Our first stay in Dubai was in the Jumeirah Beach neighborhood. This is a popular area home to many western expats. The main street is busy at night and is filled with foreigners eating out at the many (and mostly low quality) food chains along the street. There was construction blocking access to the beach on the other side and generally I wasn’t that impressed with the area. We did however venture out from here. We visited the mega malls Dubai is famous for. The elegant Mall of The Emirates was impressive with its famous indoor ski-area. I went inside, saw the emperor penguins and took the chair lift up to survey the skiing. As a novelty, this place is great for those from the desert, but as a ski choice it offers very little. We took the Dubai metro from there to the Dubai Mall which is the largest in the world. This one is also famous for its aquarium. Aquariums seem to be a big deal here with enormous impressive tanks at this mall, in the lobby of the Burj Al Arab, and at the Palm Atlantis Hotel.
The highlight of our first visit to Dubai was visiting the world’s tallest building, the Burj Kahlifa. This magnificent piece of architecture is flanked by fountains very reminiscent of the ones in Las Vegas at the Bellagio, although the ones in Dubai are supposedly bigger. We couldn’t get the advanced entry time we wanted and bit the bullet and paid for immediate access which bypasses the queue those with timed entries still need to endure. The view from the 124th floor only disappointed due to the sandy haze limiting the extent to how far we could see. It was still impressive and made the high-rises around Dubai look miniature. Following our visit to the top we watched the fountains below and ate at a nearby quality Thai restaurant.
When we returned to Dubai after the Maldives we stayed in a much better location. We stayed in a villa in the Madinat Jumeirah. This arabian resort provides an elegant manicured world. It is modern, clean and the architecture is impressive with a recreated souk (market), beautiful pools, the best beaches in Dubai and man-made canals connecting the sections of the resort together with complementary boats. It is connected with the iconic Burj Al Arab – considered the most luxurious hotel in the world, as well as the Wild Wadi Waterpark.
We took advantage of what the resort had to offer including spending part of the day in Wild Wadi. It was busy though and the lazy river was packed. They did a nice job with their steepest water slides and it is fun to do the tube rides that propel you up to the top with water jets before sliding back down to the pools. We also splurged on an amazing dinner at the top of the Burj Al Arab. I packed a sports-jacket on our trip specifically for this occasion. This hotel became an obsession for me. I loved looking at it from every angle, loved going inside it and getting to eat on the top floor, and took a crazy amount of photos of it. Fortunately it was regularly in view all around the resort.
Our one escape from all the resort had to offer was to take a sight-seeing helicopter flight from the Palm Atlantis. This hotel is modeled on the famous one in the Bahamas on Paradise Island. We took the monorail out the Palm Jumeirah and it really is hard to believe that this whole land section with its many beaches was made by people and engineering ingenuity. Not being a guest at the Atlantis limits what you have access to. We visited the aquarium there and the big tank is certainly impressive, but overall we did not like the Atlantis. Since our helicopter flight left from the opposite end of the facilities we were lucky enough to be allowed through the grounds and saw all that it offered from close up. It offers a lot, but it all felt tacky and paled in comparison to where we were staying.
The helicopter flight itself offered a great perspective of what has been built in Dubai. We flew over the human-built archipelago called “The World” which after what must have an outrageous cost to construct only has a single building on it with no one willing to invest into it. The helicopter flight felt as though we were high in the air, but we were only as high as the observation deck at the Burj Kahlifa. It is incredible what has been built in Dubai.