Dubai Vacay - Jan 2019
Dubai, one of the biggest and busiest cities in the United Arab Emirates, is the perfect tourist destination for travelers and families of all ages. With its bold architecture, audacious style, melting pot of cultures and historical importance – Dubai is unlike anywhere else in the world. The balance between ancient traditions and glitz and glam provides multiple options for everyone’s preferences. Lucky for me, my family decided to make a five-day trip early this January before our crazy school and work schedules began. Our trip was jam packed with thrilling tours, memorable adventures, fattening feasts and of course; shopping. Since people only start coming out around 4/5pm thus making the city booming until 2-3 in the morning… we made sure that when we left our hotel rooms in the morning we only came back very late at night. I honestly need another vacation to recuperate from a week full of nonstop excursions and excitement. And a gym membership, if we are being real.
We arrived on a late afternoon and made our way to our hotel, Roda Amwaj Suites Jumeirah Beach Residence, located on JBR (the beachy version of Vegas Strip). Now, any other family would probably rest for a couple of hours, considering that we had been flying for about 40 hours due to delays but not us. My family can get a bit too enthusiastic.
We had our tour and activity tickets booked for the first three days and according to our Itinerary, Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo was on the to-do list for the evening. The Aquarium and Underwater Zoo is Dubai Mall’s most mesmerizing sight with its gargantuan aquarium that is home to thousands of sea creatures. Beastly sharks, swift sting-rays, sumo-sized groupers and massive schools of pelagic fish dart and glide along the captivating aquarium. For free, you can see quite a bit of the outer section of the aquarium but with a basic ticket you get to go through a surreal 48 meter walk-through tunnel. The basic package also includes access to the Underwater Zoo found on the second floor.
Spoiler: the star of the show is a 5.1 meter-long Australian saltwater crocodile named King Croc (the creativity is truly outstanding).
So some basic facts about the Aquarium just to blow your mind. The Aquarium contains 10 million liters of water and is 11 meters deep making it home to 33000 aquatic animals and the largest collection of Sand Tiger sharks. In addition, a hefty filtration system cleans the water every 85 minutes and 60000 liters of sea water is added everyday (due to evaporation). Reminder, this is all in a mall. An Explorer Package includes a glass bottom boat tour, fish feeding and a tour behind the scenes that shows us their shark and jelly fish breeding center, pristine kitchen and fish hospital. Other activities include snorkeling, diving with sharks, feeding sting rays and my personal favourite; a mermaid makeover. Overall, the tour and zoo was thoroughly enjoyable for the whole family. I would definitely recommend this activity for families and adults of all ages.
And right after the Aquarium and Underwater zoo, my family made their way to Joe’s Crab Shack. Kind of ironic considering we were gushing about all the sea creatures right before. As someone who doesn’t like sea-food; that was some of the best seafood I have had. It got the seal of approval from my seafood obsessed family too. With a ton of time to spare at the mall, considering it was ONLY 11pm, we made our way for the last Dancing Fountain show at the mall. The world’s largest performing fountain is definitely a must do when visiting Dubai. With the captivating music and vocals along with the lit up water fountain, no wonder it’s a popular tourist destination at all times of the day. Bonus: it’s for free. Bonus 2.0: Up close view of the Burj Khalifa.
The next day we set of for a full day adventure at MotionGate, a Hollywood theme park. As an adrenaline junkie, this was what I was looking forward to the most. It did not disappoint. The theme park showcases attractions based on DreamWorks Animation, Columbia Pictures, Lionsgate and The Smurfs. Fortunately, beating the holiday rush and being a weekday, the park was not busy which meant line-free rides! This was the first time we always got the front row on all the rollercoasters. Thanks to this, we managed to do EVERY single ride within four hours. The park includes family rides, kids rides, motion simulators, rollercoasters, play areas, water rides, shows, dinning and tons of (overpriced) shopping. Listed below are the themes found in each section;
Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs
The Green Hornet
Kung Fu panda
How to Train Your Dragon
Hunger Games (the best rollercoaster is located here)
Everything God Damn Smurf
MotionGate is located within Dubai Parks and Resorts amongst other popular parks like Legoland, Bollywood and Riverland. MotionGate was the perfect choice for us due to the variety of rides catering for water babies, thrill seekers, children and even those afraid of heights (motion simulators are a great replacement for coasters). Each member of the family was able to enjoy multiple rides throughout the day. However, I would recommend buying the tickets online otherwise you will waste a bunch of time waiting in line to get in especially when it’s busy.
