United Arab Emirates

As it had been several years since my last visit, I was looking forward to visiting the UAE once again. Last time I’d spent a lot of time exploring historical areas and souks around Dubai Creek. I also went to the top of the Burj Khalifa, because who doesn’t want to say that they’ve been to the top of the highest building in the world? This time it was more of rest before my long trip home, with the added bonus of catching up with some old friends.

Luckily, my friend was willing to collect me from the airport at 2am, when my delayed flight finally touched down in Dubai. The immigration department at the airport seems to have streamlined their service a lot since my last visit 4 years ago. Within 15 minutes of landing I was out of the airport, which gave me enough time to grab a tea from the overpriced coffee shop near the airport entrance, before my friend arrived.

His place was a 30 minute drive away in Sharjah, which is actually the next Emirate, or state, over from Dubai. Even though it was night time, it was still easy to see that the UAE does everything on a grand scale. You could definitely see a difference in the architecture between Dubai and Sharjah. While Dubai was trying to touch the sky, Sharjah was keeping buildings low and spreading out. In fact, there were more than a few developments that seemed to be in the middle of nowhere. I mean, no residences within in many miles, but still shiny new commercial complexes had been constructed.

Malls, Meals and Music
When the morning came, my friend had to head to work in Dubai, so I tagged along with him and hung out at his restaurant, in the Jameirah Lakes Towers (JLT) area for a little bit. JLT seems to be the happening area, where all the hip young kids and expats hang out and drink on the weekends. Or even on Thursday, which was the day that I had arrived and also the day before the start of the Emirati weekend. So yes, I tried to blend in with the cool kids that night. More on that later.

Mall of the Emirates

After a delicious brunch at my friend’s restaurant, I met another friend for lunch at the Mall of the Emirates. I’d first met her in Istanbul last year, but she is originally from Kyrgyzstan, which I found out I’d been pronouncing wrong my whole life, D’oh! The Mall of the Emirates is home to Ski Dubai, an indoor ski slope and snow activity centre. I looked on in amusement as people paraded around in their snow jackets while it was over 45 degrees outside. Only in Dubai!

Ski Dubai

We settled into a Lebanese restaurant for a delicious lunch, followed by a walk around the mall. My friend decided to join me and my other friend at an Irish Bar in JLT for some drinks. We were later joined by some other party people and made a night of it.

Drunken photography

The next morning, My host and I were back at the same pub for a stomach stretching, 5 hour all-you-can-eat-and-drink buffet. Apparently the musical theme for the day was 80s and 90s music. We were all okay with that.


Time for Oman
As I’d had a few days in the UAE to relax and eat my body weight in food, it was time to get moving again, on a road trip to the Sultanate of Oman. I’ve posted about my unfortunately short-lived adventures there, in my next post. I returned to the UAE a few short days later to catch my flight back home, which would sadly conclude my summer holiday.

Final Thoughts
While it’s true that I didn’t really have many adventures in the UAE on this visit, I did get to see the place more from the point of view of someone who lives there, rather than a tourist. Whatever I happen to see when I’m there, I’ve always found it to be a pleasant place to visit and I always look forward to going back to discover another facet of the country.

Immigration was again a breeze on exiting, which gave me plenty of time to relax before the flight. The flight was really full, but the lady sitting next to me was lovely. As I sat down, she told me to let her know when I was going to the bathroom so she could go too and wouldn’t need to disturb me later. How thoughtful!

??UAE Summary??
In a few words – desert and developments
Language – Arabic and English
Currency – UAE Dirham (AED)
WiFi availability – ?????
Unlimited free WiFi is widely available in shopping centres and bars.
Transport – ???
? Dubai has a very modern metro system, but it gets very crowded and with only 2 lines offers very limited coverage of the city.
? Modern buses are available for inner city transport and cover much larger areas than the metro.
I’m not sure about inter city transport, as I stayed with someone who has a car.
Roads – ?????
All the roads in the 3 Emirates I visited looked shiny and new.
Scenery – ???⛰?
Desert and buildings are all you can see in the city areas, but when heading towards Oman, you pass through a range of treeless desert mountains, which have their own very unique beauty.
Prices – ????
As a very developed country, the UAE can be very expensive, but at the same time, there are many reasonably priced items to be found in the area.
Border efficiency – ???
Airport immigration is much quicker than it used to be, but it seems that officers enjoy delaying people at the land borders.
Overall – ????


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