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4 days in the United Arab Emirates.

I visited the United Arab Emirates in January 2019. it was part of a two week cruise I did around the Arabian Gulf. The cruise started and ended in Dubai. This gave us 3 days and an evening in Dubai and one full day in Abu Dhabi


Dubai was the starting port of our cruise. We flew into Dubai international airport and we got a bus provided by the cruise line to the port. The flight from Dublin to Dubai was about 6 hours long, and with the time spent in the airport etc (not to mention that myself and my friend had stupidly gone out the night before) We were absolutely wrecked by the time we got to our cabin, so we napped.

Luckily for us, our ship was not leaving Dubai until the following evening. This meant that we got to experience Dubai at night, which is a rarity for cruise ship guests.

Day 1

Sofitel Rooftop Bar

At around midnight we decided to head to the rooftop bar at the Sofitel Dubai Downtown Hotel. This hotel is directly behind the famous Buraj Kalifa building. Although, because it was a week night the bar was EMPTY. there was literally only us, and one other group of people. Of course, it was still fun, we were there more for the experience than to go on the sesh… plus cocktails were super expensive.

Dubai Mall

We then decided to head to Dubai Mall. Like most Middle Eastern countries, malls and regular shops stay open well into the am hours. This is because it is generally way too hot during the daytime to be out and about, so this will be a shock to people coming from Europe or America. I remember how confused we were when we walked in the mall at literally almost 2am and there were full families in there with their kids shopping, like it was 2pm. We mostly just strolled around the mall… aka got lost inside the mall. What makes it so big you ask?? Well it has about 5 of each store inside (Which adds to the confusion) there is a giant indoor ski slope and it has a huge Aquarium inside the mall too.

Before heading back to the ship for the night, we headed out to the centre area, in front of the worlds tallest tower, the Buraj Kalifa, to watch the largest fountain show in the world, it shoots water as high into the air as a 50 story building, all while in time with music, it truly is spectacular.

Day 2

This was our first full day in Dubai. We decided that we would head to the Buraj Kalifa today and pop back to the mall for a bit of shopping… aka the only shop I could afford… Hollister. The ship would be departing port at around 7pm so we set out at 11am, giving us about 7 hours to explore.

Buraj Kalifa

Buraj Kalifa was constructed in 2009 and since then has held the title of the worlds tallest tower. Standing at 2,722 ft tall and contains a hotel and apartments. On the 124th and 125th floor there is the observation deck which is open to visitors. You can go up to the 148th floor but that is a very fancy restaurant and was out or budget, plus we were not dressed fancy enough for that.

I paid 274 AED which is around 62 Euro for two adults to go to the Observation deck. You can buy your tickets at the ticket counter or online. I recommend doing it online because the queue lines are always insane. We just used the Dubai mall free Wi-Fi and bought our tickets right there online.

The whole visitor experience is laid out extremely well. You start off at the ticket office which is in the basement level of the Dubai mall, and from there you’re taken through a series of escalators an halls with pictures along the way explaining the history of the UAE, Dubai and the tower construction. Give yourself about an hour or two for the attraction between lines, stopping to look and read the signs and the elevator ride, it can take a long time.

The elevator ride itself is one of the main attractions of the tower, apart from the view of course. The double deck elevator travels at 10 meters per second and contains a whole visual display on the walls, floor and ceiling. It shows the building being constructed around you as your travel up. The ride only takes 1 minute… Yes it is extremely fast. Some people get light headed and have to sit when they get out. I got dizzy on the ride back down but not the way up surprisingly.

I managed to get a pretty clear day when I went to the top, meaning the view was amazing. I've heard that on some days when there is absolutely no sandy haze, you can see all the way to the shores of Iran.

Day 3

Dubai Marina and Beaches

Our third day in Dubai was actually at the end of our cruise, so two weeks after the days I've explained above. We decided this day to venture further south in Dubai, beyond downtown towards the famous Palm Jumeirah, and the Dubai Marina. We wanted to just chill this day so we opted for two beaches, the public beach directly to the right of the famous hotel, the Burj Al Arab and the JBR beach at Dubai Marina. We just grabbed a taxi from the port that took us directly to the first beach. Because they have built so many man made off shore islands, there are absolutely no waves on these beaches, they're as flat as a bath tub.

We ate at Umi Fusion in Dubai Marina. Yes I know, how uncultured of us to not eat Arabic food while in Dubai….. Honestly, I would not recommend this place. Service was EXTREMELY slow, and unless you have all the time in the world, then I would go somewhere else.

The public beach close to the Burj Al Arab Hotel is more of a local spot, less tourists go here, this also means is not as busy.

The JBR beach is right on front of all the hotels and apartment buildings of the Marina, the promenade here is filled with shops and cafes and tourist attractions, so expect this beach to be hell busy. They offer camel rides at this beach; however I don't recommend them because who knows how those camels are being treated. We watched the sun set over the beach and then headed back to the ship.

Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi was the second destination on my cruise… So it was actually before the day 3 in Dubai (Confusing I know) Abu Dhabi is the second most populous city, after Dubai, and it is the capital city of the UAE. The city is located on an island, but you wouldn't even realise it. This is the city that 'Sex and the City 2' is based in. Now that movie GROSSLY misrepresents the city and the culture. Take that movie in a lesson on what not to do in Abu Dhabi. This is also the city the world-famous Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is in… yep this is the place that Rihanna was kicked out of for ‘posing for some sultry’ photos in the courtyard. Look at the pictures, they look fine to you and me, but this just shows that you have to be so extremely conscious and appropriate for the place you're in. The types of poses she is doing in the pics are totally normal in the West.

1 Day in Abu Dhabi

We only had one day in this beautiful city, so we decided that we 100% had to see the Mosque, I mean it literally is the main site to see in Abu Dhabi, Do not miss out on visiting it! To be honest we really didn't know what to go see in Abu Dhabi, other than the Mosque.

We opted to hire a chauffeur car because it was actually working out to be around the same price as a taxi and it also meant we were guaranteed a new modern car with AC which is essential in the hot weather (and when you're hungover). Our driver suggested that we visit the Emirates Palace Hotel and the Mosque of course.

Emirates Palace Hotel

Now you may be wondering, “Why waste time visiting a hotel”, well this hotel is no ordinary hotel. The hotel was opened in 2005 at the cost of 3 billion US Dollars … yes … BILLION, making it the 3rd most expensive hotel ever built. The building is designed in Islamic architectural element with over 114 domes and a massive central dome. Considering it cost over 3 billion you bet its insanely luxurious on the inside.

We didn't stay very long here because as we were not guests, we could not go much further than the central lobby and dome. After taking some snaps and looking around in awe, we headed off towards the Grand Mosque.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Finally, the main event. Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is the most popular and famous site to see in Abu Dhabi and in the UAE as a whole. This most is absolutely gigantic, the building complex itself covers 30 acres and it can hold 55,000 people. The mosque is named after the late president of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan who wanted the mosque to be constructed to unite the cultural diversity of the Islamic world with both Historical and modern art and architecture.

The Mosque holds many records; the courtyard measures 180,000 sq ft and is considered to be the largest marble mosaic in the world.

It also claims the title of the largest carpet in the world which measures at 60,570 sq ft, a title that it stole from the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Oman, Check out my post on Oman for more details on this: LINK.

The mosque also holds the second largest chandelier inside a mosque and the thirst largest in the world.

The 96 column that hold up the dome in the main prayer hall, are made with marble and include mother of pearl, this is one of the few places on earth that mother of pearl can be seen used in this way.

You enter the Mosque through the carpark on the Northern Western side, when facing the mosque, on your right will be the entrance for visitors. A small building from the outside actually reveals an escalator down underground. It is down here were you get your ticket, and tickets are free. It is here where women are given a robe that covers your legs down to your ankle and it has a hood that you must use to cover your hair. Men generally don't have to wear the rob, once they are not wearing shorts. This robe is returned at the end of the tour.

The visitor side of the mosque is laid out in a pre-determined path. It's a one-way system so make sure to grab pics along the way because you cannot go back to get pics after you have passed. If you stop for too long, they will tell you to move along. The mosque is absolutely mesmerizing, as most religious buildings are, be sure to truly take it all in, the grandeur, the luxury, its truly breath-taking.

LGBTQ+ Safety tips

Unfortunately for the members of our community in the UAE, homosexual acts are still illegal and can result in jail terms. This also applies to foreigners and locals. The following are tips on how to keep safe while visiting the UAE

For our Trans brothers and sisters, keep in mind that Gigi Gorgeous (Famous Trans Youtuber) was refused entry to the UAE and was held in a holding cell in the Dubai International Airport for being trans. This is unlikely to happen to all trans people so it is very important to know

The UAE has in the past refused prominent LGBT activists in the country, turning them away at customs. Keep this in mind if you're a prominent face in media and online in the matter.

  • Avoid any shows of public affection, including hand holding. You may see local Arabic men holding hands but this is a cultural thing and is done to show friendship, under no circumstances should you do the same

  • Straight couples should also avoid PDA.

  • Grindr and most other LGBT apps and websites are blocked in the UAE. Even if you have them on your phone before entering the country, they will not open.

  • Check out my post on what to wear in the Middle East for advice on what is suitable attire for both men and women while exploring the country. (LINK)

  • As I've mentioned before, when checking into hotels, members of the same sex will instantly be given a twin room. Do not ask for a double room. If you must, simply push the beds together yourselves and separate them before leaving the hotel.

  • Once you dress in an appropriate manner and are culturally sensitive, you'll be fine.

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