Written by Dagmar Pelzer on 26 Jun, 2009
After the crazy traffic of the city, the skyscrapers, construction noise, shopping centers, suqs, shouting vendors, honking horns and boat motors, the stillness of the desert covered us like a calming blanket. The incredibly quiet expanse with…Read More
After the crazy traffic of the city, the skyscrapers, construction noise, shopping centers, suqs, shouting vendors, honking horns and boat motors, the stillness of the desert covered us like a calming blanket. The incredibly quiet expanse with its hues of brown seemed less real than the electricity of the all man-made Dubai. Drivers, dressed in long white candoras and white gutrahs, chauffeured groups of tourists and ex-pats in four wheel drive vehicles into the sunset. We paused and wondered about the daytime heat in the desert. After four, it had cooled off comfortably and a breeze was refreshing. The soft sand felt delicious between the toes. We stopped at several camel farms and admired the majestic animals. Camels are bread for steaks, stew, briefcases, handbags, and jackets, not some exalting purpose like taking people through the desert or racing. They were always chewing and moving their jaws in circular motion, and close-up their teeth were huge and their eyelashes incredibly long. Camels can run fast, but these farm animals moved slowly, their large bellies swaying from side to side. The calm ride didn’t prepare us for the "bashing." I was one of six passengers in one car. The vehicle stopped somewhere off the road in the sand, and while we drank water, the drivers let some air out of the tires. "Better in the dunes," went the explanation. The "all aboard," was the beginning of the wildest ride I have ever taken. The dunes we entered weren’t nice and easy slopes. These ravines, often twenty-five feet or deeper angled at forty-five degrees. We raced up and slid down head first, sideways, backwards, waiting just long enough for the vehicle in front to get out of the way. We squealed, laughed, caught our breath, occasionally in flight, often at the brink of tipping, but always regaining balance. "I’m a daredevil," explained our driver, "I have never had an accident." He was laughing, the joy of giving us a wild experience sparkling in his eyes. I have no idea how long the dune bashing lasted, the exhilaration made me forget time and space. Sitting in the front next to the driver, I tried to film. The result was a movie as wild as the ride itself. Our destination was a Bedouin campsite located in a fairly deep depression. Camels with muzzles kneeled down to receive riders for a short walk. From there we meandered down a slope to enter the camp through a great gate that resembled the ranch entrances of the Old West. With much time on our hands, we admired the eagle perched on the bedouin’s wrist, and explored the interlocking huts and tents containing sales stalls, kitchens, henna tattoo stall, and an Arabic dress shop. We donned Arabic garb for photo shoots. The women looked smashing in their long black abaias. It was amazing how comfortable and cool they felt. The headscarf and veil were one piece of material with a slit through the middle and a band on either side. Covering nose and eyes it is tied in the back of the head. Half is drawn up and back to cover the hair, the other half pulled down just below the eyes. Men shrouded themselves in long, white candoras and tried a variety of gutrahs on their heads. The transformation to a different culture took seconds. In the center of the compound, round tables and large cushions encircled a carpeted stage. Comfortably seated, we were served a menu of barbequed lamb and chicken with vegetables, stew, several rice dishes, a number of salads, Arabic breads, and non-alcoholic as well as alcoholic beverages. We wondered if the stew contained camel, but no one would tell us. All of the food tasted surprisingly good for a tour destination. I could have lived without the interactive belly-dancing performance. The dancer moved gracefully to the discordant tunes of the local music, but when she pulled people from the audience to follow her gyrations, the exotic ambience was gone. Millions of stars twinkled in the night sky. "Nowhere can you see as many stars as in the desert," sighed our driver on the way back. Close
Written by Ed Hahn on 25 Jan, 2006
While there seems to be a limited number of truly interesting and worthwhile cultural and artistic tourist attractions, there are a number of activities aimed to appeal to the tourist family or the more adventurous outdoor tourist. Some of the more interesting desert activities include…Read More
