After about 25+ hours, we finally made it to Dubai. It’s as warm as we expected (100+ degrees), but not as humid, making it oddly comfortable. It’s very cosmopolitan and international, from a cultural perspective. With the impressive skyscrapers and city life, it reminds me more of New York City than Marrakech, which was what I was expecting.
Eventful, cold, and sleepless travel
We had two layovers getting to Dubai from Minneapolis; one in New York at JFK and the other in London at Heathrow. Rainy weather in New York caused major delays. So we arrived around 2am, not without getting upgraded to First Class, which is always a nice treat. Since we’d have to be back at JFK by 6am we skipped the Airbnb we paid for and instead tried to crash on the airport floor. We checked in right when the gates opened at 6am and headed to the very swanky Virgin Sky Lounge where we grabbed a bite to eat and crashed on the comfy couches for an hour. This was the first time I’ve flown Virgin; it’s a nice airline, cheeky and fun, too. I’m glad we paid for the extra leg room on the two seven-hour flights. Regardless, we both hardly slept, so when we landed in Dubai around 8:30a, we started talking about what we could do to keep ourselves awake for the day. But first, we were desperate to change our clothes.
Excited about our room
We’re staying at the Towers Rotana Hotel, which is only about a half mile from the iconic Burj Khalifa and Dubai Shopping Mall. It’s a really nice hotel with accommodating staff and wonderfully comfortable beds. We’re especially obsessed with the cubby/nook/daybed in our room, as from the 23rd floor, it offers some pretty spectacular views of the city.
The staff helped us get into our rooms early. What we planned to be a 30-minute power nap turned into a nearly five hour one.
A dinner detour on our way to the Burj
After peeling ourselves out of our beds, we cleaned up and had every intention of walking to see the Burj and eating dinner at the mall. But we wore the wrong shoes and our bellies were rumbling with hunger, so we instead stopped at a Lebanese restaurant, Al Safadi. We split spiced potatoes, grape leaves, olives, spinach pies, grilled halloumi (a salty cheese with a firm tofu-like consistency), and garlicy labneh. It was all terrific. The thin, puffy bread we used to dip in the labneh was our favorite
After dinner, the tiredness started settling in, so we headed back to the hotel since we’re going to have an early morning. We’ll have plenty of time to go to the Burj and mall.
Handsome men are everywhere
Dubai has been described as a more progressive city in a conservative region. Some women wear the hijab, but not all do; I’ve only seen one wear the niqab. Most men wear western clothes, but we have seen some men in the traditional thobe, ghutra, and egal. It can be a surprisingly stunning look on some men.
There are some very handsome men here, but we’re definitely taking caution in any interactions we have and are trying to assimilate and be respectful in what we’re wearing. We’re sticking to loose-fitting linen pants and shirts, as we don’t feel right wearing shorts and tank tops, like some of the western women here do.
When we were at dinner, a very handsome, hipster-ish, bearded man sat down at a table with three friends near ours. He and another equally as handsome and stylish friend faced me. I could hear them going back and forth between Arabic and English as they talked. It was hard not to catch a few quick glances; I was intrigued. I then caught him returning the glances a few times. As we got up to leave, he and his three friends all made very obvious looks at us. While I would have loved to flirt, I definitely don’t understand the customs and don’t want to get into any issues here.
Delated travel excitement
While I’ve been looking forward to this trip, I’ve had a lot going on personally, so it’s been a different experience going into this getaway. My dad has lung cancer and he had surgery a little over two weeks ago to remove it. The surgery was successful, but the recovery for my 80-year old father has been a little tougher than everyone anticipated. I went back and forth on whether I’d go on this trip; leaving didn’t feel right in my gut. After some encouragement from him, I decided to take the trip. So far, I’m glad I took his advice.