Scaling heights in Dubai

We spent a few days before and after a cruise around the Gulf area

Gold as far as the eye can see

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by catsholiday on April 2, 2011

The Gold Souk – Dubai

The Gold Souk is in the Deira part of Dubai and is easy walking distance from the spice souk and the Dubai Creek crossing. This makes it a great place to wander around as there is so much to see.

We were not in the market for gold buying and despite quite like jewellery I am not really into spending a lot of money on this sort of thing when on holiday and my husband is even less interested.

There are a number of small alleys with small shops each selling very similar things. The souk is a very traditional type of shopping area and consists of over 300 retailers all selling gold and jewellery. The shop windows are just full of gold. It really is gold in most shops despite the fact that silver is found in the region it seems that gold is the metal most desired The gold is hanging in such quantity that it almost looks false like painted paste stuff used in films etc.

We went into a couple of the shops but in reality you do need to have an idea of prices and what you want if you want to buy something. Bartering is always necessary and obviously if you want to buy a few things then you have more bargaining power.

It is quite a sight to see the huge variety of gold on offer it is impressive – you can see huge displays of earrings, rings, necklaces, bracelets & pendants. What is also unusual is that you can get so many different shades of gold from: white, pink, yellow and even purple gold glistens and sparkles in the windows.

The prices of the products are mainly determined by the weight of the gold and the gold prices here are among the lowest in the World. The pieces of jewellery are also priced according to whether it is machine-made or by a craftsman. So it is a combination of gold weight and craftsmanship.

The local laws in Dubai are very strict and the Dubai municipality regularly performs quality checks. This means that you are as safe buying gold here as many other places in the world. When buying any gold jewellery you will get a detailed invoice, a certificate of authenticity as well as the gold purity hallmarks. The fact that Dubai is duty free means that you will get a good price as tax and duties are often quite a big percentage of any jewellery prices.

According to reliable estimates approximately 10 tons of gold is present at any given time in the souk. One shop in the souk had a huge gold ring that is in the Guinness book of records as it weighs something like 80kg.

One shop in the souk had a huge gold ring that is in the Guinness book of records as it weighs something like 80kg. It was pretty impressive – totally useless apart from being a record breaker – certainly too big for anyone to wear!

So in short if you are in the old part of Dubai in the Diera area this souk is certainly worth a look. If you are in the market for buying then go prepared to shop around and bargain and if paying by credit card you will have to pay a bit extra.
Gold Souk
Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Tea for Two Arab Style - part 2

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by catsholiday on April 1, 2011

The Skyview Bar:
When our name was called we were greeted by our waitress who escorted us down one of these ‘tubes’ into the skyview bar. Our table was right by the window with a view of the Jumeirah Beach hotel and then onto the city of Dubai. At the time we were there I do believe we had the best view because the sun was starting to go down and this meant people on the other side had a very hazy view of the Palm. We could just about see ‘The World’ islands but it was difficult to know which was which from here.

The bar was very modern with glass and black predominating. It was very light as all the exterior walls were glass in order to fully appreciate the splendid view. We were handed a menu and had the various courses explained to us. We could choose either Bucks Fizz or champagne which was poured out in a very unusual way with the waitresses arm extended up high.

The tea experience:
We started with a tiny bowl with a few select berries and a blob of cream. This was followed by a slice of roast lamb with a lentil and chutney sort of mix on top. A palette cleanser followed this which was strange but I am not a fan of palette cleansers they always taste a little odd to me. At this stage were each brought our pot of tea, I had a smoky one similar to Lapsang Souchong, while my husband selected a date tea. The date tea was actually delicious, not sweet but with a creamy hint of sweetness which was lovely.

The sandwiches and cakes arrived on a cake stand in the shape of the Burj al Arab. On the top level was a plate of multi coloured sandwiches, white, brown, yellow (saffron?) and a sort of orange/red ( tomato?) with different fillings from egg to crab and cucumber. The next level down had tiny brioches and mini French breads with fillings. Going down another level you find tiny squares of fruit cake and carrot cake, four fingers of shortbread and two crème brules. The very bottom plate had a selection of tiny but perfect cakes including one with gold leaf. My only gripe was that there was only one of each of these so I had to cut them all in half! Another separate plate arrived with scones, jam and cream before finally the waitress came around with a huge tray of petit fours from which you could choose only one which was disappointing.

The food was delicious, beautifully presented and there was more than enough for us. We did notice that there was a lady sitting alone next to us and she had the same amount of food as e had on our cake stand all to herself which seems a bit stupid as there was no way she would be able to eat it all and so it would be wasted.

