Last month, we decided to take a break from Amman and headed away for a weekend in Dubai!
The first time I visited Dubai it was February 2000, I arrived on a Cathay Pacific night flight from Kuwait.
I was on business and traveling with two colleagues who lived in the UAE, and I wasn’t sure what to expect.
I knew very little other than that they liked the lifestyle in the Emirate.
We arrived at the very modern DXB airport, and I transfered to the JW Marriott which was one of the few luxury hotels in town.
Today Dubai has grown dramatically into a huge city with more five star luxury hotels than you shake a stick at.
And more things to do than you can manage in one trip.
I have visited several times over the years since that first trip almost twenty years ago and I’ve seen the changes and additions of one thing after another.
Whether the indoor ski slope, the world’s tallest building, the opera, countless restaurants, world’s biggest mall, the list just goes on and on.
The government in Dubai has done a great job diversifying away from oil, to tourism and financial services, not to mention an extraordinary travel hub made possible by the world class Emirates Airlines.
They have made it possible for millions of people to visit each year, and for millions of others to make Dubai home.
The philosophy of ‘build it and they will come’ has worked very well for them.
The Emirati population makes up only eighty percent of the population in Dubai making it a very diverse and interesting place.
Overall Dubai can be a bit gimmicky and soulless, but you can find anything you are looking for in the city which makes it the perfect city break destination.
This was the first time I’ve actually visited Dubai totally for pleasure, and it was just what I needed.
A place that has every kind of eatery you can think of.
Living like I do in Jordan now, makes me like the fact that Dubai has what I call the higher tier junky food places.
Jordan’s junky food means McDonalds, KFC, or Pizza Hut. Whereas Dubai has California Pizza Kitchen, PF Chang, and the Cheesecake Factory.
All the places I like to go when I want something mainstream, and when I want to go crazy with food that is not particularly good for me.
We arrived on Royal Jordanian flight 610 from Queen Alia International Airport where we had been upgraded to business class.
RJ has a very good product to offer, and the fact that it is part of Oneworld allows me to take advantage of my super status at American Airlines.
The food in business class was very good as usual, and the service is normally very friendly.
We arrived early and parked up at Concourse D, which is the latest of the sprawling terminals at DXB.
The airport is three times the size it was when I first visited, and it was big in those days.
We grabbed a taxi at the airport, and opted for one of the cars at the Black Lexus rank.
Our driver turned out to be a woman, which is somewhat unusual for a taxi driver in this part of the world.
But with a need for female only cars for the women who prefer not to be driven by men, they are a necessary commodity to have in the mix.
We headed over to our AirBnB, which was also a first for me in Dubai.
Over the years I have been lucky enough to have stayed at many of the very nice hotels on offer.
This time I thought getting an AirBnB would allow us a bit more flexibility given there was a chance we’d be spending a bit more time there vs when I was in town on business.
We stayed at the Burj View Towers, a ten minute walk from Dubai Mall, Burj Khalifa, the fountains and all the other goings on in the downtown area.
The flat was a very nicely appointed one bedroom on what was essentially the first floor.
We had a view of Burj Khalifa from our balcony but it was a obscured.
There was no furniture on the balcony so no place to sit but it turned out to be a pretty wet few days in Dubai so it didn’t matter!
Yes, rain in Dubai! It happens!
After a short walk to Dubai Mall, our first stop was at the California Pizza Kitchen where I had a somewhat spicy steak pizza.
The eat all you can weekend had begun, and I was going to enjoy it.
We relaxed and watched all the passers by as we sipped on our sparkling waters, and discussed the logistics for the next few days.
Next stop was to visit my cousin who also lives in Jordan but was in the UAE visiting her daughters who have started an upcycle workshop.
With some real cycles on offer in the form of recycled bicycles, or guitars with bodies made out of cigar boxes, and lots of other cool stuff.
It’s called Kave, and is somewhere you need to check out if you are ever in town.
We bought some beeswax food covers that take the place of using plastic wrap to cut down on the use of plastic.
They are really awesome, and I’ll be doing a review very soon.
Kave also serves Vietnamese Pho from a soup counter in an effort to get people talking and sharing food and inspiration.
