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Bur Dubai, Bastakiya, Creek & Deira Souks

Trip Report - Day 4 : Dubai: Bur Dubai, Dubai Museum, Bastakiya, Gold and Spice Souks, Dubai Creek

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It was the last day of the trip. We had our flight back to Bahrain at 9:30 PM. We checked out at 10 AM from the hotel after a quick breakfast and left our bag in the luggage room of the hotel. The plan was to visit Bur Dubai and Deira and return to the hotel to pick our luggage and then leave for the airport.

We took the metro from the World Trade Centre Metro Station 2 to Burjuman Metro Station 2 using the red line. From there, we took the green line to Al Fahidi metro station 2. It took us around 30 minutes to reach. The Al Bastakiya region is very close to the metro station and we walked to it. As soon as we reached Bastakiya, we came across the Arabia Tea house. It was a very beautiful cafe located in an old wind tower building with a wonderful traditional setting.

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Bastakiya is the older part of the town which is a welcome break from the hustle bustle of the city. Its a lovely area to just walk around observing the old buildings, ancient architecture, specially the wind towers.

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Bastakiya also houses the Sheikh Mohammed Center of Cultural Understanding which is an organisation aimed at creating cultural awareness about the local culture, customs and religion of the UAE. They also organize cultural meals. (http://www.cultures.ae/). This looked very interesting to us, but we were short of time and could not make it here this time.

After wandering around in Bastakiya for some time, we went to the Dubai museum which is just 2 minutes away. This museum is located in the Al Fahidi fort and is the oldest existing building in Dubai from what I have read. It is a small but informative museum which houses a lot of exhibits explaining Dubai's history and local culture. The entry fee is AED 3 per person.

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After the Dubai Museum, we visited the Grand Souk along the creek. It is a great place to shop for souvenirs.

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I had read up a couple of great reviews about this lovely restaurant called as Bayt Al Wakeel along the creek. And of course, since we were in the same area, we headed there for lunch. The seafood platter we ordered was delicious and combined with the great ambiance, it just made our day more perfect. We sat there for quite some time, just enjoying the creek, the gentle breeze, the food, the abras passing by, and discussing the last 3 days in Dubai. The entire experience was beautiful.

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Just a few meters away is the Dubai Souk Marine Transportation system. The Abra is the traditional wooden boat of Dubai and is still used to ferry people across the creek between Bur Dubai and Deira. It is a perfect way to cross the creek and visit the Spice and Gold souks on the other side of the creek. The abra is a must experience and costs just AED 1. Isha thoroughly enjoyed the ride.

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The spice and gold souks were more of a checklist item for us and we just wandered around for some time.

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After visiting the souks, we took the metro from Al Ras metro station to our hotel. We quickly freshened up, picked our bag from the luggage room and took the metro to the airport.

Thus came an end to an amazing trip....A perfect start to a New Year.

Posted by deepab 03:25 Archived in United Arab Emirates Comments (2)

Burj Khalifa & Desert Safari

Trip Report - Day 3 : Dubai: Burj Khalifa, Desert Safari

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A visit to Dubai would have been incomplete without a visit to the tallest building in the world (over 828 meters and more than 160 stories). We had booked the tickets to the public observatory on level 124 for the 11:30 AM slot. Advance bookings are a must here as the slots get filled up quite fast. The link for the online booking is http://www.burjkhalifa.ae/en/observationdeck/ticketinformation.aspx.

We reached the Dubai Mall at 10:30 AM using the hotel shuttle and went straight to the entry point for Burj Khalifa to collect our tickets. After queuing up for some time, we reached the observation deck on the 124th floor. The views from there were awesome. We spent around an hour on top taking in the marvelous Dubai buildings and structures.

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After the great experience at the Top, We had a quick lunch at the Mall food court at 'Assia in Wok' and then explored the mall for some time. We had seen the Burj Khalifa from outside the previous night, but I wanted some pictures of it during the day. So we went to the open area between Dubai Mall and Souk Al Bahar and got a few good clicks.

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We took a taxi back to our rooms and waited for our pickup for the Desert Safari. Isha had a good nap in the meantime and was very fresh by the time the driver arrived. We left from the hotel at 4:15 PM and reached the campsite by 5 PM. We had opted out of Dune Bashing since we thought that it is not advisable with Isha. When we reached the camp site, Isha was very excited to see so much sand around her and started playing immediately. As per the plan given to us, the following was included in our tour at the cost of AED 125 per person:
- Visit the “Bedouin Village.”
- Camel Ride
- Henna Painting
- Have photos taken wearing traditional Arabic dress
- Belly dance, Tanoura and carnival show whilst enjoying your sumptuous Barbecue Dinner in the Desert.

