It felt like we were transported into the future. Buildings glittered like gold as the sun’s rays hit them in every angle. We were in awe.
Country: United Arab Emirates
Territories: Dubai and Abu Dhabi
Currency: Dirhams (AED)
Exchange Rate: 11.35 AED = 1 PHP
Type of Government: Constitutional Monarchy
Airport: Abu Dhabi International Airport
Hotel we stayed at: Star Metro Hotels, Al Barsha
This trip was a mere stopover from Manila to London extended for not more than 96 hours. Etihad Airways processed our transit visas for us. Everything was done online.
Our hotel was booked via agoda.com. We used my earned points to lower the charge. For 3 nights, the damage was only 120USD (6,000PHP). We got more than what we bargained for. The hotel room turned out to be a serviced apartment with a kitchen, a balcony, 2 bathrooms, 2 beds, and a decent living area.
It only took one Facebook shout-out for us to get connected with all of our friends and family working in Dubai. They kindly arranged for all of our activities and we could not be thankful enough!
Kuya Norman G. was our main host. He collected us at the Dubai Marina Mall where the shuttle from the airport dropped us. He immediately showed us the posh Jumeirah Residences, The Walk, and the Jumeirah Beach.
Next to meet-up with us were my former-colleagues Yaj and Hermie. They gamely took us around and helped us purchase a Macbook Pro for school at the biggest mall in the world: Dubai Mall. It was Gitex season. Most electronics were on sale and the stores were giving away awesome freebies.
The Dubai Mall alone was an attraction in itself. Inside, we saw a huge aquarium tank, a massive store filled with candies, imposing waterfalls, and lots of world-renowned stores like Laduree from Paris.
Just at the back of the Dubai Mall is a huge pool that engulfs a gigantic structure popularly known as the Burj Khalifa.
The Burj Khalifa is not for the faint of heart. It is in fact the tallest manmade structure in the world!
There’s a nice story behind the construction of this 1.5 Billion Dollar project. When it was being built, the locals were referring to it as the “Burj Dubai”. They were surprised when at the opening ceremony of the building, the name was changed to “Burj Khalifa”. The reason behind the name change was to honour UAE President Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahvan. He was reported to have granted bailouts when Dubai got hit by the recession. Funds fell short and almost halted the construction of the Burj.
Now this burj is where we want to stay when we already have money to burn. Burj Al Arab is the 4th tallest hotel in the world. Although it’s standing on artificial land, it’s said to be the world’s only seven-star hotel but its rating is still being questioned. There must be some truth to it considering that room prices vary from 11,000 USD to a whopping 45,000 USD!!!
Although we don’t have any luggage space left to accommodate more items, we still went to see two souks: Souk Al Bahar and Souk Madinat. There, I bought a tiny jewelry box to add to my collection.
We saw more friends based in Dubai. My high school classmates Fifi and Zeena took the time out of their busy schedules to see us. Isa, Rhona‘s flight stewardess friend, invited us to a Hed Kandi party in Bastica.
Writing about this now, I couldn’t believe we’ve gone to all of these places in less than 3 days. Kuya Norman and his family drove us to The Palm.
The Palm Dubai is an artificial archipelago. Imagine the money spent in reclaiming the area and packing it with rocks and soil to host condominium properties and hotels! The Arabians really know how to INVEST. And they do it with such passion and love. It’s actually poetic.
ARABIAN DESERT SAFARI
How can we go to the Middle East and not have an authentic desert experience? Of course, we booked ourselves an Arabian Desert Safari tour for 1,600PHP each.
A 4×4 SUV fetched us at the hotel. It took us to a far-flung desert where we saw donkeys, peacocks, motorbikes, and the most beautiful sunset ever.
Inspired by the Sex and the City girls, we took the desert camel for a spin.
We’re not fond of tattoos but this henna service came free with the tour. I tried to smile at the artist but she just stared at me like that the entire time. :)
All of those who availed of the tours from different agencies met at this camp to partake of the Arabian cuisine buffet and to watch the belly-dancing performance of this Russian artist.
MALL OF THE EMIRATES
Before we even went to the safari, we already had a delicious lunch at the Mall of the Emirates. We were so happy to find out that they had Shake Shack, a famous burger joint in New York City.
We also saw the famous Ski Dubai but we didn’t have time to go in and try the facilities.
Shake Shack was so good that we decided to come back for another burger. This time, we met-up with Ate Denise and hubby. :)
Only 2 hours from Dubai is its emirates brother Abu Dhabi. Our last day was spent there.
The Josons of Cabiao, Nueva Ecija treated us to Ferrari World and Ikea for lunch. I surprised myself when I boldly rode the world’s fastest roller coaster at 240 km per hour!
They say that when you go to Abu Dhabi, you must pay homage at the Grand Mosque so we did. We were asked to wear black abayas and scarves to cover our heads. After which, we headed to where our girls Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, and Miranda stayed at for Sex and the City 2: The Emirates Palace.
BACK TO DUBAI
Hermie and Yaj made sure that we saw the buildings featured in Mission Impossible 3.
Thought bubble: Tom Cruise ran through these walls!!!
Dubai International Financial Center (DFIC) and The Emirates Tower.
One thing we’ve all learned from this short trip: To enjoy life like the Arabians. Invest with passion. Invest in travel. Invest in love.
Up next, London! ;)
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