My girls and I decided we wanted to visit the Maldives Islands in celebration of our birthday this year. The Maldives has long been a dream destination for us so we decided to go.
We were told that the Maldives could become boring if we stayed for 7-10 days so we broke up the trip by visiting Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The UAE is your standard westernized country with traffic, skyscrapers and luxury brands to boot. We landed in their magnificent airport, cleared customs and headed to our hotel. Part of traveling to a completely different time zone is forcing yourself to stay awake so that you can take advantage of the day. So while I feel like I haven’t slept in weeks, we packed a lot into three days.
There’s no better way to get acquainted with Dubai than by soaking up the views from the top of the world’s tallest building. The Burj Khalifa, a staggeringly tall tower reaching 2,722 feet, with several observation decks.
Our hotel was located downtown, walking distance from the Dubai Mall which by the way is the most grandiose mall I have ever been to in my life. The king of all malls, the Dubai Mall is the largest mall in the world by surface area and contains over 1500 stores and counting Every single store you could think of is there as well as an aquarium and an ice skating rink.
Despite the UAE being a muslim nation, we pretty much wore whatever we wanted to with the exception of holy places like the Mosque. I would not have felt comfortable wearing pum pum shorts but there are women who certainly did.
Our first excursion was at the sand dunes. We went sand bashing, which is done in your vehicle where you ride the sand in your SUV, we sand boarded which is similar to snow boarding just done in the sand and we rode ATVs and camels.
If you plan to do this activity, do so in the evening. The sun will be less intense and depending on the tour group, there may be a bonfire and belly dancing for entertainment.
Just outside of the world’s largest mall is the world’s largest choreographed fountain. Designed by the same folks who created the Bellagio Fountains in Vegas, The Dubai Fountain puts on a nightly show with water, music and light that’s pretty extraordinary.
That evening, we went to Level 43 at Four Points Hotel for some drinks and music.
Note: Restaurants do not sell alcohol, you either need to be at a bar or hotel/resort to purchase alcohol, which makes drinks quite pricey. A mojito was $18usd on average. There is also a Caribbean Club, Miss. Lily’s, that was mentioned to me several times but I did not have the time to go. While at Level 43, we asked the DJ to play some soca and he played some current tunes for us. I was so pleased to see soca having an impact that far way from home. Note: Ladies night at most bars/lounges is on Tuesday, women can get complimentary drinks from 8 – 11pm.
Louvre Abu Dhabi
The next day, we headed to Abu Dhabi. We were going to skip the day trip because Abu Dhabi is about 1 hour and 30 minutes outside of Dubai but we figured what the hell and headed out that way. We first stopped at the Louvre Abu Dhabi. An art and civilization museum, established in November 2017.
Somehow we ended up by the Ferrari Museum, impressive with modern installations and car displays but not much I cared about since I am not a car enthusiast.
UAE Heritage Village
We ventured out to the UAE Heritage Village where patrons could purchase local UAE threads and trinkets. The Heritage Village is a reconstruction of a traditional desert village with crafts workshops & monthly cultural festivals.
Emirates Palace is one of the most iconic landmarks of Abu Dhabi. Surrounded by lush landscaped gardens, the palace is now a luxurious 5-star hotel.
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is located in Abu Dhabi. The largest mosque in the country, it is the key place of worship for Friday gathering and Eid prayers. We had an annoying experience when we got here which reminded me about my “freedoms’ as a woman in the United States. There are two entrances for the Mosque. The “tour group” entrance and the visitor entrance. Our taxi driver accidentally dropped us off at the tour group entrance which created so much confusion regarding us getting temporary burqa. [Interestingly enough, men were allowed in with their arms and chest exposed, wearing shorts etc but women’s bodies continue to be policed]
When we tried to explain the error, the security guards were not even trying to hear anything 8 women had to say to him, we were denied entry. We had to go find our male taxi driver to explain the situation and only then we were allowed in. This whole part of my day tainted the experience. Upon entry, there are many rules to conducting yourself in the mosque. Some I understand, some I do not. Shoes must be removed. You are not allowed to sit anywhere, your arms should not be lifted, there are certain images you cannot take [poses included] or they will be deleted off of your phone. It all makes sense now why Rihanna got kicked out of this Mosque years ago. The architecture of the Mosque is gorgeous though.
Overall, I enjoyed my trip. Would I go to the United Arab Emirates again? I’m not sure. I am happy I got to visit this time around but I prefer historical countries to modern cities when traveling.