As a kid growing up in India, Dubai largely meant only 1 thing - Shopping- the place where you can shop at half the price you'd get in India - electronics, cosmetics, exotic chocolates & gold... and the place where a huge part of the workforce were Indians...
While (unfortunately) it's still largely known for Shopping, I soon knew better that Dubai was a lot more than just that ...
I was 28 when I first visited and 'experienced' Dubai! From Gravity defying skyscrapers to Wallet defying Gold Souks, from 'who's the largest of them all' Malls to as little 100 sq feet shops in the old souk and from diamond studded personal jets to century old wooden abras - the city's got them all... It's a pity Dubai's known only for shopping!
So here's my list of Top 10 things to do in Dubai:
Deira to Bur Dubai on an Abra
Hop onto an Abra - a small wooden boat that ferries passengers across the creek - at a Waterbus station at Deira (accessible from the Old Souk) and ride across till Bur Dubai - to get a magnificient view of the skyline as you sail across the Dubai creek... At about 1 dirham one way, the Abra is a great way to experience local water transportation, catch the Dubai Skyline from a different perspective and catch up with locals ferrying across the creek.
|Passengers ferrying across the Dubai Creek in an Abra|
|The Dubai Skyline from an Abra|
Art Exhibits at the Bastakiya
Bastakiya in Bur Dubai, can pass off as an Arabian town setting from the 1800's (which I was told it was). Walk through the Bastakiya and check out art & museum exhibits or sit underneath a tree by a wind tower in the complex watching the open air art gallery.
|The Philataley House (with Wind Tower architecture)|
|Ancient Coin Displays at the Bastakiya|
Hot Air Ballooning over Hatta Desert
Soar above the Hatta Desert in a Hot Air Balloon .. catch the breath taking sunrise over the desert. Catch glimpses of Bedouin villages, Camel Farms and Locals (and tourists) Dune Bashing. I even caught a Camel Race in action (with paparazzi in tow).
|All set to soar!|
|Sunrise from the up in the air|
|A Bedouin Village in the desert viewed from the hot air balloon|
|A Camel Race (with paparazzi) in action|
I am quite the history buff and ‘dig’ historic sites, ruins and museums… So the Dubai Musuem had to feature in my top 10 ... Located inside the erstwhile Al Fahidi Fort, the museum is a peek into the ‘traditional life’ in the emirates - including the ‘pre oil’ era.
|The Dubai Museum located in the erstwhile Al Fahidi Fort|
|Entrance to the Dubai Museum|
|The 'Hourey' on display - a small boat carved from a single tree trunk|
|A replica of an 'Arish' - a summer house with wind towers to keep the house cool & breezy|
The Old Souk
This not to be missed Souk (or ‘market’) is by the Dubai Creek and houses the textile, spice and gold souks. Walk through the Old Souk to soak up the heritage architecture and get a flavor of the traditional ‘shopping’ in Dubai beyond the flashy swanky malls.
|Walk through the Old Souk|
|Heritage Architecture of the Old Souk|
You cannot be in Dubai and not go to the tallest building on earth can you… The Burj Khalifa is a metaphorical representation of what Dubai stands for – grandeur & sky-high ambition to be the biggest & best.
The experience of Burj Khalifa begins right at the base – the entrance of the Dubai Mall in Downtown Dubai .. Right from the swanky ticketing office to the elevator that takes you to the observatory deck at Level 124 in flat 60 seconds.
The deck (called At the Top) gives you breathtaking views of downtown Dubai, Jumeirah beach and the Burj Dubai and beyond… Don’t miss the ‘Gold ATM’ at the observatory deck … It’s raining Gold! J
|The magnificent Burj Khalifa|
|View from the Observatory Deck ... the otherwise Tall Skyscrapers Dwarfed by the Burj Khalifa!|
|Pop that Gold Code... The Gold ATM at the Burj Khalifa Ob deck|
Walk on the promenade of the Festival City mall get a view of the Festival Marina. Lined with a myriad of jett setter speed boats and even a helipad, the Marina is yet another reflection of the Dubai ‘luxury’ set in the backdrop of the Dubai Skyline.
|View of the Marina from the Festival City Promenade|
|The line up!|
Ski Dubai @ the Mall of Emirates
A visit to Ski Dubai is a must only to see how Dubai can make it snow even in the desert (and how!)! Once you are inside Ski Dubai (I was there one Xmas) and if you don’t look back at the rest of the ‘Mall of Emirates’ then you could be anywhere else in the snowy world!
|A snowy Christmas in Dubai ;-)|
Take a monorail to the Atlantis
Board a monorail that glides past the ‘branches’ of palm jumeirah with the Atlantis Hotel in the horizon… Start the ride at sunset - It’s a scenic ride and the Atlantis hotel post dusk looks splendid with the grandiose illumination…
|In a monorail - with the Atlantis in the horizon|
Drive out on the Emirates Highway
Drive out of Dubai onto the Emirates Highway and head out to one of the emirates … As you drive along, catch locals camping out in the sands by the side of the highway in the evening – huddling around a bonfire with the 4 x 4s by their side. Stop by at one of the shacks en route selling fruits, corn cobs, ceramic-ware, furniture and the works. Or drive into one of the parks where locals have set out for a Friday morning picnic…
|Drive out on the Emirates Highway|
|The Sun in the Mirror is closer than you think :-)|
|Some streets lined with shops selling fruits, toys, furniture even...|
|Local picnickers steaming up some coffee in a park|
|Corn on Cob - at a street stall en route the Emirates Highway|