UAE Day 3 – Dubai Mall, Dubai Fountains and Burj Khalifa

We only set one alarm for this morning, for 6am. Which I managed to turn off only to lay back down and go back to sleep. Luckily I managed to wake up again at 7am, which is when we had planned to meet up with the others for breakfast, so it was a mad dash to throw some clothes on quickly and get down to breakfast for 7.10am just as the others were about to call us to find out where we were. I do love the blackout curtains in hotels, but at the same time they do make it more difficult to wake up if you have to get up early because the room is so dark. At least we packed everything last night, so once we were finished eating breakfast we could just have a shower and get ready properly and then check out. I don’t understand why the tour guide had arranged a wake-up call yesterday when we had a meeting that didn’t start until about 10am, but when we’re being picked up at 8am there is no wake-up call?

The tour guide told us about United Arab Emirates on the drive from Abu Dhabi to Dubai, I thought it was quite interesting to learn more but I think some people wishes he had just been quiet. A couple of facts that stuck with me was;

UAE is working on creating artificial clouds to lower the temperature in the summer months so that they still get tourism during those months

UAE have created a village for some scientists to live in to find out if they can live off solar power, because due to the sandstorms that UAE get they have been worried about the solar panels getting covered and damaged, the scientists have to live in the village off solar power for a certain amount of years to prove it can be done.

When we arrived in Dubai the coach driver dropped off the people that had paid for a Dubai tour at Dubai Mall before taking the rest of us to the hotel. Because it was still quite early by the time we arrived we were not able to check in yet but the hotel let us use the facilities until we were able to check in. We got our swimwear out from our cases and headed up to the rooftop pool. All the sunbeds with parasols had already been taken so we had to lay out in the sunshine, so we all made sure we put on loads of sun cream! It was nice to just be able to relax for a couple of hours and go in the pool. Because it is so hot here the pool was more like a bath so I didn’t have to brace myself or get used to the temperature of the water.

Once we were able to check in at the hotel around 3.30pm we all got showered and ready and caught a taxi to Dubai Mall. The hotel is close to a monorail stop, but again we figured that because there are so many of us it would probably be cheaper to get a taxi, as long as we get a big taxi to share. I think the taxi was around 80AED as the hotel is at the outskirts of Dubai, near the airport.

As soon as we got to Dubai Mall we found the counter for tickets to Burj Khalifa and Phil Sr and Jackie treated us all to tickets up to the 124th floor at 9pm!

Dubai Mall is a lovely place to walk around. Just like the mall in Abu Dhabi it didn’t feel busy at all. Someone told me there is a ski slope in the mall, but I think it might have been a different mall, as I didn’t see any signs for it. But what we did see was a massive aquarium, a couple of waterfalls, an ice rink and a small football pitch. The food courts were sectioned off so that non-Muslims could still get a drink and bite to eat before fast ended. There are a lot of high-end shops in Dubai Mall, but also “normal” shops like Boots and H&M etc. It keeps surprising me how many shops from the UK and Europe is in the rest of the world.

We decided to head outside for something to eat, it is absolutely beautiful outside the Mall where you can see the fountains and Burj Khalifa, I had seen Burj Khalifa in the distance, but this time we got really close to it. It is a stunning building. We decided to eat at Carluccio’s, where we had a nice view and the food was lovely, I’ve never actually eaten at a Carluccio’s back home, might have to now. We ended up seeing the fountain show twice, the first one was at 7.30 pm and then it was on every half hour after this . I don’t know if it is normally on earlier outside of Ramadan or if it is just a night-time thing. I want to come back another night to watch the fountain show so that we can stand a bit closer and see it better.

The entrance for Burj Khalifa is inside the Mall where we got the tickets, normally I am quite good with directions and finding my way places but I think because we are a group and we are obviously talking to each other while we are walking around I had not paid attention to where we had been walking earlier and so we got a little bit lost… We followed the signs for “At the top Burj Khalifa”, but then suddenly the signs just seemed to stop. Turns out we should have taken a lift downstairs, but the lift was hidden behind a billboard type thing. We did make it to the entrance and only a couple of minutes late. Seems it is a day for being late today.

The lifts at the bottom of Burj Khalifa displays what floor the lift is on and how long the lift has been travelling for, from the ground floor to floor 124 it took 1 minute exactly! My ears popped when I was in the lift.

