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

Click to see Dubai tours on our website.

NAME THAT COUNTRY Episode 18


All the clues in this post refer to one Ya’lla Tours destination: Bahrain, Cuba, Egypt, Greece, Israel, Jordan, Morocco, Oman, Turkey, or United Arab Emirates (Abu Dhabi and Dubai).

We’ll show you images of popular tourist sites in our mystery country, along with descriptions of those sites. This time, our subject is not technically a country but more of a city-state Continue reading

Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Oman: A Few Photos from Our Recent Arabian Peninsula Fam Trip

A couple of weeks ago our fam group returned from the Arabian Peninsula, specifically the UAE and Oman, bringing with them some great stories and thousands of photographs that I’m still happily sorting through. For those of you not in the travel industry, “fam” is short for familiarization and a fam trip is a discounted trip offered by a travel supplier to travel agents to educate them on a particular destination, product or service. In this case, Ya’lla Tours is the travel supplier. Our policy has always been to work with travel agents, not directly with travelers, so we put a lot of emphasis on educating travel agents about our destinations, which can be tricky to sell to Americans (the Middle East, Cuba…)

The Arabian Peninsula is a new product for Ya’lla Tours, just launched over the Summer of 2013. So, in addition to travel agency owners, managers and senior agents, most of our sales team traveled on the fam trip. In the coming weeks, we’ll roll out impressions of the experience here on the blog, in words and images, from some of the trip participants. We’ll start with some random images just to whet your appetite:

DUBAI

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OMAN

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ABU DHABI

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