I SPY: UAE

Feb 27, 2017

ABU DHABI + DUBAI: February 2017

Any interest to visit the United Arab Emirates?  To be honest I didn't have much desire.  This wasn't the original plan for my trip!  I was to only stop over in the UAE to take a quick peek on my way to Iran, before Trump instilled the immigration ban.  BOO.  So when your given lemons, you make lemonade and spike it!  That's what this filthy rich country felt like.  Flat desert land, they've beautified with man made everything, and a whole lot of glitz!



1st stop ABU DHABI:

Abu Dhabi is the capitol of the UAE.  This is where the bulk of the Arab money lives, and Dubai is their playground.  It was a quieter town, more cultural and less jazz in comparison to Dubai it's next door neighbor, an hour away by car.  But not for long I presume, because soon the Louvre and Guggenheim Museums will open in Abu Dhabi and attract even more tourist traffic.



SEE + DO:

AL JAHLI FORT:
It's in Al Ain over an hour away from the main city.  For such a drive I didn't think it was worth it.  The scale was small. Just being honest!



DESERT:
You can't visit the UAE and not visit the desert!  The closest desert is Al Khatim an hour away.  I've been to quite a few deserts in my life, so skipped the camel rides, but did the extreme sports instead.  This was my first time dune bashing and sand boarding and it was so much fun!



MANARAT AL SAADIYAT:
Usually they have great art exhibits.  But I caught them at a bad time.  It was dead, as they were installing a new exhibit opening next month.  But their cafe and coffee was great!



SHEIKH ZAYED MOSQUE:
If there is only one thing you do when visiting the UAE, this is it!  Hence the many pics!  It's the largest mosque in the UAE and the third largest mosque in the world.  It is a pristine, gorgeous mosque, with a very strict dress code.  Ladies - please check requirements before you go, otherwise they will provide you with a hijab (head scarf) and abaya (dress cloak) to wear.






YAS VICEROY:
This swanky design conscious hotel has a great roof top bar, fine dining restaurants and the Formula 1 race track outside it's door.



SLEEP:
I stayed at the Ritz Carlton next door to the mosque.  It's a resort with a huge pool, beach, good spa, and a Venetian village attached filled with restaurants along the water.  Nothing uber fancy or trendy, but big clean rooms, and helpful staff.



2nd stop DUBAI:

Does Dubai need an introduction?  I doubt it because you've seen it plenty, splashed all over social media.  It is the Las Vegas slash Disneyland of the Middle East!  The tallest, biggest and fanciest of all.  All fake, but the modern infrastructure and roads will make you say WOW.  If you don't have a lot of time and want to hit all the main attractions take the Hop-On and Hop-Off bus.  I did this all on the green line in one day!



SEE + DO:

BURJ AL ARAB:
The only 7 star hotel in the world.  Only hotel guest are allowed inside so I have no clue what's so special!  But the architecture is enough to make it a worthy visit from Jumeirah beach.

BURJ KHALIFA:
The tallest building in the world.  The focal point of the city that you can spot from 60 miles away.  If you don't visit it then you can't really say you've been to Dubai!  Views from the top at 1821 feet high are phenomenal.  But be prepared for a lot of queuing.  Purchase tickets in advance online, to save you half the hassle.



CITY WALK:
An outdoor mall with a lot of street art that I was surprised to see, along with many cafes and concept stores that line the courtyards.  The best store was LE66, a Parisian concept store.  If you are a fashionista you must check it out.  A mix of European and Japenese designers I've never heard of, but such a great curated selection of fashion forward articles.  I wanted to buy everything.  Kid you not!



DUBAI MALL:
This mall is ridiculous.  It has every designer label, including all the American brands I didn't even know existed outside the USA like Bloomingdales, and Pottery Barn.  It caters to the foodies looking for the USA famous restaurants such as Magnolia Bakery, Cheesecake factory, and Serafina's to name a few.  But I refused to eat what I can get in NY!  I ate Lebanese food instead at Karam Restaurant inside the mall.  The fish, hummus and tabouleh was soooo good, and you can sit outside and be entertained by the fountain show that happens every half hour while you dine.  Then for dessert you have to go up and check out Level Shoes.  The world's largest shoe store.  I have never seen a shoe selection for ladies, mens and kids like this.  From high end to sneakers.  It was definitely Carrie Bradshaw heaven!



MIRACLE GARDEN:
This is not a stop included on the Hop-On and Hop-Off bus.  But if you get off at Mall of Emirates you can easily catch a short taxi ride to the gardens to walk under the tunnel of love.  That and the Emirates airplane decked out in flowers were the only two things I can rave about.  So lesson learned...don't go unless your a real flower lover!



SLEEP:
Dubai is not a cheap place!  Accommodations are pricey, luxe and pretentious.  I wanted something more authentic and low key, so I stayed away from the scene at XVA Art Hotel.  It is a charming boutique hotel, located in Old Dubai next to the Al Fahidi markets.



I'm glad I went to the UAE to see what the hype is all about.  I get it now for those who want to party, eat, shop, and entertain their kids.  It can be fun for a week, and if I ever come back with my kids we will be doing all the kiddy stuff the UAE offers: Atlantis the Palm, Ferrari World, Wild Wadi, Ski Dubai and the list goes on.  It beats bringing the kids to Orlando, Florida!  But it is nothing in comparison to a rich cultured country like Morocco.  So don't expect that and you'll be good!

P.S.  Remember it is an Islamic country.  Majority of the locals do wear national dress and are covered from head to toe.  Therefore, please respect their culture and I would not advise walking around showing too much skin unless your at the beach or nightclub.
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