January 2016, for me, will forever be known as the month of many random but beautiful adventures. Travelling is not an easy thing, especially when someone politely says your journey will take a total of 26 hours…one way. That isn’t fun at all. However, an adventure isn’t defined by one element, but all the elements collectively. Dubai, for me, was the destination of that collective adventure.
Note: I will be mentioning a number of brands in this article. This is not brand placement, but me simply sharing my experiences about brands I love. You should only recommend stuff if you’ve done your homework, and I have in this case.
I’ve always wanted to visit Dubai. It’s one of those cities that comes up in every traveler’s “must-visit” list, and rightly so. With its monumental engineering accomplishments such as the Burj Khalifa and Palm Jumeirah, to its bustling business community, Dubai has a lot going for itself. So when January 2016 rolled around, and I finally got a reason to visit, I jumped on the opportunity.
What I didn’t expect was how this short trip would change my already established perspective on the city.
Getting to Dubai was a question in itself. One would think its a no-brainer with good airlines such as Emirates and Etihad serving the region. However, in the back of my mind, I always wanted to travel with KLM. A cool brand that I have been familiar with since my youth, an airline that generations of my family have traveled in. Best decision I made! One of the nicest, most-comfortable airlines I’ve ever traveled with. They make you feel like you are getting your money’s worth, and that is rare for an airline. Great food, great service, and above all, great people. Definitely recommend!
Traditionally, visitors choose to live in the heart of Dubai where there are hundreds of hotels, restaurants, lounges, and city attractions. However, with most of what I was up-to closer to the Sharjah border, I decided to live in the Al Qusais community in the north east part of Dubai. Downtown definitely has its own charm, but you get to live the full UAE experience living in the east. The day begins when you hear the Azaan – call to prayer – early in the morning, followed by the road traffic of workers community in from Sharjah. Al Qusais is home to many businesses, and you get to experience the hustle and bustle early in the morning. You are a few minutes drive from pretty much everything, from the beautiful Mamzar beach (which is lovely for evening walks by the way!) to the large Sahara shopping centre. At practically all hours of the day you can treat yourself to some traditional middle eastern food, including everyone’s global favourite: shawarma. Not to mention the typical morning breakfasts of parata, minced meat, lassi, and whole lot of other things. I want to go back just thinking about it! While downtown has good restaurants, street food is what the adventure is all about and you can definitely get those at the small diner-style places located in the outer parts of the city.
I was conveniently staying on Damascus Street at the TIME Grand Plaza Hotel. I am usually super picky about hotels, staying at specific brands no matter where I travel. However, I wanted the UAE experience, and what better way to do that than stay at a hotel chain founded in Dubai. The staff were super helpful and friendly, and they make you feel welcome into town. Like every hotel, they have their ups and downs, but they addressed everything with respect and grace. The rates are great, and with additional services like an on-site spa and an in-house restaurant, its got a lot to offer. Keep them on your shortlist the next time you plan to visit the city.
The reason I went to Dubai was definitely the highlight of my trip, but sightseeing wise, my favourite part was visiting Dubai’s Global Village, which is where most of these pictures are from. It is precisely what the names suggests: a massive park featuring entertainment, shopping, and cultural displays from countries all around the world. It’s a massive open space that has been architecturally designed to represent global cultures. From miniature replicas of the Eiffel Tower to the Taj Mahal, the project is magical to see as much as it is to experience. Each pavilion represented a specific country, and each housed a number of shops selling products from that region. My taste buds definitely got a work out that day.
Dubai was a fun little trip. I wish it was longer, as I know there was so much more to experience. However, there is one thing that I did learn from this trip: get away from the norm. It’s easy to be sucked into the “Top Ten things to see” lists, checking-off things that every tourist is doing. Do some research about any place you are visiting and align your interests with the destination. As someone who writes about the arts, I found art in everything I did during my trip: the way the city is designed, the beautiful architectural achievements, and the great creative initiatives. While they are not the traditional things I write about like film or theatre, art to me has a very fluid definition. It’s how we interpret it that matters.
Dubai is a constantly evolving canvas, with new elements of the picture being added over time. I can’t wait to revisit this canvas again soon and catch-up on the things I missed this time around.