Three Days in UAE: Dubai and Abu Dhabi
In December of 2013, my husband had a business trip in the United Arab Emirates, so I joined him for an extended weekend excursion.
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I took a Friday morning direct flight from the east coast to Dubai, arriving early Saturday morning (12 hour +1 day). We toured Dubai Saturday and Sunday, then drove to Abu Dhabi on Monday. My return flight was 2:00 am Tuesday morning, which meant I was back on the east coast early Tuesday morning (12 hour -1 day).
Dubai is divided into "old" and "new" (or perhaps more aptly, "shorter" and "taller"). We stayed in the (shorter) area known as Creekside, where early nomads established a permanent settlement at the confluence of Dubai Creek and the Persian Gulf. Dubai as a sparkling shining city arising out of the desert is new, but Dubai the sheikdom has a deep and fascinating history. The Dubai Museum is an excellent first stop to inculcate an appreciation for Dubai's history and rapid growth...and get a sneak peek into what this oil-rich country has in store for the future. The traditional gold, spice, and pearl markets (called "souks") are located in Creekside.
There are many art galleries in Dubai. We visited XVA Art Hotel, which is the coolest hotel/art gallery I have ever explored. Tucked away in an alley, we kind of stumbled upon it. We ducked inside and the manager welcomed us with enthusiasm. He gave us a thorough tour of the rooms and explained that a guest will never have the same experience twice at XVA. The art displays and room decor are always changing. We visited a few other art galleries, but they did not allow us to take photos (and were rather stuffy). The art was wonderful, though.
Along the creek in Dubai is a wide esplanade where families gather in the cool(er) evening to enjoy some fresh air, exercise, entertainment and socializing. From here, you can contrast the "short" Dubai on the eastern side of the creek with the "tall" Dubai skyline in the distance on the western side.
Jumeirah Beach is about a 20 minute drive from Creekside, along the Persian Gulf coast. Warm aqua-blue and green waters lap against white sandy beaches. This is where the famous Palm Deira man-made island resort has been constructed. From the air (or a rooftop lounge, which is where we took our photos), the island is in the shape of a palm tree. Hotels, apartments, and beach homes are situated on narrow fronds. It is an awesome engineering feat, to say the very least. We drove across the "trunk" and along the outer-most frond. Beautiful views, a warm fresh breeze, and plenty of sunshine! Later that evening, we went to the top of the Burj Khalif for some night shots.
Driving through the mile-high center of Dubai is like glimpsing Fantasia. The buildings soar into the clouds, the metal and glass shimmering in the sun. Each building is designed to intrigue, astonish, and behold. Dubai makes New York City look tiny, dirty, and old in comparison. But I had to wonder: is there life inside? Are they filled with bright minds, teaming with entrepreneurs, oozing innovation? Or are they empty shells, just a bubble-burst away from corpses?
Abu Dhabi is about a two hour drive from Dubai, across wind-swept desert plains. Like Dubai, the city is an architectural wonder, with tradition-defying shapes and soaring heights. Sandy beaches along the Persian Gulf line the city. We visited an outdoor historical culture center to learn about the Bedouins and purchase a few souvenirs.
The main attraction in Abu Dhabi, though, is the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, which was built in 2007 and accommodates 40,000 Muslim worshippers.