The food was delicious.
The most amazing coincidence was that at the end of the evening we were able to share an Uber back to the AirBnB because they live in the same building, and get this, on the same floor we were staying on!
The next morning we were expecting my sister-in-law to arrive on her way back to England from Bali, where she had spent ten days.
She arrived at around 6:30 am.
After giving her time to freshen up we took her for breakfast at Abu Jbara, which was another walking distance bonus from where we were staying.
Now Abu Jbara is a legend in my household.
Originated in Jordan, now has his first restaurant outside Jordan in Dubai’s Business Bay.
Abu Jbara is one of the best places on earth in my opinion to get hummus and falafel.
Truly an outstanding experience.
We had hummus, falafel, and ful mudames which is a dish of cooked fava beans, with spices and tomatoes, onions and eaten with bread.
And the bread was of course freshly out of the oven; little puffed packages from heaven.
Needless to say, the breakfast was wonderful and I ate too much!
But it was totally worth it.
My sister-in-law Charlotte had never been to Dubai before, and one of the things she’d heard about were the Friday brunches that take place all over the city.
These are usually bottomless bubbly brunches and as it was Charlotte’s first time, we booked brunch at The Palace Downtown – one of our favorite hotels because of the pool and cabanas and the good service.
We paid for our day passes and set ourselves up in a cabana poolside and of course had a pre-brunch drink to get things started.
Now when you think of Dubai you normally think of warm and beautiful weather, if anything Dubai gets too hot at times.
If you really want a bargain on hotel rooms go in the summer, prices are great, but you might not be able to go outside because of the astronomical heat and humidity.
When I think of rain in March I do not think of Dubai, but I have to tell you we saw rain this trip, and a whole bunch of it.
Rain is a blessing in the Middle East, but not so much when you are trying to sit by the pool.
We didn’t get very far with our pool sitting before it started to rain, but it was time for brunch so we retreated inside and found our table.
Brunch in Dubai is usually a pretty extravagant affair no matter which five star hotel offers it.
They come complete with all kinds of food, from sushi, oysters on the half shell, fresh seafood to Indian, Arabic and everything in between.
Desserts are endless, as is the booze if you choose a package that includes drink.
The Palace Downtown has a good offering that I’d recommend.
It was an eventful lunch.
TimeOut was there with some kind of promotion, and were pushing a drawing where you spin a wheel to see what prize you’d win; we all entered of course!
And in the end, my wife Harriet won the grand prize of 1000 dirhams!
The equivalent to $270.
We were excited about her win!
But less so about the fact that it hadn’t stopped raining when we returned to the pool after brunch.
So we called it a day and headed home to rest up and shower.
After that we headed back to the Mall for the fountain show, and dinner at P.F. Chang.
We had an early night in preparation for Saturday.
Early morning we were in a taxi and on our way to Bastakiya, which is part of old Dubai, no highrise metal and steel here.
It’s more like an old trading town which is what Dubai started off as, and it wasn’t until the discovery of oil that the big transformation began to happen.
Our breakfast was at the Arabian Tea House, that hosts locals and tourists alike.
The courtyard is set up like a cross between an Arabian Cafe and an English tea house.
The food was good, a nice mix of Arab Emirati dishes.
I ordered an Arabic breakfast tray and enjoyed every bite!
From there we walked through the old town to catch one of the many ferries that ply the waters of the Dubai Creek.
For one dirham, or 27 cents US, you get a one way trip across the river to where the old souks are.
I really enjoyed what was a ten minute boat ride in the lovely sunshine of the day.
This is a working boat and ferries people of every ethnicity and socioeconomic level, so is super diverse and interesting.
We walked through the Gold Souk which is shop after shop with loads of gold displayed in the windows.
It’s pretty touristy but worth seeing.
On a whim, and a feeling, Harriet and I bought our wedding rings!
We are technically already married but exchanging rings in a ceremony in Bali later this year.
So we were super excited to find just the right rings.
We also got to see the inner workings of the jewelers as we got the rings sized and cleaned in a narrow space and the top of a series of very steep steps that housed several men all diligently working on various types of jewelry.
