Earlier this month, I got the opportunity to travel to London, Houston and Dubai for business purposes. I didn’t get to spend too much time in the first two cities but I did get a few extra days in Dubai to explore. This was my second visit to each of these cities. Therefore, I had the luxury of opting for a laid back itinerary.
I was in the UAE for 8 days in total. Three of those days were leisurely spent. And here’s how I spent them;
Day 1 – Medinat Jumeirah (Abra Tour & the Souk)
When I got some free time, I checked out Medinat Jumeirah first. I was keen on visiting this resort for two main reasons. The souk and the view of the Burj Al Arab from the abra (traditional boat) rides. I had also read a bit about the restaurants around the resort but those proved to be more expensive than what I had budgeted for.
Generally, I thought Dubai was quite expensive. The exchange rate being almost 1AED to 100 Naira made mockery of my rule to not always convert the cost of goods and services in foreign countries.
At the time of my arrival at 11 am, I was the only one waiting in line for the next Abra. The boats carry multiple passengers but since no one else showed up, I got it all to myself.
The whole tour takes about 20 minutes and is more or less a sales tour for the hotels in the resort. Basically, this abra service and the souk are huge tourist traps but honestly (and I can’t believe I’m about to say this), I didn’t care.
I enjoyed the ride and my conversations with the Ferry Driver. Yes, that included his sales pitch of accommodation options I might never be interested in.
Souk Medinat Jumeirah
As you would expect from a place such as this, the prices were very high. It’s nice to come in and look around but if you would prefer a more ‘local’ experience, it’s best to head to the souks in Old Dubai. That also goes for the Abra rides, where, at 1AED, they cost 99AED less than the rides at the Medinat Jumeirah.
After my time at the Medinat Jumeirah, I made a rookie mistake of getting tickets for the Citysightseeing bus. I imagined that the experience would be quite similar to the one my sister and I had in Cape Town. There, the bus served as both our tour guide and transportation, saving us a lot of money.
CitySightSeeing – Atlantis The Palm, Mall of the Emirates, Dubai Mall – Aquarium & Underwater Zoo
This was quite different. Perhaps if I had purchased the 2 or 3-day pass, I might feel differently. But I got a 1-day pass and it wasn’t great value for money.
I rode the bus up to Atlantis The Palm, I planned to end the day at the beach there. However, you need a reservation to gain access. So I got back on the bus and rode to the Mall of the Emirates and then to the Dubai Mall – where I used one of the complimentary tickets to check out the Aquarium and Underwater Zoo.
Day 2 – JBR The Walk & JBR Beach
For my next free day in Dubai, I finally got to spend some time at the beach. I found a hostel right next to the beach at JBR The Walk and spent the afternoon just lazying around. The beach was very crowded when I arrived, so I didn’t stay for as long as I would have liked. However, I went back the next morning for a walk and photo opportunities without the crowd.
Day 3 – Dubai to Abu Dhabi by Taxi & Desert Safari
After that, I grabbed breakfast from a restaurant nearby and packed up my bags. Then I headed to the Ibn Battuta bus station to catch an Abu Dhabi bound bus.
Getting to Abu Dhabi from Dubai
There are two ways to get to Abu Dhabi from Dubai at the Ibn Battuta Bus Station. There is a bus available for 25AED and another option to share a taxi at 60AED each. I chose the latter, as the bus was not available when I got there.
It took exactly 1 hour to get to Abu Dhabi but it felt much shorter. Upon arrival in Abu Dhabi, I grabbed another taxi to my hotel. There, I signed up for a desert safari tour. After my first desert safari experience in Abu Dhabi, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be doing it again. And after I nearly threw up while dune bashing in Morocco, I was a 100% sure you wouldn’t find me in that scenario ever again. I planned to enjoy the desert experience without the dune bashing but no tour company would take on a solo tourist.
So, I loaded up on a dose of motion sickness pills and kept my eyes shut the entire ride. To be fair, it wasn’t as bad as I remembered it. However, I was still super glad when it came to an end. The rest of the evening went pretty much like my first experience.
Day 4 – Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque & Wahat Al Karama
For my last day in the UAE, I got an early start to visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, stopping first at the Wahat Al Karama War Memorial before heading into the mosque.
I hung around at the visitor’s centre until the mosque opened for tourists at 9 am. Then, I got in line to get a free ticket and an abaya before proceeding to admire the beautiful structure and architecture of the mosque.
My time in the UAE came to an end after my visit to the mosque. After a late checkout at the hotel, I headed to the Emirates office to catch the free shuttle service going from Abu Dhabi back to the Dubai International Airport.