While there seems to be a limited number of truly interesting and worthwhile cultural and artistic tourist attractions, there are a number of activities aimed to appeal to the tourist family or the more adventurous outdoor tourist. Some of the more interesting desert activities include safaris, dune driving and exploring wadis in four-wheel-drive vehicles; sand-skiing, hot air ballooning and moonlit Arabian desert barbecues, complete with traditional entertainment. Closer to town there is camel racing and horse racing with no betting, of course. You can also cruise in a traditional wooden dhow on Dubai Creek or into the Gulf with or without a meal. I recommend “without.”The UAE also has swimming, sailing, fishing, windsurfing, water-skiing, jet-skiing, scuba-diving and snorkeling. There are five grass golf courses. If you are really sports and activity oriented you can play squash and tennis or go horse back riding, trekking, paragliding, cycling, ice-skating, shooting, and bowling. If all you want to do is watch, there’s The Dubai Desert Classic golf tournament in early February, two US$1,000,000 International tennis tournaments in late February, one for women and one for men and an IRB Rugby Sevens tournament in December. For families with children, there are lots of beaches and parks with playgrounds. Creekside Park is especially nice. It has an interactive Children’s City with areas dedicated to anatomy, science and space. Families can also ride a gondola that provides great views of the city. The zoo on Jumeirah Beach Road is small and disappointing according to our host family but further down is Jumeirah Beach Park. It’s a huge facility with children’s play areas, barbecue sites, food kiosks, volleyball areas, and a beach with lifeguards. It’s on Jumeirah Beach Road next to the Hilton Beach Club. The Jumeirah Beach Corniche is a little further down and has 800 meters of beach frontage, with shaded picnic tables, play areas, showers and a sheltered swimming area. It’s located just off the Beach Road, next to the Marine Beach Club.There are also commercial sites that cater to families like the Wild Wadi Water Park and Ski Dubai next to the Mall of the Emirates for indoor skiing, sledding, snowball fights and Santa Claus at Christmas-time. We had a fun afternoon renting ATVs at one of the locations you can't miss on the Dubai-Hatta Highway. There are also enclosed tracks for small children to experience driving an ATV on the sand. One of the more interesting sites is Heritage Village near the Shindaga Tunnel. The site attempts to recreate the Bedouin way of life, with people dressed in traditional clothing, displays of traditional handicrafts, and traditional song and dance performances. It also has a Diving Village featuring artifacts from Dubai’s pearl diving past. It’s a wee bit tacky but maybe kids won’t notice. We didn’t see it but there is evidently a tiny section for children, with activities intended to keep youngsters occupied while the adults take coffee break at a nearby cafe. To summarize, there’s lots to do for adventurers and families. Use the internet and Google to locate your choices and plan ahead to avoid the disappointment of closed facilities or fully booked activities. Close
Written by Ed Hahn on 23 Jan, 2006
Pam, my wife, and I hired a car and driver to take us to the East Coast. We planned to go through Hatta, the ancient agricultural oasis and then drive through the Hajar Mountains to Fujairah. Things did not go as planned.We mistakenly believed that…Read More
Pam, my wife, and I hired a car and driver to take us to the East Coast. We planned to go through Hatta, the ancient agricultural oasis and then drive through the Hajar Mountains to Fujairah. Things did not go as planned.We mistakenly believed that the main road to Fujairah would take us to Hatta. When we realized that our assumption was wrong, we immediately directed the driver to go to Hatta first. Not being able to read our minds, he was headed for Fujairah by the most direct route. When we got to Hatta, we drove around the old town and out to the dam, which is an impressive site, if only because it contains a lot of fresh water in the middle of the desert. In retrospect, we might have stayed in Hatta at the Fort Hatta Hotel and done some exploring on foot. Instead we asked the driver to head for Fujairah through the mountains. He said there was no road through the mountains. We shared a map that showed a road going from Hatta to Fujairah but he insisted such a road did not exist. We finally gave in and he backtracked about 75 km to go to Fujairah. We found out later that there is indeed a road and the scenery is spectacular – a missed opportunity.After checking into our hotel, the Diar al Siji, we had an excellent buffet lunch in the main restaurant and did some exploring of Fujairah on foot. Pam walked all the way to the corniche, an hour round trip, while I explored a nearby shopping mall and the high rise World Trade Center. Neither of us was very impressed with what we saw. Perhaps our expectations exceeded the reality.Fujairah has a 70km coastline and is the only emirate situated entirely along the Gulf of Oman. As we discovered, there is much natural beauty of the rugged and raw variety. The mountains are jagged, the desert is sparse and rocky and the beaches are pristine. Evidently the diving can be spectacular. Unfortunately, it is also one of the world’s busiest oil bunkering ports and we could see the ships lined up for miles waiting to take on their cargo. Not surprisingly, bilge emptying has had a deleterious effect on the harbor. The second day we hired a car and driver with the idea of driving the length of the coastline and doing some other sightseeing in Fujairah itself. Our first destination was Khor Kalba, a conservation reserve at the foot of the Hajar Mountains, which have historically separated Fujairah from the other Emirates. Khor Kalba, which is actually