First Time in the Middle East: Dubai, UAE

Before jumping ahead, let me just say that I am sorry for the quality of the photos. Haha I mostly used HUJI throughout the trip and the editing on the photos that weren’t taken using HUJI is super inconsistent, so my apologies.

Last December 2018, my family and I took a(n almost) week-long trip to Dubai. It was my first time setting foot in the Middle East. Excited as I was, I still didn’t do any research — I just stuck to my mom’s descriptions of Dubai and Abu Dhabi based on her previous travels. Aside from that though, I didn’t bother reading anything about the culture, the do’s and the don’t’s, and the things to do.

Our flight to Dubai from Clark left on a Sunday at 8 in the evening. It was my first time flying with Emirates and let me just tell ya. That flight experience was an A+. The food was good, the seat was fine — a little better than the standard economy seat, the movie and show selection was huge, and I was able to sleep majority of the flight. (Honestly though this isn’t much of a surprise LOL I tend to sleep a lot when I’m on a flight). We landed 9 and a half hours later, 1 in the morning (GMT). Even though I slept through the flight, I was still so sleepy and just wanted to lie down and rest when we got there.

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This is our ~neighbourhood.~ A few steps away from our hotel/apartment is a train station and a few restaurants. And the Burj Khalifa is always within sight 🙂
Breakfast at Tim Hortons for our first two days in Dubai. This is where we made our last minute itinerary for our trip.

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Walked by a coffee shop called the ~deli grind~

After breakfast, we walked around the area and took countless photos of the Burj Khalifa.

For merienda, we decided to get coffee from % Arabica.

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The Burj Khalifa at night from our hotel room

We ended our first day in Dubai with dinner at Applebee’s with our aunt. We didn’t have a very pleasant dining experience but maybe everybody just wanted to go home and be with their families since it was Christmas Eve.

Our second day in Dubai consisted of visiting Ibn Batuta, the Palm, and going to Church since it was Christmas.

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In transit to Ibn Battuta

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There was a middle-aged man that offered to write people’s names in Arabic for free! Wait actually no, he had like a signage that said something like a smile will suffice.

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The beautiful, beautiful, BEAUTIFUL interior of Ibn Battuta Mall. Each of the six wings of the mall represents a particular culture that Ibn Battuta once explored. My favourite was the Persian Court — just look at the intricacy of the design!!! It was amazing!
All we really did in Ibn Battuta was admire the designs in the courts and have lunch.

After having lunch at Ibn Battuta, we headed to Palm Jumeirah via bus and the monorail. We didn’t stay long — we just had coffee and watched the sun go down from the boardwalk.

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View from the monorail

We then headed to Church afterwards to hear the Christmas mass and it was PACKED. We went back to our apartment soon after. We bought take-out from Chow King, fixed the table, and had a simple Christmas dinner.

Our third day was a good mix of chill and adventure. We first had breakfast at Timmy’s and the only reason I’m stating this is because of this milk yogurt thingamajig.

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Mau and Moi walked into Timmy’s telling Mig and I to try it because our mom said it was good. So ya girl took the bottle, took a sip, AND INSTANTLY REGRETTED IT. It didn’t taste good, nope not at all. I wanted Mig to try it too (since Moi and Mau both did too) but he saw my face and how I reacted so he didn’t even bother.

After breakfast, we took an Uber to a restaurant called Barbecue Nation (I can’t forget the name of the place because it has “nation” in it and it’s just so J. Haha) to have lunch with Kup’s friend.

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It was a buffet and at first, I honestly didn’t know what to eat. Yeah I was familiar with kebabs but that was it. After I had the garlic pita and tried the lamb biryani though… I kept coming back for it. Haha it was so good, everything I was eating would perfectly go with it.

After lunch, we went back to the apartment to get stuff for the desert safari. We booked a tour package online — we got picked up at our apartment, picked up two more passengers, and drove to the desert.

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I thought we were going to ride a 4×4, like the ATV kind, for the sand duning. Instead, we used the same car that picked us up, the Toyota Land Cruiser.

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Watched the sunset over the dunes.

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The sand duning experience was crazy fun. I thought it was going to be chill, just drive around the desert but nope. It was a bumpy ride (to say the least) going up and down the dunes, but it was so fun. At the beginning of the ride, we were all trying to sit quietly and trying not to scream and laugh loud, but after a minute though we couldn’t even stop. LOL if you ever find yourself in Dubai, or anywhere that offers sand duning — you should do it! 100% recommend it!

