It's the fifth and final part of my latest holiday series! It actually made me cool off holidays for a while and I know my next one will be relaxed to the max and anything but flashy. My Dubai dreams were dashed by food poisoning and I tried my best to perk up at the one week point as it was now or never! My last blog post left off with me holed up in our hotel room for a few days watching random movies and a lot of BBC World News. Our hotel didn't have free wifi in the rooms so I was determined to get out for at least a few hours. We took a taxi to Old Dubai and started the day at Dubai Museum, which only costs 3AED which is around just 50p. It was a great insight into the recent history that the city has sprung up from and a light look at the development of what Dubai is today. There are a fair few wax dummies involved in the exhibitions but it was an interesting hour!
A few minutes walk from Dubai Museum are the souks, and I had these in my mind as exotic thriving markets. They were a little less authentic than we'd hoped and most things had a 'made in China' label and came in a plastic packet! We had fun bartering with the shopkeepers though and exploring the winding precincts. I forgot to mention until now that it was recently UAE day so there were flags everywhere!
We jumped on an abra boat ride to take us across the river to the Gold Souk, which cost around 18p. The boat was so old and wooden that this was the most authentic thing we'd done all week! We clunked across to the other side and browsed the second souk but the most I picked up was a magnet for a lady at work.
We hopped back on an abra and caught a taxi home down the hot motorway and chilled in the hotel for a little while, before heading out towards JBR for dinner. I hadn't ate anything for the past few days apart from crackers, so I tested myself with a light dinner and more mint tea. I have not had mint tea since I returned, it has scarred me for life! JBR was a little like a mall on a beach - the strip is very plush and perfect with lovely restaurants on decking, but then the beach is a few steps away, making it seem rather surreal. It's not like a seaside or port but more man made and artificial.
My friend's cousin had got us a table at the club Crystal at Raffles, a highly expensive table but you get free drinks and entry along with this. Considering drinks were around £15-20 each anyway, it was more economical to get a table deal. We first had a drink booked at the top of the Burj al Arab, aka the surf board building. We had around an hour to get ready and unfortunately our hotel room had a shower that leaked everywhere and terrible lighting. Have you ever been in a hotel room where literally you cannot see yourself properly in any mirror? I put my makeup on by memory and assumed all of the colour matched and soon we were off out in yet another taxi. A few golf buggies later and we were rode up to the Burj al Arab, an extremely grand and extremely quiet space. There were a few other people there taking photos and two ladies who I'm just going to say were obviously looking for 'clients', and we took the lift together up to one of the top floors. Our planned drink was in more of a restaurant space so we all sat down at a huge table with one cocktail each. We didn't stay long and made sure we checked out how fancy the bathrooms were as there wasn't actually a view out of the windows. And the cocktails cost £30 each, oh my!
We had some photos near the entrance where the aquarium walls were, though I just wasn't really in a photo mood that holiday as I just wasn't feeling great. As we waited at the entrance of the building for taxis, the fanciest cars with impeccably dressed passengers were pulling up constantly - definitely not our taxis! Soon we were dropped off at a huge private hotel and were confused where the club was, as my friend's cousin had took a personal taxi to the club himself. We were told the club was around the corner but it felt like we were walking down into a carpark and various boys were lurking there trying to talk to us. Another group of girls were coming around the corner too though and we followed them to the entrance of the club, lined with super cars. It turns out the boys were probably trying to get into the club with girls! We had no problem getting in (unlike New York) and that's when I noticed a poster saying Thursday was Ladies Night, which means free entry and free drinks?! We'd just paid for a table with free drinks and after going up a few levels in the lift and walking into the dark circular space with various levels, we found our table was a two seater sofa with a coffee table anyway, haha!