Sadly all good things come to an end:
After we had finished there was absolutely no pressure to leave. We did get up and take some photos from other parts of the room as did other people. The staff were very pleasant and efficient but not overly friendly but that was probably because they were pretty busy.

We went out down the tube to the reception area when I decided I needed the toilet which was back down the tube and just near where we were sitting. The toilet area was luxurious, clean, and neat, smelled lovely and had nice soap, real tiny towels and hand cream too. It was well worth the visit to experience.

Down to earth again:
So down we went in the left with the golden doors and as we went down we enjoyed our last views of the palm island. We walked back through the main hotel down the escalator beside the giant aquarium and into the lobby.

Back to reality:
Once we were back outside we took the opportunity to take a few more photos around the outside and then we just started to walk across the causeway when we noticed a taxi leaving the hotel so we hailed it and that was the end of our Birj al Arab experience.

Would I recommend this afternoon tea experience? Yes, whole heartedly it was quite expensive but as it is the kind of thing you only do once in your life. This was our anniversary and Valentine treat to each other so a nice romantic tea for two and well worth every dirham.
Burj Al Arab/Skyview Bar
Jumeirah Beach Strip
Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Visiting the Burj Al Arab for tea part 1

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by catsholiday on April 1, 2011

Burj Al Arab afternoon tea - Dubai
The exchange rate when we were there was AED 5.6 to £1
While we were in Dubai we decided to splash out and booked to go and have afternoon tea at the Burj Al Arab.

The World’s first 7 star hotel:
The Burj Al Arab which means Arabian Tower is a stunning hotel in the shape of a dhows’ sail. It sits on its own artificial island just off Jumeirah beach and is connected to the mainland by a narrow causeway. Not sure if it still is but it was the second tallest hotel building in the world but despite its size it only has 202 rooms on 28 hotel floors. It is one of Dubai’s iconic images and because of this we felt we had to go inside to have a look. It is known as ‘The world’s first 7* hotel ‘despite the fact that it is actually 5* but the prices to stay at the hotel are pretty high so we were going to have to get in there by some other method.

Opportunities to see inside:
Stay at the hotel. Looking in line this was not an option Bed and Breakfast Prices: Low Season 2011 £3,151 per person, per week. No chance as that is the price of a full holiday for two weeks somewhere else.

Options for the Skyview bar:
At 200 meters above sea level the "Skyview Bar" was where we wanted to go and the options were for pre- and post- dinner drinks or afternoon teas.
According to law in Dubai, children below 21yrs old are not permitted in the bar and the dress code is strictly smart casual so no beach clothes, T shirts or flip flops allowed. It is also vital to make an early reservation. You can enjoy afternoon tea daily except Fridays.

You can enjoy :
Regular Afternoon Tea: AED 250.00 per person (Subject to changes) between 15.00hrs-17.00hrs
Indulgent Afternoon Tea: AED 395.00 per person (Subject to changes) between 15.00hrs-17.00hrs
Cocktail packages daily except Fridays from 19.00hrs to 22.30hrs – Cover charge AED 250.00 per person before you spend any money on actual drinks

Options for Sahn Eddar:
There were other options for afternoon tea in the Sahn Eddar which is located on the First Floor. This did not appeal nearly so much as there was no view and not the opportunity to see beyond the front door of the hotel either.

The dress code is the same smart casual no trainers or jeans and once again reservations are essential.
Mid-morning Breakfast: AED 220.00 per person from 09.00hrs-10.30hrs
Regular Afternoon Tea: AED 250.00 per person (Subject to changes) between 15.00hrs-18.00hrs
Indulgent Afternoon Tea: AED 375.00 per person (Subject to changes) between 15.00hrs-18.00hrs.
If you had children then this would be the only option for Afternoon tea as children are not allowed in the Skyview Bar but in this restaurant they are welcomed and for children between 3- 11 years it is Half Price, younger than 3 are free.

Decision made:
We booked for the AED 395 Ultimate Afternoon tea in the Skyview Bar as we wanted the view and the experience of being in the suspended skyview bar to enjoy our sumptuous meal. So on the day we turned up in our smart casual clothes in a taxi from the Dubai Mall. As we approached the hotel we were stopped at the gate at the land end of the causeway and asked to show our reservation confirmation. Once they had confirmed that we were booked in the taxi the drive us across the causeway to just in front of the hotel. We only had our basic taxi but there were some very small Rolls Royces and Mercedes parked on either side. We hopped out and were welcomed by the doorman who opened the door for us.

