We came into Dubai on the MSC Lirica as the disembarkation port on a 3-week cruise that started in Italy and sailed around the Mediterranean before passing through the Suez Canal. We had port stops in Israel, Jordan and Oman before reaching the United Arab Emirates. Visiting Petra on the Jordan port stop was our main reason for taking this cruise, but we enjoyed the other ports as well. Our ship overnighted in Dubai before disembarkation, and we had a very late flight which gave us two days to explore.
The cruise terminal in Dubai is not near town. Security screens your bags as you leave the port building so there’s a bit of a line to get out if you leave the ship the same time as everyone else. The port is too far to walk anywhere, but you can leave by taxi, uber, free mall shuttle bus, big, bus or hop on hop off bus. The big bus or hoho bus are expensive, but Dubai is huge and their routes cover a long distance. We saw maps around the city for the hoho bus and it had 3 separate routes with connecting points.
At the port the taxis vi for the highest bidder when there are more passengers wanting a ride than taxis available, but you can get an Uber for less than the price of a taxi or take the free mall shuttle into town. From the mall you can catch a taxi for much less than at the port. If you have the time and want to go a lot of places you would get your money’s worth to take the hoho bus, especially if one of the places you want to go is Global Village, which is a bit of a distance outside of town.
We opted for the free shuttle, which went to Mercato Mall. It’s a small mall by Dubai standards, though not really all that small. The decor there is Italian themed. In December it’s all decorated up for Christmas, like many other places in Dubai.
We wandered around the mall a bit, then found a taxi out front. Taxis in Dubai are pretty cheap in town so long as they are the tan sort with a taxi sign on top. The black ones that don’t say taxi charge a whole lot more, though if there aren’t any of the tan ones around and you use Uber you can get that same black car for a lot less money than you pay if you just hop in it as a taxi.
We asked the taxi to drop us at the Burj Al Arab, which is the 7-star hotel that is shaped like a sail, and one of the major landmarks of Dubai. It was raining, which is rare for Dubai. The driver made a quick stop by a beach for the view of the hotel from there. In nicer weather that beach would be a great place for a walk, and the views of the Burj Al Arab are better there than at the hotel itself.
When you get to the hotel, unless you are staying there or have a meal booked in one of its restaurants you can’t even pass through the gates to look at it from the outside. The taxi let us off at Wild Wadi, a water park next door to the hotel. If you walk around the area there are places where you can get a decent picture of it.
From there we walked to Souk Madinat Jumeirah, which is a modern recreation of an ancient market. Souk is an Arab word for a marketplace or bazar, and there are all sorts of them in different countries. Some have all new items, others are more like a flea market. Some are item themed like a gold souk or textile souk.
This one has lots of little shops, all with new merchandise with quite a variety of items. It also has restaurants, parking, and entertainment. We walked from around in the souk for awhile until the rain let up, then went on our way. We didn’t see any taxis outside so we just headed in the direction of Palm Jumeriah until an empty one went by to flag down.
Palm Jumeriah is a man-made island in a shape resembling a palm tree. Each of the palm fronds is wide enough for a double row of homes or other buildings, giving each of them beach front on one edge of the palm frond. A main street runs down the center, or trunk of the palm tree. It continues out to an outer ring around the palm. The outer ring is home to a number of hotels, including Atlantis, which is where the taxi dropped us off.
Atlantis has a little booth outside on the sidewalk where people can book activities within the hotel, like a visit to their water park or aquarium. It also has a section of shops and restaurants where anyone can walk in whether they are staying there or have any activities booked or not. Like other touristy places in Dubai, Atlantis also had Christmas decorations in December. They also have prayer rooms alongside the restrooms for their Muslim customers. All the restrooms we saw in Dubai were clean, had western style toilets, and provided toilet paper, things we did not always find in other places in the middle east.
Everything in Dubai tends to be expensive, probably even more so at the fancy hotels. We had lunch in a little Asian restaurant in Atlantis. A little bowl each of fried rice and sweet & sour chicken, along with one cup of coffee and a pot of tea cost 180 dirham or nearly $50 USD.
After lunch we took a walk on the boardwalk that runs along the edge of the water next to the road on the outer circle. Neither the boardwalk nor the road go all the way back to the mainland. The only way is down the trunk section at the middle of the palm.
The boardwalk went about 3.3k before it ended where the road had a bridge to continue farther. If it had been a nice day we would have had a great view of the city skyline including the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, but all of the buildings there were barley visible through the thick fog or possibly a mix of fog and smog that hung about all day.
We did get a fairly decent view of the Burj Al Arab, which is closer to Palm Jumeirah than the Burj Khalifa so it appeared both larger in the view and not nearly as shrouded in fog. We didn’t walk out the other direction on the boardwalk from Atlantis, but on the map it appears to go a similar distance.
A monorail runs down the trunk of the palm from Atlantis to a stop called Gateway on the mainland, with several other stops in between.
We took the monorail back, which probably cost more than a taxi, but was easily available and worth it just for the views. At the Gateway station you can catch trains, busses, or taxis, or call for an Uber.
We had intended to take the train to Mall of Emirates, which is the one with the indoor ski facility just to kill some time, but enough time had passed by then to take a taxi straight from there to Global Village. We would have liked to go sooner, but it didn’t open until 4pm. That was how we found out how expensive the black taxis are since that was all that was available at the monorail station. On the way back we went by Uber and though the distance was farther going all the way to the cruise port it cost less for one of the same black cars that also runs as a taxi, which was how we learned that choice bit of information.
Burj Al Arab always catches my eye when I see aerial shots of Dubai. It sounds like I’d find something to my liking at the Souk Madinat Jumeirah – nice mix of sellers there.
We definitely found what we were looking for at the souk – which was shelter from a passing rainstorm.