Nothing quite extends an 18 hour plane trip than a 24 hour layover. To be precise, the layover was 24 hours and 20 minutes, but after spending 12 hours on a flight from New York City to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, Zack and I were ready to stretch our legs. Neither of us had ever been to Dubai and the tenacious tug of a new city ripe for exploration pulled at us as we left the airport Friday morning.
A shuttle drove us from the terminal to the hotel, so it wasn’t until after we’d checked into our separate rooms that we adventurously set about the city. Stepping through the glass doors of the air conditioned hotel, we punch in the gut by the humid breath of hot wind ripping across the Saudi Arabian peninsula. Such heat, I would hasten to argue, (the kind that knocks you backwards like when you open the oven while baking and are accosted by the blasting rush of warmth) is one of the least pleasing things to encounter after an exhausting flight. It may even be worse than snow, which I surprise myself at admitting considering our last experience in the UK when Em and I were caught in icy London with nothing but t-shirts and thin sweaters. On Friday, a little ice in Dubai would have been lovely.
Here are ten things that I learned about this fairly unknown city in the Middle East:
1. Visas to enter the UAE are free to US citizens, however, if you do not have proof of accommodations while in Dubai, the visa officials can make you purchase hotel reservation from the airport booth. These are far more expensive than booking online.
2. The capital of a primarily Muslim country, Dubai is filled with shops and stores that are open on Monday through Thursday. Though a portion of the city fully functions on Friday, many do not open on Fridays do to their religion. Plan accordingly.
3. Taxis are always air conditioned in Dubai. This makes them the prime mode of transportation when the outside temperature reached triple digits. :)
4. Taxis are also relatively inexpensive. A drive across town during heavy traffic can cost only 25 durhams (less than $10 US).
5. Dubai is not nearly as unknown as I thought. It boast Burj Kalifa, the tallest building in the world, which actually doesn’t appear to be as tall as you might imagine.
6. Dubai is also the home to the largest mall in the world complete with an indoor hockey rink, skate park, cinema, and water park. We counted three Starbucks and only managed to walk around a third of the total mall.
7. If you ever have a chance to visit Dubai, visit the Dubai Museum. For only 6 durhams ($3) you can enter the oldest Arabian fort in Dubai and visit the underground museum detailing the quotidian history of Islam displayed in the form of wax figures and life size scenes intensified by sound effects. Creepy? Slightly. Cool? Quite.
8. Night time in Dubai is not much cooler, but there are far more people out and about than there are during the day.
9. Foreign women are not condemned for not wearing headscarves or burquas; keep sleeves on but your head can remain uncovered.
10. Pack sunglasses. There is a reason it is so hot there
For only 24 hours, we packed quite a bit into our day and left Dubai feeling quite good about the amount of city we had seen. After a 4hour flight to Addis Ababa, and hour sitting on tarmac and wishing to step off the plan just so we could say we’ve been to Ethiopia, a short 2 hour ride landed us safely in Uganda. Exhausted, weary and oh-so-excited, we grabbed our luggage and made our way out of the airport and into the palm swaying breeze to where my parents were waiting.
Welcome back to Africa, memsahib.