As you might know, we recently announced that we’re giving away a free trip for two on our Dazzling Dubai tour through our latest Facebook sweepstakes: “Be Dazzled by Dubai.” If you’ve never been to the city of Dubai, it’s a wonderfully exotic and lavish place for shopping, dining, and to see some of the world’s most breathtaking sights.
To give you a better sense of what you have to look forward to should you be the lucky winner of our sweepstakes, I asked our Reservations Manager here at Friendly Planet, Katherine Howard, to share her personal account of a recent trip to Dubai. Here’s what she had to share with me, in her own words:
Flying to Dubai: The flight was incredible — the service was awesome, the food was great, and the flight attendants were helpful and friendly. There was a wide variety of movies to watch throughout the flight, and for anyone who has seen Sex and the City 2, the flight attendants are dressed exactly as in the movie when the ladies fly to Dubai.
I was fortunate enough to fly in business class and it was 100 percent worth the upgrade. The seats extend flat so you can sleep comfortably on the 13-hour flight from JFK. The flight attendants also pass out mini mattress toppers to make you even more comfortable.
Sightseeing — Burj Khalifa: One of my favorite things about the trip to Dubai was the view from the top of the Burj Khalifa, currently the tallest building in the world. Opened in January of 2010, this building has over 160 floors and is 2,717 feet high. The super-fast elevator ride to the observation deck was smooth, the lights were dimmed, and there was soft music playing. When the doors opened you could see the sky. The deck’s open air and floor-to-ceiling glass took my breath away, and I felt like you could see forever from up there.
We visited Burj Khalifa first thing in the morning and, in my opinion, this was the best time to go. You get there before the heat of the day and before it gets too crowded to see the view. You’re able to walk around the observation deck and view Dubai from every angle. You can see where new construction is in progress and the untouched desert beyond that. I recommend travelers make a reservation in advance because it is less expensive, and you won’t have to wait in line if you have a time scheduled.
Oh, the shopping! There is no lack of shopping available in Dubai. The Mall of the Emirates, famous for its indoor ski slope, was fun. There are more stores than one can count, and it has everything from high-end designer stores, to stores that make custom and very elaborate Abayas. Some women wore their Abayas partially open so you could see the fabulous designer outfits they were wearing underneath, and the younger girls were wearing traditional garb.
The oddest part of my shopping experience was watching people ski in the mall. There is a large observation window so that you can see skiers ride the lift and ski down. Watching the little kids was the most fun, especially those who had not experienced cold weather and snow before.
The other big shopping area in Dubai is the Dubai Mall, where the giant aquarium is. Yes, you can observe the fish from every angle, but you can also put on a wet suit and dive on in to swim with the fish too. There is a large part of the aquarium that is exposed, which you see when walking through the mall. They also offer glass-bottom boat rides so you can get closer to the fish. Outside in the courtyard, facing the Burj Khalifa, there is a water show in the evenings that is like a Las Vegas fountain where the water jumps and dances along with the music.
It’s fair to say, shopping in Dubai is definitely not your typical day at the mall.
And more shopping … I loved shopping at the souk. The outdoor gold and spice souk has so much to see it almost makes you dizzy. There is jewelry, clothing, spices, rugs, shoes — you name it, and they have it. Haggling for the best bargain is almost expected, and you have to be tough, but not too tough. It was an absolute blast bantering back and forth with the vendors for the item that I had to take home with me.
Four wheeling in the desert: All I can say is fun, fun, fun! I was hesitant about doing this, but I am so glad I did! You typically have three or four people share a vehicle that is driven by a professional. They take you out just before sunset and when you get to the edge of the desert, they let some of the air out of the tires for traction, and the action begins. It is better than any roller coaster ride, and the view of the sun setting in the desert is like nothing you’ve ever seen. The sand changes from tan to an amazing red, and the sun looks like it is touching the dunes. The sun seemed so close, it was like you could reach out and touch it.
Dubai weather: I visited Dubai at the end of September, 2011, and it was blazing hot in the afternoons. But the hotels typically have very nice pool areas with cabanas and, of course, a nearby pool bar for refreshments. I would suggest booking a trip from November to April, when the weather is milder.”
A big thank you to Katherine for sharing her experiences in Dubai. I am thrilled that she had such an incredible trip and brought home so many wonderful memories.
If you’ve been inspired by Katherine’s Dubai experience, check out Friendly Planet’s Facebook page and enter to win a luxurious trip of a lifetime to Dubai. Our “Be Dazzled by Dubai” sweepstakes ends November 18, so makes sure you enter today!