Guest Blog: Wandering Around Dubai
I was assigned to join the 5-day Familiarization Trip to Dubai & Abu Dhabi hosted by one of the biggest tour operators and theme parks in United Arab Emirates (UAE). It was a visit to a flashy metropolis located in the middle of a desert, a place that breaks records, plus a side trip to the capital city of United Arab Emirates. Yes, I hadn’t really thought of going to Dubai but who wouldn’t get excited about this trip?
DAY 1: ABU DHABI
SHEIKH ZAYED GRAND MOSQUE
After multiple delays with our flight, we finally reached the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, the second largest mosque in the world and the largest in UAE. The mosque looked so simple outside as opposed to the lavishness on the inside, which was a magnificent work of art that would be appreciated by anyone from a different religion. The archways were plated with gold, mosaics on the columns were made of precious stones, and the carpet in the main prayer room was said to be the largest in the world. Swarovski crystals filled the chandeliers, the craftsmanship of the intricate details inside it... everything looked fantastic! Hopefully, my shots will prove so. This mosque is a must-see when you visit Abu Dhabi. Marivin Aviles, our tour guide, discussed to us the proper attire and behavior when visiting the mosque: Ladies must wear a dress that is long enough to cover head to toe, in short, wearing ABAYA and BURKA is always the best option. By the way, Abaya is a simple loose over-garment, essentially a robe-like dress while Burka is a scarf-like cloth being worn over the head to cover the hair. Burka is worn by most women in Muslim regions. Luckily, Marivin brought sets of clothes for us. As for the gentlemen, they must wear long pants and decent shirts. Also, we were not allowed to do wacky poses or jump shots while inside. The mosque was named after the first president of UAE, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. It was built as a monument to consolidate Islamic culture and serve as the prominent center for Islamic sciences. The mosque was created based on Sheikh Zayed's vision and it was intentionally built to be visible from all directions. In addition to this, 38 contracting companies helped in building this mosque that took almost 12 years to finish.
After the tour in the Grand Mosque, we decided to skip the Ferrari World, Dates Market & Heritage Villa. We were all dead tired because of the 3-hour flight delay, not to mention the 9-hour duration of travel from Manila, so we just drove around the Corniche to see the Emirates Palace and the Etihad Towers before we headed to Dubai.
DAY 2: DOWNTOWN DUBAI
They said Dubai is the world’s most visited destination. It is the flagship of Emaar Properties, where Burj Khalifa, Dubai Mall and The Dubai Fountain are centrally located. Several world-class hotels including the World’s first Armani Hotel, Emaar's Address, Vida and Manzil hotels are located here. This city is indeed a center for tourism. While strolling downtown, we were astounded by the beauty of the mighty BURJ KHALIFA– the World’s Tallest Structure and also the World’s Largest LED-Illuminated facade. At the foot of the Burj Khalifa is the world’s largest mall, in terms of area, and home of World’s Largest Acrylic Aquarium, the DUBAI MALL. Of course, we didn’t miss the chance to witness a free show of the “World’s Biggest Choreographed Water Fountain”, the DUBAI FOUNTAIN. They said it was much bigger, louder and grander than the Bellagio Fountain in Vegas.
IMG WORLDS OF ADVENTURE
After our scheduled site inspection in several hotels at downtown Dubai, we proceed to IMG Worlds of Adventure. This is one of the newest amusement park in Dubai and the World’s Largest Indoor Theme Park. It has four adventure zones (Marvel, Lost Valley, Cartoon Network and IMG Boulevard), and we also got to try some rides. Unfortunately, taking photos inside was strictly prohibited. The Haunted Hotel located at the IMG Boulevard caught my attention because I’m a self-confessed “chicken-hearted” person. I wanted to try it but I stepped back when I learned that leaving was not easy once we enter because of the confusing corridors and different scenery, various scary characters and we have to find out the exit by ourselves.
DAY 3: DUBAI PARKS & RESORTS
Because of this familiarization trip, we have the bragging rights to say that we got to visit and see first the Dubai Parks & Resorts before they open it to the public. The Park is composed of four districts: the Riverland Dubai, Motiongate Dubai, Legoland Dubai and the world’s first Bollywood Parks. They said it’s going to be the largest collection theme parks in the world.
DUBAI OUTLET VILLAGE
I forgot to take pictures of this place because this was one of the three places I went to with a shopping mission in mind. For a few hours I ignored my phone and camera because I was trying to score a few items for myself and for pasalubong, of course. All of us were enjoying ourselves at this stop so much that we even requested an additional hour. Shopping is indeed therapeutic.
DAY 4: DUBAI CITY TOUR & AFTERNOON DESERT SAFARI
ATLANTIS, THE PALM WITH MONORAIL RIDE
It was actually a nice experience to take the monorail from the mainland going to the man-made island (The Palm Jumeirah) where you’d get to see the view and take pictures of the Atlantis. Atlantis is a luxury hotel resort located at the peak of the Palm Jumeirah in UAE.
BURJ AL ARAB & JUMEIRAH BEACH
It was so hot but I didn’t mind it when I saw a postcard view of the World’s only 7-star hotel, Burj Al Arab, and the clear blue sea of Jumeirah Beach. The design of Burj Al Arab has become the icon of the city of Dubai.
OLD DUBAI (GOLD SOUQ & SPICE SOUQ)
This is another town in Dubai called Deira. A trip to Gold Souq convinced me that Dubai is indeed the “City of Gold”. Spice Souq was just a few steps away from the Gold Souq. This was definitely the place where I'd shop my heart out.
Dune bashing is definitely the best and most memorable experience I had in Dubai. Seeing the extensive fleet of 4WDs was certainly a story to tell to my dad and brother since they’re into SUVs. I enjoyed the roller coaster ride in the sand dunes on-board a Toyota Land Cruisers and we got to stop to capture some photos of the stunning desert sunset. After that, the desert camps welcomed us for an Arabian-themed dinner and show. We also got to experience the camel riding and watched the exotic performance of the belly dancers before heading to inflation point and driving back to the hotel.
DAY 5: LAST MINUTE SHOPPING & DEPARTURE
This trip was so far one of the best trips I've had, not only because of the beauty of Dubai but also because I got to meet new friends in the industry, especially my roommate and shopping buddy, Sarah Gamido-Antonio of Philippine Airlines. Dubai is definitely one of the countries I would like to visit again in the future.
written by Othie Maninang
Othie Maninang is a very energetic person who thinks of traveling as an opportunity to grow. She, as an avid souvenir collector, is always taking a piece of the adventure back home.
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