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After dozens of stopovers in Dubai, I finally decided to leave the airport to visit it. I found it all too much.

Dubai è per me troppo e lo è in tutto

Of course, I already knew that Dubai involves sand, oil, and unlimited budget surplus, but I was thinking of finding a soul… I thought that the historic part of the town would preserve a bit of its past linked to the desert, but I couldn’t find it.

I stayed three days and a half, during which I visited all I could, took taxis, boats, big jeeps, and metro lines, passing from the old souk to the Marina, the huge malls, the artificial palm-shaped island, and the desert. In short, I have tried to live all that Dubai has to offer, avoiding only purchasing a villa with a private beach, a Lotus or a Cartier ring 😉

Things I liked in Dubai

The desert safari. The package costs 200 Dhs, but I had the feeling that in reality, it is not a fixed price … Very touristic sure, but the magic is there. The light, the colors, and the feelings between the dunes are special, and I recommend you live this experience. I’ll give you more details in a dedicated post.

Dubai è per me troppo e lo è in tutto

The Hatta Mountains. The package costs 100 Dhs, but even in this case, the price changes from agency to agency without the offer being different, so better carefully check these offers before booking! It is a half-day excursion up to this ancient village in the rocky mountains, and it’s really worth it.

Unavoidable the touristic side with compulsory passage through the souvenir market, but both the Heritage Village and the amazing nature are worth, not to mention the natural swimming pools!

The Al Fahidi Fort and the Dubai Museum inside it. The entrance costs Dhs 1, and the tour lasts about an hour.

This fort of the late eighteenth century, in addition to its defensive function, over the years has hosted the seat of government, the governor’s residence, and the prisons. The fort is now surrounded by modern buildings and gives the impression of being very small, but still keeps its charm.

Dubai è per me troppo e lo è in tutto

Inside are set various exhibition areas tracking the ancient habits and local customs. The halls are in the basement and made me think of an attraction in Disneyland style … a bit like “Pirates of the Caribbean,” for instance. Still, it is a common feature of all the city’s museums (Maritime Museum, Heritage Village, etc.).

In the last hall, a video is being projected in the loop, showing the evolution of Dubai from 1950 to 2030. Very self-celebratory, but interesting.

The historical souks in Deira. These are three distinct souks, but you walk through them without interruption just a few meters from the pier of the barges-ferries called Abras along the Dubai Creek. There is a Perfume Souk, a Spice Souk, and the most famous Gold Souk. What really won me over is the spice one reminding me of Marrakech. I left it with a good supply of cinnamon, ginger, bulk incense, myrrh, and several mixed spices for cooking.

Dubai è per me troppo e lo è in tutto

The Diwan Mosque, behind the Al Fahidi Fort. Simple and recently built, it can be visited only by booking the group tour with the SMCCU Heritage Tour.

The most famous and magnificent Mosque, though, is the Jumeirah, in the homonym district. It is open only from Saturday to Thursday at 10.00, and you need to book in advance at the Cultural Center Sheikh Mohammed. I missed it, so if you go there, let me know how it is!

Dubai è per me troppo e lo è in tutto

The Dubai Aquarium, inside the Dubai Mall. Entrance costs 110 Dhs and also includes the Underwater Zoo and the boat ride over the shark tank.

Having lived for years in Valencia near the Oceanografic, and now only a few miles from the Genoa Aquarium, I must say that this visit has nothing special and is certainly not cheap. However, I still enjoyed the tour backstage with the interesting explanations of the experts. If you have not been to other large aquariums, go ahead and purchase the ticket 🙂

Dubai è per me troppo e lo è in tutto

Things I didn’t like that much in Dubai

If I write “the whole city,” I lose my critical thinking in a second, but I must say that I would write something that comes from my heart …

I love big cities, megalopolis, modern or not. I love the energy and the multi-ethnicity they emanate, the cultural offer always varied, the wide sidewalks, and even the public transportation.

In Dubai, however, everything has been built so quickly that there is no real downtown, and between a district and the other, there is usually nothing. The cultural offer here does not fail due to festivals of all kinds that follow one another, but the artists do not live in the city, and this does not live nor improves thanks to them. The sidewalks are often non-existent or really narrow because Dubai is not meant to be lived; for this, you have the malls … everything happens inside them, and the heat is not enough motivation for me.

Dubai è per me troppo e lo è in tutto

I love architecture and innovation, but not being my profession to see skyscrapers is not enough motivation for a trip. They are certainly impressive, but in my opinion, there is a lack of aesthetic harmony in the city.