We were really looking forward to it and had a lot of expectations. But we were partly disappointed. The entire camp was very crowded. The queue for the camel ride was very long and took almost 45 minutes for our turn. If it were not for Isha, maybe we would have skipped it all together. Since we wanted her to experience it, we waited for our turn and finally got only around 2 minutes of camel ride. Nevertheless Isha enjoyed those few minutes on the camel, and it made it worth the wait.
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We got our photos taken with the Arabian Falcon which was not a part of the tour and were charged AED 10 per photo.

Next, we went to the camp and sat at the designated seats. The Henna painting and traditional Arabic dress were again disappointing. The free henna painting consisted of a very small tattoo and for anything bigger than that, you needed to pay. Also, to wear the traditional Arabic dress, there was no one around to show us how to wear the same. The dance shows were good. The barbecue dinner was again just okay.

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We were dropped back to our hotel by 9:30 PM. Overall, Isha enjoyed a lot playing in the sand. But overall it did not meet our expectations.

Posted by deepab 03:06 Archived in United Arab Emirates Comments (0)

Miracle Gardens & Dubai Mall

Trip Report - Day 2 : Dubai : Miracle Gardens, Dubai Mall Aquarium and Underwater zoo, Dubai Mall Fountains

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We had a quick breakfast at the hotel and took a taxi to the Miracle gardens. It is located at a place called as Al Barsha and is quite far away from all the other major attractions in Dubai. We reached Miracle garden at around 10:15 AM and it was very crowded. The garden opens at 9 AM, so maybe reaching there earlier would have been a better option. As the name suggests, it indeed is a Miracle to have such a beautiful and colorful garden in the middle of a desert. There are different themes and sections and flowers are arranged in different forms and designs. There are several different sets like the Burj Khalifa, Eiffel Tower, houses, peacocks, etc made of flowers. We enjoyed every minute here and it provided us some great photo opportunities. There are a couple of shaded food stalls here which is a welcome break after walking around for so long. A hot cup of tea and a few snacks got us recharged for the rest of the garden. We spent around 2 hours here and took a taxi back to the hotel.

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After relaxing in the room for some time, we went to a restaurant called Ravi's for Lunch. This place is extremely popular and is rated very highly on tripadvisor. It serves Indian and Pakistani food and there was a waiting queue even at 2:30 PM. We ordered the Butter Chicken and Mutton Peshawari, both the dishes were delicious. The ambiance is not great and it is very crowded, but for the food - it is definitely a YES.

We took a taxi from Ravi's to Dubai Mall. One very important piece of information here is that the Dubai Taxi's have a change of shift at 4 PM.During a shift change, drivers do not accept passengers as they have to go back to the depot for the next driver’s shift. We were not aware of this and had to wait for almost 45 minutes for a taxi to Dubai Mall.

Dubai Mall is one of world's largest shopping malls. We were not really interested in shopping on this trip, however visiting the mall for any person visiting Dubai is a must just for the sheer experience. We went straight to the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo. Dubai Aquarium is one of the largest tanks in the world featuring one of world's largest viewing panel. This was something on our priority list as we were sure Isha would enjoy it. You can get more information about the tickets from http://www.thedubaiaquarium.com/en/Visitus/TicketInformation.aspx.
We purchased the Platinum Aquarium Package for AED 80 per adult comprising of Aquarium Tunnel, Underwater Zoo and Behind the scenes tour. Isha thoroughly enjoyed the experience. It was a great experience to walk through the Aquarium tunnel surrounded by different fish. Also the penguins, king crocodile, shark, octopuses was all very fascinating for Isha.

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Dubai Mall also has a snow skating rink and waterfall in addition to the multitude of restaurants and shops. Basically, it is such a huge mall that even to reach a particular point from another, you need to walk so much that you get exhausted.

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The next thing on our priority list was to watch the Dubai Musical Fountains.. According to the Dubai Mall website, the fountain shoots water jets as high as 500 ft (150 metres), equivalent to that of a 50-storey building. The fountain is 900 ft (275 metres) long and has five circles of varying sizes and two central arcs. It is the world's largest dancing fountain. There are three options to view the fountains:
- Take a ride on a Abra and watch the beautiful fountain with Burj Khalifa in the backdrop
- Take a seat at one of the several restaurants or cafes which provide a view of the fountains.
- There are also several open areas from where you can watch the fountain.

