When visiting the United Arab Emirates, a safari though the desert is high on many lists. It was certainly at the top of my list! The sandstorm kept deferring the desert safari and I was becoming nervous that we may not get the opportunity. Luckily the sandstorm ended and allowed us the experience.
Dubai is known for its extravagance, beauty, and the many world records it holds. The Dubai Miracle Garden encompasses all of the above. It is out the way and no where near the main attractions, but is well worth the visit to this amazing garden in the desert, even if just to sit on a teak garden bench and admire the views.
The Miracle Garden has 45 million colorful flowers blooming. To see these beautiful flowers a car is necessary. We took a taxi. All the drivers know exactly where the garden is. There is also no need to worry how you are going to get back to your hotel because there is a taxi line. If you are driving yourself, just keep in mind there are no actual addresses in Dubai, only street names. The Garden is located on Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Road.
Entrance fee into the Miracle Garden is 30 AED. The garden also holds a world record for having the longest wall of flowers. It is truly a site to see. Walking around you can smell how amazing the flowers are. There are so many different areas to enjoy. The flowers are watered through a drip irrigation system that comes from recycled waste water. They are only in the first phase of development with a lot more amazing features to come.
As we walked around I spotted an Eiffel Tower and Burj Khalifa replicas. There were also some beautiful peacocks, houses, heart shaped archways, and so much more. This was flowers on another level. Beautiful beds of flowers were also found at every turn. If a break was needed, sit down and enjoy the beauty. It is such a picturesque place.
We got a little hungry while there. There is a food court area that is canopied by flowers. There are tons of chairs and tables. There are a handful of kiosks to get food from. We grabbed some pizza from one of them before continuing to walk around some more. I didn’t get the opportunity to see every single detail and area because we were on a time constraint, but it was very enjoyable.
If the opportunity presents itself it is certainly a place to see. The garden is an amazing site especially when you remember that you are really in the desert. It’s so inspirational and has made me want to do my garden up at home to make it as pretty as this! I might consider looking on https://www.lawncare.net/service-areas/florida/ and take advantage of their services like fertilizing my grass, getting rid of any shrubs, then I’ll do the rest and plant my flowers, just to add my own touch to the project! But for now, you can see more of the garden below.
Have you been to the Dubai Miracle Garden or even a botanical garden?
The sandstorm that decided to linger around the UAE caused us to alter our plans again. Instead of the desert safari we decided to head over to the infamous Gold and Spice Souks. A souk is a traditional market. There are tons of deals to be made and things to see at a souk.
The Gold and Spice Souks are located in Deira, Dubai’s commercial business area. A quick taxi ride from Downtown Dubai left us in a very crowded area. People everywhere! The taxi driver instructed us to go through the revolving door to get into the souk area. Upon going through the doors we were inside a small jewelry area. We walked a bit and found ourselves outside.
This area of Dubai is very different then the rest. It looks older and rundown. Dubai is a very safe place, but that isn’t a place I would want to be late at night, based off the way it looks. There is an open walkway with tons of jewelry stores and benches to sit down. As you walk down the main corridor there are narrow alleyways. Down these narrow paths are tons of stores, some are open air and some are inclosed.
The moment we stepped foot into the area we were approached left and right by several people. They were trying to get us to come to their store. It was constant and non stop. The people were very friendly, especially since they want you to purchase goods from them. So if people pressuring you to visit their store isn’t up your alley, I wouldn’t recommend these souks.
Gold and Spices are not the only things you can buy in the souks. They also sell clothing, souvenirs, shoes, watches, bags, and more. The designer watches and bags were not real, but people were trying them on nonetheless. Looking at them you can’t tell off a glance they are fake. If you touch it or you know your fakes from the real you will certainly notice.
A local informed us that the best deals can be found towards the interior of the souks. So you need to go towards the middle and not stay on the outskirts. A skill set that you certainly need when going there is the art of haggling. Don’t ever go with the price they give you! If they don’t want to work with you then don’t be afraid to walk away. They will stop you and try to work with you because you can always go to the next place and get the same exact thing.