in Sharjah, is a site that needs attention. In 1996, UAE’s first national park and nature reserve at Khor Kalba was established. The plan for the creation and operation of the park and reserve was to conserve and nurture the rare flora and fauna of the area while regulating public access. Nine years later the place looks like a waste disposal area. The mangroves on which the whole ecology depends are disappearing. In the past much of the Gulf coast was lined with mangrove forests, which have long since been logged off. There are still mangrove stands in some places – one such place is in these tidal creeks of Umm al Quwain. Sadly the trees and the birds, fish and crustaceans they support are in danger of extinction because of human intrusion. We saw large government signs, forbidding entry into the mangroves and the killing of any wildlife, but without guards or game wardens to enforce the message, the destruction goes on.Because fishermen were drying fish on the nearby mud flats, the flies were so thick, we were overwhelmed and had to cut our visit short. Road building to support the many mansions being built in the area has reportedly cut off the flow of fresh water to the trees. We saw fishermen dragging their nets using four-wheel drive vehicles and destroying the natural sand spit protecting the trees in the process.What could be a great tourist attraction appears to be a site for family picnics, late night parties and crabbing and fishing in forbidden areas. I hope something is done soon.Leaving Khor Kalba, we drove north along the coast to Khor Fakkan. The drive was interesting. It was cool enough to drive with the windows down and we could smell the saltwater. Khor Fakkan is set on a beautiful natural harbor. Along the water there is an extensive corniche, a very nice park with an open air restaurant and a 200 meter wide sand beach. We stopped to stretch our legs and enjoy the view.Our next stop was the mosque and watch towers at Al Bidya. We rate this as one of the highlights of the whole trip to the UAE. The mosque is located between Khor Fakkan and Dibba. While the mosque itself, built in the 15th century, is reputed to be the oldest in the UAE, the towers and other structures surrounding the mosque date as far back as 200 BC. The site of the village has been inhabited for 4,000 years (biblically, the beginning of time).The Mosque is very tiny and has four small domes supported by a massive central pillar. Being able to enter a working mosque thrilled us. They have abayas available for women visitors. This is the only mosque I have ever visited that allowed non-believers to enter. We also climbed up to the two watch towers so we could get a look at the surrounding area. We saw date palm plantations, the village itself and an inlet and beach - well worth the climb. We drove North to Dibba and the Omani border. Dibba has some attractions, most importantly, a cemetery holding 10,000 rebels who rose up against the imposition of Islam and were slaughtered in 632 AD. Our driver couldn’t find it, though. He said it was on the Omani side but our guidebooks said otherwise. We eventually go 0 for 2 in arguments with drivers.We drove back to Fujairah to visit the Heritage Center, which is North of Fujairah City Center - what a disappointment. It is intended to portray the traditional life of the Emirate people, including traditional houses, utensils, tools and other items as well as the system used for irrigating fields, including the working bull that makes the system go. We saw a bull but it was so old and sickly, I doubt if it could walk on its own. Nothing was labeled in either Arabic or English. For what its worth, the village is open all day; every day and entry is free.After the Heritage Village disappointment and on the advice of our driver, we passed on the nearby Ain Al Madhab Gardens which contain a mineral spa with changing rooms, a park and a playground. We had a late lunch at a gauche looking but interesting Lebanese restaurant, across from our hotel, the Al Meshwar, Faseel Rd., telephone: 09-2229225. The food was excellent and the ambiance of the smoke-filled ground floor, reserved for men only, was fascinating. We ate upstairs. I wanted shwarma but they only serve it at night. This seemed weird to me given that the meat for shwarma is cooked continuously.The next day we requested a late check out and grabbed a taxi to the Fujairah Museum and the nearby Fujairah Fort. The Fujairah Museum has displays of archaeological artifacts found in excavations throughout the Emirate, some going back over 4000 years. There are is an exhibit of Islamic Art and other exhibits to illustrate traditional lifestyles. You need only budget about 30-45 minutes to see everything in this museum. It’s open from 8 am to 1 pm and 4 pm to 6 pm every day except Saturday. Entrance costs 5 Dirham. Picture taking is allowed.We walked the quarter mile or so the Fujairah Fort. It’s actually a construction zone. Reportedly 360 years old, the fort was severely damaged in the early twentieth century by the British. It appears they’re just getting around to repairing it some 90+ years later. I think it will be an interesting place to visit someday but it certainly wasn’t the day we were there. The fort itself was locked tight. Everything else was under construction. I believe they plan to move the museum to the fort when they finish restoring it. On our way back to Dubai, we drove through the Masafi Friday Market which is actually open every day. In addition to the usual tourist oriented junk, vendors sell fruits and vegetables as well as some interesting handicrafts including fabrics and pottery.Our overall impression of the East Coast tourist scene is that it is “a work in progress.” Unless you like diving or beach resorts, I would suggest there are other destinations in the UAE or Oman that would make better use of your time. Close