Inside the Burj:
The lobby was the oddest place as it was swarming with visitors like us and was decorated in the most lurid blue and gold. The hotel is hollow up the middle and as you look up the gaudiness continues in the same blue red and gold colours. It was really totally over the top and not actually that attractive in my view. However we went over the reception desk and explained that we were booked into the Skyview bar for 4pm. The gentleman politely explained that we would not be allowed up there until that time but we were welcome to go and look around the gift shop or go up to the first floor area to sit and wait.

The Gift Shop:
This visit didn’t take long as there was nothing there of any interest. Postcards of the hotel were £5 each and little Burj Al Arab models were £30 plus. Other than that there were really expensive clothes and some books. That used about five minutes so we decided to venture up the escalator to the first floor.

Up we go:
As we went up the escalator we looked down at the fountain or large waterfall which flowed into the reception area. On the right of the hotel there was a very tall aquarium going from below ground level up to the first floor with beautiful tropical fish swimming calmly around.

Once up on the first floor we were able to see the Sahn Eddar and people enjoying their afternoon teas in there. I am so pleased we opted for the Skyview Bar because this was a bit like being in a bird cage with everyone looking in at you. There were a lot of low tables with comfortable sofas around so we settled ourselves in one while I managed to use my iphone to log on and check in on line for our flight the next day which was free in the hotel, an added bonus as internet on the ship was really expensive.

Once we had waited the ten minutes, checked in for our flight and had a good look around on this floor. We spent some time observing some children playing near the fountains having enjoyed their meal. We were able to enjoy this as we had no children of our own to keep an eye on so we were not worried if they did something naughty! We then made our way along the highly gilded central area towards the very gold lift doors at the end of the corridor.

Up we go yet again:
This lift was glass on the outside so we had an excellent view of the palm island as we went up. Once we arrived at the Skyview bar floor we were greeted by some girls at the reception desk who asked us our name and then explained that we were a little early so would have to wait until our table was ready and then we would be escorted in. This area was also very heavily gold and ornately decorated with strange, almost tube like corridors leading from two sides.

Read about the actual tea in 'Tea for Two Arab Style'
Burj Al Arab/Skyview Bar
Jumeirah Beach Strip
Dubai, United Arab Emirates

On Top of the World

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by catsholiday on February 25, 2011

The amazing tower of the Burj Khalifa stands out high above the other high rise buildings in the skyline of Dubai. It is the highest building in the world at the present time and probably will keep the honour for some time as the world economic situation doesn’t really lend itself to ambitious projects like this at this point in time. The building was begun in 2004 and was a project that involved experts from around the world.
The next tallest building after is the CN Tower in Toronto at 553.33m a long way short of this one as the exact height of the tower is 828 m and the lift up to the 124th floor takes only 69 seconds. You hardly feel any movement but you can see where you are by flashing lights on each floor of an image within the lift. The only sensation I had was to feel the pressure of my ears popping.

We bought our tickets before our cruise ready for the day the ship was in Dubai at the end of the cruise. We did this for two reasons, firstly they are 100 UAD which is about 20 pounds but if you bought them on the day it was 400UAD which is a considerable price hike. They second reason was that the tickets sold really quickly and indeed on the day if we had left it we would not have been able to buy a ticket. This was probably because there were two cruise ships in the harbor that day.

The tickets are purchased in the Dubai Mall and not in the actual Burj Khalifa building which you cannot access from anywhere except the mall unless staying in the hotel or if you are a resident or work there and their access is through a different route. You are not invited to come through to the waiting area until it is your allocated time. It is all very carefully timed and organization is slick and efficient.

Once through into the waiting area you can study the facts around the base of a replica model of the building and pose for a photo provided you are not there with a group of people who hog the space around it and don’t want to share. From here you are taken on the 65-metre-long moving walkways along to the actual building and while zipping along these walkways you are treated to photos and more information from the earliest days of Dubai to the present.

At the end of one walkway you can look through a skylight viewing point for a close-up view of the Burj Khalifa which is designed to frame the tower perfectly. At all points you are gently guided by assistants until you get to the lifts. Here you are greeted by a friendly assistant who herds you into groups of the appropriate number ready for each lift.

I am not sure how many of us were in each lift but it was not too squashed but there were quite a few of us. The ascent to the 124th floor observation deck in this in a high-speed elevator is so completely quiet and motionless that apart from my ears popping I couldn’t tell we were moving. The lift travels at 10 meters per second but feels as though it isn’t moving at all though the flashing lights on the wall indicate where you are in the ascent or descent.

