On my way back to South Africa recently, (ahem, I admit this was actually months ago and this post has been sitting in my drafts since then) I took advantage of a free Emirates stopover in Dubai, enabling me to see somewhere new and not pay for the flight! Until last summer, when I also had a free stopover with WestJet in Saint John’s I haven’t ever really thought about breaking up a flight like this, but now it’s definitely something I will look into more.
Several of my friends have moved to and from Dubai in the last few years so it’s a place that has always been on my radar but the timing has never worked out for a trip. Knowing this would likely be my last flight back to South Africa (because I am moving back to the UK this year) it made sense to stopover and see my friends there now.
Known as an adult’s playground, Dubai is full of the biggest, tallest, best, and generally most extravagant of anything you can think of (I mean where else would you find a life size Airbus made of flowers?) That, and the fact that is it only 45 years old, amazes me.
I was able to stay with my friend Miss K, who lives near Dubai Marina in a perfectly located condo. One of my favourite things about having friends overseas is catching up on long periods of time (usually over wine) and getting to see them in their new home and this trip was no exception.
Dubai is hot. I live in Africa so I shouldn’t really complain but, especially coming from England in winter, I was not ready for it! It’s something to bear in mind if you’re planning a stopover itinerary in the city – the heat may make you lazy and there are plenty of beaches and pools to distract you from sightseeing!
Must see and do’s during a stopover in Dubai.
Miss K and I filled our days in a leisurely way so you could likely fit more into your time in Dubai if you wanted to. However, these are my must see and do’s in the city.
Dubai Miracle Garden
This place really is miraculous, a haven of bright colours and pretty petals in the middle of the desert. It’s small so you don’t need much time there – which is good because it’s hot out there! The garden is filled with a life size Emirates Airbus (new in 2016) a mini Burj Khalifa and all sorts of larger than life statues, birds and clocks. All covered and covered in flowers. We went on a national holiday and the place was packed with tourists but early morning / late afternoon might be better. It honestly amazed me how you could step from the desolate car park to a garden so lush you could have been in England!
My stopover was coincidentally timed with a friend from home’s leaving party on a yacht. If this hadn’t have been the case it’s probably not something I would have done as I get badly seasick and only force myself on water when my FOMO is bad! However, heading out of the marina and around The Palm Jumeirah gave a great alternative view of the city. Being on the water with drinks and party music playing, what’s not to love?
I am constantly seeing ‘check in’s and photos from Dubai Marina on my FB and Instagram feeds so I knew it was somewhere I wanted to hang out during my stopover. The Marina is filled with restaurants and bars with something for everyone, from low key cafes to fancy pants dining. I also have it on good authority that Dubai’s cheesiest club is in the Marina but we hadn’t had enough wine to embrace it! With great views of the water and luxury yachts, it’s a perfect place to people watch both day and night.
Burj Khalifa and The Dubai Fountains
Miss K and I headed downtown to the Burj Khalifa one night so that we could watch the Dubai Fountains set on a 30 acre lake at the foot of the world’s tallest structure (which in itself is impressive!) I hadn’t really thought too much about the fountains but had gone along with Miss K’s suggestions that they are a ‘must see’.
Seriously, who knew water could give you goose bumps? In the evenings, these fountains ‘dance every half an hour to different music making up the world’s largest choreographed fountain system. Each time their dance is different and is perfectly choreographed to the music. The first show we saw was to Adele’s Skyfall and we later saw them dance to local Emirati music, which was a great contrast. The fountains draw thousands of people daily so you need to either watch from a nearby restaurant with a balcony, or head down to the water’s edge early for the best view.
Images really don’t do the ‘dancing fountains’ justice but, here they are anyway 🙂
Eat tasty food!
Dubai is home to plenty of expats so of course there are restaurants from all around the world. I loved Abd El-Wahab, a Lebanese restaurant that overlooks the dancing fountains. Four of us ordered a selection of dishes to share and all left with full tummies. If you don’t feel like heading out, delivery from almost anywhere is available in Dubai – you can even have breakfast delivered. Maybe I have lived in Africa too long but this blew my mind!
Dubai is known for its great weather all year round so it’s no surprise that hanging out by a pool is a favourite activity of expats. Most apartment complexes have pools as do all the resorts. You can often pay to be a day visitor at some of the fancier hotels and resorts if you want a bit of luxury while you’re sunbathing.
Dubai is home to 72 malls including the world’s most visited shopping and leisure destination (Dubai Mall). So it is no surprise that shopping makes up a large part of any local or visitor’s time there. Brands from all across the world have flag ship stores in Dubai and nowhere else can you shop across all the continents under a ‘few’ roofs. I am not a huge shopper (any more) but just wandering through the malls was a great way to while away a few hours!
There is so much to do in Dubai that a short stopover likely won’t be long enough to fit it all in! However, the fact it is relatively small, and is a driving city, makes it a little easier. As long as you’re keen to jam pack your few days there.
Have you been to Dubai, either for a longer period of time or for a stopover? Let me know what you think the must see and do’s are in the comments!
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