20.3.12

Dubai - Day 1

An Emirates perfect flight brought us to Dubai on schedule at 6 a.m. From the arrival everything went on smoothly and oh, what a terminal Emirates got themselves! Big and polished, super clean and organized. The line to get through customs and to get the visa stamp was fast. Did I mention the free wi-fi throughout the terminal? After getting some cash for the taxi at the exchange bureau (the exchange rate is not the best so try not to get much, you can get better rates at the malls) we took a taxi to hotel for 85 Dhs (or AED, it's the same). Note: Take your time to get familiar with the coins and bills, they may look the same.
Burj Khalifa from Sheikh Zayed Road

We drove through Sheikh Zayed Road, the main street with 6 lanes, and enjoyed the landscape: green gardens in the desert and skyscrapers everywhere, an architect's dream. After about 30 minutes we got to our hotel, the Pullman Mall of the Emirates. The room was not ready so we took the metro to Deira, the old part of Dubai where we visited the spice and gold souk.

The metro ride was good (we were tired after the 5 hour flight) and easy to do: we got day tickets (for 16 Dhs each) at the machines outside the station and just tapped them against the sensors at the turnstiles everytime we went in and out. The metro is new, modern, super clean, safe and easy to ride (only 2 lines). The first car southbound (last northbound) is First Class, it needs a special ticket and it has leather seats and 'scenic views'. The second car is for women (or women with children), no man is allowed in here so be careful, you could be fined.



Metro station
Men at the Gold Souk

Deira is the old part of Dubai, if there can be anything old in this city. It is a lively area, filled with small shops of any kind. You can find the Gold Souk and the Spice Souk there. I've read it is an experience just to visit them. Perhaps I was expecting more but I was not impressed. of course I had read that the gold pieces there are of a stronger golden color that what we are used to but it really looked tacky. And the spice souk was OK, the smell was chracteristic, but there was no little shop that inspired me to buy spices to bring back home. It was a good thing I waited and bought some at the Carrefour at the Mall of the Emirates, what a spice section they have! I could live there!

Spices at Carrefour in MOE
After a walk around the souks, we got to the Creek, on the southern part of Deira, the river that crosses Dubai. It divides Deira from Bur Dubai (the 'historic district') and the traditional way of crossing it (apart from, obviously, the 4 bridges that connect both parts) is with the abras, the wooden boats that charge 1 dirham to cross, a must do. The important buildings on both sides are the Chamber of Commerce, the Sheraton, Deira Twin Towers and the National Bank (also called the 'pregnant lady' due to its shape, which was inspired by the dhows, the typical sailing vessels which also inspired the shape of the Burj al Arab).
abras port in Deira (National Bank in the back)
We took the metro back to the Mall of Emirates, stopping at the Gold & Diamond Park (metro stop: First Gulf Bank), a small shopping center specialized in, obviously, gold and diamonds. If you want to shop in a more relaxed environment that the gold souk, sure that the quality is as good as the souk, if not better, this is the place. I had ordered a necklace with my name in Arabic from Cara Jewelers, which has a shop there, after reading several reviews on tripadvisor saying that they are good. I emailed them asked what I wanted and they were quick to reply, the necklace took a couple of days to be made (I ordered it on a Wednesday and it was ready Saturday morning), the price was also nice :) I love it!

Fashion dome at the Mall of the Emirates
After the Gold & Diamond Park we went back to the Mall of Emirates where we had lunch at Al Halabi, a Middle Eastern restaurant right by the fountain in the Fashion Dome. We ordered different mezes, cold and warm, some kebab, salads, etc. Everything was very good (OK, we were very tired and hungry at this point so even McDonalds would have been good, but the tasty food, the nice spot and the hunger made it all seem delicious). Nice place and good service.

Finally our room was ready! So after 2 hours of sleep and a tour of the hotel we went back to the Mall to window-shop. I was expecting prices to be a bit cheaper than back home but I was wrong, everything is around 10-15% more expensive than in Italy so it was hard to be there in this 300-something-shops mall with a tight budget!
Ski Dubai in the Mall of the Emirates



We walked around a while, and went to have a cup of tea by the ski area, the Mall of the Emirates' biggest attraction is Ski Dubai, an indoors ski resort inside the Mall, where you can ski, snowboard, toboggan, play with penguins or just throw snow at yourselves! We didn't ski (I don't ski in the Alps so why would I do that in Dubai, right?) but we enjoyed the view of people who seemed to be having a blast!



We decided to make the most out of our day so we took another metro ride to the Dubai Mall/Burj Khalifa stop to see the evening show of the Fountain. From the metro there's a bus that brings you to the entrance of the Dubai Mall (of which I will write about in another post), you have to cross it to get to the Fountain (again, what a torture to pass by all those shops!). Since the video I recorded of the fountain show was interrupted by the wave brought by the strong wind to the spot where we were standing (we ended up soaked wet), here's a professional video from youtube to show you the beautiful show we saw.


Oh, and what better way to end this great day in Dubai that with a delicious red velvet cupcake from the unique Magnolia Bakery, directly from NYC to Dubai! (located in the lower ground floor of Bloomingdale's at Dubai Mall).
TBC...