The last major tour we had left was the Afternoon Tour Exploring the City of Dubai by Rayna Day Tours and Travel. The afternoon departure was perfect for filling up our day after a morning activity of shopping. The tour bus picked us up from our hotel and never ever in my life have I had such an enthusiastic tour guide before. Imran Khan was truly the best at cringey dad jokes. Also, my dad just had to be the person who said a dad joke back at him. Yep, that’s how we roll in this fam. The city’s signature sights are spread across multiple districts making it hard on public transport to complete in one day but this tour covered all the areas with ease. The first stop was Al Bastkiya, Dubai’s oldest quarter, built by the first Persians to come to Dubai in 1800. We strolled through the lanes of the old housing which are now cafes, galleries and museums. Across the Al Bastkiya, on the other side of Dubai Creek, is the home of the largest Gold, Spice and Electronic Markets in the world. We caught a cute little boat to get to the other side, taking in the intoxicating culture and buzz of the market. We got to experience Little India and Pakistan, neighboring even in Dubai. Soon after, Imran took us to Dubai Museum which is at an old Fort, the Al Fahaidi. After, we enjoyed a swish through Jumeirah neighborhood, passing its deluxe villas and Jumeirah Mosque. Fun fact, houses and buildings need to be painted white, beige or neutral colour due to environmental factors. I will say this, the villas reminded me so much of the ones found in Johannesburg. Next up was viewing iconic structures and hotels such as Burj Al Arab, palm-tree-shaped Palm Jumeirah, Dubai Marina, Mall of Emirates, Atlantis, an old palace now converted into a hotel and the panoramic view of downtown futuristic Dubai. This seven-hour tour was thoroughly entertaining but also a great work out with all the walking. This is definitely a top activity for tourists or new comers in Dubai who want to get an idea and touch of the euphoric city.
With all the major activities out of the way, we could finally enjoy the JBR Walk that goes on for a couple of kilometers. The JBR Walk is a one-way road located right next to the beach in prime real estate taken up by the best hotels and apartments in Dubai. Each side of the walk is showered with trendy cafes, exquisite restaurants, hip bars and hundreds of tourists and locals. Not to mention, if a luxury/sports car exists – you will see it on this road just cruising by. Youngsters take out their expensive rides and some even rent these cars for a couple of hours. We had a couple of meals here at Shake Shack, Qurtoba and ChowKing…however I was too preoccupied with eating that I forgot to take some snaps for this blog. Soorrryyyy. During the day, its absolutely lovely to stroll by the beach side that is taken up by all sorts of people. Children playing in the various play areas, adults sun tanning in fancy comfortable sun beds, families enjoying continental choices of snacks served in the cutest little food trucks and fitness freaks taking a run. And once the sun seats, the crowd triples in size as everyone pours into the out-door hookah lounge or fights for a dinner reservation in a restaurant that looks onto the ocean. Ultimately, we spent our last few days missioning between JBR walk, the beach, Dubai Mall and Ibn Battuta Mall.
And then BAM, back to reality. No sweet little conclusion here cus that definitely didn’t happen to me with going back to school. I would recommend Dubai as a must do on your bucket lists, if possible. As cliché as it sounds, it really is the best of cities. If glitz, glam and just anything extraordinary is your thing – Dubai is for you.