Written by Ed Hahn on 17 Jan, 2006
Sometimes, I wonder if my biases get in the way of my ability to appreciate things other people seem to value. Sharjah is a place that raised the issue for me, again.Ten kilometers Northeast of Dubai, it carries the UNESCO title "Cultural Capital of the…Read More
Sometimes, I wonder if my biases get in the way of my ability to appreciate things other people seem to value. Sharjah is a place that raised the issue for me, again.Ten kilometers Northeast of Dubai, it carries the UNESCO title "Cultural Capital of the Arab World." Perhaps my expectations were too high. If this place is indeed the cultural capital of the Arab world, then culture must not be a high priority for the Arab world. If culture is intended to be analogous to "ethnography" or "lifestyle," then maybe there’s a point to its title. If culture means the arts, architecture, and intellectual history of a region, then I missed something. That aside, our 1-day visit to Sharjah was at least interesting, but I wouldn't call it exciting. The fact that Sharjah is the most fundamentalist of the Emirates did not impact us at all. The fact that there is very little signage for tourists did. Our driver got lost twice, which, frankly, is not a criticism of our driver. We finally were able to locate the Al-Hisn Fort and the surrounding Heritage Area. The Heritage area is widely touted as a place where one can really appreciate Arabic Culture and contains a number of museums and historical sites. It is near a number of art galleries as well as the corniche and within walking distance of the famous or infamous gauche Blue Souk.We tried to depend on our guidebooks to find our way around, in lieu of any helpful signs or directions, and found that the guides were as clueless as we were. For our first stop, we finally stumbled on to what we were later to learn is the Majlis of Ibrahim Mohammed al-Midfa. Ibrahim al-Midfa was considered an intellectual leader and established the first UAE newspaper in 1933. The museum now houses Ibrahim Al Midfa's books, papers, and studies, as well as his photographs and personal things. It also serves as a meeting place for government sanctioned literary and historical pursuits. In the absence of any information, it was hard to figure out what we were seeing.We were fortunate to meet an employee who volunteered to walk us over to the area containing the Islamic Museum and the Sharjah Heritage Museum. We visited the Islamic Museum first and found it to be the most interesting of any of the sites we visited. The Kaaba exhibit was fascinating and included a documentary film about how the Prophet's Mosque and the rites of Hajj and Omra developed. The museum also exhibits a piece of the curtain of the Kaaba. The exhibits helped me understand the importance of the Kaaba as well as some of the more esoteric rituals of the Haj.The Islamic Museum also exhibits scientific and literary religious manuscripts and arts and crafts, including clay, pottery, metal, and glass, as well as textiles, jewelry, and coins. The artifacts go back 1,400 years.The Sharjah Heritage Museum is housed in the Bait al-Naboodah or al-Naboodah House. It is a traditional Gulf building built in 1845 and was family owned until the late 1970s, when it was transformed into the Heritage Museum. We wandered throughout its 16 rooms on two stories. Each room is filled with artifacts, mostly furniture, clothing, and jewelry, some of which are labeled. The ventilation structures, called berajils, were interesting, as was the open-fire kitchen. There is a Sharjah documentary and some interesting photos near the entrance. Our next stop was the Al-Hisn (Fort) Museum, which was the residence of the ruling family for almost 150 years. Built in 1820, it was partially destroyed in 1969, then rebuilt and converted into a museum in the 1970s. Like the two previous sites, it consists of a number of rooms that served different functions, like pearl trading, nursery, public events, school, library, etc. The only unique thing about it was its history as a fort, and that wasn’t featured anywhere I could find. There was a weapons room but nothing about how the fort functioned as a fort.We also visited the Souq al-Arsah, which has been restored. It was one of the oldest souqs in the UAE but almost completely collapsed in the 1970s and 80s. It’s now full of various kinds of shops selling the usual soug fare of everything from handmade rugs to cheap souvenirs. We were the only visitors, and we finally left because the shop owners would not leave us alone to browse. I don’t blame them. They were most likely totally bored. Theoretically, each of the above sites was supposed to offer