The view from 124th and 125th floor was amazing. The viewing area on the 124th floor is actually outside, I didn’t actually realise it at first but then I looked up and realised there was no ceiling, the heat should have tipped me off really. There is also a gap between the glass panes so you can put your hand outside if you wanted to, just make sure you’re not holding anything that could drop, as it’s a LONG way down! I would love to go back up in the daytime, maybe even to the 148th floor, but I think this might be best to do during the “winter” months, as the heat haze does obstruct the view a lot now in summer, and there’s no point paying all that money if you don’t even get a decent view. 125th floor was all inside, but still amazing view of course, and they also had a little gift shop. Phil, Paul, Ellie and I bought a frame for Jackie and Phil Sr to say thank you and we’ll put a picture of all of us in it before we give it to them.

UAE day 2 – Ferrari World

Before heading out for the day today we had to go to a meeting with our RSD travel guide to find out the itinerary for our stay in United Arab Emirates. We didn’t really want to go as we wanted to get off to Ferrari World, but we have to know when we are leaving this hotel tomorrow and also we had to get our passports back as he had taken them to get them scanned for us at the hotel last night since we arrived around 2am.

The meeting was ok, but a lot longer than what it had needed to be. Basically he was trying to sell us tours to go on while we are in UAE. I understand it is something they have to do to make more money, but the way he was going through them he made it sound like we HAVE to go on their arranged tours while we are here, it wasn’t until the end that he gave us a price list and said it is up to us if we want to go on the tours or not. We chose not to go on any of the tours, and just do our own thing instead, I don’t think he liked this as we are a group of 6 and if we had gone on a tour that if quite a bit of money, there was also another group of 8 that didn’t go on many of the tours, so to be honest the guide wasn’t very happy.

I don’t mind if someone is trying to sell tours, as there were some that sounded interesting, and it is good for people who haven’t made any plans or is unsure about what to see, but I don’t think the meeting needed to last an hour for a holiday that is only a week long. All that is needed is just to say; if anyone is interested we’ve got a few tours, these are the tours – give a description – let me know if you’re interested, here’s a price list, done.

What we also think seems a bit strange is that the guide is saying he doesn’t know when we’ll be picked up from the next hotel to go to the last hotel, as he doesn’t know which hotel out of 2 we will be staying at… Very strange, but I’m sure it’ll work out.

Anyway, after the extremely long drawn out meeting we got our passports back from the guide and then headed off to Ferrari World. The staff at the hotel (Grand Millennium Al Whada) was very helpful and pointed out that because there is 6 of us it will be cheaper to get a taxi than public transport. The hotel concierge advised a ticket for public transport would be about 35AED each, but a taxi should only be about 60-70AED all together, so we got a taxi, which was quite nice as it was a lot quicker than public transport would have been as well. It ended up being around 80 AED for all of us, but that’s still cheaper than public transport, and this is with the taxi driver going to a petrol station on her way as one of her tyres were flat…

Ferrari World was a lot bigger than I though it would be. I had seen pictures and videos on You Tube, so I knew the park is all inside, but it looked a lot smaller than what it actually is. Ellie did have some issues when we were going in to the park, as the jumpsuit she was wearing was a little bit too short, so she got to borrow a wrap around skirt to cover the top parts of her legs, the skirt was only a couple of inches longer than her shorts anyway, but what I thought was strange is that we had to leave Phil Sr driving licence as security that we would return the skirt. I was a bit surprised that they made her cover up because Jackie’s shorts were about the same length, but they didn’t make her cover up. My shorts were a little bit longer as I had put a bit more thought into what I packed for this holiday to make sure I’m dressed appropriately for UAE culture.

I am not great with big rides, they terrify me. However, I surprised myself by going on all the rides at Ferrari World, although I only went on them one time each, except for the go-carts, which I went on twice.

One of the rides, called Turbo Track goes really fast from inside the building and then vertically up though the ceiling in the middle of the building, it looks like you are going to come off the track and then it drops back down again. Absolutely terrifying. Phil, Paul and Ellie really enjoyed that ride and went on it 4 times I think! The park was actually really quiet, probably because we’re not in peak tourist season anymore, so one of their goes they came back down and asked if they could just stay on it, which they did. I honestly don’t know how they can do it.