We had plans of watching the Dubai Musical Fountains from the terrace of TGIF. We wrote our name in the waiting list for the terrace table, however even after waiting for more than an hour, we were nowhere close to the top of the list. So we dropped the plan and decided to watch the fountain from the open area between Dubai Mall and the Souk Al Bahar. This area was also very crowded and we had to wait for the ongoing show to end and the crowd to reduce a little so that we could push ourselves to the front from where we could get a good view of the fountain. The only good part is that the show repeats every half an hour, so even if you miss one show, you can get another one.
After the show got over, we just walked around Souk Al Bahar and tried to get a fountain facing table at one of the restaurants there. However, we were out of luck. It was just not our day to watch the fountains while having dinner.

We did get some beautiful views of the Burj Khalifa though. We were lucky to get the Guinness World Record winning LED illumination on Burj Khalifa’s facade. The spectacular LED display envelopes the world’s tallest tower in the colors of the UAE national flag among other dazzling effects and was a treat to our eyes.

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With the scintillating Burj khalifa in our minds, we returned to our hotel. We had dinner at Pizza express again, but this time tried the Lasagne Verde and Fungotto. The Fungotto is a Portobello mushroom stuffed with goat's cheese, mozzarella, garlic butter, bread crumbs etc and it was something very different and very delicious.

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Posted by deepab 02:05 Archived in United Arab Emirates Comments (0)

Jumeirah Beach & Madinat Jumeirah Souk

Trip Report - Day 1 : Dubai: Jumeirah Beach, Burj Al Arab, Madinat Jumeirah Souk and Emirati cuisine

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Our flight to Dubai was at 9:55 AM. We reached the airport early and completed all our check-in formalities. Usually before any trip, we talk to Isha a lot about what we would be doing and which places we would be visiting. It helps in getting her mentally prepared for the trip. She was super excited as she liked the idea of Dubai with its beach, desert, aquarium, camel rides etc; lots of things of her interest actually :). And Isha being excited about something acts as a booster for our excitement as well.

The flight was on time and we reached Dubai at 12:00 PM. After completing all the visa formalities and collecting our luggage, we reached the Metro station at the airport. Dubai metro is very convenient and since our hotel Ibis was located just opposite one of the metro stations, we thought of giving it a try.
We purchased the Silver Nol card about which I had read online before leaving for Dubai. A Nol Card is a smart card that allows you to use Bus, Metro, and Water-bus with a single card. It has a 'touch & go’ function which means, you simply tap it on the entry point of any of the above services and the system will then automatically deduct the correct fare. There are several such Nol cards- Red, Silver, Gold, Blue. The silver Nol card has 5 year validity and costs AED 25, of which AED 6 is for the card and AED 19 is the amount which can be used for travel. This card can be topped up at all ticket offices. It was very convenient, as during our 4 days in Dubai, we could use this card without having to queue for a ticket every time.

Dubai metro is clean, efficient and fast and we loved the idea of the metro instantly. It took us around half an hour to reach the hotel. Mostly, the metro runs above the ground and is a nice way to see the city. The stops are announced in both Arabic and English, so there is no missing the stop.

We reached Hotel Ibis World Trade Center at around 2 PM. Check-in was quick and smooth. The room was small but very clean and comfortable with all the required amenities. We loved the location of the hotel as it was just opposite the metro station with a supermarket and lots of restaurants in the vicinity. After freshening up, we went for lunch at Pizza Express just around the corner from our hotel. We ordered the Affumicato pizza and dough balls with nutella. The food was delicious and the service great. It was also very child friendly and Isha had a good time running around.

After lunch, Isha had a quick nap after which we left for Jumeirah Sunset beach. This is the beach which is just next to Burj Al Arab and gives a fantastic view of this famous luxury hotel in Dubai. We went there on 1st January, a holiday for most people and the first weekend after New Year, so as expected, it was very crowded. We got some great photos of the Burj Al Arab here at sunset. It was an awesome experience to just watch the sky changing its colours and Burj Al Arab looking more and more stunning with every passing minute. Isha had a great time playing in the sand and just running around on the beach. It was a perfect holiday for her so far...:)

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With a heavy heart, we left the beach and walked towards the Madinat Jumeirah Souk. Our original plan was to take a taxi to the Souk, however we were told by some locals that it is at walking distance, so we set off after asking for directions. Around 10-15 minutes later, we were at the Souk. The souk is like a cobbled street with various shops lined on both the sides of the street. The entire souk has a very ancient and rustic look and feel. The ambience created by the various stalls and shops, the waterfront with its boats, the numerous restaurants and cafes along the waterfront, the Christmas tree with Santa, everything was just so beautiful. This souk also gives some good views of the Burj Al Arab.

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Though dining at one of the waterfront restaurants was very tempting, we moved on to our final destination of the day - Al Fanar restaurant for a local Emirati cuisine experience. The entire themed setting of this restaurant was very beautiful. There is a classic desert land rover and camel at the entrance and the walls, roofs, sitting arrangements give glimpses of a bygone era. The servers at the restaurant wearing traditional costumes complete the entire experience.

