Saturday, December 16, 2023

48 Hours in Dubai, UAE

Trip date: January 2023

I hadn't been to Dubai or the UAE before, so that is reason enough for me to take a trip, but really I wanted to fly in Emirates Business Class on their direct Dubai to Seattle flight. 

I transferred some points to Aeroplan and booked an economy flight from Cairo to Dubai via Air Canada on Egyptair (did you know that you could do that? I just recently learned how!)

It was a quick 3 1/2 hour flight and passport control in Dubai was easy and fast. I was in a taxi and at the Raffles Hotel 10 minutes after leaving the airport. I had booked the hotel thru my Amex Fine Hotels + Resorts portal which gave me a $200 card credit along with free breakfast and $100 resort credit. 

My room wasn't quite ready when I arrived, so they sat me in the bar with a comped glass of wine and some snacks which was nice. When I was taken up to my room, the valet let me know that they had upgraded me to a room with a gorgeous skyline view! It was huge with a balcony, living room, walk-in closet, massive bathroom, and a butler!!!! 

That evening I set out to have drinks at a couple of cocktail bars that are currently on The 50 Best list. First up was Bulgari Bar in the hotel by the same name. This is on Jumeirah Bay Island, so it's a bit of a drive from where I was, but the drinks and the gorgeous bar were worth the taxi. Pro tip: taxis in Dubai are cheaper than Uber and easily hailed by hotels. But if you are approached by a "taxi" make sure you agree on the price first as they could actually be a private car and charge you double!


The staff at Bulgari are so great and all my cocktails were delicious. I sat inside the bar for a bit and then noticed their awesome balcony overlooking the water, so moved there for a snack and another drink. 

My next stop was Mimi Kakushi at the Four Seasons Resort, also on Jumeirah. The bar here is quite small, as the space is primarily a restaurant, but it's very cute and the bartender was great. They are known for their Botanist martini which is frozen inside a block of ice and is picked out.


Fun, and a great martini, but $50 to watch him hack thru to the bottle and pour it in my glass wasn't exactly worth it to me. I enjoyed my one drink and tabbed out.

I had my driver drop me off near Burj Khalifa Park and made my way to the lake where the Dubai Fountain performs every 30 minutes until 11pm. It was super easy to get a great spot on the boardwalk and while waiting for the show the Burj Khalifa (the world's tallest building at 2717 feet tall) has an lightshow going on which was so gorgeous!


Then the fountains started, choreographed to music of course. If you've seen the fountains at Bellagio in Las Vegas, these are very similar, but because this is Dubai everything is even more fancy and spectacular. I loved it!



When I got back to the hotel, I stopped by the bar to grab a glass of wine to take to my room but was told that it is illegal to walk through the hotel with alcohol so they had to have room service bring it up to me. UAE is a Muslim country, so technically a dry, but they also grant special licenses to hotels and bars (most are a part of a hotel) because they want all the international tourism. It's interesting for sure!

My butler had turned down my room and turned on the Moroccan lights and it was just a stunning place to enjoy my wine when it arrived! 

The next morning I headed to the breakfast room and was completely blown away by the massive buffets. Pretty much anything you could want was available! There were tables laden with middle eastern options, Italian, dim sum, pastries, carving stations, egg stations, salad bar, pancakes & waffles with so many toppings including honey on the comb. It was really an impressive set up!

I ate and then took an Uber to the Dubai Mall. Driving through town is like being on an architecture tour! There are so many fascinating buildings to look at!

I arrived at the Fashion Avenue entrance and spent a lot of time finding my way through to the entrance for the Top of the Tower. I was very excited to be going up in the Burj Khalifa and I had bought a SKY ticket in advance. The ticket wasn't cheap, I spent about $150, but I didn't have to queue up at all and instead was shown into a lounge where I could sit with the others before being escorted through a series of back hallways and executive elevators.

This was pretty cool as we also were walked past multiple very long queues of ticket holders and allowed to board elevators before them. Different elevators go to different floors; you have to travel past the floors of the Armani Hotel, the Residences, corporate offices, and the regular restaurant. It takes a while just to get to floor 125 which is where the "regular" ticket holders start. 

My VIP group started on the 148th floor and were welcomed into a private observation room with coffee, juice, dates (which UAE are known for), and of course some truly incredible views from 1820 feet up!

The observation space is almost a full 360 of windows, so you can walk around for a complete view, and there is also an area that you can walk outside! It's VERY windy up that high and also pretty exhilarating!

There's no time limit on your stay at 148, when you are ready you are able to take the elevator down to floor 125. At 1496 feet you are still very high up but being a tad closer to the other buildings makes the view a bit better (at least on this day which was hazy with sand from the desert!)

However, there are A LOT of people on this floor! There's also some souvenir stands, and this graphic which looks like the floor is clear glass and then it makes breaking sounds as you walk across it! Very funny!

You can walk down a flight to floor 124 which is another outdoor terrace, this one is full of selfie takers!

There was a very long queue for the elevator to get down but my VIP ticket gave me access to a private line and just 3 of us were ushered into the elevator. Within 60 seconds we were all the way back down!! So fast! As you exit through a hallway there are panels which tell all about the construction of the tower. It's all super interesting!

But wait... there's more!

I was still in the Dubai Mall which is home to every designer store there is. Literally. The mall is massive, it's actually the 2nd largest in the world, and as I wandered around window shopping I often had to check the maps to see my location. I was making my way to the Dubai Aquarium.

After shopping for your Gucci you can then visit the 13th largest aquarium in the world. 2.7 million gallons of water are home over 140 total species, including 300+ sharks and rays. I didn't go in but just watching the marine life through the huge glass was pretty cool.

And all that before lunch! 

Back at the Raffles, I picked out a comfy lounge chair by the pool, had a delicious Mediterranean salad and a Dubai Sling (the original Raffles is home to the Singapore Sling), and spent the day swimming and soaking up the sun.
Late in the afternoon I had an hour massage at the hotel spa, and I can honestly say it was the best massage I've ever had! The whole spa was great in that my massage room had its own bathroom and closet vs having a communal locker room. Also, they set you in semi-private areas on comfy loungers before and after my service and offered tea and dates. Best part was I used my $100 hotel credit for the massage!


That night I went out for dinner at Orfali Bros which I was looking forward to as the menu looked great. And the food was actually super tasty but every server told me numerous times that the menu was meant to be shared. It made me feel a bit unwelcomed. Add that to the fact that the restaurant is dry, I didn't linger over my meal. 

After dinner I went to check out the stunning Galaxy Bar. Wow, this is one of the prettiest cocktail lounges I have been in, and the drinks were excellent as well. 


I stayed for a couple of rounds until the DJ started. He was good but I prefer a quieter bar, if you do too just go early. 

Back at the hotel, I packed and turned in early as I had a chauffeur from Emirates airline picking me up at 7am for my First Class flight home to Seattle!

All photos from Dubai here

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