I went to Dubai with a pre-conceived notion of just seeing skyscrapers and malls and getting bored of it by the end of my short vacation. To my surprise, we had an amazing holiday and by the end of it we wished we could have stayed a bit longer. 4 days is perfect for a first visit to Dubai as it gives you enough time to admire the magnificent structures, savour the Arabian desert and sample some authentic middle-eastern food. Here is my itinerary for the visit with recommendations on where to stay and eat. Enjoy!
Day 0: We took the Emirates night flight from Singapore and arrived in Dubai post midnight (7 hour journey). Love it when I save time while travelling to a different time zone-SG is 4 hours ahead of Dubai. We took a taxi from the airport and checked into our hotel i.e. Rove Healthcare City. Its a really good 3-star hotel with a great location. Dubai hotels are pretty expensive but even the 3-star ones are actually pretty good!
Day 1: We had a relaxed breakfast at the hotel and got ready for our desert safari. We had a nice fresh seafood lunch near our hotel at Dubai Fish Hut.
We had booked the tour through Ocean Air Travels and would highly recommend it! We were picked up from our hotel at 2:00 pm. It took us about an hour to get to the dunes (near Sharjah). Our driver, Shahid, was very friendly and informative. The desert safari started with an optional ATV driving followed by dune bashing in a 4×4. It was a pretty good experience and the dunes were surreal. We stopped for a bit for sand-boarding– was my first attempt and got it right in the second round!! Make sure you wear comfortable clothes and shoes-the desert is hot and walking in sand is pretty tiring. After the bashing, we went to a desert camp to watch the sunset, do a short camel ride and then settled down for dinner and entertainment. Dinner was pretty decent consisting of kebabs, rice, Arabic tea/coffee, dates and donuts. I thoroughly enjoyed both the Tanoura and belly dance. There were some touristy photo-ops as well- with the Arabian dress, falcon etc. Overall, pretty great day!
Day 2: We did a day trip to the capital of UAE, Abu Dhabi and booked a car for the day through Gulf Luxury Cars. Again a fabulous day spent enjoying thrilling (and scary) rides at Ferrari World, admiring classics at Louvre and gazing in awe at the splendid Sheikh Zayed Mosque. So everything in UAE is largest, tallest, biggest in the world and it was not surprising that the rides in Ferrari World were also fastest, with tallest loops and steepest inclines. A lot of the rides simulate how Ferrari race car drivers feel during the races. Its a pretty awesome experience– I even enjoyed the family oriented ones. We couldn’t try the fastest ride in the world because there was a 40 min waiting time! Ferrari World is located on Yas Island and the entry is through Yas Mall. You can buy the tickets on the spot near the entrance.
After a quick greek lunch at Mr. Greek in Yas Mall, we went to Abu Dhabi. Louvre Abu Dhabi opened only in 2017 and boasts of a great collection (Sheikh payed billions to get the real stuff here!). Its a great building and has a pretty good collection of artefacts and paintings minus the crowds of Louvre Paris!
Our last stop for the day was Sheikh Zayed grand mosque, built in memory of Sheikh Zayed, one of the founding fathers of the Emirates. Its a beautiful white structure and really peaceful especially at prayer time. It would be perfect to arrive here just before sunset so that you can witness the beauty with lights on as well. The interiors are equally exquisite with intricate carvings and expensive chandeliers.
We left for Dubai and had authentic Iranian dinner at the city’s most loved Iranian joint-Al Ustadi near Fahidi metro station.
Day 3: This day we explored the city and its many awe-inspiring structures. Our first stop was the recently opened Dubai Frame. The tallest frame in the world (Surprise, surprise!) at 150 m, Dubai Frame is an observatory that looks out to the old and new Dubai on either sides. At the top, you can see and admire both sides- the old Dubai with its typical cream coloured houses and the new Dubai with its skyscrapers! The view is pretty good up there with a motion detecting glass bottomed panel.
From there, we went to check out old Dubai’s famous souks. Gold souk and spice souk are the most popular amongst tourists. We bought some dates and souvenirs from the spice souk.
We then had an amazing Syrian lunch at Aroos Damascus before going to the Kite beach. We lazed around here for a bit enjoying the views and the lovely breeze. We walked to Burj Al Arab (the only 7-star hotel in the world) and then took a cab to Dubai Miracle Garden.
Dubai Miracle garden is the world’s largest (of course!) natural flower garden in the world. it has various beautiful structures made out of flowers (Mickey Mouse, Teddy bear, animals) with the most impressive being Emirates A380 (world’s largest passenger plane). We loved walking around this garden and admiring the beautiful structures. About 1-1.5 hours should be enough for the garden.
Our final stop for the the day was Dubai mall where we watched the Dubai Fountain show and had a first glimpse up and close of the majestic Burj Khalifa! The Dubai Fountain is the world’s largest choreographed fountain system set on the 30-acre manmade Burj Khalifa Lake, at the center of the Downtown Dubai development. The show happens every 30 min after sunset and is absolutely free. Loved the music and the show- pretty impressive. A special light and sound show also happens at Burj Khalifa on certain days and we were lucky to arrive in time for that-again pretty impressive to see the world’s tallest building all lighted up. We had a quick dinner at the mall at Tim Hortons before heading back to the hotel.
Day 4: Our last day in Dubai and we saved the best for the last. We had booked our tickets to the 124/125th floor of Burj khalifa online in advance and had collected it from the front desk last night. You need to reach there 30 mins before your appointment so we were there at 9:30 am. An elevator took us to the 124th floor which has an outdoor observatory while the 125th floor has an indoor one. The views were pretty fascinating with Dubai’s skyline, Burj-Al Arab and the super busy Sheikh Zayed Road.
We also checked out Cheesecake factory (Penny was not there!), though we were not very impressed. We had the mango and key lime cheesecake which was ok. We went back to the hotel, relaxed a bit and checked out.
We went to Zam Zam to try authentic Arabian/Yemeni cuisine. We ordered chicken madghout which is kind of a biryani where the rice is cooked along with chicken and spices. Camel meat is also available here in case you want to try. The food was delicious and very affordable.
We went back to our hotel and lazed around in the lounge a bit before heading back to the airport! A great mini-vacation to the Emirates!!