United Arab Emirates (UAE) - Dubai & Abu Dhabi

Ski Dubai in Mall of the Emirates Dubai United Arab Emirates UAE
Ski Dubai in Mall of the Emirates 
- Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE)
Dubai & Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE) (2/24-3/4/2013) – Dubai and Abu Dhabi are an amazing experiment of a country planning for its future. Visiting here is fun - like Las Vegas meets Disneyland amped up a notch.

Sail Hotel Burj al-Abab  Dubai UAE united arab emirates
'Sail Hotel' Burj al-Abab 
- Dubai, UAE
Dubai and Abu Dhabi are the two most prominent of the seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The UAE is located on the southeast of the Persian Gulf surrounded by Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Oman. Although Dubai has more of the famous sights and world attention, Abu Dhabi, is much richer in oil reserves and has 80% of UAE’s population. Abu Dhabi has enough oil reserves to last 150 years, while Dubai only has enough to last about 5 years, which is why Dubai is quickly developing tourist attractions, a financial district, and commercial industries.

Burj Khalifa Dubia Tallest Building in the World UAE
Burj Khalifa, Dubia 
(Tallest Building in the World)

Mall of the Emirates  Dubai United Arab Emirates uae
Mall of the Emirates 
- Dubai, United Arab Emirates
In just 20 years (much in the last 10 years), Dubai has emerged as a cosmopolitan city and is becoming a financial and tourist hub of the Middle East and the Persian Gulf region. Dubai has become known for its high-rise architecture, such as the world's tallest building (Burj Khalifa - see photo) and for ambitious projects including man-made islands, 5-star hotels, and some of the largest shopping malls in the world. Dubai is one of the fastest growing cities in the world.

McDonald's Mall of the Emirates Dubai UAE united arab emirates
McDonald's in Mall of the Emirates 
- Dubai, UAE
Dubai has been called the shopping capital of the Middle East with more than 70 shopping malls, including Dubai Mall and Mall of the Emirates that has Ski Dubai. Dubai Mall is amazing! With 1,200 beautiful full-featured stores, 160 restaurants, Olympic-sized ice rink, and four-story waterfall, it is the largest shopping mall in the world. Connected to Dubai Mall are the Burj Khalifa (the tallest building in the world), Dubai Fountains, and Souq al-Bahar.

View Observation Deck of Burj Khalifa Dubai UAE united arab emirates
View from Observation Deck 
of Burj Khalifa - Dubai, UAE
We went up to the observation deck on the 124th floor of the stunning Burj Khalifa (see photos) and there were still much more building above us for a total of an astonishing 2,716 high. The well organized excursion costs about $30/person and was a highlight of our visit to Dubai. The elevator ride is amazing – you barely feel you are moving and then you are there. Overlooking an artificial lake, the views of downtown Dubai and beyond are breathtaking (see photos).

Wayne Dunlap Shark Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo UAE united arab emirates
Wayne with Shark - Dubai Aquarium 
& Underwater Zoo
Lion lyon Fish  Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo uae united arab emirates
Lion Fish - Dubai Aquarium 
& Underwater Zoo
Also accessed from the Dubai Mall, the Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo is a worthwhile experience that we enjoyed (see photo). Much of the huge aquarium can be viewed for free from the mall. For about $15/person, you can see must more. You can go inside where you can go nose-to-nose with dozens of large sharks and rays in the walk-through tunnel (see photo), ride a glass-bottomed boat, and spend time in the very well done and interesting Underwater Zoo with its 38 aquatic displays.

Beautiful Dubai Fountain & Burj Khalifa uae united arab emirates
Beautiful Dubai Fountain 
& Burj Khalifa
Just as we walked out of the Dubai Mall, a rare afternoon show of the Dubai Fountain was done. It is fantastic! In a 30-acre artificial lake with the Burj Khalifa in the background, hundreds of dancing fountains surge almost 500 feet in the air choreographed to the sounds of beautiful music (see photo). Everything is BIG in Dubai. Also located next to the Dubai Mall is the Souq al-Bahar where we highly recommend having lunch outdoors overlooking the beautiful Burj Khalifa artificial lake (see photo). Make a reservation for dinner and enjoy the Dubai Fountain.

Burj al-Abab Hotel Dubai UAE
Burj al-Abab Hotel and Dubai, UAE
Yes, you can ski in the desert at Ski Dubai (see photo above) in the Mall of the Emirates. For about $40, you can rent ski equipment and clothing and ski for 2 hours. There is a chair lift and the runs take less than a minute to come down.

