Off to the desert… Dubai!

Not kept this going throughout because really Dubai hasn’t got a huge deal of culture I would say.  This is definitely more of a chillout holiday for me as is my next one but hey ho… here goes.

This trip has come a bit quickly all of a sudden!  I handed in my laptop and phone to the client office on the Thursday to mark the end of 21 months there, and then I drove straight to Heathrow.

I got to Heathrow stupidly early which was annoying, but I found out I had been given a free upgrade to business class so at least I could spend the time in the BA lounge.  Brought back good memories flying business class, is there any chance of them doing the same on the way back please?

I managed to get some sleep but not a great deal, I ended up arriving at 5am BST but 8am Dubai time.  I got a taxi to the apartment but I couldn’t check in straight away and I was knackered.

After a couple of hours sleep, in my infinite wisdom I decided to go for a two hour walk.  It was 44 degrees+ pretty much every day and even though I didnt necessarily feel it as walking, as soon as you even stopped for a second I started to pour.  I had a pit stop for a couple of 7 quid slush puppies which were amazing but I was seriously flagging after two hours of the walk (which wasnt really scenic).  Anyway, needless to say I got the metro on the way back and headed for the pool to chill out.  That evening, I went to an amazing place on the Pier (Pier 7) for food and that was it for day one.

I was up early on the Saturday and headed to Barasti Beach to watch the Lions match on a huge screen.  Barasti is kitted out like ‘The Lost World’ but it had a huge screen, nice beach, great bar (with cider) and loads of Lions fans.  The game was epic (so was the magners) and chuffed that we levelled the series 1-1.  I spent the next few hours on the beach there and then headed back to the pool.   In the evening I shamefully went to the American version of Wetherpoons with obese American portions, The Cheesecake Factory (for those who don;t know it, it’s a restaurant not just cheesecake).

On the Sunday, I had a a completely lazy day. I pretty much just chilled out the whole day on the pool and went out for dinner in the evening… what Sundays are all about!  My chillout days were kind of over now, I have plans for in the week so it was nice while it lasted.

On the Monday I spent the morning in the pool and chilling reading.  I hate how my reading always tails off when in work, I can never be arsed in the evenings and I miss it loads.  I love it on holidays where I motor through absolutely loads.  I went to the Dubai Mall which is one of the biggest in the world, it is really quite ridiculous.  I mean there is every type of shop, every stall, every food outlet you can imagine.  In addition to that toss in an ice rink, cinemas, aquariums and all sorts of weird stuff.   I ended up spending the whole day here because you could access the things I had booked from here.  First up though, today was the release of the new Arsenal shirt, so I popped into Puma and got it.  Funnily enough, I bumped into Gary Cahill later and flashed the shirt out of the bag saying “Can I tempted you Gary”?  He said “Na, sorry mate” while laughing, and I am so kind, I never mentioned the FA Cup given he was on holiday with his Mrs.

Next up was to head up the Burj Khalifa which I think is the tallest reaching structure in the world.  I went up to floors 124/125 in some crazy fast Willy Wonka lift and spent a couple of hours taking terrible selfies and photos of the quite unbelievable drop to the fountains and land below.

The ticket I bought included the Dubai Aquarium, so before going there I did a bit of shopping.  I was a bit disappointed as I had built myself up to buy my first Rolex watch here from the official store with the Sheikhs but the new model I so desperately want is not out until September/October so looks like it’s either going to have to be Birmingham or maybe a trip to London to get it.  Alternatively, I am going to Miami in December but not sure I could wait that long!

The aquarium was bizarre, after queuing up I hadn’t realised it was just a tunnel.  Ok, it had sharks and all sorts in there but still, it was just a tunnel (albeit a huge one).  Luckily, the ticket got me into the underwater zoo and that was exactly what I was expecting, a proper aquarium (with some random parrots chucked in the mix).  After dotting around there for a while I headed back to the mall for some food and then let the sunset before heading to see the fountain show.

I got to the fountains too early so I ended up seeing one in the light and one in the dark, but the music changed so I was glad I did both.  It’s a huge fountain but the display has nothing on Bellagio LV, and neither of them had anything on the Barcelona fountains which I saw probably about 15 or so years go now.

I headed back to the hotel and got changed and ended up in a Gastropub where there was thankfully Thatchers on tap and some good food.  I stayed there for a good while and then headed back.