visitors dates and coffee. It never happened except in the Souq, where snacks were available for a price.The museums are generally open from 9am to 1pm and 5pm to 8pm, except Friday, when they're open from 5 to 8pm only. However, we were there in the mid-afternoon, and every museum was open. Maybe that’s why the place seemed so deserted. Everything is closed on Mondays. During Ramadan, the hours vary. Phone first at 06 568 1738. Each museum charges separately and the tariff varies from 3 to 10 Dirham.From the souq al-Asrah, we walked out to the corniche. A maritime museum is directly adjacent to the souq. We didn’t go in but did enjoy the courtyard display of different types of craft, especially an original Shashah (traditional fishing boat) made from the mid rib of the date palm frond. Anchored nearby and part of the museum is a traditional coastal sailboat. Unfortunately, it was closed. We strolled along Corniche Road. We saw many small boats used for local gulf commerce. It was fascinating watching the loading and unloading, most of which was being done by hand. We headed for the Arts Center and Sharjah Art Museum, which is 1 block inland from Corniche Road. Unfortunately, everything was closed. I guess they adhere to the posted hours of 9am to 1pm and 5 to 8pm. In the Art Center we did find some paintings on exhibit, but they were not very memorable. After a quick stop at the fabled Blue Souq, which looked like an ugly tourist trap of immense proportions, we decided to head back to Dubai to avoid the evening traffic jams. Speaking of traffic jams, the following Thursday, a 3-hour back up developed as people tried to get to Sharjah. Evidently a road was unexpectedly narrowed from three lanes to one, and there was no alternative route. Be sure and inquire about local conditions before heading fro Sharjah on a weekend. While we were disappointed to miss the Art Museum, we did not return to Sharjah. Sharjah has a wildlife park/zoo featuring desert animals and a Natural History Museum and Desert Park, both of which might be worth a visit. There are also a number of other museums. The Sharjah website, http://www.sharjah-welcome.com/index.php, claims a total of 20, ranging from archaeology to cosmetics. We did wander into the Numismatic Museum but found almost no descriptions of what we were looking at so we left. In summary, Sharjah is worth a visit but plan ahead to ensure you know which sites you want to visit and how to get there, what the sites’ opening hours are, and how to avoid traffic jams. Close
Written by Armchair_Critic on 02 Aug, 2004
I’ve heard about it. I’ve read about it. People are talking about it. I’ve seen pictures of it. But to step on its ground, I was overwhelmed and excited. Thus my first stop – The Burj Al Arab Dubai! Here’s an idea of this…Read More
I’ve heard about it. I’ve read about it. People are talking about it. I’ve seen pictures of it. But to step on its ground, I was overwhelmed and excited. Thus my first stop – The Burj Al Arab Dubai! Here’s an idea of this majestic architecture for those who are not in the know of this hotel; located on an artificial island, connected by a 280 metre bridge to the Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Burj Al Arab’s sail shaped structure, which soars 321 metres above the Arabian Gulf, is said to be taller than Eiffel Tower Paris and just 60 meters shorter than New York’s Empire State Building. Impressive! It is possible to get a short tour of the hotel and you have to "pay" for this tour; unfortunately, time wasn’t on my side and we had to skip just that, which could have been the highlight of the trip.
One of Dubai’s greatest visitor attractions apart from the Burj Al Arab Dubai is its superb shopping, so if shopping is on your agenda, we did find out that they have quite a lot of malls and you can find really good buys. My best buys have to be the numerous "Sheesha" that I lugged home! I think that the Deira City Center probably was one of the best in terms of mall selection. Some of the places are more "upmarket" than others, and a good gauge to tell this is to be observant of the number of brand stores inside the mall. There are also night markets where again you can get good bargains and great buys. For those who must have their daily fix of caffeine, rest assured that you can still get your cup of Starbucks here and MacDonald’s for fast food junkies.
If you like to cook Indian and Middle Eastern dishes, then the next stop is definitely for you. You can find more or less all that you need at the "Spice Souk." This was one of our stops as I had a list of requests for a particular item, the saffron. An example of a typical dish that uses saffron would be the Briyani Rice that we can also get at home in Singapore and around the world. We bought the Iranian saffron and this was a lot more expensive because it was claimed that this was much better than other saffron types. And it certainly did smell a lot more potent. At the "Spice Souk," you can also find a wide variety of other spices commonly used in traditional cooking. This was indeed an educational trip to a market, and is a must-stop for those aspiring to be great chefs. The people selling the goods are again an aggressive lot when it comes to closing the deal and you have to bargain.