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You can dine indoors under the desert tree or outdoors in the fishermen's hut. We chose the later and must say it was a very unique experience. We ordered local food Beryani Laham (Mutton served with mix of rice, onions and raisins) and Margougat Deyay (Arabic bread simmered in Chicken stew with potato and seasonal vegetables).

Beryani Laham

Beryani Laham

Margougat Deyay

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The perfect food and ambiance made it a superb way to end our first day in Dubai.

Posted by deepab 00:30 Archived in United Arab Emirates Comments (0)

New year 2015 in Dubai

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Another long weekend, and this time around New Year's Eve. And what could have been a better start to a New Year than another trip.
Now the next question was 'Where?'. And the obvious answer was Dubai. Being in Bahrain, Dubai is just 1 hour away by flight and is a perfect destination for a quick getaway. And of course, it was one destination in our 'Travel List'. :) So Dubai it was...

We went ahead and booked our tickets and hotel. Now came the most important part - planning the itinerary. So I compiled a list of things to do and places to see which I found interesting. After compiling a list of all the attractions, we came up with the following itinerary:

1st January – Thursday:
Arrive in Dubai at 12 PM. Take the metro to the hotel as there is a metro stop opposite the hotel. Travel time from Airport to Hotel is 25 mins by metro (red line).
After Lunch, go to Jumeirah sunset beach for a good view of Burj Al Arab ( Takes 17 mins by taxi - 16.2 km from hotel).
After the beach, visit the Madinat Jumeirah souk (2.1 km from beach) (Takes 6 mins by taxi; Takes 18 mins by bus, bus every 10 mins).
Dinner at Al Fanar Restaurant and Cafe at Town Center, next to mercato mall. This place serves Emirati cuisine.

2nd January – Friday:
Morning : Miracle Gardens (Opens 9 AM) Takes around 2-3 hours to visit (25.1 km from hotel by Taxi, Return trip is 32.6 km)
Evening : Desert Safari (pickup 3:30 – 4 PM). Already booked this tour with Funtours (http://www.funtoursdubai.com/)

3rd January – Saturday:
Take the hotel shuttle to Dubai Mall. Entry time booked for Burj Khalifa is 11:30 AM. Advance bookings are a must here as the slots get filled up quite fast. The link for the online booking is http://www.burjkhalifa.ae/en/observationdeck/ticketinformation.aspx. You need to arrive 15 minutes before your ticket time. Spend around an hour on top (total time around 2 hours).
Have Lunch at Dubai Mall Food Court
After lunch, visit Dubai Mall aquarium and underwater zoo. Around 2 hours inside.
Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo timings:
Sunday to Wednesday: 10:00 AM- 12:00 AM
Thursday to Saturday: 10:00 AM - 1:00 AM

After the aquarium, visit the Dubai Mall. Take a seat at one of the restaurant terraces to view the Dubai Mall fountains. (Carlucios, More café, TGI Fridays, Dean & Delucca are some restaurants in Dubai Mall with fountain view)
Dubai Fountain schedule:
Evening Shows
Daily: 6:00 PM to 11:00 PM (Every 30 Minutes)

Visit the Souk Al Bahar outside the Dubai Mall before going back to the hotel.

4th January – Sunday
Morning: Take metro from Ibis to Bur Dubai. Take the Red line from World Trade Centre Metro Station 2 to Burjuman Metro Station 2. From there, take the green line to Al Fahidi metro station 2. (Takes around 31 minutes, leaves every 8 minutes). From metro station, Dubai museum is 850 mt. Spend around an hour here. Grand Mosque is opposite the Dubai Museum.
Dubai Museum Timings:
All days of the week except Friday 8:30 AM - 7:30 PM
Friday: 2:00 PM - 7:30 PM

Visit Bastakiya. Walk around the traditional streets. Visit the Arabian Tea house Cafe. Several art galleries around (Spend around 2 hours here).
Have lunch at Bait Al Wakeel (900 mt from Arabian Tea House Cafe). This is a restaurant along the creek and serves Arabic cuisine and excellent seafood.

The Dubai old souk marine transport station is 200 mt away. Take the abra and cross the creek. Visit Gold and Spice souks.
Souk Timings:
Daily 07:00 AM -12:00 PM and 5:00 PM -7: 00 PM
Fri 5:00 PM -7: 00 PM

Return to hotel by Metro. Take green line from Ras Metro Station 1 to Burjuman metro station 1 , from there red line to hotel. Pick luggage and take metro to airport.

Posted by deepab 00:04 Archived in United Arab Emirates Comments (1)

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