As usual when I talk to my good friend George Noory, unexpected topics arise such as my recent trip to Dubai, United Arab Emirates. In this short article, I’ll tell you more about this incredible place. Want to hear the interview? Become a Coast Insider!
Dubai is famous for world records and innovations and has been on my bucket list for years, so I popped over for a few days. I’m so glad I did!
Flight – The trip was short, yet the perfect amount of time to see what I needed to see. I took a direct 14 hour flight from Dallas on the incredibly posh Emirates Airlines and arrived around noon local Dubai time.
Transfer Affordably with the Metro – Dubai has an amazing Metro connected to the airport, so rather than calling a cab, I decided to try it. My hotel was located in what turned out to be the best part of town, centrally located near the world famous Dubai Mall (Largest mall in the world) and the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world.
Hotel – I stayed at an amazing hotel that looked like a palace right in the heart of everything called Roda al Murooj. If you look at this place, you’d think it would cost a fortune, but the rates were comparible to what you’d find in any major city in the United States. I invested an extra $50/night to get a higher level floor with Executive Lounge access which included breakfast, traditional English High Tea (Dubai was once a British Protectorate until that agreement expired in 1971…. ) and light appetizers and drinks in the early evening. The food was INCREDIBLE! We only ate out once and so this upscale option actually saved us money while providing an incredible experience.
Hop-on-Bus is Best – When I first arrived, I spoke to my concierge who recommended I use the Big Bus Hop-on-Hop-Off Bus to get around the city. You may or may not know that I used to be a travel agent and owned my own agency for awhile. I took groups on trips around the world and I found that these Hop-On-Hop-Off buses are by far the best way to get a chance to see the whole city no matter where you are in the world, especially if you have limited time. Bus routes showcase all a city has to offer and ensure you’re not missing anything. Complimentary headphones are included so you can plug in and listen to a prerecorded lecture. I love live tour guides, of course, but especially when I’m in a hurry, I like knowing that the recording is designed to relay the most important details. Rates are incredibly reasonable! I purchased a two day pass and saw the entire area!
Dubai Highlights – If you watch travel shows like I do, you may have seen the famous indoor ski slopes at Ski Dubai. Seeing this in person was absolutely incredible! The area looked like the inside of a chalet in the Swiss Alps, complete with whole families decked out in snow gear. Open a glass door, and voila! You’re inside the wintery cold and snowy environment! Several restaurants had special viewing areas surrounding the “slopes” so people who couldn’t go skiing could watch.
Likewise, the Dubai Mall houses the Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo featuring World’s Largest OLED screen. (Can you see a theme here?) Yes, everything in Dubai is bigger, better and often the largest in the world! Even Burj Khalifa will soon be outdone as the World’s Tallest Building by another taller skyscraper they’re working on as we speak.
What I really LOVE about the Dubai Aquarium is the fact that all people can enjoy the fish and the sites by watching the world’s largest screen and looking through clear windows from viewing platforms built into the various levels of the amazing Dubai Mall. If you want to pay extra, you can, and that ticket gives you access to a tunnel that allows you to have a totally immersive experience while the fish, sharks and the like swim all around you.
What I really appreciated about Dubai is the fact that EVERYONE was included and could enjoy these attractions without having to pay extra. The feeling was very inclusive, and yet, as a capitalistic society, for those who could afford it and wanted a little extra, they could buy the tickets.
Burj Khalifa (the world’s tallest building) was the same. Everyone must pay to go inside, but options are available for any budget – buy a meal and eat on one of the floors, pay extra to have access to the highest publically accessible floor of the building (which is what I did) or pay less and gain access to another floor a bit lower in the building with stunning views you won’t get elsewhere.
When I visited Burj Khalifa, I raced to catch the world famous sunset before the sun dipped below the horizon around 5:00p.m. The mob of people and long lines made me decide to spring for the extra fee to get to the highest floor. I’m glad I did because I skipped the lines and went upstairs immediately to capture some amazing shots. Yeah, it was a bit costly, but when are you ever going to do something like that ever again? I assume anytime I travel that I will never be back and always do my best to Carpe Diem – Seize the Day!
Another day, I went to the old part of the city where the first settlers lived and saw all of the old souks (markets), which were really amazing. (Think Indiana Jones….) Modern, yet similar to the way they’ve been for thousands of years, tourists are encouraged to haggle for good deals, which is one of my favorite things to do. We rode an old fashioned boat down the Dubai Creek – the cost of the boat ride was included in the Hop-on-Bus ticket. Amazing!
We also visited the world renowned Palm Jumeirah, a ritzy part of town known for the boardwalk and upscale markets. Homes are built on sand bars that are designed to resemble a palm tree – incredible!
A good friend wrote me recently to ask what “spiritual” things there are to do in Dubai. For me, all trips are spiritual, partly because I love to meditate anywhere I go, and I love meeting new people from different cultures. That said, if you don’t think going to a mall or a ski slope sounds Zen enough, you could definitely take a longer tour out of the city to the Emirates capital Abu Dhabi to see the world famous Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Sadly I did not get there on this trip, but I hope to return at some future time. Dubai may not seem spiritual to some, but in my opinion, the innovation and creativity made Dubai feel like a Utopia – the kind of world we’d all love to live in if things were perfect. The experience opened my imagination to what’s possible.
Here are a few reasons why:
1) Inclusivity – All are welcome – all nationalities, all people. There’s no strict visa requirements you find in other countries. People from all over the world are welcome to come and live here. That said, they are also asked to contribute to the society in some meaningful way through work – a nice blend of openness mixed with capitalism.
2) No fees on Currency Exchanges – WHAT? I’ve been all over the world and I can assure you that I have never been to another country that waived fees on exchanging your US dollars into local cash. At the airport, there were several helpful people at currency exchange stations who told us that if we kept our original receipt and brought back bills (not coins) they would honor the same rate that we paid (rates often fluctuate daily due to the world economy) and give us ALL OUR MONEY BACK! Is this a society who wants to prosper and do business? YES! I did manage to keep a few coins as souveniers, but they don’t use coins much in Dubai. Also, your credit cards are welcome. Again, they encourage business.
3) Green Innovations – I was super impressed to see machines at the Dubai Mall where people could deposit their recycling and receive coupons to either save or get cash back on mall purchases. UNREAL! I think we need these in our country! Super cool!
4) Technological Innovations – featuring the World’s Biggest This or That, Dubai is always creating new ways to do things better. They have to! The fact the city is located within the Arabian Desert, water conservation is always a pressing concern so they must figure out ways to do everything more efficiently. We could all learn from that! Dubai has one of the world’s largest de-salinization facilities in the world for drinking water. Speaking of which, the water throughout is all filtered and safe to drink. Believe me, you can’t say that about most other countries.
Coming Home – My 16 hour direct Emirates flight (yikes!) back to Dallas unfortunately left at 2:30 in the morning, so the final day in Dubai was a long one where I stayed closer to my hotel. I decided to use that time to rest and enjoy the luxurious surroundings of my hotel after rushing around all week, which was wonderful.
That’s about all I have on my report of Dubai. If you think you want to visit, you should consider the upcoming World Fair/Expo 2020 starting in Dubai this October!!! Want to see the photos? I’ve posted them on my Instagram for you!