When thinking of what to do in Dubai we had to consider two things. First of all the heat, it is difficult to convey to those that have not experienced such a climate just how hot it gets. It was 48 degrees on the first day and 55 degrees on the second and 52 on the third. That is hot, exceptionally hot and pretty much as hot as it gets anywhere on earth. The best way to describe it is to consider a sauna, how the heat feels so close, so oppressive. That is what it is like here, only hotter than a sauna, some 15 – 20 degrees hotter. So whereas in the UK we are advised not to stay in a sauna for longer than 15 minutes, there are panic buttons and everything, try spending an entire day in it. It becomes difficult and saps every bit of energy you have, you are covered from head to toe in sweat. Oppressive is the best way to describe it, your skin burns in minutes and people die.
The second thing we had to consider was costs. Prices in Dubai for things such as food are about 50% less than the UK, public transport and Taxi’s are much cheaper, if you smoke, 200 Marlboro will cost around £8 and drinks are about 80% cheaper than the UK. The average cost of a pint in a restaurant is around £6 and a bottle of wine £20. The only place in Dubai you can drink alcohol is in bars and restaurants. You simply cannot justify the costs and so alcohol is of the agenda for me here.
The real costs however are for attractions. There are three water parks here that I know of and the entry for the three of us pushes near to a hundred quid for one day. Skiing, and the aquarium, dolphinarium are all £60+ Clothes in Dubai are also insanely expensive, Dubai mall claims to house every single international brand on earth. It is the biggest mall on earth and is ridiculously expensive, we went into Versace Home and saw a snide chair for $15,000, in Diesel the average pair of jeans cost $500, just ridiculous.
So the mission plan for Dubai was simple, have a good time but don’t be forced to remortgage our house.
The first day we headed straight for the mall and Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building. At 7pm (though it didn’t start until 7.30pm) there is the world’s biggest fountain show. Basically it dances to Arabian music, the backdrop being the amazing Burj Khalifa it makes the Bellagio fountains look like a few kids with water pistols in a pond. The kids loved it and combined with lasers and lights it was really good, and free. This set the scene for what we came to expect in Dubai actually. It is almost as if before building something, the architects fly to wherever in the world the current best is, they look at it and then not just better it but completely blow it off the face of the earth.
Every mall has loads of Western Fast food joints and I genuinely can’t think of any here we haven’t seen, they have all the American ones, British ones, I’m talking about Taco Bell, Panda Express, Harry Ramsdens, the lot. Think of a fast food place – They have it in Dubai.
On the second day it was 55 degrees and within minutes the kids were telling me it was just too hot for them. Everywhere in Dubai is air conditioned (even bus stops) and so we grabbed a taxi to Creek side park. One of the biggest parks in Dubai it runs along the creek and is home to the Botanical Flower garden, kids play areas and Children’s World. Entrance is about 50 pence each and we headed straight for Children’s world which is a science centre for kids. Think Eureka in Halifax, no make it about ten times bigger and infinitely better and charge a quid to get in. We spent around three hours in there and the kids absolutely loved it. Often when travelling they have to adapt to attractions that are years above them, they have to enjoy temples and forts and yet here we were enjoying something designed specifically for them. They loved it. We pretty much had the place to ourselves and when we left we walked around the park for a while. Again we were completely alone and we finally found a Dubai fail. The kids park was too hot to play in, the slides too hot, the swings too hot, everything. So as I lay there sunbathing on the grass they just sat and talked. After about fifteen minutes they were covered in sweat, and so we set off in search of the flower garden. It became clear quickly that both kids were struggling in the heat, Abi couldn’t keep her eyes open because of the sweat running into her eyes and Charlie was saying he was extremely lethargic. Usually we would bail to a cafe, have some air con, drinks and food and continue on but it was Ramadan and so nowhere was open. I knew there was a bus stop at the park entrance where we could cool down and so we headed there. Abi really struggled as we made our way there but perked up once we got inside and shut the door. Both kids were clearly suffering from heat exhaustion and so I left them in the bus stop and walked to the main road to hail a taxi. The heat is such that every step is hard work, if you move too fast the heat burns your limbs, as if blown by a 55 degree hair dryer. Salt stings your eyes and you look like you have just stepped out of a shower.
Having travelled all over India that day was the hottest heat we had ever experienced and so the usual rehydration kicked in. I didn’t have to force the kids to drink water, they were asking me for it. They drank around three litres each and when I inspected their urine I found both to be mildly dehydrated. It is easy to see why some people die in such heat.