Written by dangaroo on 18 Dec, 2008
First things first, on arrival customs seems incredibly straight forward - the airport is well laid-out and sign-posted and if you are just transferring they have a shortcut which avoids needing to even enter the UAE. The queues are well separated so that those who…Read More
First things first, on arrival customs seems incredibly straight forward - the airport is well laid-out and sign-posted and if you are just transferring they have a shortcut which avoids needing to even enter the UAE. The queues are well separated so that those who do not need visas can quickly get through without having to wait for others. As a UK citizen, I was allowed 30 days from arrival for free and I had been slightly worried due to getting an Israel stamp in my passport (quite a few muslim countries do not recognise Israel so this incurs the wrath of the border guard and you will be sent packing in neighbouring Syria, Lebanon as well as Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Yemen and most likely Libya, Algeria and Mauritania, I've also heard Malaysia and Indonesia don't like it either), entering the UAE was no problem with this at all - although the border guard did make sure he stamped the UAE stamp aggressively on top of the Israel stamp lol.The first section of departures has a small McDonald's which is probably the most affordable and filling food in the whole airport. There are so many flights to India and so many people waiting close to Arrivals that you could be forgiven for thinking that you actually were in India. I didn't really bump into more than about 2 European folk which did give it a bit of an odd feeling and I did get the occasional stare, although that could be due to the sun burn and greasy hair I was sporting at the time!There are numerous exchange offices and bank machines in every little section of the airport, the staff are very polite - if so a bit too much! Seeing all the exotic destinations available at bargain prices was really quite mouth watering and I think few would go there and not start thinking about their next trip! I was starting to look like a member of the ginger taleban so decided to start shaving away at one of the sinks in the toilet, I certainly wouldn't recommend doing this - having shaved the majority of one side, I looked in the mirror to see a group of men disapproving my actions and looking more pissed off than I've ever seen the arabs, a member of the public (who I think was Saudi) in particular told me I couldn't do it and that it's not allowed.The toilet attendant (young Indian) didn't seem bothered one bit and also faced a tirade from the same chap. I tried to convince them to let me shave off the other side but it clearly wasn't going to work, so I left with the most ridiculous facial hair style known to man (one side bearded, one side more or less fully shaved except for what might have passed for a curved side burn) much to the amusement of some children in one of the halls. Later, I made do with a dry shave (fortunately the razor was really sharp) in one of the toilets to attempt to tidy it up - it bloody hurt. So my tip is keep your beard or risk looking weird! Apart from this bizarre incident, it was a very, modern professional airport with a high level of efficiency and courtesy.The choice of Duty Free upstairs after check-in was superb and this room (the departure lounge) was filled with people from all over who were waiting for visas (the visa staff were on a 2 week holiday)As for leaving the airport - there are taxis to Dubai and Sharjah. It's about 30Dirhams to Dubai. Close
Air Arabia was a company who I had been aware for a long time, even during their days as Sharjah Air. It hasn't been until this December that I finally got round to using them. I was a little bit disappointed with them at the…Read More
Air Arabia was a company who I had been aware for a long time, even during their days as Sharjah Air. It hasn't been until this December that I finally got round to using them. I was a little bit disappointed with them at the beginning as they postponed my flight by 3 days between Sharjah and Yerevan, leaving me with 4 days in the Emirates, something that I couldn't really afford. An e-mail explaining that I'd be happier leaving Jordan at a later date, to avoid spending so long in Dubai was quickly replied to and the response was positive but from then onwards there was a bit of a mish mash of e-mails between us, leaving it almost up until the last minute to finally sort it out.This was partly my fault as I had asked them to contact me by telephone but my telephone became incapable of receiving or sending calls somewhere along the trip. Despite the change in plans, I was very impressed with Air Arabia. The seats seemed roomy and my flights were not particularly busy, food was available to purchase and looked quite good and wasn't too expensive but I passed on it anyway. Staff were helpful and friendly and the landing (particularly at Sharjah) was so smooth that I didn't notice.What I like most about this company is their bargain prices to so many destinations that would otherwise likely be prohibitive to your average traveller. Considering their main hub is in Sharjah, you may think this wouldn't be over useful for Europeans. There are cheap flights to Israel from where it's short a distance to Amman in Jordan, and there are cheap flights to Turkey and Egypt (less so) as well from the UK - from where you can catch a cheap flight to Sharjah to visit the Emirates and then another onwards to any other number of destinations in India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bahrain, Eritrea, Yemen, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Iran, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Syria, Egypt, Sudan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Kazakhstan which virtually connects you to half of the world at bargain prices. Living in Poland, I have even more cheap choices to connect with them in the Caucusus or Kazakhstan via the neighbouring Baltic countries and Germany.Travelling has never been so easy before! If you are transferring via Sharjah, you can ask for your luggage to be sent directly to the final destination, to save you time in customs. Personally, I decided to pick it up because in general, transfers seems to be when luggage gets lost. Close
Written by blueskygirl on 12 Dec, 2008