As the doors open on the 124th floor you are greeted with floor-to-ceiling glass walls so that the view you get is totally unobstructed 360-degree view of the city. One section had an open section so you could take photos through the windowless part to avoid marks on your photos. The side with the open air terrace area was much better for both views and photo taking as the other side has quite mucky windows and the light was not as good either. You can take as long as you want up on the deck but really once you have been up there half an hour or so you gave seen it all and then you join the queue to go back down again.

Within this building you will find that there are 37 floors of offices and The Armani Hotel which has 160 guestrooms and suites. There are 900 private residences in the Burj Khalifa as well as 144 private residences in the Armani Residences and there is also a 4-storey fitness and recreation annex. The "Burj Dubai" as it was called prior to its official opening was designed as a "city within a city" - with their own lawns, boulevards and parks. It was designed by an American architect Adrian Smith and construction costs are well into the billions.


The Burj Khalifa is designed to be totally self-sufficient with electricity. It generates electricity using a 61-meter turbine which rotates in the wind. It also has 15 thousand m ² of solar panels located in the walls and windows of the tower. The tower's peak electrical demand is 36mW, equal to about 360,000 100 Watt bulbs operating simultaneously.

As well as this the building is equipped with special protection from the sun and reflective glass panels, which will reduce heat inside the premises, which reduces the need for air conditioning. Dubai's hot, humid climate combined with the building's cooling requirements creates a significant amount of condensation. This water is collected and drained in a separate piping system to a holding tank in the basement car park. I was staggered to learn that this condensate collection system provides about 15 million gallons of water per year which is equal to about 20 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

The tower's water system supplies an average of 946,000 litres of water daily and at At peak cooling requirements the Burj Khalifa will require about 10,000 tons of cooling, equal to the cooling capacity provided by about 10,000 tons of melting ice.

As you imagine access for the tower's exterior for both window washing as well as general maintenance is a major challenge .There are 18 permanently installed track and fixed telescopic, cradle equipped, building maintenance units. The track mounted units are stored in within the structure so that they cannot be seen when not in use. These manned cradles can access the entire outside from tower top down to level seven. If all things run as they should then it will take three to four months to clean the entire exterior.

Figures like this just boggle my mind and I am in awe of the people who have the brain and ability to design and build something as beautiful and environmentally positive as this. I also think it is admirable that so many people from so many countries in the world contributed to its creation in so many different ways.

So although the building is in Dubai and they are justifiably proud of it, in many ways it is a creation that the world can feel proud of as so many countries’ people have had a hand in its creation.

I was pleased to hear that fire safety was of major importance. Speedy and safe evacuation of such a tall building is essential and so Concrete surrounds all stairwells and the building service and fireman's lift has a capacity of 5,500 kg and it is the world's tallest service elevator. There are also pressurized, air-conditioned refuge areas located approximately every 25 floors.

The amazing spiraling shape of the building is not only for its looks but also helps to reduce the wind forces on the tower. This stepping and shaping of the tower has the effect of "confusing the wind" as the wind vortices never get themselves sorted out over the height of the building as each new tier means that the wind encounters a different building shape.

I was mightily impressed with this building in every way. It is stunningly beautiful in both night and day. From start to finish the visit is run efficiently and everyone we came across who was an official was polite and knowledgeable I would thoroughly recommend a visit and book ahead as it costs less and it does gets very booked up so if you leave it to the day you might miss out.
Burj Khalifa (Burj Dubai)
Sheikh Zayed Road
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
9714 8888124

A gallop around the city

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by catsholiday on February 24, 2011

We drove to Dubai from Ras Al Khaimah and picked up the guide and the people from Dubai by about 10.40 outside the Hyatt Hotel. They had been brought there in a mini bus to join us. Unfortunately at the end of the trip our large bus was going to have to go around dropping them the end we had a very short hour at the Dubai Mall and we lost our booking for the Burj Khalifa and our friend had to get back home before we got there.

Our first stop on the city tour was the Gold Souk in Dubai which is not really that exciting unless you want to buy some jewellery. In reality it is an area of shops all selling jewellery and we had 20 minutes here. We had a very quick look but spent most of the time trying to rearrange our meeting with our friend as the guide had said we would get to the Dubai Mall by 2 o’ clock. One shop in the souk had a huge gold ring that is in the Guinness book of records as it weighs something like 80kg.

From the Gold Souk we walked to the Spice Souk which was much more interesting and affordable. The shop owners were so friendly inviting you in to try stuff and we ended up buying just a couple of items at reasonable prices but there really was no pressure to buy and no nasty looks when you didn’t buy which made it pleasant to look. We had 10 minutes here.