The following day we headed for the beach. Jumeirah beach is one of the most famous beaches in the world and so it seemed like a good place to go. Besides, the hotel runs a shuttle there and so at 10am we set off.
It surprises me just how much green there is in Dubai, it is one of the worlds driest cities and it rains on average 1 day per year. No surprises then that when the citizens get free time here they head for the beach.
Jumeirah beach is well equipped with changing rooms and lockers and cafe’s and despite the fact it is a Muslim country topless bathing for males is allowed. On Mondays the beach is closed to all men and is female only, which I am a bit gutted about because had I know this yesterday I would have tried to sneak in to get a sly look. Emirate women are nothing short of beautiful, I’ve always had a thing for fair skinned Indian women, but most Emirate girls are fair skinned and absolutely stunning; Again, a Muslim country where few people wear the full hijab. Actually I would say I have seen more women in England wearing the full hijab than here in Dubai – A sign of defiance, a symbol of degradation, or a sign of freedom and choice? Whatever your opinion of the hijab is I can now confirm that having visited many Muslim countries I can confirm it is not forced upon all Muslims and in fact the vast majority don’t wear it. It is worth mentioning that women are treated equally here, whether than happens in practice I do not know – But certainly in public there is equal opportunities for all. Definitive proof that the Muslim religion is open to modernisation, despite what the sensationalists in the UK might have you believe.
Jumeirah beach is beautiful. Set against a back drop of palm trees the sand is milk white and as soft as talcum powder. The sea is a stunning turquoise colour and there are no waves or currents. The sea is around thirty degrees which is great at first, but then you realise that even the sea isn’t an escape from the brutal heat of the sun. The water stays at about 3 foot deep for around ten metres before gradually getting deeper. Around fifty metres out it was about 5 foot deep which makes the beach perfect for kids. We played water volleyball with the locals, made titties in the sand and loved every second. Because of the heat I had to control the kids’ exposure and so every twenty minutes or so I would bring them under our umbrella for ten minutes of shade and 300ml of water. It worked fine and though all of us are sunburned we managed to stay healthy and hydrated.
We spent five hours on the beach, we were completely devoid of energy, enthusiasm and as we left we were uncontrollably dripping in sweat. Charlie said that it was like walking under a shower and he was spot on. It was hotter than we had ever known. As we walked back to the pickup point for the bus we just could not do it. We had about 500 metres to walk which would usually take a few minutes. We simply could not walk it all at once and so had to stop every 75 metres to cool down in the air conditioned bus stops. I know it sounds unbelievable but the heat is so oppressive it is a killer.
Despite the heat we had a great day, the beach was perfect and has gone right up the scale to one of our favourite beaches in the world. It is certainly the best beach in the world for kids that we have ever been to, not as picturesque as some, but perfect in every other way.
The plan was that on our final day in the Emirates we would head a couple of hours West to Abu Dhabi. It is the richest city on the planet and if the cities wealth was divided equally then every person would have $1.8 million. Compare that to the $10,000 in the UK and you get the idea of the sheer wealth the city holds.
The problem we have is that the beach is just so dammed good and will probably be the last beach we go to on this holiday and so after having a chat with the kids we have decided that rather than go up to Abu Dhabi we will spend our last day at the beach.
That kind of wraps up Dubai and wraps up our time here. We came to Dubai expecting big things and what we got was a city so enthusiastic it is inspiring. It shows how yet again the UK is completely lacking on the world stage and is very quickly becoming insignificant as the places that remained dormant for decades are springing to life and becoming world leaders in their own right. The fastest growing city on the planet holds more modern achievements than most other countries. Dubai has a vision which is “To create an excellent city that provides the essence of success and comfort of living”
The city is obviously run like a business with success at its core. The citizens are all shareholders of this fascinating place and reap the rewards. Everything is tax free and so for things like electronics you get prices that are ridiculously cheap compared to the UK and people aren’t paying tax after tax whilst their salary remains 7% below inflation. Unemployment is one of the lowest in the world and moral amongst those that call this place home is one of the highest in the world.
Dubai is a world leader on many fronts and we have loved our time here – I just wish the UK wasn’t so arrogant and would take note of how things are done here. If someone could get on the phone to God and ask him to turn the temperature down about twenty degrees then this would probably be the single best place on earth to live.
We’ll be back, maybe we’ll move here, it’s certainly high on my agenda of things to do when we return to the UK.