E: Broke and Alone in Dubai

Today stories and images of Dubai are circulated around the media all the time, from the news about oil funded, record breaking developments within the area to glitzy music videos where people jump out of planes above the Palm Jumeirah. I had allocated myself exactly two days to see as much as possible of this millionaire’s playground with about 50 quid in my pocket. Now that may seem like a decent amount of spending money for a two day holiday but let’s not forget how expensive Dubai is. It wasn’t exactly designed with youth backpackers in mind.

I arrived at Dubai pretty beat at around 5am, not having had more than half an hour of sleep on the plane. I could have easily mistaken the fatigued blurry images of white pillars and marble flooring of the immigration checkpoint as the entrance to heaven, missing nothing but a few clouds. Still somewhat functioning, I managed to locate the airport’s metro station, only to find out that Friday was considered a weekend in Dubai and that the metro did not open until one in the afternoon. With no other choice I resentfully dragged my jet-lagged self to the information desk and asked for a fare estimate.

I waited till around 7am before hopping into a cab, that way I’d at least get a drive through Dubai as the sun came up over the city. As we exited the airport roads my thoughts immediately turned into “where’s the tallest building in the world!?” “when will it be visible?” “is that it that one?” “no…” “will I see it now?” “what about now?” All in all it took about 3 minutes of driving before all my thoughts were silenced as I stared as what appeared to be a giant golden needle in the distance. The Burj Khalifa is visible from almost anywhere in Dubai and in the morning sun, it looks incredible.

The taxi came to roughly £10 (Remaining Budget:£40) I left my bags in the luggage room of the hotel and went for a stroll along the nearby Dubai Creek. I sought out the Bastakiya quater, an old residential area now preserved as a heritage site. The architecture was unlike anything I’d ever seen. The majority of buildings are open to the public, most of the houses had a beautiful central garden which I believe is quite common in Arabic architecture. As I was unable to get the metro for another 5 hours or so, I decided to find a nice spot to sit down and collect my thoughts a little. Completely by chance I found this little gem of a place called XVA Cafe which also operates as a hotel and gallery. The space was so different compared to what I expected my Dubai experience to be like. It was so tranquil, you could hear the swallows nearby, the weather was beautiful and the surrounding building was so warm in character.

Unfortunately most of the time, beautiful hidden places in extremely wealthy countries don’t come cheap. My mouthwatering breakfast (pictured below) came to a pretty uncomfortable £10 (RB:£30), The lunch menu was a little cheaper unfortunately I didn’t realise it wouldn’t be served at 8.30am. I definitely got my money’s worth though, as I spent a good 3 hours waiting for the metro to open and recovering from my flight there. I read for a while and did some people watching of the hotel guests, whose judgemental eyes gazed my way on more than one occasion. Probably wondering what a un-showered teen was doing hogging a whole table at the ridiculously scenic hotel they had spent years of their life working towards affording.

All in all budget wise it wasn’t going well, I decided to starve myself for the rest of the day and headed to see the Burj Khalifa! (RB after metro:£27.70) The Dubai mall situated under the Burj Khalifa is impractically large. How it still manages to be crammed with countless western tourists gives you an idea of just how big the current tourism industry is in Dubai. I can’t understand why people insist flying miles away from home and wasting so much time shopping at brand stores stocked with identical things to what they can purchase at home.

I did get a glance of the massive aquarium container within the mall, also I can confirm the worlds tallest building is aesthetically overwhelming and every bit as impressive as you’d imagine. For the remainder of the day I actually took a detour and got off at a random stop and walked for about 3 hours heading towards the coast via a residential road. I cut through Safa park (RB:£27.00) , in which there was an abundance of local families and friends holding barbecues in every direction for a good mile or so. Although seeing all these locals being social and happy brought me a great deal of joy, the smell of marinated char-grilled meats did no good for my famished stomach.

My second day was spent devouring as much as possible of my included hotel breakfast, taking a boat trip past the palm, seeing the ski slope in the Mall of the Emirates and exploring the area closest to the marina. Before finally having a last few hours dehydrated and woozy at a gorgeously sandy beach beneath the Burj Al Arab and finally taking the metro to the airport (RB after metro, food, and water ferry:£2.70). Despite the fact Dubai city doesn’t have much class or heritage left amongst it, I still get it, I get why people go there. It’s cool, it’s crazy and you won’t find better weather in the middle of December anywhere else in the world.

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