(Expectation Vs. Reality)
26.01.2017 - 29.01.2017 27 °C
Expectation: Dubai is luxurious, an expensive tourist destination, abruptly converted from the desert with no history into sci-fi megapolis.
Reality: that is true. It is the emirate with the vivid mind-numbing form of skyscrapers, extraordinary rich people and endless ceaseless hustle. The destination with "Fast and Furious" cars, glitter and unreal manmade projects.
Dubai trip brings you one feeling - being in a set of action movie shot in Disney studio. Everything feels fake there.
Reality: it was winter season, hence we were lucky to experience 27C. During summer time (March - October) the temperature is above 55C.
For the record of the travellers, - surrounding desert is all exotic and cool part of your trip but everyday breeze brings tonnes of sand into the city, covering everything (from hotel windows to your clothes). What is more - you inhale it. Being not used to I was constantly coughing.
Expectation: widespread net of public transport and affordable cabs.
Reality: there is metro, which is operating through some central locations. There is no way to get there but by taxi. We were taking Uber (with Lexus as the basic car category in this Arabic world). Since everything in Dubai is grand and expensive, Uber isn't an exception. Just for 10 kilometres, you will have to pay leastways 22$. It is a lot and you can complain a lot but the funny part is that you have absolutely no other option. By taking the fancy, driverless metro tourists have to figure out the waggon for each gender promptly once metro arrives. By misusing this fact I was accidentally stuck between dozens of men, extensively observing disobeying tourist.
Expectation: traditional Arabic cuisine (hummus, kebab, falafel, pita, etc.).
Reality: due to the fact that there is only 23% of local Arabs (the majority of whom stay at home because just by being born they inherit quite an amount of assets so they do not need to worry about anything mere mortals have to), you are served the food by expats. At the end, it all depends on the chef's nationality. Their cuisine is a mix of everything, pretty tasteless and super expensive. For plain pieces of chicken/some shrimp skewer with some rice at the mall food court you will have to pay the price starting with 15$. The only joy I found in food was in their specific taste of lamb and beef (strongly recommended).
Expectation: was 90% aware of liquor prohibition.
Reality: remaining 10% stroke me like lightening.
Forget to get alcohol anywhere in cafés, shops or restaurants. But once you finally manage to get a quite expensive precious bottle of wine (the cheapest duty-free shop one costs 18$) and you happily bring it to your hotel room, your whole expectations of opening it are crashing down at a second just because restaurant staff of 4* hotel doesn't possess a bottle opener.
Their cafés are especially good for two reasons: pleasant, exotic decor and Arabic water pipe, which is absolutely amazing. The secret lays in the use of traditional almond nutshell charcoal and the variety of nice tobacco flavours. They aren't burning off for the whole night.
Mall of Dubai:
Expectation: what European can expect from the Mall? Just the place with the saturation of shops. You come, you buy, you leave.
Reality: I was deeply mistaking!
It is grand, glitter stunning complex. Every single store is designed in a way one had never imagined. It can be just a lollipop shop but inside there is the whole tree made of colourful lollipops with a sensational dazzling chandelier on the ceiling. And now imagine it on a scale of 1200 stores in one place. It is definitely a paradise for shopping lovers and plain visitors. No wonder there are whole shopping tour packages.
Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo:
Once you are in Dubai Mall there is one pretty attractive huge glass aquarium; full of exotic, rare fish, blue water, seashells and even a diver, who systematically feeds the fauna. Looks impressive and tempting. By being unprepared tourists, naturally, we have bought an expensive (33$) basic ticket to mesmerising Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo.
Reality hit us and our positive expectations with no delay. The tunnel with fish is basically 10 metres long. You see shoppers glazing from the entrance and exit of the tube.
To get "full experience" you have paid for (the ticket we bought is called "Explorer") you would need to leave the aquarium and ascend to an upper floor of the Mall. There is dark, smelly room with lack of oxygen and a huge queue of people. You wait till your turn. The next "adventure" you are in is sitting with an orange life vest in some ridiculous fully jammed with people boat. It has glass floor and it makes a circle in a foul narrow pool, through which you are constantly trying to see some fish. The glass bottom was cracked.
A moment before being trapped by this entertainment and peacefully watching it from outside in the mall we saw cool attraction when visitors are half bodied placed in the aquarium in the glass tube and the staff is feeding the fish. Dozens of them were whirlpooling around the tube. It looked very intriguing and we were so looking forward to, choking and waiting for all those queues till the moment we were informed that it is affordable only with VIP ticket, 80$ per person.
Expectation: the tallest building in the world, something spectacular from inside-out.
Reality: the construction itself has an extraordinary elegance, stunning out of city panorama. It always shines from sunlight in the daytime and always sparkles in the night. It is genuinely marvellous project.
Tour to the top (124th floor). Observatory. Burj Khalifa.
