serving delicious refreshing mocktails instead. How about a coconut mojito?
What to do?
Rent a Yacht 🙂 or go on a boat trip, as there are several companies offering some really great excursions. We went on a cruise with Cozmo Yachts ( you can read more about it here ) .We rented Cozmo45, with the capacity of 15 people, which is more than enough for the two of us – bare in mind the crew of 4 people has to assist you on every cruise. The price varies and is depending on a season or even a week day, but for this size you would pay AED 1000 per hour. You can choose for how long you wish to sail – you can do Yacht Cruising Rout 3/4 Hours (Dubai Marina, The Palm Jumeirah, Atlantis The Palm, Lagoon Island, Sheikh Island & Burj Al Arab) or Yacht Cruising Route 2 Hours ( Dubai Marina, Lagoon Island, Sheikh Island, Burj Al Arab).
See Burj Al Arab at Night
We waited for the sun t go down in order to observe Burj Al Arab and the game of lights. I have to say – it makes much better impression in the dark. We took on a long walk towards Burj Al Arab from Al Sufoh Beach. What I find really catching is that we discovered loads of camper vans on Al Sufoh, which gave this place quite a different atmosphere.
When to visit and how much does it cost?
The best period to visit Dubai is between November and March, when the temperature hits 26 degree during the day. It’s a perfect weather for both sunbathing and sight seeing. It is also the so-called high season in UAE and the majority of hotels are fully booked, so it is crucial to book some time in advance. Dubai is also very popular during the European summer.
How much does the ticket cost?
It depends on how long in advance you are going to book your flights, but it could go down to even 100EUR return. It is the best to go from Duesseldorf, Germany, from Katowice, Poland and from London, UK.
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