Travel tips in exploring Dubai... The taxis are affordable – about $7-20 to get to most places, even the airport. The Dubai Metro is very nice running the length of the city above ground so you get a nice overview of the city.

Batmobile Dubai United Arab Emirates UAE
Batmobile? - Dubai, 
United Arab Emirates (UAE)
Beach Jumeirah Dubai United Arab Emirates UAE
Beach at Jumeirah 
- Dubia, United Arab Emirates (UAE)
There is so much to do in Dubai. If you only have a couple of days in Dubai, we recommend that you spend them in two areas. First, for a nice day, don’t miss the downtown Dubai area that has Dubai Mall, Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo, Dubai Fountains (operated in the evening), have lunch at the Souq al-Bahar outdoor restaurants overlooking the Burj Khalifa Lake, and take the trip up the world’s tallest building (Burj Khalifa). All this is within easy walking. Before you come to Dubai, make timed reservations online for the worthwhile ride up the Burj Khalifa and you will go to the front of the line and save a lot of money. For beach lovers, to cap your day off, ask a taxi driver to take you to one of the excellent beaches at Jumeirah (see photo).

Pat Dunlap Boat Ride at Madinat Junrah Dubai UAE united arab emirates
Pat on Boat Ride 
at Madinat Junrah - Dubai, UAE
Atlantis Hotel Palm Jumeriah Palm Island Dubai UAE united arab emirates
Atlantis Hotel on Palm Jumeriah 
(Palm Island) - Dubai, UAE
Another great day can be had taking short taxi rides to the Mall of the Emirates with Ski Dubai; the highly-recommended fun outdoor Madinat Junrah with its shops, top-notch restaurants, and Venetian-style canal boat ride to see up close the famous ‘sail hotel’ Burj al-Arab; and the Atlantis Hotel where you can witness up close Palm Jumeriah (the man-made Palm Island) and do the water park (Aquaventure – especially good for kids). Note: you must have very expensive meal reservations in order to visit the sail hotel Burj al-Arab and several people told us that it was not worth it.

Deira Gold Soug Old Dubai UAE united arab emirates
Deira Gold Soug 
- Old Dubai, UAE
Abras Water Taxi Ride Across Dubai Creek Old Dubai UAE united arab emirates
Abras (Water Taxi) Ride 
Across Dubai Creek - Old Dubai, UAE
We spent another day in old Dubai at the north end of Dubai. Although it was not top on our list of best things to do in Dubai, we liked seeing the Deira Gold Souq (one of the largest gold markets in the world), the Deira Covered Souq, the Dhow Wharfage, and taking the inexpensive abras (water taxi) ride across the Dubai Creek. Expect things to be dusty and chaotic. We found the Dur Dubai side very touristy and not so enjoyable.

Dhow Wharfage Old Dubai UAE united arab emirates
Dhow Wharfage 
- Old Dubai, UAE
In Dubai, we stayed in the very nice ‘budget’ hotel (Ibis) next to the Mall of the Emirates. From there it was easy to explore all of Dubai with a Metro stop nearby and taxis everywhere. At night, we walked over to the mall to enjoy many nice restaurants, even a very good food court and multiplex theatre showing current feature movies in English.

Abu Dhabi

Map of United Arab Emirates UAE
Map of United Arab Emirates (UAE)
Abu Dhabi is the capital the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and a very modern city. It is the headquarters of numerous oil companies and embassies. The emirate of Abu Dhabi has about 87% of the land of the UAE with a population of just under 1.5 million including over a million foreigners. It has the most oil reserves and with only 420,000 citizens, each has an average net worth of about $17 million – think rich!

The city of Abu Dhabi features green parks, stylish high-rise buildings, luxury hotel chains, shopping malls, and our favorite - beautiful developed beaches. It is hard to believe that only 50 years ago Abu Dhabi was little more than a fishing village with a fort.

Al Sahil Beach Downtown Abu Dhabi UAE united arab emirates corniche
Al Sahil Beach 
with Downtown Abu Dhabi, UAE
The Corniche, Abu Dhabi's waterfront stretches for a couple of miles against a backdrop of the impressive modern buildings of downtown Abu Dhabi (see photo). It has a nice walkway for the entire length and certain sections have sandy beaches. We liked the nice upscale family Al Sahil Beach located at gate 4 (very nice beach but a bit expensive - $20 for two for admission and 2 nice lounges with umbrella). There are free open beaches but they get crowded and you will have plenty of men staring at you. On the Corniche, there are also many activities like go-cart and bike riding, playgrounds, and even stages for shows.