Expectation: feeling like Tom Cruise in Missione Impossible - Ghost Protocol. Overall high.
Reality: I wouldn't recommend travellers to get to the observatory point. They say if you obtain the ticket (already super expensive) online you will get faster (not true) and cheaper (several cents). We believed and have booked for 6:30 PM and obviously; we thought we would get started at 6:30 PM. By the time we were at the observatory deck it was around 8:20 PM. In order to get there, you have to pass 5 different queues, which you don't expect since the building is quite twisted and you don't see ahead. By passing one line, you think this is it, but then you have to walk huge distance and somewhere "at the end of the tunnel" instead of a light you see another queue. When you finally get to the dreamed 124th floor you look down or at the horizon, you feel no how different from any other tall building. The view is average as well. There is some saturation of lights at the middle of the city and the outskirts are dark. Not worth travellers' time and expectations.
What is really worth is seeing evening light projection at Burj Khalifa. It is an extra spectacular event with accompanying fountain music show, occurring from 6 PM till 11 PM, playing every 25'. Surprisingly this experience is free of charge.
The best way to make your evening full of wonderful memories is to sit in some close-up café, watch fountain show with Burj Khalifa colour shimmering and smoke an amazing never finishing Arabic Sheesha.
Dhow Cruise Dubai Marina:
Expectation: standard program: a boat with some food and dance show, floating in Marina.
Reality: it was the unforgettable experience! Two floors dhow, slowly drifting along splendid sci-fi designed skyscrapers. You are in the endless sea of lights rising into the sky.
While you are gazing around, very delicious buffet food (chef is Indian, thus there is respective food cooked) is being prepared. Slow nondisturbing music is playing in the background. There was also traditional Tanoura dance but I was in sci-fi comma back then so wasn't really paying attention.
The whole wonderland tour lasts approximately 2-3 hours. It takes you in the neighbourhoods of Dubai Marina, Atlantis Hotel, Jumeirah Islands, even to the archipelago of the new upcoming project "The World".
Expectation: I saw it in movies. It looked adventurous and romantic. Yet though it could not be so challenging.
Reality: the tour included indispensable part of dropping to extremely touristy campus with unnecessary items as well as tasteless "evening dinner" in another campus (chef was Indian, as mentioned above he served his traditional but this time surprisingly tasteless fast food) where after the host announced everybody (approximately 100 tourists) had to stand up and lined up in the queue, grabbing disposable cutleries from common pot, self-servicing the food then subsequent returning to their ground cushions and watching pretty mediocre belly dancing and Tanoura show at the stage.
Skipping above-mentioned part the safari itself was something too extreme. You are driven in SUV on the top peak of the dunes. Sand is splashing here and there and the only thing you have in mind is if that vehicle will protect your head when it will eventually flip off the dune. It is an extraordinary adventure!
Dubai Atlantis Aquaventure Waterpark:
Expectations: I like waterparks especially for trying sliding down all those scary rides. Dubai one is famous for several reasons: it is a part of world famous Atlantis hotel, which is especially popular for being on the tip of a manmade island. The other reason is that it has one of the scariest rides in the world "Poseidon's Revenge". Above all, it also includes the ride with sharks tank and one of the most beautiful park panoramic view slide called "The Leap of Faith".
Reality: since I like waterparks I can't say anything too negative about it (apart from paying 90$ per person. Luckily there was my Birthday, thus second thing for free in whole Dubai trip. First was fountain show). It is entertaining, it is huge, it is on a manmade island, that brings you extra weird positive feeling.
I wouldn't say that excessively advertised slides mentioned before are anyhow worthy. Shark tank slide is super dirty and condensate. While floating there you cannot see anything I assume sharks have a better view on us than another way round.
The scariest ride ever called "Poseidon's Revenge" (youtube it, you will be terrified at the first glance) when they flush you down in a transparent tube nearly vertically at almost 40mph it isn't scary, it is painful. Your back is scratched, your swimsuit is somewhere... you even choke with water at some loop of the ride. It isn't frightening nor enjoyable. What is truly enjoyable is Zoomerango, Aquaconda and amazing almost 2 km lazy river. Overall it's always fun to be in waterparks!
People who stay in Dubai for a week or more come to enjoy it for leisure purposes, that means - they are in some resort, probably with all inclusive, relaxing throughout the duration of their Dubai getaway.
On the other hand, we have travelled there for active tourism and in 3,5 days we have seen more than enough:
- Sheikh Zayed road (at least 16 times)
- Burj Khalifa
- The neighbourhood of Burj Al Arab (including nice beaches)
- Dubai Mall (3 times) + fountain show (twice)
- Marina cruise
- Kite Beach (swimming/suntanning)
- Desert safari (half a day)
- Dubai city tour (4 hours)
- Aquapark in Atlantis hotel (whole day)
Dubai is the place to see glittering, luxury life. And after to come back to your reality.