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Stopover in Dubai

burjalarabDubai isn't top of my list of destinations but with a multi-segmented lengthy journey ahead of us we decided to break it there.  It's always interesting to go somewhere new. 

For many, with extensive funds at their disposal, Dubai's top-class beach hotels and the desert sun would be the focus, but if you go in the summer (July to September) you may see little more than your air-conditioned room as temperatures can soar to almost 50 degrees centigrade (120 degrees fahranheit).  During other months you can enjoy the pale sand and clear water of Dubai's coast with impressive diving and fishing as well as water theme parks.

The world's most luxurious hotel is here. Shaped like a giant billowing sail and standing at 321 metres it dominates the coastal skyline. View details 

P1040581But there is another side to Dubai and this is the one we chose to see.  We stayed at the Arabian Courtyard, which goes against the typically super-modern trend of most hotels, but provides good quality rooms, facilities and service. It is situated opposite the museum and within strolling distance of the creek where we took a boat (abra) along the waterway at a relaxed pace, and were able to see a traditional side of the city. 

We visited the souks on the other side of the creek where there was aP1040589 selection of spices and tourist trinkets and gold shops, but its hard to shrug off the suspicion that its all been laid on for the tourists.  My son, always a lover of fancy dress, decided to buy a sheik's outfit and this got him lots of positive attention as we wandered.  Lunch was on a wooden balconied restaurant overlooking the creek, by the water taxis, with delicious fresh juices and falafel.

As you move around the streets the most noticeable thing, for us from the west, is the women's dress.  Many are covered in black cloth from head to toe.  It's not unusual to see the full burka, with the eyes only uncovered, and I did notice one women with a black veil covering her whole face.  But there are women wearing more flamboyant versions and others with modest dress and head scarfs.  This is the land of contrast, with so many ex-pats and tourists from all over the world, somehow no one seems shocked to see brazen western attire.  However I would suggest women wear nothing revealing and to keep shoulders and knees covered, and carry an extra layer to protect in case you stumble into fierce air-conditioning.

It's hard to ignore the very glamorous side of Dubai altogether and we did decide to visit the Burj Khalifa.  There are many innovatively-designed, sleek skyscrapers but there is one that seems to be at least twice the height of the rest.  The tallest building in the world, by far, has been built beside the mall and from there it is possible to visit 'At the Top'.  This is figuratively speaking as in fact visitors may only take the elevator to the 124th floor and crane their necks at the real top which is at around 200 storeys at a height of 828 metres. 

To reach the Observation Deck At the Top there are 2 options.  If you are organised and plan at least a few days in advance you can book a place online at 100 AED (around €20).  You then queue for your ticket at the allocated time and stand in line for your elevator which rises at a rapid 10 metres per second.  If however, you decide at the last minute to go, or have an aversion to queuing, you can buy your ticket for Immediate Entry Admission.  For this inflated cost of 400 AED you also get the priviledge of jumping to the front of the queue when you wish to return to ground level.  Don't take this lightly, as there are only 2 lifts, and without this concession you need to factor in at least an hours frustrating wait! Once you step onto the Observation Deck you can take in the significant panaramic views across Dubai.  People are mere specks and cars are like ants. For an extra few quid you can use powerful electronic telescopes which not only show you today's Dubai but the historic version too.

fountainsOnce back down you are in the Dubai Mall, the largest mall in the world. Can you see a pattern forming? There is every imaginable branded shop here from the UK and America and beyond, but don't expect any bargains.  We hardly had time to browse though as there were many other things to distract.  There is a full-blown aquarium where its possible to dive in and feed the various sealife, from rays to reef sharks, yourself. Also an indoor waterfall and impressive outdoor dancing fountain show are worth a look.

To my surprise I could have stretched my stay to another day...Perhaps I would have done a 4-wheel drive ´dune bashing´ and camel desert safari or even gone skiing at the first indoor ski resort in the Middle East.