Of course, we had to see for ourselves THE richest city in the world (Abu Dhabi) and the most expensive hotel ever built at US$3 Billion (The Emirates Palace Hotel). We were expecting Abu Dhabi and the Emirates Hotel to be, well, gauche. Surprisingly,…Read More
Of course, we had to see for ourselves THE richest city in the world (Abu Dhabi) and the most expensive hotel ever built at US$3 Billion (The Emirates Palace Hotel). We were expecting Abu Dhabi and the Emirates Hotel to be, well, gauche. Surprisingly, we found it to be quiet, clean and interesting. Abu Dhabi is creating itself as the cultural centre of the UAE, bringing a "Desert Louvre" (to be the first Louvre branch outside of France) in 2012 with the cool price tag of US $520 million. In case you are wondering about the supposed "amazing shopping in Dubai" we were not impressed. We saw Europeans at the airport duty free buying mobile phones, iPods, and Bose headphones like there's no tomorrow, but we did not find the prices tempting at all. Back to Dubai...If you must have a drink at the The Burj (one of the most famous buildings in Dubai; it looks like a sail on the ocean), I will save you from sticker shock to warn you that it will cost about US$75 per person for 2 drinks and some canapés. We passed, in case you’re wondering. (note: You will have to pay a toll unless you are staying there or have dinner reservations)Did we love Dubai or hate it? We loved it (I think) because we certainly didn't hate it. I loved the fascinating, crazy mix of cultures, almost like it was a scene from the "It's a small world" at Disneyland. But if we really wanted the true Middle Eastern experience, we would have been better off going to Egypt or Jordan, I believe. After only two days there, I cannot pretend to understand or know the city, but I liked Dubai and if ever another opportunity came up to visit again, I know I would.Emirates Airline -- one of the world's best airlines???? Really??? Emirates Airline at Dubai airport may have the worst customer service in any place I have ever encountered. Our flight was delayed over six hours (four hours before we boarded the plane, then we sat on the tarmac for another two hours as they did some more safety checks) and the worst part was there was no information. Anywhere. As far as the airline was concerned, we were leaving on time. They didn't even bother to update the "Departure boards". But I will add that the flight itself was comfortable as could be expected and the flight attendants were lovely. I understand that Dubai International has since opened Terminal 3 but when we were there, the airport was complete chaos and almost no a/c in 40 C / 104 F temperature outside. Ugh! Close
Written by blueskygirl on 11 Dec, 2008
I had a last-minute chance to stay in Dubai for 2 days in June. It seems that people who travel to Dubai have a love-hate relationship with this rather fantasy city. The city is so new, so modern, so beautiful, so over-the-top, so…Read More
I had a last-minute chance to stay in Dubai for 2 days in June. It seems that people who travel to Dubai have a love-hate relationship with this rather fantasy city. The city is so new, so modern, so beautiful, so over-the-top, so everything!Flying into the city, you see this crazy city is literally in the middle of nowhere. It’s desert, desert, desert, then BAM! suddenly a shiny, glittery city before you.The temperature hovered around 40 C/ 104 F while we were there. It was an unusual dry heat with a slight humidity, akin to having a hair dryer blowing right into your face. The only thing you can do to combat the harshness of the heat is to drink plenty of liquids and slap on that sunscreen. If you can get past the extreme heat to appreciate the natural beauty of this city, the water on the Arabian Gulf is stunningly beautiful. Mamzar Beach (Al Mamzar Park in Deira Dubai is about a half hour away from the city) is one of the loveliest places I have ever seen with the clean turquoise blue waters and beautiful soft white sand. In complete contrast to the natural beauty of the Arabian Gulf, the largest man-made ski hill in the world "Ski Dubai" (at the cold sterile Mall of the Emirates) was also a unique experience and fun.We stayed at the Le Meridien DubaiAirport Road · PO Box 10001 · Dubai · United Arab Emirates Phone: (971)(4) 217 0000 It is very close to the airport yet we never heard any noise from the planes. The hotel has a free shuttle from the airport which we took advantage of (go to the Le Meridien Dubai "Meet and Greet" desk, just outside Customs)We also ate at their Lebanese restaurant on-site, called "Al Mijani". They had a good assortment of cold and hot mezes... mixed pickles, hummus, tabbouleh, spicy lamb. The food here almost made us start planning a trip to Lebanon. We were surprised by the lack of good public transportation for such a large city and although taxis are cheap (gas is cheap), traffic is dreadful. Supposedly they are in the midst of constructing a lightrail/metro line to be completed in 2012. Admittedly, we were amazed by such a wide representation of cultures and nationalities (I just read an article that 85% of the residents in Dubai are foreign workers). Women in their burkas next to young sun-tanned Australians wearing shorts and flip-flops, tall dark handsome men from the Indian subcontinent and the smiling Filipina ladies. If we came looking for a real experience of the Middle East, we would have left disappointed. We had never seen so many American chain restaurants and shops outside of the USA. Close
Written by TanyaJPaulMunshi on 21 Sep, 2006
If you visit Dubai you must not miss the Dubai Museum for the world. From the outside the entire museum is a replica of the remains of an ancient castle. Once you’re inside the museum it feels as though you are walking through the lanes…Read More
If you visit Dubai you must not miss the Dubai Museum for the world. From the outside the entire museum is a replica of the remains of an ancient castle. Once you’re inside the museum it feels as though you are walking through the lanes of ancient Dubai, with a goldsmith, or an iron smith at work, little boys running with friends, a lady carrying a pot of water, or a man pulling his camel…all the culture is depicted through wax dolls and the necessary sound and light effects in the museum brings to life the history of Dubai.