The big rides in Ferrari World started inside, then took you outside. It was a strange feeling when you went outside on the rides because suddenly you could feel the heat after being in an air-conditioned building, even though I was going fast on the rides the breeze didn’t cool me down, and it was almost a relief to get back inside again. Don’t get me wrong, I like that it’s warm, but when you’re on a ride, even for a short amount of time you can’t control where the sun is, if it’s going to be in your eyes, and you can’t really wear a hat and sunglasses on the ride.

Phil Sr and myself thought we would be brave and go on a ride called Flying Aces, we had a look at it from the viewing point before we went on and we were bricking it. Apparently it had the highest loop in the world, but the loop is kind of heart shaped because the track twists at the top… Deep breath… But we got on the ride, then we were waiting, then there were some strange sounds, then the bars across out bodies went back up, then they put them back down again, more strange sounds, then they took the bars up again… I have to say, this is not helping my nervousness! The staff told us it was going to be a few minutes but we were welcome to wait until the ride was back up an running… Err, no thank you! So we all got back off it and went to find a different ride. I think both me and Phil Sr was happy for the excuse not to go on the ride. I did go on the ride later in the day, but this was after I had seen it go round the track once after the issues while we were waiting, I had to make sure it was still safe to ride. Once I did go in it I hated it. There were a lot of sharp turns and my head kept sliding off he headrest, but then again I don’t like big rides anyway, Phil, Paul and Ellie enjoyed it.

I have to admit that looking at photos from rides is quite funny, I look like the most miserable person in the world because I am terrified but I keep my mouth closed and keep a steely expression on my face because I’m just waiting for it to be over.

There were quite a few rides and things to see at Ferrari World, a few of them were closed, probably doe to Ramadan and the season, but most things were open, and like I said earlier I did go on everything that was open. When the others went back on rides for a 2nd or 3rd go I stayed back and watched the bags and took some photos. The coaster I didn’t really mind was Fiorano GT Challenge, it normally have 2 coasters running next to each other but it was only one running today as it wasn’t busy enough for both.

I also really enjoyed the go-carts. it was only the electric ones inside that were running, apparently they also have petrol ones outside. To go on the go-carts it was 35AED extra, we all went on them the first time, but when we drove them again before we left for the day Jackie and Ellie watched instead. I have never done go-carting before but I really enjoyed it. I did keep hitting the barrier on the side though but because they were electric they didn’t goo too fast so it didn’t really matter. I felt like I was in a game of Mario-cart.

Although I don’t like big rides I still enjoyed Ferrari World, it might just be because I like seeing and experiencing new things, I probably would go back, but I’m not sure I would go on all the rides again, it is nice to go to theme parks with other people and not just me and Phil, because at least this way Phil has someone to go on the rides with when I don’t want to go on them. We were able to get a bite to eat at Ferrari World as well as they had sectioned a couple of restaurants off so that we were hidden from view with it being Ramadan.

By the time we got back to the hotel it was 6pm, so it was only 1 hour until fast was breaking and all restaurant would reopen so we all went and got showered and ready back in our rooms before meeting on the 3rd floor of the hotel, which has a passageway that connects to Al Wadha Mall. The mall was nice and a lot bigger than I expected, and practically deserted, so I didn’t feel like I was fighting my way past people like I usually am in Meadowhall. At the meeting this morning the tour guide made it out like we would really struggle to get a table anywhere because once fast was over everyone would go out to eat, but this was just to try to get people to sign up to the evening tour with a meal that he was selling, because we didn’t struggle to get a table anywhere. We ended up eating at TGI Fridays which was nice.

After our meal we went back to the hotel and to the bar attached, Porters Bar. Jackie, Ellie and I got vouchers for a free drink, but we could only use it for either Cuba Libre or a Tequila Sunrise, I don’t like coke and I don’t like tequila but I decided to try a Tequila Sunrise, it is a free drink after all. They were both awful! Way too strong and just not nice at all, it’s nice to get more alcohol, but I don’t think it was good quality alcohol, we didn’t finish our drinks, and just left one the guys finished their beers. I will also point out that people are allowed to smoke in the bars in UAE, for a non smoking group it wasn’t very nice, especially as we don’t get it back in the UK, but we found a corner that wasn’t too close to any smokers.

Tomorrow we are moving from this hotel to a hotel in Dubai, so Phil and I have made sure our cases are packed and ready so we don’t have too much to do in the morning, we’ve not unpacked our cases anyway but we have still ended up with taking a few things out.

