February 13, 2018
Trip Report: Four Days in Dubai in January 2018

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I’ve been wanting to visit the United Arab Emirates for a long time and I finally got the chance to visit Dubai in January 2018. I’m glad I saw the city, but it just didn’t live up to all the hype. Yes, there are some truly marvelous structures and attractions they’ve built in the dessert, but overall it wasn’t an atmosphere that I personally enjoyed all that much. I did have an excellent stay at the Westin Al Habtoor City hotel though, where I was upgraded to an Executive suite.

Dubai Creek

The Dubai Creek is located in Bur Dubai, also known as Old Dubai. There’s aren’t any crazy skyscrapers or anything here. The Dubai Creek separates the two halves of Bur Dubai and you can take a quick boat, called an abra, across. Be sure to keep your hands and arms inside as there are no railings 🙂

Bur Dubai

As mentioned, this is the old part of the city. There’s several streets filled with markets across both sides of the creek. You’ll find plenty of local goods like spices, teas, coffee, dates, and saffron here. You’ll also find the Gold Souk across the creek. This is a street full of jewelry vendors selling gold pieces.

Be prepared to haggle if you want to buy anything in Bur Dubai. If they sense you’re a tourist, and they likely will, you’ll be quoted an astronomical price for everything. I wouldn’t recommend going out of your way to visit Bur Dubai. There’s nothing particularly special aside from the small wooden boats crossing the creek.

Dubai Mall

The Dubai Mall is the word’s largest mall when measured by total area. It’s an absolutely massive space where you can find pretty much any major retailer. This is a photo of one of the walkways outside the mall. If you don’t feel like shopping, you can visit the indoor aquarium, the indoor ice rink, or the giant movie theater.

Dubai Fountains

Image Courtesy of Getty Images

This is a beautifully choreographed water show located between the Dubai Mall and the Burj Khalifa. Water fountains burst from the lake in sync with music and lights. It’s similar to the fountains by the Bellagio in Las Vegas. Shows occur every 30 minutes beginning at sunset. My only complaint is that the shows are very short. They last five minutes at most.

Burj Khalifa

The Burj Khalifa has been the world’s tallest building since 2008, measuring an astonishing 2,722 feet. It’s a giant skyscraper in front of the Dubai Fountains. It’s best to purchase tickets online as there is typically a line to purchase tickets at the door. Sunset is a particularly busy time for the Burj Khalifa, though I’m told the sunset views are amazing.

Desert Safari

You can find many variations of the desert safari in Dubai. A driver picked me up from the city and drove into the desert with one of these jeeps. Once our group was ready, he blasted Arabic music and swerved and drifted up and down along the sand dunes. It was a super fun experience!

Hot Air Ballooning

This was my first time hot air ballooning. It’s an expensive experience but it was so much fun. We were floating 4,000 feet above the desert with a view you can’t get any other way. We even saw camels and oryx strolling along the sands.

The company also brought this falcon named Ivan onboard. They had him fly around the balloon three times when we were cruising in the air. He then devoured a chicken from his handler’s hands.

We were picked up in these retro cars when we finished ballooning.

We finished up the morning having breakfast in this desert camp. There was a selection of dates, Arabic coffee, eggs benedict, fruits, etc. I booked this tour with Balloon Adventures Dubai. Overall it was a great excursion. They picked me up from the hotel before sunrise, I got to see the sun coming up from 4,000 feet, saw a falcon fly and have breakfast, and was served a decent breakfast on the ground when it was over.

Dubai Miracle Garden

Dubai Miracle garden is a giant outdoor garden with all sorts of structures made of flowers.

I mean, how cool is this Emirates A380 made of flowers?

It’s definitely worth a visit. They have tons of unique, and huge, pieces made of flowers.

Global Village

Global Village is basically Dubai’s version of Epcot, except without the Disney magic. It’s a theme park featuring pavilions dedicated to various countries. For example, there was a Pakistan section, Iraq, Turkey, Syria, Europe, India etc. Each section sells merchandise from that country and some of the pavilions have food from those counties as well.

There’s also an amusement park in the back of Global Village. I didn’t really enjoy Global Village. It just felt like a cheap knockoff of the original countries and everyone tries to upsell you.