Entry fee is Dhs. 3 (Rs. 39/- approx.) per head for adults, while for children below six years it is about Dh. 1 (Rs. 13/- approx.)
If you are just married or it’s just the two of you, you must go on for a romantic dinner for two on the Dhow Cruise. Otherwise also, it serves as a relaxing change with family and friends to go on board for two hours, around the Dubai creek in the evening between 9:00 pm to 11:00 pm to have a dinner.
It’s a pretty little boat with a tables set for dinner. You have a lavish buffet consisting mostly of Indian and Lebanese cuisines (consisting of both veg and non-veg) all inclusive of the price paid for the cruise, which is about Dhs. 120 (Rs. 1500/- approx.) per head for adults, while for kids its about Dhs. 90 (Rs. 1170/- approx.). Spirits and alcohol are also served on board, but are charged extra as they are not included in the buffet. Though your buffet does include soft drinks!
You can contact several tour companies to organize the Dhow cruise for you. Make sure you carry your camera, a jacket to keep you warm and be on time. They are pretty punctual so try not missing the boat!
This tour is pretty exciting. You can tie up with any tour company in Dubai that will arrange to pick you up from where you are staying. Since there are several tour companies organizing the desert safari, you can choose the best deal and go for it. Most of the desert tours are similar—a bumpy and an exciting ride on the desert sand dunes, you reach the camp site where you can have some refreshments like tea, coffee or hukka or the seesha as is locally known. Alcohol is charged extra. Till sunset you can relax with a drink sitting under the shamiana, or you can try out Dune bashing or a buggy ride for an extra charge of Dhs. 15 to 20.
Dubai is known to have the choicest variety and purest quality of gold ornaments and it is all available at the famous Gold Souk.
With regard to some vital information regarding gold Ms. Razaak adds, "The current gold rate in Dubai is Dhs.69 per gram. This fluctuates depending on the market condition. Visitors are advised to shop for gold from all participating gold outlets; that is, most gold shops are listed and accredited by the Gold Council. This is a way to guarantee that you have the best quality gold at the most competitive price."
This is an annual event only during the Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF), where the whole world meets under one roof. You’ll find stalls from various countries bringing the best of their culture in form of clothes, accessories, artifacts, souvenirs and even cuisine.
Don’t be surprised if you find a replica of the Taj Mahal near the parking lot. You’ll also find a stunted Qutab Minar, the Red Fort, the Eiffel Tower and several other famous monuments at the Global Village.
One can spend their entire day there, as there are loads of rides for the kids and yourself too. Don’t miss the juicy kebabs with steaming elaichai chai in the Indian counters.
Don’t forget to pick up beautifully embroidered mojris in a variety colours for just Dhs. 20 at the Indian stalls, or pure leather jackets for just Dhs. 120 at the Pakistani stalls. Do visit the Mongolian stall for fine junk jewellery. For instance, the ear rings are priced at around Dhs 15 to Dhs. 20.
At sunset, you can watch a belly dancer dance to Indian or Arabic music. After this exotic dance you are treated to a kingly buffet dinner. Dinner consists of the choicest of juicy meats from India, Pakistan, Lebanon and the UAE. There are separate counters for vegetarian food as well.
The usual pick up time by the tour companies are 3:00 pm in the afternoon. Try and have an early lunch or a brunch. Avoid eating heavy just before your desert tour, as the bumpy ride may cause you to feel nauseous. After picking up the other passengers (normally not more than 5 or 6 per vehicle), their vehicle a huge Toyota Land Cruiser, will take you to their base, at the beginning of the deserts.
Just before we started our safari, we are expected to be strapped by our seat belts to prevent any injury. As when the land cruiser starts diving on the dunes, you either see only sky or the sand. Hold on to the handles inside the car from toppling over or getting hurt. If traveling with kids, make sure you strap them up to their seats, as they might get hurt while the vehicle flies through the dunes.
One should visit the Lonely Planet, suggests Ms. Razak. One will get a lot of names for restaurants there and a visitor can get a good meal for as low as Dhs.5 to a fine dining experience.
Do visit La Vignia, an Italian restaurant located in the Century Village. As the name suggests, the ambiance is a like a village square, which has many restaurants, serving different cuisines. Connected to Century village is the Irish Village which has pubs with an Irish touch, serving Irish food—like Fish and Chips and Stew.
Main course priced at around Dhs. 45-60 per dish and the portions are large. Ms. Razak recommends, La Vignia—the Scallopa El Funghi. That is, pan fried chicken breast smothered in mushroom sauce. If you like the outdoors, you can relax in this village square atmosphere; enjoy a cocktail/mocktail or a sheesha with family and friends.