I recently returned from living in London so I am re-discovering Perth and its hidden nooks and crannies.
Published March 17th 2015
A Most Welcoming City
If you are lucky enough to be planning a trip to Europe, then you really should stopover in Dubai, one of the emirates in the United Arab Emirates.
On my way back to Perth I had only two days to experience Dubai - one of the most modern and most ancient cities of the world, so I booked a couple of tours.
I stayed in the downtown historical Al Fahidi area and I was reminded of this when early morning I was awoken by the call to prayer from the nearby mosque.
After my unconventional wake up call, I paid a visit to the Dubai Museum within the Al Fahidi fort. I paid my entrance fee to the white dishdasha dressed gentleman at the box office who was so cool he didn't take off his shades (though to be fair it was very sunny outside).
The Dhow, a traditional wooden boat outside the Dubai Museum
The history of the city was displayed via exhibits, artefacts, traditional dwellings, traditional boats called abras and a walk through display of an historical Dubai street complete with traditional shops, work places and homes with mannequins dressed in traditional garb, with the obligatory gift shop at the end.
Now that I had a sense of the city's history, my next task was my first tour taking me out into the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve. I was collected from my hotel by the tour guide who collected other passengers on the way. We then drove to the outskirts of town to have our picture taken with a camel, watch a falconry display and do some dune bashing with a stop off to view the desert sunset.
We then arrived at a Bedouin-style outdoor camp, where a middle eastern meal and drinks were served along with a camel ride, a belly dancer, shisha smoking, and henna tattoos. It seemed a bit touristy and hectic, but it's recommended as an experience if you have limited time. Everyone was friendly and welcoming and the guides made sure everyone was where they were meant to be and in a timely fashion.
Having recovered from the night before, my next tour was a city tour. I was again collected from my hotel and driven to a carpark to be allocated to a tour bus. We then drove around the newer part of the city with a guide commenting on the history of Dubai with stops to view various Dubai architecture. It was also noted that there was a lot of building works underway as the Sheikh intended to turn Dubai into a tourist mecca in case (or when) the oil reserves ran dry. We then took the monorail up the centre of The Palm Islands passing the expensive homes (David Beckham owns one) on the way to the Atlantis The Palm Hotel and Resort.
Monorail looking towards Atlantis The Palm Hotel and Resort
Whilst there, we took a tour of the Atlantis Lost Chambers Aquarium and then back on the monorail, where we finished with a drive to the Dubai Mall (largest in the world). There we watched the Dubai Mall fountain display set to classical music which was surprisingly a real treat.
At the end of the tour, we were dropped off at the entrance of the Burj Khalifa (the tallest building in the world, I can see a theme here) inside the mall, so I grabbed a ticket and took the elevator to the outside viewing platform.
After taking in the view from all sides and of course bypassing another gift shop, the come down was a long walk out with a bit of information about the building of the Burj.
After two days of tours, I was exhausted but happy that I had experienced a broad overview of Dubai. If I had more time I would have gotten to grips with the Dubai public transport system, caught an abra (water taxi), and experienced Dubai in the evening (though I'd do this with a group or a companion).
If you do plan to visit, research the best months to visit (not summer and possibly not Ramadan) and what to expect when visiting an Islamic country that is very welcoming to westerners where mutual respect is expected. For example, locals and ex-pats alike observe no eating and drinking in public in daylight hours during Ramadan (a month long period during June/July/August) though an expat-Aussie I met who lived there said, "people just have house parties instead or go on holiday." To each their own I guess!