Flag United Arab Emirates UAE
Flag - United Arab Emirates (UAE)
Abu Dhabi has its unique tourist attractions. Yas Island hosts Abu Dhabi's Formula One rack track, Yas Waterworld, and the new Ferrari World theme park with the world’s fastest rollercoaster. The upcoming $28 billion cultural haven of Saadiyat Island and its centerpieces, the Guggenheim and Louvre Museums are scheduled to open in the next few years.

Sheikh Zayed Mosque Abu Dhabi United Arab Emirates UAE
Sheikh Zayed Mosque 
- Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE)
Modern Streets Abu Dhabi UAE
Modern Streets - Abu Dhabi, UAE
Able to accommodate up 40,000 worshippers with the largest Persian carpet in the world (60,570 sq. ft.) and 1,000 gold decorated pillars, the Sheikh Zayed Mosque (Grand Mosque) is possibly the most beautiful mosque in the world. The Grand Mosque is located about 6 miles from downtown Abu Dhabi and except on Fridays, non-Muslims can visit it from 9am-Noon. Khalifa Park near the Grand Mosque has its own aquarium, museum, train, play parks, and formal gardens.

For a about $6/person you can take the nice 2-hour bus ride from Dubai to Abu Dhabi.

Travel tips about the United Arab Emirates... Summers in the United Arab Emirates are extremely hot, windy and humid, with an average high around 108 °F and overnight lows around 84 °F. February has the best weather – mid-70’s F when we visited. Local customs appreciate modest behavior such as no kissing or holding hands in public and modest dress (especially women) having shoulders and knees covered. This is not strictly enforced and you will see exceptions but it is respectful to observe local customs.

Men and women, especially foreigners, wear clothes that we do. There are many traditionalists - men in ghutras (head scarves) and thobes (white robes). Many of the ladies wear abayas (a loose-fitting neck-to-ankle garment) and hijabs (head scarves). Some of the women wear a black burqa that covers their face and mouth with only their eyes showing. Interestingly, even when covered, the use of perfume and eye makeup among women is common. Times are changing.

Burj Khalifa Dubai UAE
Burj Khalifa - Dubai, UAE
Some history... There is a reason Dubai and Abu Dhabi have not been on the world’s radar until the past 10 years. 50 years ago they didn't exist as we know them now. Oil was discovered in 1958, and it was found in the capital, Abu Dhabi. As recently as 1960, the people of the UAE were riding camels and donkeys and living in palm-leaf structures. When the oil was discovered, the ruling Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan felt the wealth belonged to the people of his Emirates. Hailed as the father of the nation, Sheikh Zayed built roads, infrastructure, and began building the amazing cities that exists today.

Dubai UAE
Dubai, UAE
As of 2010, Dubai was the 7th most visited city of the world with 7.6 million visitors. Although Dubai's economy was built from the oil industry, oil and natural gas currently account for less than 7% of the emirate's revenues with tourism, financial, and trade becoming increasingly important. The population of Dubai is heavily international. Less than 5 percent of the residents are natives, with the rest of population migrating from as far away as Eastern Europe and Africa to Saudi Arabia, India and Pakistan.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE), with Dubai and Abu Dhabi leading the way, is attempting to reinvest their vast oil reserves to build their country in a troubled part of the world. They are looking to the future and we wish them the best of luck.

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  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. fishing in dubai was great experience i love to visit there again .

  3. It’s become somewhat of a rarity to find original online article content anymore. I’m very surprised to find this well-written impressive article. You have many logical points here that compelled me to consider your side.

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  4. Going in Abu Dhabi and Dubai won't disappoint you in terms of the things that you would like to see. Buildings are abound almost every corner in the city. Magnificent buildings at that.

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  5. Wow, Dubai is beautiful! I know you're having a great time, and I'm so glad you started a blog. Have fun, and I'll be praying for your trip!

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  6. Disneyland meets Vegas is a perfect description of Dubai. I had that feeling too! They have certainly built some incredible buildings!

  7. We had a brief stop in Dubai last spring en route to Bangkok and it tugged at the travel bug to return this fall but Cairo won out and we went there instead. It will remain high on the must return to list though and this post will be referred to when we do go!

  8. Pretty good post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed reading your blog posts. Any way I'll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you post again soon.

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  9. I just love to visit Dubai, I recently went on a Big Bus Dubai City tour and had a great time there.


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