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We had not traveled to the Middle East in many years (actually since 2001), so we decided it was time to once again visit that part of the world.  We chose to visit one of the key cities of the United Arab Emirates – Dubai.

Friday, 28 October:  We had to get up extremely early (3:30AM) to catch a 5:00AM shuttle to the airport for our 8:35AM flight to Hong Kong in transit to Dubai, a key city in the United Arab Emirates.  Today we were flying Cathay Pacific and that too turned out to be opportune since many Qantas employees began a work slow down that affected some 10,000 travelers.

We checked in at 05:30AM and enjoyed our time in the Qantas Lounge (used by Cathay since it doesn’t have one in Sydney).

We had a great 8.5 hour flight and, since it was all during day time hours, we were able to stay up the entire time.  The plane was a new A330 configuration and we had adjoining seats so that we could chat when not watching a movie on the individually controlled “on-demand” entertainment system. 

When we arrived in Hong Kong, we remained in transit so we went to Cathay’s “The Cabin” lounge till it was time to board our 4:20PM flight to Dubai.  Unfortunately, there was a last minute equipment change so we ended up on an ancient A330.  Where we could have used the sleep, it was difficult to get any since the seats didn’t fully recline as in all newer aircraft.  Also, the videos were not on-demand but rather those which played again and again throughout the flight.  Ugh!  This 8.5 hour flight turned out to feel very long and we didn’t get as much sleep as we had hoped.

We arrived at the Dubai airport at 9:15PM.  We went through Immigration and Customs fairly quickly because there was a special queue for First and Business Class travelers.  We did have to take time to obtain local currency from an ATM and then we had a brief wait for the complimentary shuttle to the Holiday Inn Express.  We finally arrived there at 11:00PM.  Then, it was time for a G&T&B (a gin & tonic & Benadryl) and some long-awaited sleep. 

Saturday, 29 October:  We both woke up early and we were at the buffet breakfast at 8:00AM.  The Holiday Inn did a good job in that both hot and cold foods were served, including a really delicious strained yogurt which was eaten with Arabic bread and/or tomatoes and cucumbers.  We then took a 10:00AM shuttle back to airport.  At 10:30AM, a representative from the Radisson Blu met us at the airport for our transfer to that hotel.  We were each given an ice-cold wash cloth to use to freshen up a bit as well as an ice cold bottle of water.

The ride to the hotel took about 15 minutes.  During it, we began our appreciation of this city of contrasts.  There are huge skyscrapers of glass and metal in all directions.  Then, in between these edifices, the horizon was doted with an incredible number of minarets.  We also got great views of Deira Creek, an inlet from the port which separates the old and new sections of town.  In fact, the Radisson Blu sits on Deira Creek.

We checked in at the Royal Club on the 10th floor and were in our room due to an early check-in at about 11:30AM.  After quickly settling in, we decided to begin our touring.  We walked over to the Union Street metro station to purchase tickets to ride to the Mall of the Emirates.  The agent asked us if we would be doing any other touring and suggested a day pass good for the metro as well as buses.  We did use one bus from the metro to the mall and we did save money by buying the pass due to making an additional stop on the way back to the Radisson.

After making our ticket purchase, we took two escalators downstairs and waited for the metro.  One thing that was amazing on the metro…. we noticed that all metro stops are air-conditioned – even those above ground.  We were lucky in that it was only about 90 degrees but since temperatures in the summer can get into the 115-120 degree plus range, air conditioning is essential. 

After about a 30 minute metro ride, our touring began at the Mall of the Emirates.  It was connected to the metro by an air-conditioned walkway which was again wonderful.  The Mall was huge and filled with shoppers since Saturday is one of the weekend days (the other is Friday when all government offices are closed).  Apart from its shops, the most famous site here is the indoor ski area.  It too was full of individuals enjoying the snow.  Since people don’t have (or visitors didn’t bring) winter clothing, users of the ski rent parkas and down pants in addition to the normal renting of skis, boots and poles.  In a way it was a little bizarre to see everyone in the identical clothing.

