After a bit of a sleep-in and another delicious hotel buffet breakfast today’s plan was to see some of the new modern luxury high-rise part of Dubai – which is most of it. Dubai today is luxury hotels, apartments, and shopping malls – a total contrast from the crowded, noisy streets we wandered through yesterday. But it is modern Dubai that has put the city on the map as such a popular tourist destination, so even though it feels a little “fake” it s in fact the “real” Dubai. And I must say they do excess very well.
Having learned our lesson yesterday, we decided to catch cabs today. Even my public-transport-loving husband was amenable to that! Turns out the cabs are clean, efficient and very cheap. And a lot easier than walking! We headed straight to the Atlantis Hotel, one of the newest and most extravagant of the new and extravagant Dubai Hotels. We especially chose that one because it is situated in the Palm Jumeirah, that man-made development in the shape of a palm tree. We had seen a few documentaries about the construction of it, and so we were especially interested to see it. We were immediately struck by how huge the Palm is, and what an unimaginably enormous task it was to build this from nothing. There are lovely gardens, and the architecture is tasteful, in the Arabian style. And of course, miles of beaches.
The Atlantis itself is, needless to say, huge. It is opulent and grand, with an ocean theme. There is a water park, sandy beaches, dolphins and an enormous aquarium. And of course a shopping mall. Much of the hotel is accessible to guests only, but one of the security guards offered for Keith & I to go up to the hotel lobby, and we got to have a sneak peak at how the other half lives. We explored the aquarium, which was very well done. According to the brochure, while digging the foundations for the hotel, they found the ruins of the lost city of Atlantis itself, and this “aquarium” displayed what they discovered. All a bit Las Vegas, but very entertaining, & provided lots of fishy photo ops.
There is a monorail that runs the length of the ‘trunk’ of the palm, and we caught that back to the ‘mainland’. From there another taxi took us to Madinat Jumeirah, another resort next to the Burj al Arab Hotel (the big, sail-shaped 7-star hotel). Madinat Jumeirah is just lovely, with Arabian style terrace houses, canals with little abras, lots of waterfront promenades and a souk – a market-place in the traditional style (but minus the hawkers and with very upmarket shops). It is all very tastefully done and we had a pleasant wander through the souk and then a light lunch in a waterfront restaurant (a meze plate for 2 – delicious).
We dragged ourselves away and walked next door to have a look at the Burj al Arab. We knew we wouldn’t be allowed inside unless we were staying or eating there, but were surprised to see big fences, security guards, and the inaccurately named “Welcome Centre” stopping us from getting anywhere near it. There were also hordes of tourists jostling for position to get a photo of themselves in front of the hotel. We left pretty quickly. We walked to the Jumeirah Beach hotel nearby, hoping to find a taxi, but there was a huge crowd of people there doing the same. A shuttle bus arrived, going to the Mall of the Emirates, ad we hopped on, very glad of a seat. The shuttle was supposed to be for hotel guests, but it must be my day for meeting friendly security guards (well, not counting the ones at the Burj), and they let us on.
The Mall of the Emirates is allegedly the largest shopping mall in the world, famous for the indoor ski slope. Only in a place like Dubai would they think of building a ski slope in a place where the temperature in summer is around 45 degrees. We did a little shopping, had a wander around and then ate dinner in an authentic looking Arabian-style restaurant. But looking at the menu we thought it may be a little too authentic – we had no idea what most of the items were! We had to admit our ignorance & ask the waiter for suggestions. We must have looked hungry because he brought us the most enormous amount of food – all extremely delicious but much more than we needed.
An early night tonight – because tomorrow morning we are getting up at 4am for a hot-air balloon flight over the desert! And no – I haven’t been suddenly cured of my fear of heights – so wish me luck!!
Photo Count: 488
Modes to Transport: 8 (cumulative) – 9 if you count shank’s pony
Calorie Count: Don’t ask