We had two short days to spend in Dubai en route to the Maldives for our honeymoon. A good friend of mine from work offered to have us stay over at her place. She arranged our itinerary too. (Thanks Propu!)
First stop was the Souk Al Bahar, which I thought was just an airconditioned, blander version of Moroccan souks, and much less interesting. It did provide a welcome respite from the heat. And there was an ATM inside dispensing gold bars (not that I had any to withdraw, heh).
Random trivia: Here’s a link to the video of tennis greats Federer and Agassi playing on the helipad of the Burj Al Arab.
After that, we went for afternoon High Tea at the At.Mosphere, located at the 123rd floor of the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest tower. Entrance is through the Armani Hotel (yes, in Dubai they have branded buildings too).
For AED290/person, you get refillable mocktails, small sandwiches with different spreads (truffle egg, cucumber, salmon, turkey ham and marinated tomato), quiches, soft rolls, fresh fruit, and assorted pastries.
The mocktail has fresh fruit pieces and tastes refreshing. Spot the huge chili in the pitcher!
The tea’s grand finish is a plate of warm scones with pots of orange jam, raspberry compote, clotted cream and lemon curd. You also have a selection of teas or coffee.
It’s already excellent value, but you can opt for High Tea with champagne (instead of mocktails) at a slightly more expensive AED360/person.
We hung around the Dubai Mall before meeting our friends for dinner. I was amazed to see my favorite London bakeries there.
And the number of Filipinos! It seemed as if every store had Filipinos manning the till.
I liked the huge aquarium opposite The Cheesecake Factory. I can just imagine what would happen if the aquarium cracked… all the manta rays and sharks flopping helplessly on the mall tiles, and a lot of soggy cheesecake.
My friend booked us a beautiful table at the Madeleine Café & Boulangerie. It had a lovely view of the dancing fountains (which everyone seemed keen for Hubby and me to see). I liked the fountains’ dance to Whitney Houston’s ‘I Will Always Love You’ and the dance to ‘Con te partirò’–the latter was an especially good soundtrack for nostalgia.
The next day, I visited our office’s Dubai team in the Dubai International Financial Centre (yes, I know how dorky it is to visit the office on a holiday). Apparently, scenes from the recent Mission Impossible movie were filmed there.
We had lunch at Zaroob, a small Levantine fast food near the DIFC and my friend’s favorite. The place was cheerfully colored with bright pinks and greens. Food was good and reasonably priced.
We went to Atlantis, a resort on Dubai’s reclaimed island of The Palm. The interior had a lot of aquatic features to it: starfish-shaped lamps, pillars lined with scales, and crustacean accents.
Inside the Atlantis, there’s a ‘lost world’ themed aquarium. Hats off to Dubai, I haven’t seen an aquarium with a better, wider range of sea creatures than Atlantis’ The Lost Chambers. (Even the one here in Singapore!) The facilities looked clean, so I’m assuming the animals are all well taken care of. I could have spent hours sitting in front of the giant tank watching the fish swim by… there’s just something about aquariums that invites peaceful, calming thoughts.
The highlight of our trip was the sundowner in the desert. Our friend booked for us (I think she used Arabian Adventures). It costed AED360/person, with pick-up and drop-off at the Ritz Carlton.
First off, we were treated to a glimpse of the art of falconry. When it’s not hunting, the bird wears a little cap to keep it calm. It also prevents the falcon from flying after the quarry before it’s released.
We went to a dune bashing afterwards. It was the craziest ride I’ve ever had in my life. The van driver navigated the shifting sands expertly. There were times that the van was almost sideways, a little tip and we would have been on our side. We traveled in a convoy; a few of the vans got stuck and had to be pushed out by the other drivers.
We were in the van with complete strangers–a small group of middle-aged couples from New Zealand–it didn’t stop us from screaming, laughing, and pretty much just having a blast.
They took us to vast, empty spaces. We watched the sun melt into the sand.
Dinner was served in a camp, buffet-style. It was okay: there was a selection of grilled meat, some lettuce, fried appetizers, sweets, and colas. You could also try the shisha, go on a camel ride, and get your photo taken with the falcons. Granted, there were touristy elements to the experience. But the views were undeniably gorgeous, and it was great smoking a shisha underneath the stars.