Dubai 101: The 24 Hour Layover

To Dubai or no to Dubai? That is the question. This Middle Eastern city is quite the metropolis and has millions of people who pass through it on a daily basis. Many of those are travelers laying over as they go from one flight to another.

Truth be told, Dubai is a playground of wealthy tourists who have a “spend like there’s no tomorrow” attitude. It can feel a bit overwhelming. In addition, Dubai is a city of imports, there’s not much much homespun culture. The souks remind me of Istanbul. The skyscrapers make me think that it’s a desert version of New York City. The water parks and beaches are a dryer, but just as hot, substitute for central Florida. The fountains are only rivaled by Las Vegas. In other words, Dubai is a city of improvements on others.

white and gray high rise buildings near body of water during daytime

Shop in New Dubai

Get ready! Get set! Shop! If there is one thing that Dubai does well, it’s malls. The malls, more than 15 in number, sell everything from couture to Krispy Kreme. But perhaps more than the amazing array of storefronts are the spectacles that promise once in a lifetime experiences. The Dubai Mall promotes not only one of the largest aquariums in the world where you can swim with sharks but also a VR Skydive experience that let’s you feel every bit of the drop from the top of the mall’s famous neighbor, The Burj Khalifa.

It is not out of the ordinary to see kids will certainly enjoy driving a penguin pal around the skating rink with Nanny while moms whisk off on Bentley golf carts to the couture wing where designers have fresh off the runway fashions ready to be fit. I have never seen so many fashion houses willing to be seen in the same place as Dubai Mall. The Krispy Kreme’s hot donuts sign can be found on the lower level in the international food court.

clear glass empty dome

Chill Out!

Meanwhile, not to be outdone, The Mall of the Emirates wants you to cool off at Ski Dubai. In true Dubai fashion, malls are meant to be indoor amusement parks for the uber wealthy. It’s fun to take a glance at what the ultra exclusive circles find appealing but it is certainly not destination worthy.

The Burj Khalifa

The crowning jewel of Dubai is best seen from the Dubai Mall’s Apple Store Terrace. Simply follow the one way line and look past the incredibly large dancing fountain (shows are periodical in nature) and look up. There, gleaming in the desert sunshine, is the tallest building in the world.

white and black high rise building

Old Dubai

Not much exists of old Dubai. When the small coastal area became a professional middleman in international trade, an economic boom overwhelmed what was there. It bloomed in every direction from palm shaped islands to tall skyscrapers leaving very little of its past left. However, past all the shiny skyscrapers and drab looking store fronts are two gems that don’t take too much time to explore. They perhaps, give a little bit of insight into old Dubai.

The Souks

Quite a few souks exist in the old quarter and are worth exploring if you’ve never been to one before. I must say, after the bazaars of Istanbul, they pale in comparison. The over eager shop keepers do their best to get your attention and the pre packaged spices are definitely an import from other parts unknown. The walk through the gauntlet of stores can be fun and rather picturesque. Plan to spend no more than 30 minutes for just a walk and some pictures. Add in a bit more if you plan to haggle and purchase.

brown woven basket with assorted food

The Dubai Museum at Al Fahidi Fort

Out of all the sites you might visit, this may be the closest to giving you an authentic experience in the UAE. Here at the fort, storytellers and guides do their best to show off their hometown pride. The entire venue takes about 2 hours from start to finish and will leave you with a reasonable knowledge of this city of contrasts.

Dhow Water Cruise on Dubai Creek

The man made Dubai Creek twists it’s way through this oasis to give the visitor plenty of water views. One way to enjoy and see a bit more of this metropolis is to take a cruise on one of the more traditional boats docked close to the Souks. There are plenty of options including dinner cruises and simple ferries. The choice is yours!

blue and white building under blue sky at daytime

Beachside Dubai

Desert or not, Dubai firmly sits on the coastline of the Persian Gulf. And the city has taken every opportunity to ensure you enjoy it. Look for water parks like the Aquafun Water Course and plenty of thrills like the speed boat rentals from OdySea Dubai. If your timing is right, Dubai offers simple beachside enjoyment so you can take in the sun as you take in the view of this ode to wealth and prosperity.

Getting Around

For a simple layover, I suggest the hop on hop off bus that will take you from mall to mall and out to the beach by the bullet shaped Burj Al Arab.

For more on what’s happening and a complete calendar check out Dubai’s fancy schmancy website by clicking here.