Wow, jet lag. No fun, and especially hard to beat when you’re pregnant! However, totally worth it for the amazing experience I was just lucky to take part in in Dubai. I hope you enjoyed following my travels on Instagram. I often worry you’ll get annoyed with me ‘spamming’ you and feel like a bit of a show-off, but it seems you all loved coming along for the virtual ride, which is great! I hope I’ve inspired some of you to visit the place by sharing the sheer variety of things it has to offer.
While I couldn’t do everything I wanted to (including hot a air balloon ride!) due to being pregnant (and probably particularly risk-averse) I still had a wonderful time. I left with a more positive and rounded opinion of Dubai than before we left. Sure, I expected flashiness and luxury and the odd token camel, but I had no idea how much there was to do and see there.
It felt like we had a different lunch at a different fancy hotel each day. Oh yeah, that’s because we pretty much did! The hotels were, without exception, just amazing. Some of the best interiors, food and service I’ve ever experienced. No cookie cutter approach here. There must be serious opportunities for interior designers here because there so many wonderful hotels and they’ve all made the effort to be something different. Stunning!
If you’re a thrill seeker (I am certainly not, pregnant or otherwise), well, you’re in for a treat. Hot air balloons, sea planes, indoor ski slopes, mega water parks, go-karting… these are all things our group experienced. My favourite part of travel though, is always learning more about the local culture and of course, sampling the food (hello, eating for two!). Dubai is an extremely interesting place as far as culture goes, being that around 90 percent of the population are immigrants, from a huge variety of places. True Emiratis are few and far between.
It remains though, a Muslim country, but a very progressive and relaxed one for the most part. Tolerance of radical or extremist views is pretty much zero. There is a real effort to help visitors understand Islam in a religious and cultural context, which, in the current terrorist climate, is probably more important then ever. We had the opportunity to ask any questions we wanted while enjoying a traditional meal at The Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding and I really enjoyed our tour of the Jumeirah Mosque, where we were talked through what Muslims believe in, how they pray and more. Super interesting. The interior of the mosque, although nothing ornate, was beautiful in its geometric patterns. Depictions of people and animals are not allowed in Islamic buildings; instead you will find wonderful geometric patterns and beautiful calligraphy of verses from the Quran. The decoration is so distinctive and and I loved its symmetry and colours.
Another favourite for me was the Frying Pan Adventures food tour, which took in the bustling fish market, the spice souk, a coffee museum and a wonderful breakfast by the water of rosewater iced tea and yoghurt with granola. Delicious! And then there was of course the desert safari, which I’ve already written about.
For the majority of our stay, we were ferried around in comfort and taught more about Dubai by the fabulous 1001 Events and, in particular, tour guide Xavier, whose smiling face and enthusiasm I now miss seeing every day!
You may well have heard that the legal system is harsh, and it is, but it is this respect for the law that means Dubai is stupidly safe. Leave your bags wherever you like, things do not get stolen. It’s not worth someone’s while. You’ve probably also heard that as a woman, you need to cover yourself head to toe in order not to attract unwanted attention. It’s not strictly true and Dubai is much more relaxed than I’d anticipated. That said, I still advise dressing appropriately and respectfully. And I still managed to get offered the opportunity to model saris within minutes of arriving, despite having just stepped off a 14-hour flight, looking worse for wear and being completely covered up! It’s that blonde hair and lipstick, isn’t it?!
I have so much more to tell you about but I’ll save it for next week!