Dubai fascinates and inspires me. The thought that a city built in the middle of the desert, in less than 50 years, has reached such a high level of development gives me the feeling that everything that may seem impossible or difficult to achieve becomes possible in the Emirates. Dubai means more than the well-known skyscrapers in all the photos or videos we find in the online environment. The city nowadays is the result of the vision of the Royal Family who wanted it to reach the top of the most developed places in the world and beat the records in many aspects.
Until 1966, when oil was discovered, Dubai was just a simple settlement where locals were dedicated to pearl fishing. The old city center is the only place that brings a memory of the traditional culture. Today, it is a cosmopolitan part of the world, a luxury holiday destination, but also a city where expats all over the world live, interested in the opportunities they can find there. Over 80% of the city’s population is made up of people from all corners of the world, the locals being a minority. It’s important to open up to all cultures and religions when you get there because racism is deeply discouraged.
The city, whose luxury lifestyle is recognised, is able to receive travelers with all types of budget. At first glance, it may seem like a place open only to tourists with exorbitant sums, but in reality you can explore the city between the skyscrapers with a decent budget. From food to the affordable taxi price (about 2.00 Ron per kilometer), the city offers different prices, so it is up to each traveler’s choice.
Photo Credit: The Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding
- LA MER – The place where skyscrapers disappear making room for graffiti
I start my suggestions with my favourite spot, a place I recommend to all those interested in seeing another side of Dubai, beyond the luxurious skyscrapers. La Mer is a beautiful beach open to the public for 2 years now and surrounded by the art of graffiti. The former beach Jumeirah Open Beach was reorganized and, after a series of interventions by various artists, it turned into an attractive and creative space. There are over 100 cafes, restaurants, cinemas, including an aquatic amusement park.
The beach is public. You pay only if you want to rent, for example, a beach bed.
2. Go up into the tallest building in the world
Burj Khalifa is the tallest building in the world and the main attraction of the city. I recommend having this experience of going up the building that has over 160 floors and 828 meters high. The elevator with tourists stops at floor 124 in less than a minute. The building has 900 luxury apartments, offices, expensive restaurants, and hotels.
It is preferable to buy the tickets online so you don’t have to wait in long queues. It’s best to know this when you visit any famous tourist destination in the world. However, after having bought the ticket online, you have to go to Dubai Mall, where you will receive the printed version. I paid 141 AED, the equivalent of about 35 Euro. We wanted to visit Burj Khalifa at dusk, so we woke up early to arrive there at 6.00 a.m. During that morning, it rained so it wasn’t the most perfect dusk. Besides the weather or the time you choose to go up the Burj Khalifa, from the 124 floor the view is breath taking; the entire Dubai seems to be a miniature model.
10 curiosities about Burj Khalifa:
- Burj Khalifa was built in 6 years, between 2004 and 2010
- 12,000 workers were needed each moment for the construction of the building
- The building cost 1.4 billions of dollars
- The weight of the concrete used for the building would be the equivalent weight of 100,000 elephants
- Reaching the upper floors of the building, the temperature is about 15 degrees lower
- Burj Khalifa has 54 elevators, the most rapid in the world
- The first Armani totel in the world is hosted in Burj Khalifa
- Actor Tom Cruise has filmed in Burj Khalifa for the known series of movies Mission Impossible
- Burj Khalifa can be seen from 95 km distance
- The highest library in the world is the one in Burj Khalifa, at floor 123
- The DUBAI MARINA PROMENADE is a place I’ve seen again and again, and I like it just as much each time. This time I was accommodated in this residential neighbourhood and it’s great to wake up in the morning and to see yachts passing by the window. 7 kilometres of restaurants, cafes, skyscrapers and hotels lighten the both the tourists and the locals. If you opt for sports during your holiday, the promenade is a good place where you can run. The place is to be visited during the day and in the evening.
4. Near Dubai Marina there’s the JBR Beach (Jumeirah Beach Residences), one of the most famous beaches in the city. JBR is also well known for the recent construction Dubai Eye, which is a copy of the renowned London Eye and the other observation wheels in the world. Recently, it was renamed Ain Dubai, Ayn being the sixteenth letter of the Arabic alphabet and is translated in English as ‘eye’.
The wheel in Dubai is currently the biggest observation wheel in the world. When I was there in May 2017, it was still under construction.
5. Dubai Marina Mall is in the same area. You’ll find both luxury brands and decent prices too.
Photo Credit: Official website: https://www.dubaimarinamall.com/about/
6. Visit the largest flower garden in the world, in the middle of the dessert
Being the largest flower arrangement in the world, Miracle Garden was first introduced in the Guinness Book in 2016. It has over 45 million flowers. There is not much diversity because flowers that would be resistant to dessert conditions were chosen.
The price of a ticket is 50 AED (10 Pounds, 12 Euro).