We then took a water taxi called an ‘abra ‘ across Dubai Creek which was a highlight of the trip as we sat on small wooden boats and chugged up the creek looking at the other boats and dhows on the river. The crossing took about 10 minutes at the most but it was good fun and gave us a chance to see Dubai from a different view point. I am not sure how much the river taxi was but I suspect it was pretty cheap as it wasn’t a long ride but this was included in the price of the tour.

We then walked through the textile souk at speed unable to stop at all and made our way to the Dubai Museum. The entrance fee was AED 3 which is 50p which was included in our tour price. The museum was originally a fort and was a baked mud looking building. The exhibits were well set out and the labels clearly explained in English and Arabic what the exhibit showed.

In the courtyard there was a traditional house made of mud bricks and palm matting. Inside was a very clever fan system made of sacking under a tall chimney which was open at the top but shaded with a cover above the opening. Somehow the air was drawn down the chimney and come through the sacking. If it was very hot and dry then they would wet the sacking and this made the area cool. Other exhibits in this outside area were different wooden boats. As Dubai was originally a fishing village their history is very much based on the sea and boats.

Inside the museum which was down underground so quite cool and actually rather too dark in my view, The first exhibit was a slide show taking you through Dubai from the 1800s to today. Dubai really has a very recent history because oil was discovered in Abu Dhabi in the 1950s and then in Dubai in the late 50s or even early 60s and prior to that the place was still a very small fishing town. Dubai as it is seen toady has grown since the 1960s with most of the growth and huge building bonanza taking place in the last 25 years really.

The museum has real life figures in exhibits showing traditional crafts, dress, and the way of life of the Arab people before the vast changes. It was well presented and interesting but in my view would have been better with a little more light as it was really hard to see where you were going and people were bumping in to each other.

The toilets were okay but there were only three ladies cubicles and as they are catering for large numbers of visitors at times I do feel that this was a trifle inadequate and so the 20 minutes we had in the museum was actually half an hour and most people spent at least 5 minutes of that queuing in the toilet,

Once we had gathered everyone together we made our way back to the bus and drove to Jumeirah Beach Road and drove past the mosque too quickly to get any photo at all and then on past the Jumeirah Beach Hotel, and the Burj al Arab to the Souk Medinat from where you can take a lovely photo of the Burj al Arab. This souk is a modern recreation of a traditional souk. It has been nicely done and has some interesting shops but things are that bit more expensive here as it is next to the most expensive hotels in Dubai. We had 20 minutes here and our guide suggested we had a cup of coffee but we would have had to be very speedy so we grabbed a couple of ice cream cones instead. It was now about 1.30 and we were beginning to realize that we were not going to be at the Dubai Mall as promised for 2pm as our guide had said but rather nearer 3pm so we had to phone our friend to change arrangements yet again. My mobile phone bill will be interesting this month!

Back on the bus we were finally given our very small bottles of water and we made our way to the Palm resort and the famous Atlantis hotel. We drove up the palm frond centre and then under the sea through a tunnel onto the crescent island where the Atlantis hotel sits looking out over the Indian Ocean.

The Atlantis hotel is enormous and has over 1000 rooms. It is an amazing looking place in a dull pink hue. We were only able to ogle from outside so I have no idea what treasures lay behind the pink walls. So back on the bus and we were on our way to the Dubai Mall. By this time our friend had given up on us and gone home and we had lost our booked tickets for the Burj Khalifa. We actually arrived at the mall at about 3pm but we only had an hour there. We just managed to get in the queue to book more tickets for the day we are back in Dubai after our cruise and then grab a bite to eat before our hour was up and we were back on the bus again.

We then drove back to Jumeirah to drop the people who were staying in Dubai at their hotels and as the traffic was really busy we had a good look at Dubai getting busier in the evening. We finally arrived back at our hotel at 7.10 so we had spent over three hours at the end of the trip on the bus instead of enjoying time in the Dubai mall looking around which is what we thought we would be doing.

Would I recommend the tour? Well if you are staying out in Ras Al Khaimah and you want to see something of the city then you don’t have a lot of options really so yes you do get a very quick look at Dubai for a reasonable price. You have to be prepared for spending a lot of time sitting wasted on the coach and there is also a fair bit of walking which I heard some of the more elderly folk complaining about. I suppose you can’t please everybody as we enjoyed the walking and could have spent longer in the souks. However we did get to see a lot of the city very briefly and we have a good idea of where things are. We know what we want to do when we come back at the end of the cruise and have booked our tickets ready for the Burj Khalifa and also afternoon tea at the Burj al Arab and I think we might just use taxis for getting there!

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