By Wendy Wood-Prince
Some say that the name Dubai originated from the proverb “Daba Dubai” meaning “They came with a lot of money”, which would be totally apropos for the Dubai of today. The history of Dubai, and the rest of the seven Emirates that make up Dubai, was handed down by word of mouth over the centuries and therefore there is not extensive information written about its history. Much of its ancient history and the origins of names and places came from local poetry, proverbs and artifacts.
My daughter, Lucia, getting ready for her long but luxurious business class flight direct from Chicago to Dubai on Emirates Airlines.
Dubai is located on the Western side of the North Coast of the United Arab Emirates, at the southern end of The Persian Gulf. There are seven states that make up the United Arab Emirates. Originally, these states within the UAE served as trading stops between the east and west. Most Persian Gulf states are known for oil exportation, but, surprisingly, oil revenues account for only 5% of the UAE’s annual revenue. The majority of Dubai’s revenue comes from tourism. Dubai is kind of like Las Vegas on steroids within the confines of strict Islamic law, and if that sounds confusing, well, it is!
The ultimate in luxury, The Burj Al Arab hotel sits on a manmade island just off Jumeirah Beach.
Decadence is everywhere in Dubai. In 2014, Dubai’s hotels were calculated to be the second most expensive in the world, with the world’s only (self-proclaimed) “7 star” hotel, the Burj Al Arab. The Burj is the symbol of Dubai and cost over a billion dollars to build. It was designed to look like the sail of a ship and it is located on a manmade island just offshore. It has 202 suites and the Royal Suite will set you back $24,000 per night! If you can’t come up with the cash for the Royal Suite, book a table at one of the hotel’s restaurants. Majlis Al Bahar beachside bar is the perfect place where one can sit and take in the beautiful design of the hotel itself while watching VVIPs come and go (run of the mill VIPs just don’t cut it here). Speaking of VVIPs, when one arrives and is truly a VVIP, fireworks go off to announce their arrival!
A view of the Jumeirah Beach Hotel from the Wild Wadi Waterpark.
The Jumeirah Beach Hotel sits in the shadow of the Burj Al Arab and is located on some of the nicest beaches in Dubai. Jumeirah Beach is another luxurious hotel. Designed to look like a giant wave, the hotel is another striking landmark on the horizon. Located right next to the Wild Wadi Waterpark, guests have free access, making Jumeirah Beach a great place for families. The hotel also has a few beachfront villas and lots of restaurants. Because alcohol is served only in the confines of hotels, many offer Champagne Brunch on Fridays (the beginning of the Arabic weekend) where mounds of food and alcohol are offered up in a truly decadent fashion that is symbolic of Dubai.
Camel milk at the breakfast buffet at The Jumeirah Beach Hotel.
Of course, when one is in Dubai, one must do a little shopping……..why not start at the gold souk in Old Dubai. Filled to the brim with glittering gold jewels and trinkets of all kinds, the gold souk is regulated by the government so there are no fakes sold here, but be prepared to bargain hard. Bargaining is deeply rooted in the culture and vendors are practically insulted if you don’t play the game. The best strategy is to make an offer and then walk away, coming back to smiles and possibly half off the original prices being asked. While in the old section of Dubia check out the Bastakia Quarter with its beautifully restored old buildings. Stop at Basta Art Cafe for some shade and tea in their garden terrace, or The Arabian Tea House on Al Fahidi Street. It has a great Arabic flavor, but go only during the winter months as there is no a/c.
Enjoying a refreshing coconut water at the beach.
Finally, the serious shoppers head to the two malls in Dubai. Dubai Mall is the most famous and fairly touristy with lots of big name brands offering upscale clothing and accessories. Locals prefer Emirates Mall because it is not as much of a tourist attraction and has all of the most highly desired clothing, shoes and bags created by the top designers in the world. McQueen, Chanel, Bugatti, and on and on, it’s all there. And after you are shopped out, you can take the kids and head over to the indoor ski hill for a few runs!
It’s a long flight from Dubai to Chicago but Emirates business class eases the pain.
Dubai is a decadent playground for all ages and filled with sights you will never find anywhere else in the world.