Previously I have written an article on how to maximize stopover in Dubai when lying with Emirates (Further reading: Dubai Stopover with Emirates), this time I will be introducing some of the top 10 things to do in Dubai that I have experienced from my trip. Within the “Dubai Stopover with Emirates” package, the airline partnered up with Arabian Adventures– a local company specializes in Dubai and Abu Dhabi tours. The one we joined was called “City of Merchants” where we get to see the variety of old Dubai. It was around AUD$40 per person when booked with Emirates office in Adelaide. They also have several tours doing the modern Dubai, however taxi were fairly inexpensive and Dubai Metro was easy to get around, hence we did that part ourselves.
1) Burj Al Arab
Our first stop was a photo stop for the famous Burj Al Arab who was claimed by a British journalist as “The World’s Only Seven Star Hotel”. It is the world’s third tallest hotel standing at 280 m, however 39% of the height is non-occupiable space. In order to tour the hotel, you must be either a guest or dine within the hotel. You cannot just go in for no reason. The cheapest room is USD$1350 per night and the guests can request a helicopter to take you directly from the airport to the hotel. No need to mingle with the civilians!
Apparently if you come to Dubai in summer, you are able to stay in Burj Al Arab for half price. Summer in Dubai is deadly, most wealthy people flock to other cooler countries, however if you were to stay in a hotel like Burj Al Arab, why would you spend your time anywhere else. Originally we wanted to try the high tea in Burj Al Arab, it was around USD$170 per person, however it was completely booked out 2 weeks in advance. You can choose to have cocktails instead in the bar, however the minimal spend on alcohol was around similar price to the afternoon tea. Neither of us drink a lot, so we decided to book early next time if we were in Dubai again.
2) Jumeirah Mosque
The next photo stop is Jumeirah Mosque built-in 1998- Dubai’s most beautiful mosque. Even though only Muslims can enter this mosque, however each morning at 10am (except Fridays) there’s an organized tour for non-Muslims. Since we didn’t have enough time for the organized tour, it was rather boring. Unless you are here on time for the tour, probably can skip this place.
There’s another mosque in Abu Dhabi called “Sheikh Zayed Mosque”, it is one of the most beautiful mosque I have ever seen! Even though we didn’t have time to go there on this trip, it will definitely be on my to-do list. It looks comparable to India’s Taj Mahal with all the white tall structures. I highly recommend people to do a one day tour to Abu Dhabi if time allows.
3) Dubai Museum
I think Dubai Museum was the most interesting part of my trip. It is one of the oldest building in Dubai built-in 1797. It became a museum in 1797, before that it was a ruler’s palace, a garrison and a prison.
Even though the museum was small, the amount of information provided was quite valuable. Most importantly it had a good layout and everything was easy to understand. I had no idea that 80% of Dubai’s residents are foreigners. Dubai used to be a small fishing village until 1960’s where the British discovered petroleum. Compare to the population then, it had grown from a 20,000 village to a giant city with population of 2 million! I really liked this place and recommend everyone to visit here on their way to Spice and Gold Souk.
4) Deira Souk- Gold Souk & Spice Souk
When people think about Dubai, they immediately think about gold. Then welcome to Old Town of Dubai where the Gold Souk and Spice Souk is pretty much next to each other. You are able to get cheap souvenirs here and master the art of bargaining. It has a lot of stalls here where they will do everything to lure you into their shop. It is an interesting way to explore the old Dubai before the oil bloom. York and I had enough bargaining in Morocco (Read our Morocco articles here), we decided to just walk around the enjoy the local atmosphere.
5) Dubai Mall
After we finished “Tour of Merchants”, we left the old Dubai and made our way to the largest shopping centre in the world! The mall itself is around the size of 50 football fields with a total area of 502,000 square meters! There are more than 1200 stores as well as Dubai Aquarium & Underwater zoo, SEGA Republic with Sonic The Hedgehog and Dubai Ice Rank. Due to the amount of rich people in Dubai, none of these stores are on special, everything is full price. Even though there’s no tax in Dubai, I still think it’s cheaper to buy some European brand in Europe itself.
There are many other gigantic malls in Dubai, each is different in its own ways. However most of the stores are the same, LV, Chanel, Gucci, Tiffany, etc. Unless you love shopping and have money to spare, Dubai can get quite boring after a few days. It’s pretty much constant walking while doing window shopping. The restaurant quality in Dubai is quite impressive too. We went into a random food court in Dubai Mall and the food was surprisingly good without the hefty price tag. I guess due to the level of service and quality demanded here, it is necessarily to maintain a high level in order to survive here.
6) Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo
One of the major attraction in Dubai Mall is that it consist of one of the world’s largest acrylic panel! It is 32.88 m wide, 8.3 m long and 75 cm thick, weighing 245,614 kg! In 2010 there was even a small leak on the panel that the mall had to be partly closed down for the day so they can repair it. Imagine the amount of water bursting out of the aquarium if it did, that would be a real disaster! The Dubai Aquarium is about US$20 to get in, apparently it is very similar to other aquariums. The view into the aquarium is no better from the inside, that’s why we choose to view it for free and go view “The Lost Chambers” aquarium in Atlantis, The Palm Hotel instead.
7) Dubai Fountain
Right outside Dubai Mall lies the world’s largest choreographed fountain. It is one of the free attractions in Dubai. It is about 0.25x larger than the Bellagio Fountain in Las Vegas. Every night after 6pm the fountain performs a show every half hour with Burj Khalifa in the background. The water can shoot up to 152.4 meters high! Together with the spectacular lightings and music, it is not to be missed. I highly recommend people to go there 15 minutes early just to get a nice spot.
8) Burj Khalifa
Burj Khalifa is the tallest man-made structure in the world with total height of 828 meters. It was completed in 2010 and Taipei 101 became the second tallest structure in the world. The observatory is located on 142th floor and costs USD$35 to get up, however it requires you to wait in line for 2-3 hours. There’s another also fast pass option where you can go up immediately but it costs USD$80! Quite a steep jump. I think if you dine on the restaurant there, you won’t have to pay the entrance fee. Since York and I couldn’t get a seat at the restaurant last-minute, we decided to put this on our to-do list for Dubai next time. Within Burj Khalifa there’s the world’s first Armani Hotel, where luxury meets extraordinary views. Since the location is quite convenient, I would recommend people to stay here in the future.
9) The Lost Chambers Aquarium
Another famous hotel in Dubai is Atlantis, The Palm. It is located on the largest artificial island of Palm Jumeirah with room price starting from USD$800 per night. The suite connecting the two towers is the world’s second most expensive hotel room costing USD$42000 per night. It also has an “Underwater Suite” where you sleep inside an aquarium.
There are two main attractions in this hotel, one is Aquaventure- a water park with twelve water slides and a 2.3km river ride with cascades, rapids and tidal waves. You can also swim with dolphins. The Lost Chambers Aquarium is an aquarium that strongly represent the ruins of Atlantis. It was definitely a lot more interesting than the aquarium in Dubai Mall.
There are around 65,000 fishes in the aquarium exhibit with 11,500,000 litres of water in Ambassador Lagoon. You can also dive in the lagoon for extra cost. It is actually quite surreal sit along the aquarium and gaze into the representation of deep ocean.
The ticket into The Lost Chamber is 100 AED (around USD$27), with 50 AED extra we get to do behind the scene tour. There’s one every hour with maximum of 6 people per tour which last about 45 minute. We were very lucky with the 2.30 pm tour as there were only two of us. We had a great time learning how to aquarium of this size works. All the water going into the aquarium has to be filtered multiple times to a particular salt level and bacteria-free.
There’s also a fish hospital where they let sick fishes recover in their individual tanks. There are specialized people who are trained to find sick fishes inside the Ambassador Lagoon. It is pretty incredible how they have to lookout for 65000 fishes at once. There are several signs for detecting sick fishes, first their eyes could get red, secondly they get discolouration on their skin or they lose their appetite. Most fishes get sick from parasite infections. Once they are in the fish hospital, they get specially made up food that changes everyday. They probably get better treatment than some human!
The only inconvenient thing about this place is the location. You will have to reach Mall of Emirates Station by Dubai Metro and take monorail or taxi to get to Atlantis, The Palm Hotel. It probably works out better catching a cab since you will have to pay both modes of transportation separately. Although it is quite hard to catch a cab from Atlantis since there are none at the taxi stand, you will have to wait for someone to take a taxi to Atlantis then that taxi will become available. This experience really showed us the contrast between the Go Green Taxi systems that we use back home which we have a renewed appreciation for! We waited for more than half hour even for a private taxi! No wonder staying in this hotel is a bit inconvenient according to the reviews.
10) Dubai Desert Safari
Dubai is a city built on desert, it is no wonder many people look forward to desert safari when visiting this place. York and I didn’t do desert safari in Dubai since we already spent a night in Sahara Desert while we were in Morocco 2 weeks ago.
The price per person for one night in the desert including dinner and transport is about USD$100. Which I think is quite worth it. Since Dubai is a lot more advance than Morocco, the tents and food does look better from my friends’ pictures. I highly recommend everyone to join at least one type of tours on offer such as 4×4 vehicle driving across the sand dunes, camel riding or dinner in the desert.
There are many other attractions in Dubai such as Ski Dubai, Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, etc. However when we were chatting to the taxi driver, he told us there’s another 50 new 5 star hotels due to finish in year 2015. That means next time we come back to Dubai, everything would be different again!