Dubai is the ultimate Middle-East fairy tale with a futuristic twist. It is so fascinating to see that in fact, the sky really is the limit for human capabilities. Literally.
I've already been twice in Dubai, both time spending around 24 hours between flights. To me, Dubai is not a destination itself (feel free to prove me wrong on the comments bellow). With all existing flight connections between Europe and Asia, it is indeed a hub. But a hub that deserves to be explored. As Dubai is for sure THE city of extremeness.
Flying over continents can be exhausting and jet lag does not help much. So, when booking flights via Dubai I'd rather chose the multi-city option (in most bookings the price difference is not big at all) and spend a night in a comfy hotel. Yes, hotels in Dubai are pricey but they do make you feel like a real princess. For me, staying in Downtown Dubai has been the preferred option both times, choosing a hotel close to Burj Khalifa.
Even so, getting to the world's highest building walking was no easy task. As all surroundings around are huge, the perception of distance changes. Even seeing Burj Khalifa "just over there", in walking distance, it was actually around 20 minutes. Last time we went by car from the hotel to Burj Khalifa and it took us around 10 minutes! Still, the never-ending walking path plus the 40*C heat (in September) were leading us to an incredible experience.
The entrance for Burj Khalifa is inside the Mall of Dubai. Watch out, shopaholics! All the stores are super appealing, but actually, some of them are more expensive here, than in Europe. So, don't get over-excited for the whole duty-free shopping experience. Burj Khalifa's highest outdoor observation desk (also the world's highest one, of course) is at the 124th floor - 452m from 829.8m total building hight. On the way up you may feel some pressure in your ears, as the elevator takes the distance for around one minute. But the view from up leaves you speechless. At least, this is how I felt both times. I really thought the second time won't be a big deal as I've already experienced it, but I couldn't be more wrong. Because being high at 452m above ground and seeing all those skyscrapers emerging in the desert sand below is so inspiring! Yes, this is what Burj Khalifa is for me - an incredible inspiration that dreams do come true and sky is the limit when you truly wish something.
If you want to see the dancing fountains form the observation desk I recommend you to check the timetable first. When I first visited Dubai in 2014 they were "dancing" at every half an hour, but when I came back last year for a second time, the show was performed only 3 or 4 times per day. I guess Dubai is going on a green path. Another change I've noticed for the two-years gap between my visits, is that air-conditioner in shopping centres was not as cold as it used to be, so temperature diference was not double anymore (outside 40*C - inside around 18*C).
While in Dubai Mall don't miss to check the Aquarium. There is an entrance fee, but you can see some fish and sharks through a big, glass wall without being charged.
Just in front of Burj Khalifa and Dubai Mall, is a more traditional shopping centre - Souk Al Bahar. It's not big and in fact, there are no interesting stores inside. What I love about Souk Al Bahar is its so traditional arabic feeling.
Tip: Have lunch at Abd-El Wahab - a Lebanese restaurant. On its balcony you will be at the first row to witness the dancing fountains show.
After lunch take the metro from Dubai Mall to the Golden Souk. Even though the metro station has access from the shopping centre, we walked for 20 minutes (I'm not exaggerating!) until we get to the metro station itself. Already in the metro, notice that the first two cars are (at least they were) only for women and children. As I entered in one of the following cars, there was no such thing as courtesy (I can even say there was no respect) to a lady. Some guys were very rude when trying to get first to the seat available.
When hearing the name Golden Souk I was imagining something like Souk Al Bahar - a traditional-looking close market. But I was wrong and I didn't like it. First of all, when leaving the metro I was shocked to see that "other", maybe even realistic part of Dubai. It was nothing like Downtown. There were no skyscrapers, nor perfect organisation. Instead, it was dirty and with homeless people. Heading to the Golden Souk we were offered cheap iPhones and perfumes, and I realised how I would identify that picture with every other place I've visited in the world, but it was still difficult to believe it was part of the whole Dubai-picture. Yet, it was. I felt like my arabic fairy tale I was living one-metro-ride-ago, was just a dream.
Arriving at the Golden Souk was not a refreshment experience in the scene. Apparently, there was no traditional-looking close market as I was imagining. There was only an open-air market area with separate small stores, with windows all dressed in shining gold.
For a next stop I recommend you the Emirates Mall, but again not for shopping. Order a slice of a cheesecake at the Cheesecake Factory and sit next to the window. While enjoying your treat you can watch people skiing, as Ski Dubai is on the other side of the window.
In case you are curious - Atlantis The Palm is very close to the Emirates Mall (relatively close for Dubai, of course). So, take a taxi at Emirates Mall for a leap to The Palm. But don't leave the taxi! There is nothing a non-customer of the complex can do there, and you may find yourself in a difficult situation finding another taxi here. The only thing that stunned me was the breeze - it was so hot! So it made me really curious about the temperature of the sea water.
After seeing The Palm, head to Jumeira. If you are in a mood for visiting more traditional markers (for real) check out Souk Madinat. It is interesting, but still my favourite is Souk Al Bahar. After leaving Souk Madinat continue South-East on Jumeira Str. to reach the gate of Burj Al Arab. Unfortunately, further the gate can go only clients, but the security is quite friendly with the curious tourists like me, wanting to take one more photo.
Just next to Burj Al Arab's gate there is an aqua park. If you have more time, you can enjoy it, refreshing yourself in the desert heat. I still haven't had this opportunity.
Go further on Jumeira Str. passing by some luxurious hotels until you find a street on your left that will lead to the "public" beach. Finally! We got there! We were walking for around half an hour, getting lost in between the buildings of the hotels and finding only security guards, telling us we have to leave. But we made it! And we made it just in time for the sunset. We didn't want to lay back on the sand and relax. We were on our way to do so after catching the flight later at night. No, we just wanted to check the temperature of the sea and to watch the sunset. And I was stunned by both.
The sea water... I'm sure I've eaten soup, colder than that water. I've never felt water that hot on my feet, unless in the shower. I don't know the exact temperature but it was the hottest sea water I've ever felt. And the sand was more like a dust and not like a beach sand. Well, we were at the desert after all.
The sunset, however was really amazing! The desert dust makes it look somehow magical. Or maybe I was back in my fairy tale, I guess. Whatever it was, I didn't really wanted to know or think about it. I just wanted to enjoy the view. And what a view it was...