Back to us, here is what I have visited without actually appreciating it:

  • the dancing fountains, installed in the artificial lake in front of the Dubai Mall. I found them very kitsch and poorly theatrical
  • the Burj Khalifa, the tallest skyscraper in the world. 828 meters of glass on which you can climb by taking the elevator in the basement of the Dubai Mall. I didn’t go up because, as you might have noticed, this kind of view is not one that made me dream. Still, if you intend to do so, I recommend you book on the official website to avoid never-ending lines

Dubai è per me troppo e lo è in tutto

  • the Burj Al Arab, the famous 7-star sail-shaped hotel built on an artificial island. Architecturally, it is beautiful. The lighting at night evokes
  • the mythical Jumeirah island, the palm tree-shaped artificial island crossed by the futuristic monorail leading from the Marina to the mega hotel theme park Atlantis. A true marvel of engineering that has ruined the marine currents by forcing further increased artificiality of the beaches of Dubai

Dubai è per me troppo e lo è in tutto

How to get around

As written before, you can not really walk around! The only nice walk I suggest is the one along the Dubai Creek on the Deira side, to watch the loading and unloading sessions of the traditional cargos.

Dubai è per me troppo e lo è in tutto

From Deira, you can cross the river and reach Dubai on an Abras. The crossing takes five minutes and costs Dhs 1 payable onboard.

On the boat’s side, two ferry lines connect the Dubai Marina to Palm Island and the Dubai Creek to the beaches of Jumeirah. Tickets can be purchased on the piers and cost 50 Dhs.

The two metro lines through the city, crossing Union Square and BurJuman, are easier to change. The red line is pro tourists and links the various attractions of the city. The green line serves Deira and is used mainly by locals, and you can tell even from the different rules! On the latter, men and women can not stand in line together or use the same sliding doors. The tickets do not have a fixed rate and can be purchased at the ticket office of each station.

Oh, trams are linking the Dubai Marina to the beaches of Jumeirah and the monorail, but I didn’t take any.

Dubai è per me troppo e lo è in tutto

Accommodation

As I waited for the flight in Colombo, I booked at The Traders in Deira. Chosen because close to the airport (35 Dhs by taxi), because in the “historic” Dubai, because the bedroom was not even $ 100 and because it is a chain that I know well and I never disappointed me.

It certainly has not the charm of a small typical hotel, but the international standards are high, the service and the cuisine are excellent.

Useful visiting tips

  • Dress properly, or anyway, cover your legs and shoulders, whether you are male or female. Out of respect for the different cultures and local faith, but also to feel at ease.
  • Restrict effusions in public to a minimum or to hold hands.
  • If you are a woman, check with the hotel that single women are admitted to the bar/restaurant. In some hotels, this is not possible, and you would therefore be forced to have meals in the room. Some hotels not even accept single women 🙁
  • If you don’t have time, arrange a guided full visit with Big Bus Tours, whose ticket includes virtually any site or stage of interest in and around the city. Related advertising is everywhere, and staying in a 4 or 5 (or 6 or 7!) stars hotel, you will certainly be offered their services at the excursion counter.

Dubai è per me troppo e lo è in tutto

Useful info

  • The currency is the Dirham (on February 1 € = 4.12), and you will find it listed both as AED and  DHS.
  • The official language is Arabic, but the one most widely spoken is English because the local population is made up of approximately 80% expatriates. You should add some millions of tourists and a huge amount of business visitors.
  • The time zone in winter is 4 hours and passes to 3 when we pass to summertime.
  • To rent a car, you must be at least 21 years old, your license must be valid for at least one year, and you have to submit your passport. If you want to rent a luxury car, 21 years are not enough! You must be 25.
  • The weekend runs from Friday morning to Saturday evening.

Dubai è per me troppo e lo è in tutto

Would I go back to Dubai? I’d say no.

Will I go back to Dubai? Definitely, yes, because flying with Emirates is an excellent option and Asia is in my heart, and I can not stay away from it for too long.

What will I do next time? I’ll go back to the desert, booking a horseback safari and a falconry lesson.

Dubai è per me troppo e lo è in tutto

And you? If you wish to learn more about Dubai, I suggest you read the posts written by Liz! (for Italian reading people only).

Maas-Salaama!

For a GPS version of this post, check GPSmyCity, an app I heartily recommend!

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Silvia's Trips

Hi there! My name is Silvia and after 15 years between the Paris Opera and the Palau de les Arts in Valencia I now run a boutique hotel in Cinque Terre, deal with tourism management and blogging, sail, horse-ride, play guitar and write about my solo trips around the world. For more info about me and my travel blog check my full bio.