UAE & India 2015
- Make Tomorrow Today, Please
- Hello Tomorrow
- Top of the World
- Feasting Like Camel Nomads
- Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
- Saadiyat Rhymes with India
- Fifty Shades of Brown
- Yes They Do!
- The End Is A New Beginning
- UAE & India Extras
We didn’t go to bed terribly early, but jet lag promptly woke us up at 2:30am. The adults among us had the courtesy of peeking at the clock, thinking “oh shit” to ourselves, and continuing to pretend to sleep. The rest of the party had no such maturity and did not keep it a secret that they no longer desired to be in bed.
As such, we chewed on Pringles and watched Arabic music videos for a couple of hours. Then we headed out to Al Bastakiya at sunrise.
Al Bastakiya was an old-town district in Bur Dubai with a bunch of traditional Arabic buildings including the Al Fahidi Fort, which had now been turned into the Dubai Museum. Nothing was open at this hour but we didn’t care. The point was to just stroll around this pretentiously historic district before we got overwhelmed by the blinding bling that Dubai was better known for. I wanted to imagine Aladdin jumping on the roof, Ali Baba hiding in the dark alley, and Singbad rowing down the Dubai Creek… but even this part of town was a bit too modern for my 1001 Nights fantasy.
A boat on Dubai Creek.
Sunrise by the Creek.
Some sort of watch tower.
Dude making us a freshly squeezed OJ.
Okay maybe I can see Ali Baba hanging out in this building.
One thing to note is that Dubai was hot. I read that hotels in this part of the world are extremely cheap in the summer (and they are) because nobody wants to be here in the summer. We are talking about 95 degrees at sunrise, the coolest point of the day. That part I didn’t understand – from Singapore to San Diego to Las Vegas, every hot place I had been to cooled down comfortably at night. But Dubai remained ridiculously warm through the night. The other thing puzzling was the humidity. Wasn’t this supposed to be a desert? Why did it feel like the inside of a rice cooker?
Xuan sweating unbearably at the crack of dawn.
The Grand Mosque in the background.
Al Fahidi Fort, a.k.a. Dubai Museum.
The weather went from uncomfortable to unbearable in no time, so we happily checked “Old Dubai” off our list and cabbed it back to the hotel.
The climate around the hotel bed was what these kids were used to growing up, so they were visibly happier here.
We picked our hotel (Radisson Blu Downtown Dubai) based on its proximity to the Dubai Mall and Burj Khalifa. It was an excellent call, as the weather drove us to spend the rest of the day indoors. The mall was supposedly within walking distance, but none of us were camels. The hotel provided free shuttle, conveniently scheduled once per hour during the oddly scattered parts of the day that we didn’t care about. More taxi, then.
Waiting for the taxi!
With anything Dubai, you can assume it’s the world’s tallest, largest, or most expensive, and be right most of the time. Dubai Mall was no exception. It was such a large structure that we didn’t end up setting foot on every floor, and didn’t finish walking around any of the floors. Unlike the giant mall in Beijing, however, this one was actually filled with cool stores, fancy decors, and people.
“The Souk” section, supposedly resembling the traditional Arabian world.
I want one that flies, please.
What the heck is Vogue Café? Sounds like something we can’t afford.
One of us actually likes Hello Kitties, and she’s not smiling.
I had a feeling that these camels were free of MERS.
Yes I like camels.
The Dubai Mall wouldn’t be the Dubai Mall if it were just big and luxurious. Being an icon in this iconic city, it’s gotta have some ridiculous elements that don’t belong in a desert city. Such as a giant ice skating rink. And a giant brontosaurs skeleton from America:
Of course, can’t do without an entire suspension aquarium in the middle of the mall:
Being the animal lovers we are, we dragged our kids through this aquarium. It wasn’t particularly large, but the exhibits were impressive nonetheless.
A world-class aquarium tunnel, where an European chick brought me into the world of despising selfie sticks.
Giant water rat is nearly as awesome as capybara.
I would say this was a dinosaur eel but there was no sign for it.
You can be under the sharks, and you can be over the sharks.
The largest lion fish I’ve seen anywhere – what I will remember this aquarium by.
Pineapple fish was a new species to us.
Finally, the 750kg king croc… as fun to look at as a 750kg rock.
In the evening, we met up with a sizable group of our friends, including Dr. J himself. Of all places that served food, we decided to dine in the mall’s food court. To my surprise, the food quality here was on par with food courts within your local American malls… (note: not a compliment)
Not pictured: Cynthia, Sierra, Xuan, and myself.
Xuan chowing down curry by the spoonful.
Then we whipped out our pre-purchased tickets to visit Burj Khalifa, the tall building where Tom Cruise smashed his face on the window. I’m not a big fan of this skyscraper’s design, but I love its badass character. Previously, buildings would overtake one another as the world’s tallest by 10-50 meters at a time. When Burj Khalifa was completed, however, it stood 320 meters or 60% above Taipei 101, the previous record holder. Even today, nothing else comes within 200 meters of its height. Like many other things Dubai stood for, it didn’t half-ass being the best. It went so far that nobody could even attempt to surpass it. That’s awesome.
Auntie Cynthia was among the few people in this world allowed to carry Xuan.
The observation deck, misleadingly named At The Top, was barely half way up the building. But 474m above ground was already higher up than all other buildings in the Middle East (except for Mecca’s clock tower), and provided a stunning birds-eye view of the city. Visibility wasn’t the greatest today, but still impressive.
Note on the water fountain at the foot of the Burj: built by the same people who built the Bellagio fountain. But, of course, bigger.