Well, in the final of my blog posts about my mind blowing week in Dubai, I’ll tell you what we did (aside from eat and look at shops).
The answer is: not a great deal. I’ll be honest with you – you can’t go on holiday to the UAE for more than say a week, because there is simply not that much to entertain yourself with. Unless your life revolves around designer shopping (which mine doesn’t), then Dubai may be for a one off trip.
Dubai does not have much of a cultural history. There aren’t any ruins to see, or historical buildings. Even museums and galleries are in single figures (although we did see a great exhibition from the British Museum – see below).
But don’t get me wrong – Dubai is great fun. Just don’t expect to be entertained for weeks on end.
We gave the “desert safari” thing a miss – essentially dune bashing in a 4×4 followed by dinner in a bedouin tent. We did a similar thing in Qatar six years ago, and I can’t imagine it’d be much different in Dubai (just 40 mins away by plane). We also didn’t hunt down any camels – I rode one, and we saw them in racing training, also in Qatar.
But we did the water-park thing. Oh yes.
We went to Atlantis, based on the Palm Jumeirah (yes, that huge, palm-shaped island they built), and pretty much spent the entire day pratting about on inflatable tyres. Round and round the rapids we went…
Atlantis is sodding enormous, with a large range of water slides to choose from (I only actually went on two, but one of them involved going through a transparent tube THROUGH an aquarium, so I think that counts for something). There’s also a variety of restaurants, to keep you fuelled throughout the day (although the service left a LOT to be desired). And if you really want, you can relax on the man-made real-sand beach, and swim in the actual sea –
Nothing quite beats finishing the day with a Virgin Pina Colado (i.e. no alcohol) drunk our of a pineapple, though. OK, rum would have beaten it, but still…
But Atlantis was not the only swimming (ok, splashing about in water) I did during the week. Like all awesome hotels should have, our hotel boasted a roof-top pool. The joy of near 40-celsius daily? You can have a dip, and then dry off in the sun in about a minute. Mmm, toasty…
The final, major outing we did in the week was our Saturday trip to Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi is arguably even “newer” than Dubai, in that they are still constructing a major tourist attraction, Saadiyat city. Included in Saadiyat will be the Arabic Guggenheim, the Arabic Louvre, a marina, a nature reserve, masses of hugely expensive villas (my dad’s company are doing the telecoms set up for TDIC, so he had access to show us around a AED10m (about £1.6m) villa) and much, much more.
At the moment, Saadiyat is very much a work in progress – some of the villas are there, but otherwise there is a “Story of Saadiyat” exhibition (which tells you about the work they’re doing), a restaurant, The Splendour of Mesopotamia exhibition (courtesy of British Museum) and… that’s about it. Oh, don’t get me wrong, it was amazing, but maybe I’ll check in on it in a few years (especially as the recession has hit works HARD – I’m telling you people, if you were thinking of investing in Arabic property, NOW IS NOT THE TIME!! There, I think I’ve done a public service…)
Then, it was onwards to Abu Dhabi’s Grand Mosque –
One of the only (if not the only? I have no idea) mosques in the world that is open for non-Muslims to visit. And what a one to visit! It was bloody huge. Four minarets and countless domes, everything was marble inlay and gaudy chandeliers.
Understandably, you couldn’t waltz in wearing your summer dress – the staff provided abayas for women to throw on (I will reserve my opinions on cultural attitudes towards women) and men have to wear long trousers. You are asked to remove your shoes before entering the mosque itself.
And here, just a handful of pictures from the mosque itself. Wow, right?
Definitely a once in a lifetime experience.
And so ends my stories of the Middle East! Obviously, I can’t relate every single thing we did in these short blog posts, but I hope I have given you a taster of what Dubai (and Abu Dhabi) have to offer. I had a whale of a time, best aspect of course being the time spent with my dad, who pretty much lives out there now – boo 😦
It’s not for the faint-hearted, and definitely save your pennies up before heading out there. But most certainly worth a look in.