Now this club was playing the best music, totally my perfect place, but we grabbed our drinks (mine soft) and did some people watching. The problem with having a table is that you might look elite and like a 'somebody', but it just means you naturally confine yourself to one area and feel separated from everyone else. I would have rather walked in unaccompanied and found a great place to be, surrounded by cool new people to meet. It will be the first and last time I'd ever willingly get a table. Also I thought we would have to really dress so carefully to get into clubs as it was so tricky in New York, but there were girls in the club wearing rara skirts (yes) and jeans, so it was a UK vibe really and nothing out of the ordinary. Unfortunately after about half an hour I started to get such bad tummy cramps and was feeling awful even sitting down at the mini sofa so my friends took me back out to the taxis and I made my best not to seem as though I was in fact drunk on the way home, as you can be driven straight to the police station if you are disorderly! The driver was definitely watching me very closely in the rear mirror when I said I wasn't feeling well. So after one £30 virgin cocktail and a £50 club entry, I was home! My friends followed after around an hour as the club shut at 3am and we had arrived at around 12.30am, and my room mate didn't feel great either. The next day we were going to go for food at JBR but we all spent the day watching edited romcoms and I ate more of the room service vegetable broth then I ever want to eat again!
And then it was Saturday, our last day. All of the other gals had left by then so it was just myself and my friend, and we decided to go to the Dubai Mall as an easy way to spend the last hours. I had such random clothes left, I didn't even care what I was wearing or looked like at this point as I just wanted to be comfortable. The mall was amazingly huge and luxe, with two massive waterfalls and acres to browse across each floor. The only shops that appealed were Bath and Body Works and Sephora, but I didn't make a purchase at either as we had been to New York some months ago. We ate at a restaurant by the water where I had a quinoa salad and veggies, and it was so nice to eat some actual food; then we watched the water fountain shows before heading off. Surrounded by English shops and people, it didn't feel like I was really that far from home!
That night we tried to go for drinks even though it was Saturday night, which is technically Sunday night in Dubai so few places are open. We dressed casually and I was so gutted that this was basically one of my only nights out when usually its all about getting ready and playing music, gossiping and laughing before heading out every night on holiday. It was such a waste on my part! We went to the Hilton rooftop for a drink, were pleasantly surprised when a guy spoke to us and then sent over drinks before he left with his family, got really freaked out that they were potentially poison, checked he wasn't hiding watching us, got over how ridiculous we were being, and then tried to locate somewhere else to head. Nowhere was open so we went back to the hotel and decided to duck into one of the hotel's clubs. Now the Marina Byblos hotel was good because it lived up to its claims of the decor and breakfast, but the clientèle was more of a night time kind if you get my drift here, and who we met in the lifts were either tourist couples, old balding men, and plastic surgery-loving ladies of the night (and in this case, the day). It wasn't uncommon to see ladies getting in and out of the lifts at different floors at all hours of the day, eek. The hotel website looked like it had the coolest bars and clubs and for some nights we had planned we could even just party in our hotel but on arrival, we saw they were seriously cheesy. After entering the one bar on this last night for a laugh, we were sat by the hostess with a free drink in the centre of crowded tables facing a live band pumping out the likes of 'I love rock 'n' roll' and 'You are so beautiful' in heavy accents. Upon peering casually around, the room was full of ladies wearing not a lot and groups of men looking and making eye contact with them. We left pretty sharpish once the gazes of the men were too much to avoid, as it was quite hilarious but not somewhere we were sticking around!
And then it was the final day, with only time to pack up and head to the airport. Our flight home was during a really windy patch and had us holding hands with the lady next to us during some crazy turbulence, who had just been on a 10 week Bikram yoga course and was feeling VERY emotional anyway! When all the TVs cut out and were reduced to fuzz, I did think we were going to die. Thankfully we got home safely and I had to take almost a week off work trying to get myself on the road to full recovery.
All in all, what a trip! I don't know if my expectations were too far from reality or if being ill just totally scuppered it all, but I won't be going back to Dubai very soon I don't think. I would recommend it to couples as the restaurants and attractions means there is loads to see and do, but it might not be the place for exploring in an impulsive way or feeling very far from home. Here s my vlog too - from reading my posts, was this how it seemed?