I am sure you have heard many things before now about the juxtaposition of old Arabian town and modern skyscrapers and displays of wealth that live side by side in Dubai, but here I am about to tell you some more.
The first thing that struck me in our taxi from the airport was just how big Dubai was. Although most airports are out of the city centre, it is often a decent drive before you come to much sign of civilisation. Here, there were buildings everywhere almost straight away. The places is really rather vast.
We drove down large multi-lanes roads lined with old and new styled villas as far as the eye could see, to get to our first stop – a place on the beach for brunch called Parkhouse, located at Kite Beach.
We knew we wouldn’t be able to check in for a while so we stopped off here for a bite to eat, which was relatively ok priced and in a cool location by the sea. The beach was already starting to fill up and it was only 9am. It looked like it would be fun later on in the day too, with lots of food vendors around.
We wanted to freshen up and get out of travel clothes so headed out and luckily found a taxi quite quickly. This took us to our hotel, Dukes on the Palm, which I plan to do a separate post on so not too much on that here.
Mall of the Emirates
We headed out in another taxi to the Mall of the Emirates. Not because we came all this way to shop, absolutely not. It was where we were meeting a friend of my mum’s, whose partner lives out in Dubai so she has been a regular visitor for years. She had offered to meet up with us and show us the Souks, so we met in the middle there and had a bite of lunch.
Abras and Souks
We jumped on the Metro to head to the Souks, which were a fair distance from where we were judging by the 20 odd minutes we spent on the Metro. The main souks are located in the old town area. The textile souk is in Bur Dubai, on one side of the Creek that runs through, the spice, perfume and gold souks are on the other side, known as Deira Dubai.
To go across, we caught an ‘abra’ – a water taxi. The pokemon nerd in me though roughly enjoyed this name, and the ride was very cool too on this little boat across the creek. It cost 1 dirham each way. which is super cheap, and it is definitely worth while. It wasn’t too packed with tourists either, although there were plenty around.
The textile souk was pretty quiet, which was nice in one way but meant that nearly every stall holder tried to talk to us and bring us in. Their technique for this was to call out random western celebrities and tell us we look like them. Apparently Craig is Captain Jack Sparrow and I am Shakira. Good to know. I always find it a bit off putting when I actually do want to look at something, it is a huge cultural difference that I always notice when in Asia, as this is just how they operate, but it can be a bit overwhelming. Fortunately I wasn’t there to buy, as Dubai really isn’t that cheap!
We also found a really pretty mosque on the way out of the textile silk covered in beautiful blue and white mosaic, which was nice as we didn’t see anything like that on our adventures on / near the palm.
We rode the abra back across the creek and visited the spice and gold souks. These were much busier with people everywhere. It was really cool to see, with some amazing jewellery on display, which I hear is priced very decently if you are in the market for it.
Dubai Mall and the Burj Khalifa
After this exploration, we jumped back on the Metro, this time to stop at the Dubai Mall to go and see all the big fountains and the waterfall and the Burj Khalifa; the tallest building in the world, standing at 829.8 meters high. This has been the tallest building since its completion in 2009, and let me tell you, it is gigantic.
We didn’t go up the Burj Khalifa as it is rather pricey and you can’t go right to the top anyway. Maybe another time on another trip. You pass an entrance to the experience though on the 1 mile undercover walk from the Metro to the Mall itself. It is so long it actually has the airport style moving walkways to help quicken things.
When we got to the Mall, I was quite amazed at all the different stuff in it. We walked past an ice hockey arena that kids were skating round, which was pretty weird, but if I thought that was weird I hadn’t seen anything yet.
We turned a corner and were literally faced with a giant 3 storey aquarium tank. There is an aquarium, of huge proportions, in the Mall. What?! It is bizarre, but I love an aquarium so I got super excited and made everyone take loads of pictures haha.
We then wandered along to see the indoor waterfall with all the sculptures of people down it, which was cool and also really rather large. Randomly there were lots of rubber ducks at the bottom. I can only assume that they were there for a specific purpose rather than that they hang out there all the time, but no explanation was readily offered so we will never know.
Finally, we popped outside to take in the views and get some pictures of the Burj. It is really hard to get it in one picture. But we did our best.
We considered staying for the big fountain show that happens at the pool in front of the Burj Khalifa every day at sunset, but we would have had to wait around for an hour and it was really warm and we had arrived straight off of an overnight flight. No one slept too well, so we decided to call it quits and head back to get ready for the pool party we wanted to go back to.
We were advised to use our 1 day Metro cards that we had bought to go back to the Mall of the Emirates and take a taxi from there to save on money so we did, but it took so long to find the Metro exit and walk all the way back to it we were rather exhausted and definitely made the right decision not to wait around for the fountain show.
Would be cool to see it one day though, so maybe if we ever go back.
I am really glad we ventured into the old town to see the souks and absorb the atmosphere of the old Dubai before all the skyscrapers and millionaires appeared. Between that and the desert safari I feel we did a good mix of culture and partying on our trip, which is nice. I would definitely recommend leaving the palm area and exploring a bit for yourself if you have the time!