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Welcome to the Mall of the Emirates!
The multi-story mall was packed
with shoppers and others out for
the day
It looks just like at home
except for the women in full burka

[ T O P ]

The ski area had two types of lifts – the old t-bar as well as a chair lift.  Although the slopes were only several stories tall, individuals did get a nice run before riding back up the mountain.  In addition to the ski area, there was a sledding slide (like a bob sled) as well as a place where tires were attached to a carousel and little kids could ride them in a circle.   All and all, it was amazing that this place exists in the heart of a desert city.

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The overall ski/sledding area
Skiers coming down the slopes
Children were sledding in this area
This is a snow slide
(see the child coming down
it on the right side)

[ T O P ]

We returned to the metro and our next stop was Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building which towers 828 meters (2,761.5 feet) into the sky and has 124 floors.  It was designed and built by a consortium of engineers and companies, including some from the States.  The building hosts corporate offices, a hotel and 900 residences.  An impressive address for anyone!

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The Building!

After taking photographs of this amazing building, it was time to return back to the Radisson Blu.  We arrived at 3:45PM and immediately went to the 10th floor to enjoy afternoon tea.  Instead of tea or coffee, we opted for ice cold Coca-Cola Light.  Then, we enjoyed a variety of canapés.  Afterwards we returned to the room to relax and catch up on a few business items.  The balcony in our rood had a view of the Burj Khalifa as well as Diera Creek.

At 6:15PM, we went back upstairs to enjoy happy hour.  The views were spectacular and the sky was ablaze with lights.  It was very impressive.  After enjoying ourselves, we returned to our room to relax after a very busy day.

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A view across Diera Creek
This shot is looking down on Diera
Creek and its shipping industry

[ T O P ]

Sunday, 30 October:  Knowing we had another full day, we were up early and went for breakfast at the Royal Club.  In addition to many Western favorites – including smoked salmon – we enjoyed a traditional dish called “foul moudamas.”  It basically is a boiled fava bean dish.  The beans are very thick and are served with a topping of diced tomatoes, diced onion and a bit of olive oil.  It was excellent.

At 9:30AM, we left the hotel and walked a short distance to the water taxi station.  There we took a water taxi across Deira Creek to the Old Souk.  We wandered along the tiny streets primarily featuring textile vendors.  We were amazed at the incredible number of mosques in the area too.

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A water taxi crossing Diera
Creek (shot from our balcony)
The water taxi at its dock
A view from the water taxi
Locals on a water taxi
without air conditioning
One of the many mosques
in the Souk
A pedway in the Souk
Another corner, another mosque
The decorative dome of a mosque
The door to another mosque

After spending our morning there, we stopped back by the hotel for a cold water before returning to Union Station and continuing our touring.  We took the metro to the Mall of Dubai station.  From there we took a five minute ride on an air-conditioned bus to reach the Mall. 

The Mall of Dubai was another impressive spot.  We enjoyed watching the water show at world’s largest fountain – Dubai Fountain.  Then, we were able to take some more photographs of Burj Khalifa from a bridge overlooking the water show arena.  When we went inside, we were amazed at the numerous shops.  Mall of Dubai is touted as the world’s largest mall and we certainly believe it.  In addition to the stores, there was a beautiful waterfall, an ice rink and an aquarium.  It was a great place to spend a few hours on a warm afternoon.

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An air-conditioned bus stop
The show begins at
Dubai Fountain
The water streams to the sky
The show in full swing
A view of Burj Khalifa
from Mall of Dubai
Lindy at a waterfall
inside The Mall of Dubai
Children enjoying the skating rink
Beautiful fish enjoying the
water in the aquarium
Another view of the aquarium

[ T O P ]

We returned back to the Radisson via the metro and made it in time to enjoy the end of afternoon tea.  Then, we returned to our room to clean up before going back to the Royal Club for happy hour.  When we returned to our room, there was a slight breeze so we sat outside on our balcony and enjoyed the evening views of this beautiful city which sits surrounded by desert.  We truly enjoyed our experiences in Dubai and will look forward to another visit to the United Arab Emirates.

Continue following our RTW adventure, by clicking on the link to.... G R E E C E