United Arab Emirates - April 2022
IMAGES COMING SOON!
DAY 1: Turkish Airlines
DAY 6: Aqua-ventures Waterpark
Start of our journey to the Middle East! Our flight to Dubai took off at 10:30pm via Turkish Airlines with a 3 hour layover in Istanbul. Our connecting flight from Istanbul and Dubai landed at 12:30am local time.
Read more about our experience with Turkish Airline. (COMING SOON!)
We picked up our rental car from Enterprise and stayed at an Aloft hotel close to the airport for the night.
Jet-lagged from the time difference, we were up at 5am. Decided to get the day started with a breakfast at the hotel. Today we had reservations at the Sky Views Observatory located at the Address Sky View Hotel in the heart of downtown Dubai.
The Sky Views Observatory offers 3 main attractions. The Observatory, The Glass Slide and The Edge Walk. We opted for the observatory and the glass slide side experiences during our time here. You also get an amazing skyline view of the Burj Khalifa from the observatory!
You have to purchase your tickets early and make a restoration time for your selected activities. We opted from the 10am which is the first slot available.
Read more about our experience at Sky Views Dubai. (COMING SOON!)
After completing our adventures, we headed to our first major hotel in Dubai, the Kempinksi Hotel Mall of Emirates. We stayed in the beautiful Executive Grand Deluxe Room with a view of downtown Dubai and the Burj Al-Arab outside our window. We were given access to the executive lounge which provided a private breakfast area, afternoon tea, cocktail hours and dinner.
Being located within the Mall of Emirates, we decided to stroll the mall for the rest of the day as our jet-lag was still affecting our sleep schedule. The Mall of Emirates is well known for its indoor ski slopes and fine dining/shopping.
We called it an end to our night for an exciting day ahead!
This morning, we had an opportunity to visit one of the most famous viewpoints in Dubai, the famous level 42 at the Shangri-La Hotel. This iconic view is famous for the great viewpoint of the Burj Khalifa but also the winding highway in front of it.
We woke at 4am to travel to the hotel and get to the viewpoint at sunrise. The sun will rise from the left of the Burj and you get a spectacular glow off of the glass structure. We spent a few hours taking pictures and enjoying the sunrise. We ended up meeting a nice couple who were there for the same experience so we spent some time talking with them as well.
Afterwards, we headed back to our hotel at Kempinski for breakfast and some relaxation. We spent the day enjoying the amenities of our hotel and by the pool during the hot summer days.
In the evening, we drove around the city and headed towards the Dubai Frame. We walked the grounds and captured some images close to sunset and enjoyed our time in the surround park. You have the option to go inside the frame building and taken an elevator to the top for another observatory view of downtown Dubai. We opted out of this experience seeing we were at level 42 at the Shangri-La this morning and Address Sky view the day before.
For dinner, Shangri-La had graciously invited us back to their hotel to dine at their Asian cuisine inspired Shang Palace for dinner. We enjoyed a hardy 4 course meal with dinner and drinks. A great way to cap off the night.
One of the many impressive things about Dubai is the number of records it holds. Tallest building, deepest swimming pool, largest waterpark, largest shopping mall, and highest restaurant. Today, we got to experience not ONE but TWO of these amazing experience! After a hardy breakfast, headed back into downtown Dubai.
So far we have experienced the Burj Khalifa from different viewpoints and observatories, but today we finally got to enter into the amazing structure! From here we took one of the fastest elevators from the ground floor to the 123rd floor inside the Burj Khalifa. We spent the afternoon enjoying high tea at the highest restaurant in the world, At.mosphere. Here, you get an unbeatable panoramic view of Dubai. We enjoyed high team, finger foods, cocktails, and their signature Golden Cappuccino.
Read more about our experience at At.mosphere (COMING SOON!)
We easily spent 3 hours here enjoying the view, food and service. A once in a lifetime opportunity to experience the finer luxuries in Dubai. Soon enough, it was time to return back to earth for our next adventure. After experiencing the the "high life", we decided to go somewhere more "grounded", more "traditional". North of the city towards the canals sits a region of Dubai with historic architecture. No fancy glass building, shops and stores only 1 to 2 stories high, Old Town Dubai.
Although it's not what I expected. My belief was Old Town Dubai was an actually historic preserved town along the waterfront in Dubai. In actuality, it is a shopping front area designed to look like an old town. I got a Disney Studios backlot type of feel walking around here. I was a little misconceived and disappointed but overall we enjoyed our stroll through the streets and shops.
Lastly for the night, we returned back to the Burj Khalifa around the Dubai Mall to see the famous Dubai Fountain Show. The show starts daily at 6pm, every 30 minutes. and last for about 5 minutes. You can enjoy the show for free from anywhere around the pool for if you are staying at a nearby hotel overlooking the pool. There is an option for "front row seats" which cost around AED 45.
Afterwards, we strolled through the massive Dubai Mall. The stores within the mall were open until midnight and restaurants stayed open till 3 am! I am not sure if these hours are traditional or if because we were here during Ramadan. It was nice to experience these things and see people out and about late at night.
