Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Dubai is somewhere I’ve wanted to go for a LONG time. I’ve long been fascinated by the highly traditional Muslim culture side-by-side with some of the world’s most progressive and modern architecture.

Some of Dubai's architecture.
Some of Dubai’s architecture on display.

After snagging the deal of the century on flights, we landed, took the Etihad shuttle from Abu Dhabi airport to their drop-off point in Dubai. I had some AA points that were about to expire, so I got us one night at the Meliã Dubai, which was a fantastic hotel. The lobby was massive, with gold everywhere. They also had tea ready and waiting, something I was overly happy about.

Tea ready and waiting in Dubai. Can I please have these camel pillows?!
Tea ready and waiting in Dubai. Can I please have these camel pillows?!

We got upgraded, and stayed in a gorgeous room, with a view over downtown. It was cloudy, but I could still see the massive Burj Khalifa. Truthfully, we didn’t spend a lot of time in the Meliã, but the time we did stay was great, especially their bathtubs, which was in a giant glass room, with orchids and mood lighting. My kind of tub.

The bathtub room at the Meliã. I'm in love!
The bathtub room at the Meliã. I’m in love!

After we checked out of the Meliã, we checked in to the Fairmont The Palm. The Palm is one of Dubai’s man-made islands, constructed with sand dredged up from the Persian Gulf. The Fairmont was just stellar. We were upgraded again, to a room with a stunning view over Dubai Marina.

Goodies available at the Fairmont...yum!
Goodies available at the Fairmont…yum!
Swimming in the Persian Gulf, with Dubai Marina in the background.
Swimming in the Persian Gulf, with Dubai Marina in the background.

Our days were so relaxing. The Fairmont had several pools to choose from, fantastic service, and our favorite restaurant at the hotel was the casual Mashrabiya Lounge, where the flavored shisha takes center stage.

The flowers around the Lounge were always on point.
The flowers around the Lounge were always on point.
Sitting outside at night to smoke shisha, it was still hot, but not unbearable.
Sitting outside at night to smoke shisha, it was still hot, but not unbearable.

I’m going to write an entirely separate post on our trip up the Burj Khalifa, the stalled building in the entire world, because it was something special. But, before that, I’ll address a couple of questions we got before going to the Middle East.

What’s the weather going to be like?

It was HOT as h$#!, but I knew it was going to be so I was mentally prepared. We tried not to lay out during the middle of the day, and spent lots of time in restaurants, and it’s true what they say, the Emeratis crank up that AC. This made it easy to adhere to the “No PDA” rule. Kissing in public is illegal, and being overly touchy is frowned upon (but I saw tons of people hugging and lightly kissing at the airport arrivals hall!). Luckily for us, it was hot enough that I didn’t really want to be too close to anyone.

What do you have to wear?

Well, you don’t have to wear anything special. But if you want to be respectful to the local culture, which you should be, there are a couple of things to avoid. As a woman, I didn’t wear shorts and I always kept a scarf with me in case I needed to cover my shoulders. At hotels, pretty much anything goes, and I wore regular bikinis, and didn’t feel weird about walking through the lobby in a swimsuit coverup or a romper on my way to the beach or pool.

I saw other women wearing all kinds of things, from short shorts with heels, to skin tight dresses, but also, women wearing abayas and burkas. Jer wore t-shirts and linen pants, and I’m pretty sure he wanted to wear the traditional men’s white outfit, because it really did look so comfortable.

What can you bring/not bring?

Obviously, don’t bring drugs. I had heard horror stories about people eating poppyseeds on a bagel and being arrested in the UAE. Or someone who brought melatonin into the country and was arrested (despite this being a supplement you can buy over the country in the UAE), so I played it safe. I didn’t bring my usual mega bottle of Excedrin, and Jer left his melatonin at home. But I didn’t see anyone get stopped at security or immigration, and they didn’t even scan my luggage or make me open my purse once I got there.

So this one is a big question mark for me, you might get in trouble for bringing medicines, but don’t get too worked up over horror stories on the internet.

Were you scared?

I’ll start by saying, never once have I been scared while traveling. I’ve been cautious a couple of times (ahem, Milan, New Year’s Eve 2012), and I’m always aware of my surroundings, but I’ve never been scared.

I get why people wondered, it’s a country in the Middle East, and Americans have a complicated relationship with the Middle East. That being said, the UAE is one of the most progressive countries in the region, and has a large expat population, so they are accepting of Westerners. I consider myself very open minded, so I understand that bad seeds do not represent an entire population of people or an entire religion. Everyone was very nice to us in the UAE, I passed through Customs with ease (and a cheerful, “Welcome to the United Arab Emirates!”) and I felt very safe.

Gold2Go ATM dispenses anything from small coins to gold bars.
Gold2Go ATM dispenses anything from small coins to gold bars.

Overall, I highly recommend a trip to the UAE, it’s a fantastic, gorgeous place, and we had an insanely good time. More to come soon!

xx katie

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