I have finally travelled to Dubai! Voilà! Dubai is so shiny that you can’t just cross-check it from your bucket list without telling all about it. I stayed four days and had plenty of time to enjoy the city. It is very extended though, but the local transportation system offers multiple options for all budgets. Taxis are cheap, the metro is fast, and hop-on-hop-off touristic buses are just the right deal if you want to see the most of Dubai within a pretty short time.
We started our trip “at the top” by visiting the Burj Khalifa, the world’s highest tower as of today. It offers vertiginous views over downtown Dubai, and a strange perspective of the high towers nearby that look so small even though they are 30-40 stories buildings. The artificial lake surrounds the Burj Khalifa and the Dubai Mall, one of the largest shopping malls in Europe and Central Asia.
At night, starting at 5 30pm, there is a different fountain show every 30 minutes, copying the one in Bellagio Hotel, Las Vegas. With music, lights, fire, and of course dancing water jets, the shows attract the crowds every single time. It’s simply magical.
Magical nights in Dubai are the norm. After all, Arabia is home to the Thousands and One Nights, and because of that, a little tradition in the middle of all this modernity was mandatory for us. We were not in the mood for going to beach parties or rooftop clubs with the younger crowds dancing to the sound of famous DJ’s music. Dubai also has options for adults. Before the sun sets, every day, countless agencies take tourists to the Desert of Arabia. It’s very easy to book a tour with just any of them, they come and pick us up at the hotel in large jeeps, and drive into the desert for a memorable half-day tour, from mid-afternoon to about 10:00pm.
Dune bashing, camel ride, falconry, desert sunset photographs, shisha and BBQ at a desert camp, belly dancer, and Arabian coffee and dates tasting, all is well organized for anyone who wants to see it all. Although I found everything beautiful around, and the desert of Arabia was really impressive, it somehow lacked a bit of authenticity as it lacked a bit of intimacy in my opinion. But the dunes desert for sure will leave a great impression in my mind. And in my shoes too (I dragged kilos of sand back to our hotel room!!!).
The next two days, we had booked the Dubai Hop-On-Hop-Off Big Bus Tour, which allowed us to see most of the city of Dubai. I love architecture, and driving around with these buses was a great choice for me to look around and admire the buildings and towers, from the comfort of a bus with gallery and air-con. We went by the Burj Al-Arab, and went to have lunch at the Marina of Dubai, located just South of the Palm Jumeirah (where the Hotel Atlantis stands), with a stunning view over this new district, the Twisted Tower and the Marina Promenade.
We made a short stop at the Madinat Jumeirah, a magnificent area, totally artificial though – as most of the sites in Dubai anyway. It mainly is a chic souk, and has many nice and upscale restaurants and cafés located along an artificial lake, with views over the Burj Al-Arab; the buildings are really nice and clean, it is very picturesque I think, however during daytime it lacks people to make the place more alive. Maybe the weather was too hot for people to be crazy enough (like us) to spend the day out.
We visited the Old Town with the Big Bus Tour too. A night tour was included with our tickets, as well as a Dhow Cruise on the Dubai Creek. The old and the new Dubai are sort of separated by The Frame, a new museum with a very peculiar architecture.
The Old Souk was so so, we just looked at the Gold Souk from afar (as we had no intention to purchase any jewelry), but we went to the Spice Souk. It was okay to see, but it did not compare at all to the Mahane Yehouda spice market in Jerusalem; so like all the tourists we bought several grams of saffron to bring back home and quickly headed to the dhow cruise. This was really nice, to relax and rest for an hour with a little breeze in the hair. We were sold refreshments and ice-creams on the boat, and I tried this special camel milk ice-cream with honey and saffron flavor.
Curiously, what I found the most interesting to learn about in the old town had nothing to do with the typical touristic tour. While going to the old souk, we drove through a whole area entirely dedicated to health. The University of Medicine is neighbor to countless clinics and hospitals, and this zone of the city is building hotels that are almost only dedicated to hosting patients family, making of Dubai the top center for Medical Tourism in the Emirates and beyond the Arabic Peninsula.
On our last day, we mostly enjoyed our time between the Dubai Mall restaurants and the swimming pool at our hotel, the Sofitel Downtown. Throughout our stay in Dubai, we ate at our beloved chain of restaurants: the Cheesecake Factory; we also went to a falafel and hummus place, and although we tried to eat “local”, choices for international cuisine were so large that it was hard to pick a place and sacrifice the others, every time we had to eat. So we often picked restaurants with a view, because anyhow the food would always be great, wherever we’d go. I regret not having tried more Emirati food though, so that will be for my next visit if I do return to Dubai someday.
These pictures show two of the most popular attractions inside the Dubai Mall, the famous Waterfall and the Dubai Mall Aquarium.
This is what luxury shops that are specialized in sweets and local delicacies look like. Yum!
When I came back to Nice, I only had one idea in mind: cooking something with Arabic spices. There was a recipe I had spotted long time ago on Pinterest, I just needed to transform it with the spices I liked, and by doing so extend my holidays my own way. It’s a sort of veggie bake with middle-eastern spices in which I added minced beef.
- 1 eggplant
- 2 zucchinis
- 1/4 red bell pepper
- 300 grams of ground beef
- 3 spring onions
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 small can of chopped tomato pulp (about 400 gr)
- 6 to 8 sundried tomatoes, halved
- 2 tsp of tomato paste
- 60 ml of water
- 1 tsp of smoked paprika
- 1 tsp of dried mint
- 1 tbsp of cumin
- grated cheese
- more paprika to sprinkle over the dish before baking
- For the cheese sauce: 500 milk, 1 tbsp plain flour, 3 tbsp of cornstarch, 2 tbsp of olive oil, 1/2 tsp of garlic granules, salt, a know of butter, 1 tsp of vegetable stock powder, 1/4 tsp of turmeric or curry.
- Preheat the oven at 190 degrees Celsius (395F)
- In a cast-iron skillet, grill the slices of eggplant and zucchini. Reserve.
- Heat up the oil in the pan and fry the onions until slightly golden. Add the garlic after two minutes.
- Then add the red pepper and tomato puree, and stir for a couple of minutes.
- Add the meat and the other ingredients, except for the cheese and paprika.
- Prepare the cheese sauce in another saucepan. Whisk constantly, as it has to thicken.
- Assemble the dish. Grease an oven baking dish, then start with a layer of eggplants, pour some meat and tomato sauce, add a layer of zucchinis, some cheese sauce, then the meat again, and what remains of the eggplants and zucchini altogether.
- Add what’s left of the cheese sauce, top with grated cheese and sprinkle with paprika.
- Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, and remove when it is really golden.
- Wait 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy !!!
Created and Written by Sophie Rebibo-Halimi. © 2018 All Rights Reserved.