As many of you know, I’m not currently a full-time author. Perhaps someday! For now, I really enjoy working in digital marketing and sales as I have for several years. I’ve recently accepted a new day job (more to come on that in a future post) which requires a lot of travel. Earlier this month, I traveled for work to Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. The UAE is an Islamic country in the Middle East comprised of seven emirates: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, Ras Al Khaimah, and Fujairah. Though a relatively new country, the UAE is making rapid strides due to their foreign-investment-friendly laws and welcoming attitude towards business development.
This is a country that wants to be the best at everything! The world’s tallest building, the world’s largest shopping mall, and the world’s fastest roller coaster are all located here amidst the glittery glamour of new developments.
The Food. Hummus, hummus, and more hummus! I’m pretty sure I had some hummus every single day I was in the UAE. It’s available at every meal, and somehow (maybe it’s the fresh olive oil) it’s so much better than any I’ve ever tasted in the United States. We also had some fantastic meat and fish dishes, including a delectable lobster ravioli I ate one evening.
The only hurdle for me in the eating and drinking arena is that alcohol isn’t available at many restaurants due to the countries Islamic roots. Since I can be a bit of a wino, that was a bummer. But overall, the food made up for it. :)
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. This lavish mosque in Abu Dhabi is one of the world’s largest, with a capacity for an astonishing 41,000 worshippers. It has 24-carat gold chandeliers and the worlds’ largest hand knotted carpet. (World’s largest something—toldja so!)
Krista, my co-worker and traveling companion, and I had to wear abayas to enter the mosque, which is the reason we look like Harry Potter characters in this photo. But the heat of an additional layer of clothing is well worth it once you get inside.
Many websites I found before leaving mentioned the conservative dress code required of women in the UAE, but once there I realized that Dubai in particular is extraordinarily modern. We saw many women wearing all different kinds of clothing. However, I always feel it’s best to err on the side of caution and cover knees and shoulders when visiting an Islamic country. There’s simply no reason to blatantly disrespect another countries customs when on a visit. When in doubt, bring a scarf to throw over your shoulders or wrap around your waist to cover your knees.
Burj Kalifah. The tallest building in the world! Book in advance for tickets to the observation deck. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to visit the deck, as they were all sold out! Instead, I walked around the nearby souk (marketplace) with some co-worker friends of mine and had dinner and a sheesha (flavored tobacco pipe) and some great views of the Burj. Luckily, the view from the outside isn’t too shabby either. But the observation deck is on my to-do list for my next visit to Dubai, which will likely take place in September.
The Beaches. As a resident told us one day, “We have six months of summer, and six months of Hell here in Dubai!” Since it was over 100 degrees on our beach day, I can see why he would say that, especially considering that temperature is in the cooler months of the year.
But, with clear turquoise water, shining white sand, and palm-tree spotted views, I’m not complaining. Dubai has many private beaches that belong to hotels. To visit those beaches, you have to pay a fee. Instead, my travel companion and I decided to visit the public beach and then spend some time at our hotel pool.
After all, we Denver-ites aren’t able to withstand the extreme heat for too long without frying. And yes, I did get sunburned.
Emirates Palace Hotel. Speaking of beaches, the white sand imported from Malaysia that squishes between your toes at the Emirates Palace Hotel is sensational. As one of the most luxurious hotels in the world, Emirates Palace Hotel quite literally has an ATM dispensing gold bars in the lobby.
We visited early in the morning, meaning it was a very quiet, tourist-free visit, which allowed us to traipse over the deep carpets and beneath chandeliers dripping crystals in peace.
The Malls. Dubai Mall, as part of the 20-billion-dollar Downtown Dubai complex, is the world’s largest, with 1,200 stores. Malls serve a gathering place as much as they do a shopping destinations. Families visiting restaurants, couples seeing movies—it all happens in the mall. It makes sense—the extreme heat means it’s nice to stay in the air conditioning as much as possible.
I’m not one for souvenirs, so the only thing I purchased on the trip was a silver necklace with my name in Arabic. Of course, since I don’t speak or read Arabic, it may not say my name. It could say “turd face” for all I know. But I like it anyway.
Saadiyat Island. Since I’m not much of a shopper, the development of Saadiyat Island fascinated me much more than spending my pennies at a mall. This island is a part of Abu Dhabi, and will host three architectural delights—an outpost of the Louvre, an outpost of the Guggenheim, and Zayad National Museum, which will be about the history of the Emirates.
The island also boasts an NYU extension and a mind-boggling array of hotels and living quarters. Though the project is not complete until 2017, I made a mental bookmark to come back and visit when the museums are open.
I highly recommend you visit if you ever get the opportunity. It’s a long flight, but well worth it!