Two days after my Easter visitors left, I was on an airplane to Dubai. I was working there for a week, but I went early to spend the weekend in the city. I’ve never been there, but I’ve heard SO much about it. I was excited to see it for myself.
One aside from the girl who does NOT like to check my luggage…did you know that Emirates only allows carry-ons to be 7 kg (approximately 15 pounds)?! Even when flying internationally. My computer bag alone weighed nearly 40 pounds! I was so proud of myself for packing 10 days of clothing for work and play into a small roller bag, but because it was 20-25 pounds, it had to be checked. I nearly cried. Sadly, that is reason enough for me to think twice before flying with them in the future. But, I digress…
Dubai is a city in the United Arab Emirates – a country that was founded only 43 years ago. Roughly 15% of the population is Emirati, which means most of those living in UAE are expats. Several of my American friends said they needed to see it on a map. Just in case that’s true of you, too, here you go:
Since I never get pedicures in Switzerland, my first order of business on arrival was to get one. I googled “best pedicure in Dubai” when I was planning this trip, and this blog post peaked my curiosity. Pedicures are one of my favorite things on the planet, yet I had never heard of Bastien Gonzalez. Long story short, he’s a podiatrist – better known as a ‘foot virtuoso,’ because of his approach to foot care. The spa at Atlantis The Palm has therapists who give this unique pedicure treatment. It was super strange, and they used power tools I can’t explain (while I was basically seated in something like a dentist chair), but my feet were perfect when they finished.
A spa treatment grants access to the pool area at the hotel, so I spent time walking the grounds and sipping a yummy fruit smoothie served in a coconut. I visited the original Atlantis in the Bahamas when I was eighteen, so it was strange to see another one here.
I met a colleague in Vevey last year while he was on a short assignment. In January, he was transferred to Dubai. I reached out to him and his wife when I was planning my trip, and they suggested catching up over brunch. I imagined eggs, bacon, and pancakes at 10:00am, but they explained to me that brunch in Dubai is a little bit different. It typically runs from noon – 4:00pm, and it’s an all you can eat & drink situation complete with an extensive buffet offering. We met up at 1:00pm at Aquara at the Dubai Marina Yacht Club for a delightful brunch. It was great to hear all of their impressions of this city after three months of living here. The live music and the view made it even better.
After so much good food, it was time for a walk. Dubai isn’t really a walkable city, but things are so spread out that you still manage to do a bit of walking getting to the Metro station and walking through the tunnels that connect the Metro to other buildings. I think I walked nearly 10 minutes through tunnels between the Dubai Mall Metro stop and the actual entrance to the mall.
I’ve been to a lot of malls in my lifetime, but the Dubai Mall was pretty crazy. There were probably 5-6 floors and so many wings. I know I only saw a fraction of it in the time I was there. It is where you enter the Burj Khalifa – the tallest building in the world. Of course, I went as high as you can go…floor 148. This building is over 2,700 feet tall, which makes it not only the tallest building in the world, but also the tallest free-standing structure with the highest outdoor observation deck. And yes, I was crazy enough to stand on it!
[I even got to see one of the performances at the Dubai Fountain from above!]
Inside the Dubai Mall, there are crazy things like this HUGE aquarium, an ice skating rink, and oh-so-many shops & restaurants!
I got a bit of a US fix by eating at The Cheesecake Factory (BBQ Salmon – yum!), shopping the sale rack at Banana Republic, and buying cards at Hallmark. It’s the little things that are such a treat.
After dinner and some shopping, I wanted to see one of the shows at the Dubai Fountains from the ground. I made my way outside and found a spot along the fence in the middle of the fountains. Every 30 minutes there is a show where the fountains are choreographed to music and lights. The show I saw was choreographed to “Thriller” by Michael Jackson! It was AMAZING! If these fountains look familiar to you, it’s because they’re a replica of the Bellagio Fountains in Las Vegas…only bigger, of course.
The view looking up at the Burj Khalifa from the Dubai Fountains is pretty spectacular. The building is SO. TALL.
Several colleagues told me I should try to get to Abu Dhabi while visiting Dubai. It’s the capital of UAE, and it’s about an hour and a half southwest of Dubai. My first stop was Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Center. It was completed in 2007 after being commissioned by the late-president of UAE. It has capacity for 40,000 worshippers.
The dress code at the mosque is very strict, which is why I rented one of their black hooded robes. When it’s nearly 100*F outside, this is REALLY hot attire.
The architecture was incredibly beautiful. I took one of the public guided tours and learned all about it. The prayer room boasts the largest single piece of carpet in the world. It was shipped in nine pieces on two airplanes and stitched together on site. The largest of the chandeliers is 45 feet tall and weighs 12 tons!
The next stop was the Emirates Palace for Afternoon Tea. It is a Kempinski hotel, and it is absolutely stunning. For those of you who’ve seen Fast & Furious 7, apparently, this hotel makes an appearance. I enjoyed the ‘Emirates Palace Afternoon Tea,’ which is an Arabic take on the traditional afternoon tea.
[I literally think this chocolate fondant was sprinkled with gold flakes. It was so rich. I think I only managed two bites.]
When we got back to Dubai, I asked my driver to drop me off near the Textile Souks. I immediately regretted that decision when the salesmen started pushing pashminas on me. I took one of the little boats across the water to the Gold Souks on the other side and pretty quickly headed back to my hotel…too tired for bartering.
That night, I needed to start preparing for the work week, which was the perfect excuse to order Papa John’s to my hotel room…another thing I can’t get in Switzerland!
I spent the work week leading a training course with one of my teammates. We had 12 participants, and while the week was exhausting, it was also really good. Our participants traveled to this course from Egypt, Ukraine, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and UAE. The one thing that is consistent across Nestle is the great people. I’m so grateful for that.
We went out visiting grocery stores one day as part of the course, and I was amazed to see so many more American products here than what I can find in Switzerland. There would be no shortage of birthday cakes and cupcakes, if I was living in Dubai!
I made it out of the hotel one night during the week to have a burger and fries at Shake Shack. It’s located in the Mall of the Emirates, which is another enormous mall. The most shocking thing about this mall is the indoor ski slope! Yes, you read that right…it may be 100*F outside, but that’s no excuse to stay off the slopes!
When I try to think of a word to describe UAE, I think of the word extreme…high temps, indoor skiing, manmade islands, the tallest building, the large replicas of Atlantis and the Bellagio fountains, at least three 7-star hotels, an enormous mosque, and SO much luxury. What a week!