Welcome to our travel blog. We are Tabitha and Nic. In 2011 we 'retired' in our early 40s and set off to travel the world. We spent our first year in South America and have been lucky enough to make two trips to Antarctica.

Our blog is a record of our travels, thoughts and experiences. It is not a guide book, but we do include some tips and information, so we hope that you may find it useful if you are planning to visit somewhere we have been. Or you may just find it interesting as a bit of armchair travel.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Dubai - pretty much as high as you can get without being in a plane

Burj Khalifa, Dubai
When you think of Dubai, you probably think of skyscrapers, shops, beaches and that palm island. We did, and it sort of put us off from visiting a bit. We aren't that bothered by beaches and fancy shopping malls, and unless you can afford to stay in the fanciest of the hotels - which we can't - I can't get excited about their existence either. But, we were going to be in the UAE, so we thought we'd see what all of the fuss is about.

And if you're going to go to Dubai, then you might as well go up the tallest building in the world, in one of the fastest lifts in the world. So we did. And if you're going to go up the 456 metres to level 125, then you might as well go up 555 metres to the higher observation floor at level 148, so we paid the extra to do that. It wasn't cheap, but it did at least also give us a fast track entrance, which avoided the queues, and gave us coffee and sweets at the bottom and a drink and nibbles at the top.

And what did we think of our Burj Khalifa experience? Well, it was OK. the problem for me was that, whilst you do get an excellent view from up there, the view is of Dubai, which to me at least, just isn't all that interesting to look at. Most of what you can see is just uninspiring buildings and then after that, sand.

View of World Archipelago, from Burj Khalifa, Dubai
It was interesting to see the World Archipelago, a collection of 300 small private islands that are being dredged out of the ocean roughly in the shape of a world map, but that was a long way off being finished, despite being well overdue. And you can't really see the Palm from here. So, while I don't regret going up there, and I can say that I have been up the world's tallest building (for now at least), I can't honestly recommend it, and it certainly is very expensive just to look out of a high window! It says something when Nic's favourite bit was having arancini for lunch in Carluccio's downstairs, overlooking the fountains.

View from Burj Khalifa, Dubai

Us at the Burj Khalifa, Dubai

View of Burj Al Arab and The Palm, from Burj Khalifa, Dubai
View from Burj Khalifa, Dubai
The Palm, Dubai
I mentioned the Palm. We didn't go on to the Palm, as we had no interest in doing any of the things on offer there, except for those that were well out of our price range. We did go into one of the nearby hotels that had a bar high enough to get a view of it. It also is OK; it is quite clever that they have made it, but it all felt a bit cluttered looking. If I were wealthy enough to afford a home on it, I'm not sure I'd want one - they all seemed a bit too close together and overlooked for my liking, and there is a lot of building work still going on. The drinks were nice in the bar though, if rather pricey!

Gold Souk, Dubai
So if the new stuff left me a bit cold, what about the more historical aspects?

We were staying over in Deira, which is the other side of the creek, and is the older part of town, with the gold souk, the spice souk, other markets and lots of fabric shops.

These were interesting to walk around, but the souks in particular felt very touristy, and in the gold souk, I was soon sick to the back teeth of being offered 'cheap designer' watches and handbags!

Spice Souk, Dubai
Camel Museum, Dubai

We did like some things though. Just on the other side of the creek from Deira, you could walk along the historical area. One of the things there was a camel museum - which we went into more for a laugh, but actually had the potential to be pretty good.

It had some interesting information about camels, and how they are used in the UAE. Did you know, for example, that like horses, they have different names for camels, depending on their gender, age and what they are used for.

Camel Museum, Dubai

There were also some interactive bits that would have been really quite fun - had they worked. Unfortunately, we found that most of the technology was just not working, so those things that would have taken the experience up a step, failed to deliver.

Deira Creek, Dubai

Al Fahidid Fort, Dubai Museum, Dubai
But there were other things in this area, such as the old buildings with their wind towers, which were once the closest things the Emirati people had to air conditioning. The tall towers, with their open sides captured the air and dragged it down through the house to create a cooling draft.

Of course the air was still warm, so they fell out of favour when the cooler air con came in, but they may yet make a comeback, as a company is looking at how to combine the old towers with refrigeration techniques, to provide a more eco friendly, but effective air con system.

Dubai Museum, Dubai

And carrying along Al Fahidi Street, there was a more authentic feel to the area, albeit somewhat influenced now by the Indian population. Further down again, was the Dubai Museum, in the Old Al Fahidi Fort, which was definitely worth a visit - and not just because it provided us shelter from the sudden torrential rain - and hail - storm that started just as we arrived.

Unfortunately, it was still going when we left, so then we had to make a dash for it - into a Baskin Robbins of all places!

Bastakiya, Dubai
And a little further on, there was a great little area called Bastakiya, which is a well renovated warren of old houses, which now contains some nice little craft and souvenir shops. There is also a great place to eat called the Arabian Tea house Café and Restaurant. It has a lovely courtyard garden, and serves good traditional food.

Pearl measuring kit, Dubai Museum, Dubai
Dubai Museum, Dubai

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