7. At Butterfly Garden, you can see the biggest butterfly in the world, Queen Alexandra birdwing.
Butterfly Garden is right near Miracle Garden, so that both can be visited during the same day. There are over 15,000 species of butterflies in this garden.
The price of a ticket is 50 AED (10 Pounds, 12 Euro)
Queen Alexandra birdwing butterfly
8. Play with optical illusions
I visited the Museum of Illusions, which was recently opened in Dubai. The museum is not very big but it has some parts that I liked and where I took some funny photos. It is in the area of the old city. The price of the ticket is 70 AED per person, the equivalent of 17 Euro.
9. Shop in one of the largest malls in the world and visit the huge aquarium there
Dubai Mall is huge. Along with luxury brands, you have the opportunity to see one of the biggest aquariums in the world, with a capacity of over 10 million litres of water and around 33,000 of aquatic beings, including sharks. You can admire it for free, from inside the shopping centre, and if you want to visit it, then you will pay between 130 and 235 AED, depending on what kind of activities you choose from the package offered.
There is also an waterfall at Dubai Mall. 10. Admire the dance of the world’s highest choreographic fountain
In front of Dubai Mall, each evening from 18:00, you can see a special show. The fountain that reaches 140 meters high is moving on the rhythms of the music. Each 30 minutes, the songs change and, as far as I understood, international songs were also used such as Time to Say Goodbye, by Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman.
11. In the other famous mall, the Mall of Emirates, you can ski. If outside can be 50 degrees during summer, inside the shopping centre you can have fun on the ski slope. I didn’t get in because at the moment I’m not really good at winter sports.Photo Credit: VALIZA CU CĂLĂTORII
12. TRIPS IN THE DESERT
About the trips in the desert, there are many offers. From trips of a few hours during the day, to trips that also include accommodation in the desert, with dinner and different shows included. We wanted to visit the desert without any organised group, so our hosts pleasantly surprised us and we went to the desert with their personal car.
13. Take a tour around the world
Global Village is a project that includes the cultures of 90 countries. The London Big Ben, The Statue of Liberty, and the Blue Mosque of Istanbul are just a few of the world’s most famous symbols, reconstituted in Dubai. The feeling is that you take a trip around the world. Flavours, textures, jewels, including traditional food from different areas, all in one place. Stands with specific things from Africa, India, Japan, Iran and many other places, exposing from clothes to home decor objects, teas, cosmetics and anything you could think of. You can confidently negotiate with the traders.
The period Global Village is open to tourists and ticket price
The price of the ticket is decent, 15 AED, i.e. less than 4 Euro. The fair is open 150 days per year, between the months of November and April. The rest of the year is closed due to high temperatures. The fair is open every day, but Mondays are dedicated to the families. Visits start at 16.00.
Besides the fact that there are plenty of restaurants and stalls where you can have something to eat, concerts and all sorts of activities are being organised, including fireworks. We arrive there in the evening, just in time to see a car and motorcycle show.
14. Dubai’s old town and local history
It is interesting to discover the old town because it represents the authenticity of the area and the opposite of the luxury buildings in the middle of the desert. It is the area where you can talk to the locals about the lifestyle in the deserts 50 years ago, before modern Dubai was built. Dubai Museum is the oldest building in Dubai, built in 1787.
On the old streets, I found the traditional houses; some of them have an artistic role in the present. Local artists are organising exhibitions to sell their works.
15. Surround yourself with gold, literally
Dubai Gold Souk is the gold market, a place of interest for all the gold traders around the world. Estimates appear to be around 10 million tons of gold. Moreover, there’s also silver, diamonds, spices and lots of other objects that can become souvenirs, depending on each person’s tastes.The closest metro stations are Palm Deira and Al Ras.
Close to the same area, you’ll find the ‘abra’, the traditional boat to move around. The cost is a symbolic one, just 1 AED.
During the two weeks of my stay there in February, the temperatures ranged between 23 and 29 degrees Celsius during the day. The sea was very cold. I only bathed once but I couldn’t swim for very long. The pool was the best solution for me. For others, however, the sea was the perfect choice, depending mostly on each person’s way of sensing the temperatures. Starting with the month of May and until September, the temperatures over 40 degrees Celsius may be suffocating for most of us and the air conditioning in all buildings, taxis, and public means of transport makes the temperature changes to be very abrupt.
You can find international restaurants everywhere. From the food of the Arab cuisine to the Japanese, Chinese, Indian, or any other goodies that stir your mind, you can surely satisfy your cravings. Taking into account that luxury tourism is an essential source to the city, the services offered are also high-level.
You have many options, from expensive hotels to 1* hotels, where you can pay approximately 20 dollars per night, for 1 double room. The good thing in Dubai is that you can find alternatives and visit and enjoy the city with a reasonable budget. For example, for 5 nights we paid 300 pounds to stay in a great room in a awesome apartment, with a wonderful view to Dubai Marina; this room also had a piano.
I will write soon another article about less known interesting things about Dubai.