On the Tuesday, I took a recommendation and went to a private beach for the day.  The private beach was beautiful and in a most ridiculous hotel Al Qasr.  I felt like an absolute peasant walking through all kitted out for the beach and there are gondolas taking people around the hotel and grounds.  The beach was great but set me back 80 quid but you got a 30 quid voucher for food and drink.  Was great to have slaves waiters to bring you drinks, ice lollies etc and others came around with cool towels etc now and again.  The weirdest one though was when some ghostbuster came around and started squirting my legs with ice cold water I was reading! I shit myself and for some reason first words came out where ‘woooah easy Dave’.

The sea was absolutely boiling, the beach was lovely and an amazing view of Burj Al Arab (the 7* hotel).  I definitely burnt the ankles a bit though which resulted in a bit of an uncomfortable night but could have been a lot worse!  When I got a taxi back I chilled out in the pool for a bit and then went for an Italian in the evening.  I always sit outside which freaks the waiters out, they look at you as if you’re crazy (it’s probably around 37 in early evening).

I did pretty much nothing Wednesday until I was due to go desert buggying.  I got picked up and we headed out on a serious drive into the desert.  I was with a couple from London and a family from Porthcawl in South Wales!  There wasn’t much of a briefing, he just got me in this huge buggy and off we went.  I absolutely shit myself and I was second behind the guide.  In the first 20 seconds we went down an enormous hill and these things were seriously powerful.  At one point in the first 10 minutes the guy had to stop to tell me to stop zig zagging because of the type pressure, I told him I wasn’t intended to zig zag but to be fair it must have helped because I got the hang of it and started bombing around like a pro then!

Two of the front runners (me and the Porthcawl couple) got stuck up this massive hill so the 4 x 4;s had to dig us out of the sand.  It was an absolutely incredible couple of hours speeding around there.   They are absolutely beastly things and the dunes are huge.  I was glad I had the helmet on put it that way because my head was bouncing off the rollcage and I made a pathetic attempt to hold my GoPro throughout some of it.  I had sneak peak and the footage looks terrible.

At the end I did feel quite proud and a bit like a Lawrence of Arabia/Jeremy Clarkson love-child.  I had picked the red number 8 buggy (Ramsey reference) and it served me well.  It was an absolutely class evening and seeing camels knocking about was random too.

After that evening I was shattered so I just popped out for some dinner because have to be up early tomorrow for my full day tour of Abu Dhabi.  I really can’t wait to go inside the Great Mosque, it’s meant to be spectacular.

Was up and early for my final day to be spent in Abu Dhabi.  I got picked up at 8:15 and was happy to see a decent sized group.  The guide was great and was a girl from Brazil and a French speaking couple from Morocco in particular that were cool.  I was so proud of myself being able to actually hold a degree of conversation with the French speaking couple!

Our first stop was Ferrari World for just some photos and a small wander.  We then moved onto the Grand Mosque (Sheikh Zayed Mosque) where we spent a lot of time.

The building is absolute spectacular!  I had to wear my jeans on this tour which was a bit of a chore as it was 44 degrees but of course you have to respect the rules (long trousers/jeans for men and loose clothing for women covering all arms, legs and hair).  I have seen a lot of spectacular buildings around the world but this was right up there, although I did keep having to remind myself that it is only about 10 years old.

I walked around the grounds to take photos, and before entering the hall we had to remove shoes.  Inside the hall was even more spectacular, but one thing I have noticed about the mosques in Dubai is they’re much classier looking externals than the ones we have in the UK.  I find the ones in the Midlands look like something which are about to take off to button moon but the ones in UAE were grand but very classy outside and neutral in colour in keeping with the rest of the area… certainly no fairy lights or big silver foil tops to be seen here.

We then headed to see the Ethiad Towers which were used in Fast n Furious 7, I am told a car jumped from one tower to the next.  We also visited the Emirates Palace which was converted to a hotel in 2005.  We also visited a Heritage Village site and a small boutique market to show how textiles etc were made.

All in all it was a great day, but the Mosque was clearly the main attraction.  To be honest, it was made a great day just by the guys on the tour, but I could have happily just done the Grand Mosque and left the rest.

When I got back I chilled out for a bit and then went for a last supper in The Scene Pier 7 again.  It was not as good the second time, the service was terrible so I was a bit miffed but nevermind!

So, a great trip all in all and a nice relaxing holiday to kick off my little break from work.  It’s back to the UK tomorrow for a day and a bit and then flying to Marrakech for 10 days where I’m staying in some swanky hotel so I am hoping for bliss and relaxation.

I would definitely advise people to go here but as long as you’re prepared as I was to not be immersed in culture.  I would describe Dubai as a classier, more upmarket, less shiny Las Vegas!