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After driving around for 30-40 minutes, we headed to the dining area (there’s a term for this and I honestly cannot remember).

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The package included a dinner buffet (realistically speaking though you can only go back once), coffee/tea/water/juice/soda, fire show, belly dancing, tanura show, and henna tattoos.

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There was also a free camel ride but we didn’t bother. I felt so bad for the camels just thinking about the crazy number of people they have to take on rides every single day.
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Even if we did decide to ride the camel, we probably would’ve backed out since the queue was way too long. And the ride would only take about 30 seconds. No joke. So we just stood around watching the camels.

It was also in this desert safari that I had my first scamming experience. I’m more careful than usual when traveling because getting scammed is exactly the thing I don’t ever want to experience. But on this trip, with my family, we. got. scammed. by. a. fellow. kababayan. THANK YOU.

So Mig, Kup, and I were standing by the camels, minding our own business, watching the camels, people, and the sunset. Then a Filipino guy comes up and starts making small talk. Let’s call him Juan. Juan asked us if we were tourists (we said yes), if it was our first time in Dubai (Kup said it wasn’t his first time), where in the Philippines we were from, he told us about his life as a desert safari driver. Here we go. Juan told us that he was one of those that started the whole desert safari business in Dubai, and because of its success, he was able to bring his entire family over to Dubai. So we were like “wow, ang galing naman, etc etc.” I was genuinely happy and proud of Juan!

After about five seconds, he says, “mag picture kayo dito sa may falcon, ako na bahala.” We didn’t want to do it at first because the falcon was a little scary but we ended up getting pictures anyway. Pictures that didn’t even turn out well!!! I even FORCED Mig to do it since we were getting it for ~free~ anyway, since Juan said siya na bahala. We were so into the whole falcon thing when Juan said “sige jan muna kayo,” and left. When he left, the falconer told us to pay for THREE. We began explaining, telling him what Juan told us etc. He started getting pushy, really started demanding for the money.

Thankfully (in my head, ONLY at that time), Juan finally came back. We told him what was happening, that we were being asked to pay, we asked him to tell the falconer that it was supposed to be for free. But Juan, good old Juan, TOLD US TO PAY THE FALCONER, TOLD US TO JUST GIVE HIM THE MONEY THAT HE WANTED. UGH!!!!! I was so furious that time, I couldn’t believe Juan could be so mean and didn’t keep his word!

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We went to Abu Dhabi via bus on our second to the last day. The bus station was right by Ibn Batutta, and the trip took about an hour and a half (or two?).

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We decided (last minute) to go to the Louvre. I was so sure the Louvre was just in Paris. I was 100% sure, but since the Louvre in Abu Dhabi was also as legit, I quickly googled if they were the same.

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The Louvre in Abu Dhabi and the Louvre in Paris are entirely separate. The UAE and France apparently signed a 30-year agreement to build a “cultural institution.” (If you want to know more about it, here’s the link).

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Coffee cart at the Louvre

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sunset.

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We started our last day in Dubai with breakfast and getting everything packed for our flight later that night. Kup, Mig, and I went to the Dubai Museum, learned about Dubai’s heritage and the every day life prior to the discovery of oil.

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The entrance fee to  the Dubai Museum is only AED 3 — super affordable and 100% worth it. The museum was small but it was loaded with information on Dubai’s history.

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I JUST HAD TO BECAUSE FRIENDS.

We took the train back to the Dubai Mall to have one last look around and have dinner before getting ready for our flight back.

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This tip to Dubai with my family was an incredible experience. It was my first time visiting the Middle East, and I left with so much more to be explored. The time spent in Dubai alone wasn’t enough to cover the history of the place, how it transformed to be one of the top cities in the world. There’s so much left to see, explore, and learn not only in Dubai, but the Middle East in general! I can only hope and pray to visit this beautiful place again in the future.


4 thoughts on “First Time in the Middle East: Dubai, UAE

  1. Nice post, glad to see that you enjoyed your first trip there. One week isn’t enough time to see everything, but it’s just enough for a first taste!

    Like

  2. Thanks for sharing this post with us! We are going to Dubai in September and now can’t wait to experience all the amazing things you have done. Keep up the great content.

    Like

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