Things to do in UAE on a tight schedule

I’ll start with an apology and an explanation. My goal is always to post as much as possible and in a timely manner. However, my final semester as a graduate student at NYU has been extremely challenging – from conducting field research and working abroad, to a full-time work schedule and writing my thesis at home immediately upon my return.

I was only in Dubai for a few days at the end of my research/work trip to Africa. Two of my cousins live in Dubai and I was really just went there to relax and catch up with family, but we did manage to make it to a few local attractions.

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On the first day we took the boat across the Dubai creek and went to the older area of the city where the gold and spice souks are located. I ended up buying spices and no gold. It’s definitely worth checking out – the gold is opulent and reasonably priced, unfortunately I’m not a yellow gold fan and I couldn’t find any white gold, my loss. Some of the stores carry pearls, which Dubai is known for – but I didn’t buy those either because we didn’t find any locally farmed. Make sure you aren’t starving if you go shopping in this area, we couldn’t find any restaurants, but there are a few juice bars. It’s a pretty quick trip across the water though, where plenty of restaurants line the waterfront.
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The Dubai Museum is housed in Al Fahidi Fort; it was built in 1787 and probably one of the oldest sites in the city. We walked around the fort and then went underground to see the recreations of lifestyle in the region and a video tour of Dubai’s growth.
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One day we ventured out to the Miracle Gardens, which are outside the city but worth the trek – just take a taxi, it’s not too expensive. The gardens are comprised of houses, animals, archways and more. They also have a nice patio where food and beverages are available for purchase.
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One of the things about Dubai and the places I visited in Africa that I enjoyed is that juice is really popular. So, I ordered a lot of yummy juices like melon and mango, lemonade with mint and other delightfully refreshing drinks.

Most places are a quick taxi ride away but for adventurous and/or thrifty types –try the clean and upscale metro.

We also ventured out to the massive Dubai Mall, which is a chic mall that goes on for miles. A few days later we also ended up at the Dubai Marina Pier 7 Mall, which is also nice. There is definitely a nightlife scene but I skipped it on this trip. For something a little more leisurely — take a seat and watch the Dubai fountain show to cap off an evening.IMG_1856

I love the food in Dubai and the common theme is large plates and lots of sharing…I went to several local gems including Zahr El Rouman, a Lebanese restaurant that had several vegetarian choices. We also went to Reem Al Bawadi, which has a great outdoor patio. They have a large menu that works for both veggies and carnivores — they even serve breakfast. My favorite restaurant was Abd el Wahab at Pier 7. The food was great and it was so relaxing to sit, chat with my cousins and take in the local lifestyle. Sit on the balcony and take in the fabulous view of the water, skyscrapers and boats.
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For my final day of relaxation we took a bus from Dubai to Abu Dhabi and it isn’t too long of a ride, it’s inexpensive and definitely worth it if you don’t have a car. If you want a good and easy day trip and aren’t up for the camel excursions – this is it. Just make sure you ask where the bus stops because not all of them make the same stops on the way back to Dubai. We were a little short on time, so once there we opted for the Hop on hop off bus tour. Though, we only went to a few of the stops and mainly used it as transportation to the Mosque – which is not close to the city center.

We went to Heritage Village, which was nice, made a brief stop at the mall on the water and headed to Sheikh Zayed’s Grand Mosque. AMAZING.IMG_1911

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It is stunning in person, almost indescribable, one of best architectural structures that I have ever seen, and worth visiting. Ladies – dress appropriately – I know its warm but you are choosing to visit a holy site and while it looks like a museum, it is a religious site. I was dressed appropriately but given a traditional robe (abaya) and headscarf (shayla) to wear, which was fine. The architecture is gorgeous; it was the whitest marble that I have ever seen.

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Floral mosaics lined the ground and walls, and glass chandeliers and windows enhanced the opulent interiors.
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The brightness of the sun on the marble was blinding. At times my eyes felt like they were on fire, I squinted as hard as I could and closed my eyes a few times while walking outside. For architecture fans – this should be on your list of places to visit.

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