Also have a converter on your phone. I used the Globe Convert App. Everytime they would give me a price, I would convert it to see if I was comfortable with the price. It really helped a lot. You can get caught up when you are seeing prices in AED.
Another important tip is what you wear. There are a lot of people from many different traditional backgrounds. Not to mention you are surrounded by a lot of men. I had on a tank top, but I also used a button up shirt as a jacket. It became pretty humid and I briefly took it off. One of the stores I went into a gentleman kept trying to get me to purchase a shirt by holding them up to me.
The first time he tried his hand seemed to go on my skin right above my breast and I thought maybe that was a mistake, until he did it again. I left very quickly and put my button down back on immediately. Needless to stay I lost my interest in being in the souks after that. I also later found out that it isn’t typically in their culture to even touch your hand. You do get some random creeps who will and they can be arrested and deported if you report them.
We did manage to get some souvenirs and other nice items from the souks. We did not buy any gold, but did get the opportunity to look at some things. The price of gold changes and there are signs that tell you how much it costs so you can’t be duped. Some places also take credit/debit cards, but you get charged an extra 5%.
We took a seat on one of the benches and watched some tours go by. I saw a lot of people standing by a window. When I went to see what they were looking at I realized it was a huge ring! In fact it was the world’s heaviest gold ring. Not too surprised as we were in Dubai. Walking a little more we ended up in the spice souk which is laid out in the same fashion as the gold souk.
We went into one store where the gentleman had us smell frankincense and myrrh. He also pulled out saffron, vanilla, and more. He had some colorful chocolate rock candy that he let us try. It was really good and I ended up haggling with him and buying some.
We then noticed right across the street were boats (abras), so we headed over there. We took the abra across the creek for 1AED. We didn’t explore too much because we had reservations at Ewaan, so we stopped at store, bought a ton of candy and other goodies and paid 1AED to head back on the abra to catch a taxi from there.
Overall it was a lot of fun, but a bit stressful with the haggling and everyone talking to you every second. The ride across the creek was a fun experience.
Have you ever been to a souk? What was your experience like?
There are many places to eat in Dubai. The amount of food and types will have you in a dizzy attempting to choose. Buffets and brunches are very popular in Dubai. With all of the many choices finding a great place to eat isn’t the easiest, but in a city like Dubai it also isn’t the hardest. Recommended by a gentleman who lives in Dubai, we decided to have dinner at Ewaan in Downtown Dubai.
Ewaan is located inside The Palace Downtown Dubai hotel. It is a beautiful five star hotel. Ewaan allows for a dining experience throughout the day, everyday, however we went on a Saturday night for their buffet. Originally we choose them because we were told by someone we would have a direct view of the fountain show as we were eating. However once we arrived we found out that was not the case. Even though our reservation was with Ewann the hostess was happy to accommodate us at another restaurant that did so, but we declined as we were looking forward to eating there.
It is a casual dress restaurant. The service was very good. Many different waiters and managers came over to make sure we were doing well. I ordered some water and a strawberry non alcoholic drink that was frothy. It was very good. My mother ordered a Coca-Cola. The buffet was made up of Arabic and Oriental food. There were many different amazing stations to choose from. I took a little bit from each area. They also had a gentleman carving different meats.
I took a peak at the salad station and got some salad with balsamic. Meat, rice, chicken. I also put some california rolls, meat, calamari, and more on a plate. I love buffets. I am always piling my plate with a plethora of different things. I went back a couple of more times to try different food.
The california rolls tasted so fresh! I got a crab leg thinking to myself I don’t have a cracker and I typically don’t eat crab legs unless I’m home. It is a messy ordeal. Once I sat down I realized there was no need to worry about a cracker or a mess. The crab leg already had part of the shell stripped off. All I had to do was pull the meat out. Amazing!
Of course the best part was the dessert! They had a couple of stations for dessert! There was candy, ice cream, mini cakes, dates, a chocolate fountain, and more. I of course got some strawberries dipped it in the fountain and put it on a plate with a ton of mini cakes. I went back again to try some more. Some of the cakes had real gold flakes on them. There was cheesecake, red velvet with fondant, chocolate mousse, and more. I also tried some traditional Arabic sweets which tasted so good.
