So what is a pilot to do when a friend asks him “Hey, do you want to come to Dubai with me for a few days?”
The hotel was cheap, the flights weren’t too bad and the activities that we planned to do didn’t amount to much of a cost so, to my surprise, I found Dubai to be quite a cheap trip compared to what I thought it may be.
We travelled on a United Airlines 777 out of Doha and touched down in Dubai 45 minutes later to weather a little more humid than our point of departure. Getting through the airport security was surprisingly painless, compared with previous transits through Dubai, and making our way to our budget hotel was just a short taxi ride away.
The Royal Falcon Hotel, the name sounds rather grand and you might expect high quality rooms; or at least you would if you hadn’t just paid £60 for 3 nights! There was mould in the corners of the walls, the shower was an absolute state and the bed was as hard as a rock. It was all expected and we shrugged our shoulders, dumped our stuff and went out to find food. With it being Ramadan at the moment the only time you are able to find any food shops that are open is after sunset and we found a lot! There was plenty to choose from with many different shops serving many different types of cuisine…. We settled for KFC in the end which is quite an awful choice but we made up for it over the next few days with our willingness to explore strange new foods.
The first day in Dubai we booked a Desert Safari and City Tour and decided to go for a walk around the large Souq that was just a metro ride away. The metro is really nice, you can tell a lot of money has been spent in its construction and in its upkeep; the cost of a day rider wasn’t too bad either. Having only ever visited London once, I had very little experience on underground trains so I left the navigating to my travel companion and we were able to arrive at our destination in no problems. The Souq was extremely large and we quickly found we had no idea where we were. There were many various shops around the place selling all sorts of things from all sorts of different cultures, and every 5-10 steps some random person asked if I wanted to buy a watch. One of my favourite shop filled alley ways in the Souq was filled with various spices, I had no idea what most were but if I could have bought some and taken them home I would have done. Upon walking down the alley I was overcome with the overwhelming influx of smells, many I had never encountered before and I spent a long time leaning in to get a better smell of single spices that took my fancy. The shop keepers were very keen to sell to me however, as fun as it would be to try and get them back to Doha I decided against it.
After walking around the Souq for many hours in the heat of the day, maybe 50 degrees or more – with no water as it was ramadan, we headed back to the metro to make it back to the hotel in time for our safari pick up. Of course, we were lost but, with the help of a few friendly locals we were able to get back to the station in time.
If I can recommend anything whilst in Dubai it is to get yourself on a desert safari, I enjoyed myself thoroughly and so did the rest of the people it seemed. One thing, it’s not for a weak stomach because you are thrown around so much. The contrast of the desert against the sky was beautiful, it looked like something from a windows default desktop background and the various dunes made for some unusual attitudes which, I had previously only experienced in an aeroplane. After a while the car came to a camp set up out in the middle of the desert where various wooden huts had been constructed for eating, cooking and entertainment. It was a really lovely location and myself and my travel companion made our way into the camp. I had been talking to a girl from Ireland for a long time and she came to join us as we went up stairs in one of the open huts to find a place to sit down. We were sat on cushions on the floor talking for a very long time whilst my friend broke the fast and generally enjoying the moment. The desert is such a quiet, peaceful place and all that could be heard was the wind as it passed through the hut and the laughter of nearby people. It was incredibly soothing, in the absolute dead of night, being able to gaze up at the stars, more visible than I had ever seen them due to the lack light pollution and feeling a warm light breeze blowing over me. We forgot that food was available downstairs and almost missed it, the food was various different things that I had never tried before, one looked like it might be a tongue from something but after daring to try it I realised it was most likely fish. We were later called upon to go back to the hotel by the driver, I waved goodbye to tranquility as I had never known it and vowed to return soon. Upon returning we retired to bed as we had an early start for the city tour the next day.
As with any city tour we were taken around many of the landmarks that made up Dubai, it was pretty much a drive by photo taking opportunity, I’ll just post the photos here as I had no clue what the guide was saying about the buildings!
That night we went to the Burj Khalifa, the worlds tallest building! This was one of the things I most wanted to do when I was asked to go to Dubai as it’s such an amazing feat of engineering. We went down stairs to the entrance and bought tickets to go up. My friend wanted to walk up the stairs however the staff said no, we had to go up the lift. Phew! I’m not a lazy person, I don’t think, but 220 od floors… I’ll give that a pass. The downstairs section was minimalistic however gave a lot of information on the construction of the building and had some memorabilia from the Mission Impossible film that had the Burj Khalifa in it.
When we got to the top, I was pleasantly surprised to find the observation deck as being an open deck. The feel of the wind coming up through the decking and through the gaps in the windows was really great and of course the view was spectacular. We sat down next to one of the windows for a very long time, just taking in the breath taking view, I felt so at peace. We spent around 3 hours up on the observation deck, only leaving when it closed and then we spent some time looking at more information on the construction of the tower on our way out.
After the Burj Khalifa we decided to take a walk around the gigantic mall and have a look around. We looked at going to the aquarium there however by the time we had come down from the Burja Khalifa we were too late. We did get to view some of it from the mall, apparently through the worlds largest single glass pane on an aquarium. I’m not sure of the truth on this but it was rather large.
After this my friend had the idea of walking to the beach, looking at the map it didn’t seem far so we decided to get our walking shoes on and go. It looked like it might possibly take around 30minutes to get there, which wasn’t too bad.
1 and a half hours later, my feet killing and my back aching; we gave up. We got a passing taxi and he asked us, in conversation, what the hell we were doing out so late (it was around 3:30am), we explained and he laughed his head off whilst informing us that if we’d have carried on it would have been another hour. Oh dear. It’s a good job we gave up!
Our last day in Dubai we made our way to another mall, this one with the indoor ski slope, unfortunately we didn’t have time to use it but we wanted to have a look and see what it was about. Next time! It was soon time for us to catch our flight back, we were given Qatar Airways on the way back, which was a nice surprise, as the United flight was a couple of hours late. I got home and went straight to bed. All in all, a great trip! It’s taken a while to write about it as there was so much to write, I’ve actually condensed this down a fair bit just because of the word count. I certainly recommend Dubai and apart from the flights you can certainly stay there and have a good time without spending a fortune. In total I think I spent around £250-£300 with hotel, food and activities included.
I’m looking forward to my next trip but I’ve got a lot of work to do before that happens. Roll on flying!