2 Days in Dubai

DAY 1 DUBAI

Start at the Sheikh Mohammed Center for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU), where you can have a traditional breakfast and learn about the culture of Dubai and the UAE in general. Tradition remains a strong current throughout UAE society, while it adapts to tolerate, if not embrace, some of the modern social mores of the 80-90% ex-pat population.

The SMCCU is located in an old wind-tower house in the Al Fahidi district (also known as Bastakiya) of Bur Dubai on the western side of Khor Dubai (Dubai Creek). The district is named for Al Fahidi Fort, the oldest standing building in Dubai. The residential area that grew up around the fort was planned to make life in the extreme climate as comfortable as possible. Houses were built around narrow, winding lanes to maximize shade and draw cooling breezes through. Towers on the houses drew air down past water, which cooled the rooms as it evaporated on the wind.

Take an abras (water taxi) across the creek to Deira, where you’ll find the souks. If you’ve been to souks in Fez, Istanbul, Jerusalem and Cairo, Dubai’s souks probably won’t blow your socks off, but they do have local charm and are well worth some poking around. The Gold Souk is really something to behold and many visitors to Dubai come just for the gold.

Then travel in a matter of minutes from old Dubai to the number-one icon of new Dubai, Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building. I like buildings and have raved about this one more than once in this blog: here and here. Take the At The Top tour for access to the observation deck on the 124th floor. Burj Khalifa is part of the Downtown Dubai development, which includes the Dubai Mall (for a completely different shopping experience from the souks) and the musical Dubai Fountain.

Burj Khalifa, Dubai, UAE, photo by Sallie Volotzky

Burj Khalifa, Dubai, UAE, photo by Sallie Volotzky

DAY 2 DUBAI

Start the day with breakfast at the Farriers Restaurant with views of horses during morning track work on the Meydan Racecourse. After breakfast, take a tour of the Meydan Stables.

Drive to the giant Jebel Ali port, about 20 miles south of Dubai city, for a seaplane tour. The aerial perspective really helps to take in the extraordinary evolution of Dubai. You’ll fly over the whole city, but birds-eye views of the man-made Palm Jumeirah and World Islands, the Burj Khalifa and the sail-shaped Burj Al Arab Hotel are especially astonishing.

Seaplane-water-takeoff

Come down to earth with a tour through the art spaces on Alserkal Avenue in the industrial Al Quoz district. Since 2007, Alserkal Avenue has developed “organically,” as they like to say, into a hopping arts scene, with the city’s largest concentration of galleries and arts venues. It’s a good place to ground and balance out the hyper-commercialism that built Dubai and keeps it ticking.

Alserkal Avenue gallery, Dubai, UAE, photo from timeoutdubai.com

Alserkal Avenue gallery, Dubai, UAE, photo from timeoutdubai.com

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NAME THAT COUNTRY

In the industrial Al Quoz quarter of our mystery country’s largest city, the thriving Alserkal Avenue arts district showcases, nurtures and supports contemporary regional, multi-discipline arts and artists. Twenty renovated warehouses and other buildings house galleries, artists’ studios, food, drink, artist residencies, workshops, theater, cinema, public spaces, and programs. A full and diverse calendar of talks and festivals bring together artists, city residents and visitors in appreciation of the vital place of the arts in society.

 

Can you name that country? 
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NAME THAT COUNTRY

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque pictured above is named for the founder and first president of our mystery country. The country, composed of seven united principalities boarding the Arabian Gulf, is known for its oil wealth and shiny modern cities. Sheikh Zayed, who died in 2004, is locally revered and widely respected for wise stewardship of the considerable natural resources within his borders.

Can you name that country? 
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NAME THAT COUNTRY Episode 124

Just outside the world’s biggest mall and near the foot of the world’s tallest building, the world’s largest dancing water fountain dips and sways and shoots 500 feet into the air (every half hour from 6-11pm). That is one happy fountain! The fountain’s mystery home city is known for breaking records in architecture, engineering and development.

Can you name that city? 
See below for answers.

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Dubai Shopping Festival

You know Dubai does nothing halfway, and that certainly applies to the annual Dubai Shopping Festival, which rolls out its 22nd installment December 26, 2016-January 28, 2017. Last year, over 3.5 million people attended this shopping and entertainment extravaganza.

Year-round, Dubai is one of the world’s top destinations for shopping and for one month each year the Dubai Shopping Festival magnifies that appeal exponentially. Retail sectors around the city, including world-class malls and traditional souks, slash prices, offer special festival products, sponsor raffle drawings, activities, and live entertainment. Dubai-sized raffle prizes include luxury cars, gold, diamonds, homes, and cash.

The festival chooses a different theme each year, but topnotch entertainment and activities for the entire family always line-up to complement the shop-til-you-drop frenzy at the heart of the event.

Visit http://www.visitdubai.com/en/discover/festivals/dubai-shopping-festival#press-centre for shopping and entertainment details, not yet published. There’s also a Dubai Festivals App to help attendees plot a plan of action and make the most of festival experiences and deals.