There was also a fruit and cheese station, soups, breads, tea, and more. My mom ordered some coffee, but ended up not finishing it because she didn’t like it. From my seat I could see dancing outside. I asked a waiter and discovered there was a huge wedding going on. Once we finished eating we went outside and saw everyone dancing. We walked towards the fountains and sat down.
We had just missed the fountain show, but knew another would be starting shortly so we sat and waited. There was an amazing view of the Burj Khalifa lit up. The fountain show was beautiful and reminded me of the one at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. The gentleman who designed the one in Las Vegas also did the ones on the Burj Khalifa Lake, just in true Dubai fashion…bigger!
It was a great experience. It isn’t cheap, especially when you begin to order any type of drinks including water! See the fountain show, restaurant, and more here! Have you been to Ewaan? Does this seem like a buffet you would want to try?
Before heading over to the United Arab Emirates many people wonder what they should pack. Not only do you have to keep in mind the weather, but more importantly the cultural and religious aspect, as it is a Muslim country. The last thing you want to do is offend the locals. So here is some insight on what to wear in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
Dubai in particular, is the most lax of the seven emirates that form the United Arab Emirates. Still it is important to remain respectful. While I was there I saw many people who either weren’t aware or simply didn’t care what they wore. Your clothing could warrant unwanted attention or something being said to you by a local. This doesn’t mean you have to go out and buy an entire new wardrobe or dress like the locals. Malls, Marina, and Souks
While walking around at The Dubai Marina I saw many tourists from all over wearing many different types of clothing. Some were covered up and others not so much at all. I wore a capped short sleeve shirt and capris that almost looked like pants. I also had a light jacket I kept wrapped around my waist in case it got a little too chilly.
At The Dubai Mall I wore jeans, a t-shirt, and a light jacket. Walking around with a tank top, short shorts, and tight clothing is frowned upon. Shorts should be at least down to the knee. Shoulders should also be covered. The same goes for men, who are better off wearing t-shirts rather than tanks.
In the winter months, taking light jackets or a long sleeve button up would do well. It also helps in the summer time when you are inside and the AC is blasting. I am not really a fan of short sleeves. I had both a light jacket and a button down shirt I used to cover up, as most of my shirts are tank tops.
One time I did take off my button down shirt at the gold souks. The area is bit more rundown and old. I didn’t get a bunch of stares, but I did get unwanted attention from one gentleman. As humid as it became, I put my button down right back on! Pool, Beach, and Hotel
If you are headed to the pool, beach, or hanging out at your hotel your clothing choices are a bit more lax. Swimming trunks, one piece, and bikinis are allowed. They are however not allowed on the way to the pool or beach. You must be covered up at those times and not with a towel! Bring a coverup or some actual clothes. There are many locals walking around many hotels so keep that in mind. Nightlight and Restaurants
Heading out to explore the nightlife allows for you to wear what you would normally wear out. Again just keep in mind where exactly it is your going and how your getting there. Restaurants will typically alert you to their dress codes. Most are casual or as they call it “smart casual.” You will see many Emiratis in their national dress, which is welcome everywhere. Mosques
Many mosques don’t allow non-Muslims, but there are a couple that do, including the very beautiful Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. As a woman, your arms, legs, and hair must be covered. I was completely covered and I still had to wear an abaya. I believe it was because my hair is long and was hanging down. My mom was also completely covered, only had to cover her hair with a shayla (headscarf) rather than wear an abaya. Abayas go over the clothes, and will be lent to you at the mosque.
Men are to wear pants. No shorts! When entering the mosque shoes must come off. Clothing for both men and women must be conservative. If you aren’t comfortable walking around barefoot you can keep your socks on. There is also no intimacy allowed on the grounds. That includes kissing, hand holding, or even putting your arm around the opposite sex. I wouldn’t be too surprised if during Ramadan wearing anything to tight or short would be even more highly offensive. Desert Safari
On a desert safari you can wear shorts and tank tops if you wish. Once the sun goes down it can get cold. When I went it was very cold! I had on long capris, sneakers, 2 shirts, and a fleece. I was still cold with all of that on! People wearing shorts weren’t too happy at that point. The summer months I’m sure are much warmer at night than in the winter. It is still good to bring at least a light jacket with you.