This morning we headed out early to capture images through the city. There are a few famous Instagram Spots in downtown Dubai that we hit early this morning. Afterwards, we wanted to visit Jumeira Beach. This is a free local beach which is known to be clean, have great sand and a perfect view of Burj Al Arab, which is the ONLY 7 Star hotel in the world!
Unfortunately, there is a lot of counteraction happening along the beach. A new hotel, The Marsa Al Arab, is currently under construction and now blocks the once beautiful view of the Burj Al Arab.
We returned back to our hotel for breakfast, and sadly it was time to check out of The Kempinksi at the Emirates Mall. That sadness was short lived because we were heading to one of the most iconic properties in all of Dubai. We packed our bags and headed towards famous Palm out over the Persian Gulf.
We drove to the very end of the Palm and turned into the beautiful Atlantis Resort! We checked into our room and explored this massive resort. You can easily spend 4-6 days here exploring, trying different restaurants and enjoying the amenities. Staying at the Atlantis gets you free access to the Lost Chambers Aquarium and Aqua-venture Waterpark. If you are even considering staying at the Atlantis, the simple and TL;DR answer is YES! You will not regret the experience.
READ MORE ABOUT OUR TIME AT ATLANTIS, THE PALM HERE. (COMING SOON!)
Our checkin was at 3PM. We decided to spend the day enjoying the resort and the pool. A poolside nap was definitely needed after such a long day.
We made dinner reservations at Ayamna, one of the 10+ restaurants located on the property. We enjoyed a delicious Lebanese Iftar meal.
After a hardy meal and a long day, we were ready for bed, even with all the excitement. We had an even more thrilling day to look forward to tomorrow!
We woke this morning with excitement. First, we made our way to Kaleidoscope, one of the two breakfast buffets at the Atlantis. As always, we filled up on a delicious breakfast buffet with cuisine from all around the world.
Next we headed back to our room and grabbed our swimsuits and sunscreen and headed to Aqua-ventures Waterpark!
One of the advantages of stying at The Atlantis is direct access to the waterpark daily! Resort guest enter through private access where you scan your wrist band and enter directly! Doors open at 10am and you can bet we were there!
We enjoyed a thrilling and exciting day full of rides and sun! Two of the most famous and thrilling rides at Aqua-ventures park are "Leap of Faith" and "Poseidon's Revenge". If you are a thrill seeker, these two rides are a must. We thoroughly enjoyed our day at the park. Many different water rides, a lazy river and we ended our day at the wave pool.
The park closes at 6pm.
We headed back to our room and got ready for dinner that night. We made reservations at the Italian Restaurant Ronda Locatelli. Again, amazing food, atmosphere and experience. We were exhuasted from all the excitement and fun today. We returned to our room for much needed rest.
Our last day at the Atlantis. Looking back, we would highly recommend at least 3 nights at this resort as there is so much to see and do! Our 2 night stay went by too fast! We started our morning with breakfast at the other buffet restaurant, Saffron. Afterwards we returned to our room to pack up. We checked out of our room but remained on property for a few more hours.
We visited The Lost Chambers Aquarium. Overall a fun experience and beautiful Atlantian themed aquarium, but I would have felt disappointed if I had payed to visit and travelled to the Atlantis Palm just for the aquarium. Overall it is a small aquarium which you can walkthrough in ~15 minutes. I'm glad this attraction is included in your stay which is worth the visit but if we had to pay separate for the aquarium would have been a disappointment.
After our final stroll around the Atlantis Palm, it was time to say goodbye (we really did not want to leave!) and it was time to say goodbye to Dubai. But this not the end of our trip, only our time in Dubai. We got in our car and hit the road to Abu Dhabi.
The drive from Dubai to Abu Dhabi took about 1 hour and 30 minutes. The roads and highway system in in UAE are amazing so no trouble driving at all. Our main objective in Abu Dhabi was to visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.
We reached our hotel at the Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi. This location is ideal as it is located right across from the Grand Mosque. This hotel also has a famous "Instagram Spot" where you can capture a beautiful sunset behind the mosque.
READ MORE ABOUT THE RITZ CARLTON (COMING SOON!)
We travelled into town for a simple dinner. Afterwards back to our hotel and off to bed.
Staying at the Ritz-Carlton was initially an out of pocket expense for us. But after seeing how beautiful the property is, we got in contact with the managers and were able to change our stay into a collaboration. We started the morning with the some photos from around the resort, then afterwards headed to breakfast.
Today, we planned our day around visiting the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. To visit here, you have to reserve tickets for entry at a certain time. It is free to enter the Mosque but a time reservation needs to be schedule ahead of time. We made our reservations the night before for the earliest time slot at 10am.
Traditional hours are from 9am - 10pm.
While we were here during the time of Ramadan, hours were 10am-5pm.
We arrived at the Mosque along with many, many tour buses. This we were not expecting so early on. To enter the Grand Mosque, you first enter into an undergo mall adjacent to the mosque. From there you will followed guided signs to the security checkpoint.
