From the largest mall to the tallest building in the world, what’s not to love about the extravagance of Dubai and the United Arab Emirates. When taking our break from teaching with the Peace Corps in Ethiopia, my friend, Brita, and I decided to go somewhere as different from Ethiopia as possible. What’s more different than bucket bathing and living without electricity than going to one of the world’s most luxurious cities?
Although we were traveling to one of the most expensive cities in the world on a very tight Peace Corps Volunteer’s budget, we still had an amazing time and did pretty much every thing we dreamed of doing. We planned our trip pretty well, budgeting for the things we really wanted to splurge on, and took full advantage of the great free things to do in Dubai.
To start, we saved a ton of money by Couch Surfing. This also built in a great guide for this overwhelmingly large city. Our host was incredible and very helpful with everything from transportation, directions, and advice, to amazing hospitality and nightlife entertainment. He took us out for dinner and drinks every night and even treated us to a harbor dinner cruise one night! I can’t say enough about our experience with our couch surfing host.
We started our exhausting trip by spending a day in Dubai Mall, the largest mall in the world. The mall is hard to fully describe.It has everything a modern consumer could ever desire, from an aquarium and ice skating rink, to retail stores and restaurant for every taste. The Dubai mall even features a real dinosaur skeleton from Wyoming, hidden in the center of one of the shopping centers. Because…why not? For two girls who had been lived in Ethiopia for over a year, we were absolutely overwhelmed and didn’t fully know what to do with ourselves. We filled an entire day by wandering, eating, people watching, and window shopping. When sunset approached, we watched the Dubai dancing fountain with the spectacular light and sound show. Our host then picked us up for dinner and drinks at the harbor.
We also made time to visit the Dubai Museum, followed by a visit to the Burj Khalifa. At over 2,600ft (800 m), it is currently the tallest building in the world. The building was formerly called the Burj Dubai and took over five years to construct reaching completion in 2009. It was spectacular to see Dubai from the sky. The city has a pretty fascinating layout.
The next photos in the layout show our visit to Dubai Creek and our ride on the famous abras (small wooden boats). Along the Creek is the Dubai Souqs and the Grand Souq. I think Brita and I were both a little disappointing in the ‘Grand Souq.’ We had both recently traveled to places that had much more impressive shopping souqs and variety. We actually stumbled upon an area on the other side of the Creek that we enjoyed more and bought a few things.
The best part of our trip, in my opinion, was our desert safari! This excursion took us on an exciting ride, sand bashing through the desert(driving in a Land Rover, skidding fast over sand dunes). It was an extremely thrilling drive. Our driver continually showed his skills as he maneuvered each dune through the steep and winding desert. Our breathtaking ride was followed by an extremely short camel ride. We then had the chance to hang out in our desert camp and enjoy several different activities for the evening. We got traditional henna tattoos, smoke shisha (hooka), and watch belly dancing. Followed by a huge traditional buffet, while enjoying more dancing and entertainment.
The following day we visited the Jumeirah Mosque to take full advantage of the Center for Cultural Understanding. There we enjoyed a full tour of the mosque with a wonderful guide who showed us and explained many things about Islam. It was a very interesting and enlightening tour.
Islam is the official religion of Dubai and the United Arab Emirates. It is one of the most liberal places in the Middle East and followers of other religions are tolerated. The population of Dubai is approximately 80% expatriates. Of the expatriates, 70% are Indian, Filipino, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and other Asian Communities as well as Europeans. 3% of Dubai emigrants are originated from western countries.
We also made sure to take a great walk around the harbor to get some good views. One of the photos is a sky view of The Palm Jumeirah. The photo doesn’t do this extravagant manmade art any justice. It is one of the largest man-made creations on earth. This structures is even visible from space. It is home to the Atlantis-Palm hotel, one of the worlds most expensive hotels. Here they actually have underwater rooms and gold leaf decorating the dining room. There are two even larger palm island projects, palm Jebel Ali and Palm Deira, that are still under constitutions.
Enjoy photos of the amazing Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
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