Out of Africa:
It is hard to believe our adventures in Africa have already come to an end for now. However, we could not be more excited to start the next leg of of our trip, exploring Eastern Europe!
Our flight out of Africa was with Emirate’s on a double decker plane (the largest either of us have flown on). Having never been on an Emirate’s flight we were not sure what to expect, but the airline definitely delivered as it included many movies to watch, unlimited beverages, and arguably the best in flight meal we have had.
Our flight was to Munich, Germany, with a layover in Dubai. We intentionally scheduled an extended layover so we could leave the airport and explore the city for a few hours.
City of Dubai:
When we arrived around 5:30 AM the temperature was already 30°C (≈86 F) and was forecast to rise well above 40°C (over 100°F). This was actually not bad weather for Dubai, but we were ill prepared coming from the winter in Southern Africa.
The primary tourist attractions in the city are Dubai Mall and the Burj Khalifa, and navigating to these from the airport could not have been easier. The city really only has a two main train lines, so if you have no idea what you are doing the odds of stumbling onto the right train are pretty high.
What we did:
- Dubai Mall – Dubai Mall is huge! It is four, massive stories and has everything from the familiar American Eagle clothing store, to more exotic fig and date emporiums. We also saw signs for an ice skating rink (in the desert!?) and an aquarium in the mall, however, we visited neither. We spent an hour or two exploring, but the real reason we were there was that the mall also houses the entrance to the Burj Khalifa.
- Burj Khalifa – The Burj Khalifa is the tallest building in the world. It is 163 stories and 828 meters tall. It is a mixed use building, meaning it has both residential and business floors. Visitors have the option of visiting the 124 and 125th floors via the “At the Top” package (something of a misnomer), or the 148th floor with the Sky package. We opted to only visit the 124/5th floors as the price difference was considerable (and 125 floors up seemed plenty high). The view was amazing! Dubai has many man made islands as well as other skyscrapers, and from the Burj Khalifa you are looking WAY down at them. From the 125th floor we could see Dubai in its entirety; in every direction you could pinpoint precisely where the hyper-modern city ends, and the seemingly endless Arabian Desert begins. Staring towards the horizon, sweltering heat created a thick haze.
Other Odds and Ends Worth Mentioning:
- Ramadan – A few days prior to our departure, we realized we would be visiting Dubai during Ramadan. It is illegal to eat, drink, or smoke in public during daylight hours for the entire month of Ramadan. For that reason, most restaurants are closed during the day, and open at night for the ‘breaking of the fast meal’ called Ifthar. However, being a more liberal city, Dubai does allow some restaurants to serve food during daylight hours so long as they are hidden from public view. Before landing we found a list of open restaurants, and were able to have a delicious breakfast. The restaurant we ate at literally gave no indication that it was open as it was completely blacked out from the outside.
- Calls to Prayer – During our stay we also heard two calls to prayer over the speakers, one at Dubai Mall and one in and the airport. This was certainly an unfamiliar sound to us.