I can’t really say when I developed a strong desire to go to the United Arab Emirates. Probably after Sex and the City 2. Yes, I did pay money to see that movie.
I’ve had Dubai on my bucket list for probably two or three years now. I knew it was a place that I’ve never experienced culturally before, which is probably why it was so enticing. Also, Jennifer Aniston did a pretty good job selling me on Emirates. Check out my previous post on how to upgrade to business class!
Once again, my mom was a total boss and qualified for Presidents Club, where the President of her company picks a location and the top-selling employees go on an all expense paid vacation. They also get to bring a guest. Meaning ME!!!!!!!
I did tons of research to make sure that I was fully prepared. I read all sorts of blogs on what I should wear, UAE customs, traditions, things not to do, etc. Our trip was only four days but we decided to stay an extra night to really take advantage of all the things Dubai has to offer. It was worth the extra money.
Where We Stayed
The Rixos, Palm is a beautiful property! Not a part of any particular hotel brand and relatively new. Normally on these types of trips, we stay all all-inclusive adults only resorts. All-inclusive is very hard to find in Dubai, especially with the restrictive alcohol laws. However, the Rixos does offer an all-inclusive package at an additional cost. Note that when they say all-inclusive, not everything is included. Only certain restaurants were apart of the package and only certain menu items were included. It made it very difficult to navigate as we had to look for the red dots on the menu. Anything outside of that, we had to pay for. Also beware not everything in your mini bar is apart of the package either, insert eye roll. That part didn’t bother me all that much, but the kids! Being in a nice resort hotel and then having 50 kids running around screaming at the top of their lungs kills your entire mood. I barely could enjoy any of my meals due to the rambunctious crowd…but I’m also not really a fan of kids anyways, so there’s that.
The rooms were gorgeous, but the beds were rock solid. Same with pillows. Trying to figure out all the touch buttons to turn on the lights was my mom’s worst nightmare as I made us sit in the dark for 5 minutes because I couldn’t figure out how to turn the lights back on. The cleaning staff only cleans part of your room. They leave all glasses that may have some sort of liquid in it. They only refill some of toiletry items. And when you try to put in a service call, be prepared to wait for over an hour.
The only other downside was the location of the hotel. It sits on a man-made island called the Palm–it is in the shape of a Palm tree. There is only one way in or out of the island. The Rixos sits on the furthest outstretched piece of land. It took about 15 minutes to get off the island and to get to the downtown area to visit the sites.
Overall Rating: 7 out of 10
What We Did
Desert Sahara Tour: I have wanted to do this for so long! Riding a camel is all I wanted to do while in Dubai. The Sahara tour consists of Sand Dunning in the desert, falconry, camel riding, belly dancing and fire show, followed by a traditional Arabic dinner. The tour started from 3pm and concluded around 9:30pm. It’s a long day but it was one of the most amazing excursions I have ever been on. This tour will cost you around $75-$100 per person.
Cruise the Indian Ocean: This is when I knew that I live a completely blessed life. A group of us rented a yacht to sail around. Not only am I in Dubai on an all-expense paid vacation, but I am sitting in beautiful yacht with a drink in my hand in 85 degree weather. My life couldn’t have been more surreal. We charted the 3 hour tour through Xclusive Cruise. The total cost was about $1,000 USD for about 17 people. So around $60 per person. Insanity I tell you!
Gold and Spice Souks: While doing my research I heard about the various types of markets in Dubai. The most popular are the Gold and Spice Souks. The gold in Dubai is some of the purest forms of gold you can find in the world. They offer all different types including white gold. I am not well-versed in jewelery but from my understanding you can find some pretty nice pieces for cheap. I was more interested in the spice markets. Literally all types of spices are at you beck and call. From dried flowers (Jasmine and Hibiscus) to whole tumeric. Their spices are imported from all over the world including Africa and Iran. This is a place where you should definitely haggle and only buy items that you feel comfortable with.
Burj Khalifa Tour: This is the tallest building in the world. It is 160 stories and took about six years to complete. Inside the building is the Armani hotel at the restaurant called At.Mosphere. My mom and I made afternoon tea reservations and then planned to go to the top of the building for panoramic views. Tea was amazing! For a bottle of sparkling wine, finger sandwiches, an entreé, pastries and scones, plus tea of course, will run you about 490 AED or $130 USD. Pricey but the food, views and service alone is worth it.
While you the At.Mosphere restaurant is located on. The 122nd floor, you cannot access the viewing deck by elevator because the entrance is in a different part of the building. To access the entrance, you must enter through the Dubai Mall. To get to the viewing deck it takes exactly 60 seconds. The elevator ride is silent and smooth. The lights turn off and it becomes this other worldly experience. Tickets to the top can be pricey, but I booked mine through Viator for $38 per person. Note that if you want to visit this monstrosity, go during the late afternoon to avoid the morning fog.
Burj Al Arab: This is one of few 7 star hotels. Yes, you read the right, 7 stars! It is in the shape of a Sail Boat and it sits right on the water. This hotel is extremely exclusive. The only way in is if you have a hotel reservation or a dinner reservation. For our last night, I made us reservations at Gold 27 for drinks. It resides on the top floor with an awesome view of the city. Inside is super sleek with gold everywhere. We ordered the drink package which comes with two drinks and an appetizer. I ordered a drink that resembled something tropical.
Things YOU Should Do
There were SO MANY things that I wanted to do but did not have enough time to get to. That just means I need to come back again:) Check out some of the top things you should see while in Dubai…including everything above!
Walk Through Old Dubai
All in all, Dubai is spectacular. You don’t have to worry about dressing in traditional Arabic garb unless you go inside a mosque. You can wear shorts, tanks, and dresses. Just pretend you’re going to a BBQ party. And to answer your question, yes, alcohol is legal. It is still difficult for some establishments to acquire a license, but all hotels offer liquor and most tourist attractions do as well! Dubai is city of life and culture. One trip won’t do it justice.