Ultimately it is your choice what you wear, but if you are going to travel to other countries with a conservative culture, then you should respect it. How do you feel about the “dress code?”
If shopping is your favorite past time, then Dubai is certainly the place you want to be! There are so many malls, and souks it could make your head spin. While in Dubai, we went to the largest mall in the world, based off area, The Dubai Mall. This mall is more than just shopping, but an experience.
The Dubai Mall is obviously huge, but you have no idea what that truly means until you arrive. We took a taxi to the mall. The taxi driver dropped us off near the parking lot area which is supposed to make it easy to get in. The hard part came when it was time to figure out how to exactly get into the mall. There are many floors and esculators. It was extremely crowded! Try a holiday shopping season, times 100. The first thing I noticed was a multi-floor movie theater and a Sega Indoor Theme Park.
After some odd minutes of walking around and taking the escalators up and down we finally figured out how to get into the actual mall. Being very hungry, we followed the signs and bee lined to the food court. The food court was extremely crowded and huge. There was fast food, restaurants, and cafes. Everything from Hot Dog On A Stick and Johnny Rockets to KFC and Subway. If you can’t find something you like to eat in this mall then I am not sure what to tell you.
After taking a walk around we decided on some Chinese food. Once we got our food we realized there was no place to sit. Walking around I spotted a door to more seating outside. I doubt that would be a place anyone would want to sit in the hot months. From the sitting area there was a view of the very top of the Burj Khalifia (the tallest building in the world.) After eating, we went back into the mall and walked around a bit. I spotted even more places to eat, including The Rainforest Cafe and The Cheesecake Factory, as we walked around.
We were in search of the waterfall inside of the mall. Following the signs towards The Waterfall we came across some pretty awesome findings. One being the ice skating rink. There were a ton of people skating around having a blast. As we continued to walk I spotted a gold Lamborghini. I love Lamborghinis and apparently so do people in Dubai because I saw a bunch of people driving them.
Continuing to follow the signs, in my mind we hit gold, A Disney Fashion Store! If you know me you know my LOVE for Mickey Mouse. I wandered around the store seeing all kind of bags, clothes similar to these boho clothes, and sneakers with Mickey everywhere. It was pretty awesome! Right near the store was The Waterfall.
The Waterfall is beautiful and has sculptures of divers made from fiber glass. The waterfall can be seen from all 4 levels. It was crowded with people taking pictures, but there is another area to the right that has the same view, but no people. So walk away from the main area if you want a better photo opportunity. The mall has a ton of information desks, so if you are looking for a particular store or area, they many people behind the desk will point you in the right direction.
From The Waterfall we asked someone where to find the Aquarium. Between them and the signs we found our way to the crowded area. This is a serious mall to have an Aquarium and Underwater Zoo. We didn’t go inside, but decided to view the beautiful tank, which is one of the largest in the world. It also features the largest glass panel in the world. As I looked up towards the ceiling it looked like a starry night. It was beautiful! There is also a replica of King Croc for those who don’t go inside the aquarium.
The amount of stores in The Dubai Mall would go beyond the term “shop till you drop.” Whatever it is your looking for, they have it. They even have their own souks. The souk at the mall is much more modern then the more traditional ones. You can also get a great view of the Burj Khalifa and the Fountain show once stepping outside.
The fountain show happens everyday on the Burj Khalifa Lake. There are a couple of shows in the afternoon, and then every 30 minutes in the evening from 6pm – 11pm. I didn’t catch the show the day I went to visit the mall, but I did watch it on another night after an amazing dinner. In true Dubai fashion it is the world’s largest dancing fountain.
Although not usually a place someone would make their business to visit when traveling, The Dubai Mall is a must see.
Have you ever been to the Dubai Mall? If not would you want to check it out?
Staying in or around the Jumeirah Lake Towers allows for many fun things to do in the area. The Beach, The Walk, and more is all encompassed into the Dubai Marina. On my first full day in Dubai, I decided we should hang out at the Dubai Marina. The Marina is an artificial canal city that was built along the shoreline of the Persian Gulf. Upon the completion of the Dubai Marina, it will overthrow Marina Del Rey in California as being the world’s largest man-made marina.