They made the rings fit our fingers perfectly and we were on our way again.
A taxi back to Dubai Mall.
I’m sure you’ve noticed a pattern around the Dubai Mall, and you would be right.
Since we were staying a ten minute walk away, and the fact that there is so much to do in that downtown vicinity that we decided to make that area the focus of our trip.
We had a quick lunch at the Cheesecake Factory.
Charlotte had never been; everyone needs to go to the Cheesecake Factory.
The ladies each had a slice of cheesecake for dessert, which is a feat in itself if you’ve ever seen their cheesecake slices.
After lunch we went up the 124 floors in less than a minute to the observation deck of Burj Khalifa.
You can’t quite believe how quickly you get to the top.
It’s a great experience that I recommend.
You can see the entire city from an impossibly dizzying height. After returning to earth we did a little shopping in the mall and then headed to the apartment.
Dinner on Saturday night was one that we were all anticipating with excitement.
We decided to try Karma Kafe at the Souk Al Bahar, designed by the person who opened Buddha-Bar, offering a Pan-Asian menu.
We were seated on the balcony that has a perfect view of the Dubai Fountains.
After a couple of cocktails we ordered a bottle of red wine and several dishes starting with edamame, seafood tartar, sushi, sashimi, and on and on, finishing with a very nice black cod dish.
A couple of after dinner drinks and we were ready for home.
Over all a very satisfying time had by all.
I would recommend Karma Kafe for several reasons beyond the fact that the food is very good and the service attentive, but it has a nice atmosphere with a great view of the Dubai fountains, and you are in the downtown area where you can go for an after dinner drink at countless places close by.
At.Mosphere is a good option in Burj Khalifa and is billed at the world’s highest restaurant and bar.
Another good option is Neos at the Address Downtown, on the 63rd floor you are sure of a good view of the city as well.
It’s a bit of a see and be seen kind of place and can get a bit smokey, but definitely worth a visit.
I personally enjoy Zeta, which is also at the Address Downtown but instead of being up high you are pretty much at the foot of the fountains and Burj Khalifa as your view.
It’s nice and laid back with the option to sit in a cabana, we were glad to have one this trip because the skies opened up, and soaked everyone out in the open the night we were there.
Sunday morning was a return trip to Abu Jbara for breakfast because who can resist a plate of hummus and falafel in the morning?
Certainly not me!
The plan for the day was to go out to The Palm, which is a manmade island in the shape of a palm tree, that is home to The Palm One & Only which is an exclusive resort, to spend the day at the pool and beach.
The weather was not looking good, and after much discussion we headed out there in the hope that things would improve.
It’s Dubai after all, the land of sunshine!
Once we arrived the weather had not improved and if anything was a bit worse.
We had a cup of tea while we discussed our options.
This was my first trip to The Palm One & Only, and one of the reasons that we chose it was its exclusivity, and good reviews.
I wanted to have the experience to see if I’d stay in the future.
Sadly we didn’t get to have the full experience, so I’ll just have to go again!
The tea was very good however so I can vouch for that.
We decided to head back to town and try the pool at the Address Downtown, another favorite hotel that I’ve always enjoyed staying in.
We grabbed some sunbeds despite the ominous looking sky.
We were determined.
Eventually not determined enough to sit in the rain.
We were defeated in the end.
But this was only a temporary setback!
I will be back to enjoy the Dubai sun one of these days very soon.
We ended up having a lunch of salmon and salad accompanied by a nice bottle of white wine at The Restaurant At Address Downtown.
The food was very enjoyable.
This turned into an extended lunch where we took our time and exchanged thoughts on our time so far.
We had a relaxed afternoon, wandered over to Din Tai Fung for a snack of dumplings and then over to Zeta for some cocktails and eventually some appetizers and salad.
Other than the rain that night, we had a great time relaxing after a successful and enjoyable weekend away.
Dubai is a great city to visit with so many options of things to do, or not do, and instead lounge by the pool and let your cares melt away. Unless you spot a rain cloud that is, but the chances are minimal that you will.
Have you visited Dubai? Share below your favorite thing to do in the city👇🏽
Have questions about Dubai? Leave them below👇🏽