MUST be covered from HEAD to TOE. Including ARMS covered. NO t-shirts, shorts, skirts!
Head/Hair must be covered with a scarf
If you do not meet the dress code requirements, women will be provided an Abaya (traditional outfit) which will cover your body and a Shayla (head scarf) so that you may enter the Mosque respectfully.
No shorts allowed. Long trousers or traditional clothing which cover the legs completely.
Men ARE allowed to wear t-shirts but no sleeveless shirts.
Men, if you do not meet the dress code requirements, you will be provided a Kandura for your visit
No transparent/see through clothing
No shorts and skirts
No sleeveless shirts
No tight clothing/swimwear/beachwear
Before entering the Grand Mosque, they are VERY strict on dress code, so please follow the guidelines listed above. Some of these are common sense but you would be surprised what we saw a lot of tourist wearing when they approached security. To be on the safe side, conservative outfits and do your research. Overall embrace the opportunity and culture and have fun with it!
We spent a few hours here taking in the architecture and grandeur of the beautiful structure. Also trying the taking photos in-between tour groups.
Afterwards we returned back to our hotel for some R&R at the largest pool in Abu Dhabi. Today was one of the hottest days during our trip, so some poolside fun was much needed!
One of the most beautiful spots to capture an image of the grand mosque is from the Wahat AlKarama, which itself is a modern war memorial. At the Wahat AlKarama, is a shallow pool that provides a beautiful reflection of the Grand Mosque. We arrived to this location close to sunset. Again, the Ritz-Carlton is an ideal location because Wahat AlKarama is located a we meters outside the entrance so we were able to walk to it. Otherwise, they do have free parking right next to the memorial.
As it was getting late, we returned back to the hotel for dinner and off to bed.
This morning we slept in for much needed rest. Today is our last day at the Ritz-Carlton and in Abu Dhabi. After breakfast and checkout, we actually headed towards the coast instead of heading back to Dubai, to visit Qsar Al-Watan.
Qsar Al-Watan is a beautiful constructed domed marble and limestone presidential palace which is used for executive and parliament meetings and banquets throughout the year. Entrance to the presidential palace cost AED 65 (~$18 USD) per adult and AED 30(~$8 USD) per child.
We enjoyed a few hours here, because it was mid-day, the lighting conditions were fairly harsh as as the light would also reflect off of the marble. An evening glow would have been more ideal and picturesque. Overall, it is worth visiting Qsar AL-Watan with its grandeur and beautiful architecture but there are not many specific highlights to be seen. You spend your time wandering through its massive cavernous rooms in awe of the elegance and intricacies of the architecture.
It was about 3pm and we made our way back to Dubai. We had a 2 hour drive ahead of us.
Once we arrived back to Dubai, we headed straight to the Dubai Creek Harbor. Located on the opposite side of the Dubai Creek River. From here you get an beautiful downtown Dubai skyline sunset view. Here they have beautiful gardens to stroll through and river front restaurants to enjoy.
Afterwards we check-into our hotel at the Courtyard Marriott for the night. It was early lights out for us as we had a very early morning planned for tomorrow for some sunrise thrills!
3AM our alarms went off and we woke with excitement.
We were picked up from from our hotel at 3:30AM for a thrilling sunrise hot air balloon ride, a 4x4 desert jeep safari and a bedouin tent breakfast experience via Balloon Adventures Dubai.
READ MORE ABOUT OUR EXPERIENCE WITH BALLON ADVENTURES DUBAI. (COMING SOON!)
After an exciting morning, we returned back to our hotel around 10am. We rested for a few hours until our exiting COVID-19 test which was schedule for 12pm. Afterwards, we checked out of our hotel to our final property in UAE.
We pulled up to the SLS Hotel in downtown Dubai. We rode the evelator up to the 71st floor of this beautiful tower to check in! From there we rode the elevator down to the 64th floor to our room. Here we had a beautiful view of downtown Dubai with the Burj Khalifa in the distance. One of the great attractions of this hotel is the infinity pool facing downtown Dubai located on the 75th floor.
READ MORE ABOUT OUR EXPERIENCE AT SLS HOTEL (COMING SOON!)
Seeing it is our last night in Dubai and the UAE. We decided to celebrate the end of another amazing trip with dinner at a local Lebanese restaurant in downtown Dubai close to the Burj. We enjoyed our lovely meal at Beirut Khanum which we would highly recommend if you visit Dubai. Being surrounded by the heart of Dubai, locals enjoying the night and the overall atmosphere was a perfect way to end an amazing trip. Afterwards we returned back to the SLS for the night. We enjoyed the city skyline view one last time. Afterwards it was off to bed as we had an early morning flight back to the US.
Sadly, our trip comes to an end. We checked out of the SLS around 5am and headed towards Dubai International Airport. We returned our car at Enterprise and made our way through check-in and security. The process was smooth and hassle free. We used our priority pass to access the lounge for about an hour where we enjoyed breakfast and afterwards made it to our gate. From there, we boarded our flight with Turkish Airlines and waved goodbye to the UAE as we departed back to the USA.