UAE Day 1 – Travelling to Abu Dhabi

We flew from Manchester Airport around 11am, it was a decent time to fly really as we could just get up early and drive straight to the airport, instead of having to pay to stay overnight in a hotel before travelling. We have used Toad Parking, which is one of the cheapest car parks near the airport, we have used them before and had no issues at all. They have a free shuttle bus which takes you to the airport and once you collected your luggage when you come back, you just give them a call and they send the shuttle to the airport to collect you.

The flights are with Turkish Airlines, I have never flown with them before that I can remember so I didn’t know what to expect, but it was actually really good flights. We had to change flights in Istanbul, but the wait wasn’t too long, by the time we had gone through security and had a bite to eat it was time to start boarding the next flight. We got fed on both flights, I thought the food was ok and ate it both times, but the others didn’t eat too much of it. I think a lot of people are still dubious of airplane food, but at long as it looks and tastes ok I’ll eat it, it’s free food, why wouldn’t I? On the first flight we got an omelette type thing, and on the second flight we got a choice between beef or pasta. I chose the pasta in tomato sauce. Which of course I managed to drop onto the white t-shirt I was wearing… You think I would have learnt by now I can’t eat anything that might stain when wearing white!

The airplane also had screens on each seat back with movies and games to keep us entertained though the flight, I was quite surprised how new some of the movie titles were, and very happy with the selection as they had quite a few films that I have been wanting to watch. I watched Black Panther on the first flight, then Wonder and Storks on the second flight. I enjoyed all of them, although I probably wouldn’t watch Storks again, it was just some easy watching as we still had a couple of hours left before landing.

Once landing in Abu Dhabi a coach was waiting to take us to the hotel, we arrived at the hotel at about 2 am local time.

The trip was booked though RSD travel, and the guide on the coach was telling us we would need to attend a meeting the next morning to go through the itinerary for the holiday, we are a little worried about this as we are not attending any of the tours arranged by the company, we are doing our own things whilst we are here, and we have booked Ferrari World for tomorrow morning, we have to go to the meeting though as the tour guide has taken our passports to let the hotel scan them, and we also need the times we are being picked up for the next hotels. Luckily the meeting is in the morning and Ferrari World doesn’t open until 11am, so it should work out.

We are going to United Arab Emirates

Up until recently I was never been that bothered about going to UAE. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I’ve never wanted to go, it just hasn’t been on the top of my “places to go” list. With that being said, now that I am actually going, I am super excited and I can’t wait to see and experience a new culture and location!!

When Phil and I was planning our honeymoon we did actually consider stopping in Dubai for a few nights before moving on to either Maldives or Mauritius to break the journey up. However we then decided to go to Dominican Republic so there was no need for a middle stop.

The reason we are going to UAE in less than 2 weeks now is actually because it was a Christmas gift from the in-laws! I can’t believe how lucky we are! Last year my mum paid for us to go to Tallinn with her, her husband and my sister, for her 50th birthday. And now we are going away with Phil’s parents, brother and his brother’s fiancée! We really are blessed with amazing families! I have never been away with a partner’s family before so that will be an experience also.

The thing that most people “know” about the Emirates is that it is really strict when it comes to dress-code due to it being a Muslim country. However when I have been reading about it it’s not like you have to be covered from head to toe. From my research it seems they prefer it if you cover up from the shoulders to the knees, which is probably for the best anyway as it will be scorching hot and at least this way I won’t get sunburned on my shoulders and back. Some people do say that they’re not all that strict on it and it is mostly in the malls that you might get told to cover up by Emirati women. Personally I think learning about and following a country’s customs is part of travelling. What’s the point of travelling if you are just going to act like you would at home instead of learning something and embracing someone else’s culture?

It also means I can go shopping for new clothes! Not sure if this is a good thing or not as I’m so picky that I’ll probably just end up sitting down in the middle of Meadowhall and cry because I can’t find anything I like.

We’ve made a couple of plans whilst we are there. We are going to Ferrari world whilst we are in Abu Dhabi, and whilst we are in Dubai we are going to Aquaventure Waterpark, Burj Khalifa and Dubai Mall so far. We might do some other things as well but it’s quite nice to have some “free days” as well while we are there. We shall see what happens when we get there though, it might just be so warm that I’ll just stay in the hotel room with the aircon on full blast!