The Dubai Marina is accessible by metro on the red line. I took a taxi, which are inexpensive. Taxis start at 3.50 AED and the meter goes up from there. There was a good amount of traffic, but it gave me the opportunity to take in my surroundings. Tall buildings everywhere!
I was excited once we pulled up to the Dubai Marina. We were so hungry, and the taxi driver said this was a great place to get some food. He was not joking. There were many places to get food. Almost anything you can think to eat was there. I even saw a Johnny Rockets. In true Dubai fashion they were still building and planning to add more establishments.
It is hard not to notice the beauty of all the tall buildings in many different shapes and sizes. I found out that these buildings are known as The Tallest Block. That name derived because these buildings are said to be the tallest block of skyscrapers in the world. It is also home to thePrincess Towers, which is the tallest residential building in the world.
It was absolutely beautiful to look at. The marina gave a Miami feel, but the skyscrapers gave it a New York vibe. There were so many places to choose from to eat that we weren’t sure what to get. It was our first meal in Dubai, and the first since the airplane food. We decided to sit outside at a place called Debonair’s Pizza. We ordered a Margherita pizza with a side of wedges.
The pizza was pretty good. It was a beautiful day to sit outside and enjoy the surroundings. I noticed a film crew nearby. I wasn’t sure what they were filming, but I did watch them launch a drone a few times that flew over the water. It was so cool to watch, I bet the footage they got looked amazing! A gentleman from Kashmir was walking around trying to sell a wooden basket that flattened into a disc. He tried to sell us one, although very nice we had to decline.
Once we finished eating we decided to walk around. There are a ton of boat tours, almost to the point we weren’t sure which was the best. We walked over to the Yellow Boats. They had a few options of tours and time length. They take you around The Palm (man-made island in the shape of a palm) and Atlantis Hotel. Unfortunately the boats were completely booked up for the day. Best to book reservations in advance.
After some walking back and forth I found a company called Bristol Charter offering their Catamaran Cruises. The price is 120 AED. They said the roundtrip would be 90 minutes. They also handed out soda, water, and snacks. It sounded like a plan to us. We quickly paid and boarded the boat. It was a very nice size boat. They had lots of technology aboard, including a marine GPS – a quick enquiry and they said they’d looked online on sites like gear surfer to find the best one for their work. I’m not sure why I was so curious about it, maybe because I hadn’t seen one before? Dubai is full of amazing technology. Someone on the boat even had a drone and was taking videos and pictures of the boat! I know a friend who owns a drone and he loves using it. After watching the film crew and the other passenger using one, it made me really want to buy one for myself! I’ve heard good things about DrDrone so if I do decide to buy one I know where to look! Anyway, there were also seating areas with bright orange life jackets. The front of the boat had a mesh bottom with colorful beanbags to sit on.
I was apprehensive about sitting on the mesh because I thought water may come up and get me wet, but that didn’t happen. The bean bags were comfortable and I enjoyed sitting there. The crew came around with snacks and beverages and we were allowed to take as much as we wanted. They also had a DJ on board and played some great music. The crew really made the trip enjoyable. They even answered the many questions we all had.
During the boat ride we could see part of The Palm, which allowed me a glimpse of Atlantis in the distance. We also saw the Sheikh Palace Yacht, the third largest yacht in the world, the beach, and the Burj Al Arab. The Burj Al Arab is a sail shaped hotel. The hotel has been called the world’s only 7 star hotel. That title stemmed from a journalist and not the hotel. Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi also has that title.
The boat ride was great, and we enjoyed it. Talking to some of the others on board, I realized that many people thought we were from the UAE. They were very surprised and excited to learn we were from New York. So excited, they even asked to take a picture with us. We had a brief, but very nice conversation with the people on board.
As we got back to land, we saw the marina completely lit up. There were many more people out walking around. Kids were playing in the water fountain, and kicking around a soccer ball. It is gorgeous all lit up. If you ever get the opportunity, I highly recommend checking out the Dubai Marina. See for yourself, my time at the Dubai Marina.
Have you ever been to the Dubai Marina? What did you do while there?