Hello again, readers!
Here are some more highlights from my Dubai trip. Enjoy!
Though you could say I’m altitudinarian by nature – it’s definitely not literal. I’m no friend to elevators, tall buildings or outdoor viewing decks. So when I found myself clicking the “Purchase” button for my “At the Top” Burj Khalifa ticket – I was anticipating my own mental breakdown on floor 124.
That morning, I had planned to take the Dubai Metro downtown to the Burj and meet up with my married friends J&J who had tickets for entry at the same time as I did. I had no problem navigating the metro – but did not anticipate that it moves much slower than what I’m used to back home (or even in my other travels) – and so I was running pretty late by the time my train pulled up to the Burj Khalifa/Dubai Mall stop where I had to get off. My type A personality abhors tardiness in regular situations, but my ticket explicitly stated that late arrivals would void the ticket. So – naturally, I was in a bit of a panic. After running through the Dubai Mall like a marathon sprinter and asking upward of six mall employees where the entrance to “At the Top” was (an answer that not a single one of them knew…), I finally made it! 15 minutes late, mind you, but I made it. The woman at the coat check could see my frantic expression and assured me that everything would be fine – that they would let me in!
After handing in my ticket and proceeding down a strange labyrinth of hallways, I found the elevator. The elevator operator ushered me inside, and pressed “124” and smiled at me as he stepped off of the elevator.
“You aren’t coming with me?!” I exclaimed, huffily. Panic was descending upon me for the second time today – and all before 9:00am!
“Oh,” he said. “No no, you’ll be fine.” I caught that last part just as the elevator doors squeezed shut.
The elevator was bathed in darkness. Completely black. And then lights started flashing which were meant to emulate movement upward. Screens with desert vistas and city-scapes also started lighting up. I fanned myself with my ticket and watched the numbers as they skyrocketed.
1….14…..28…34….62…76….88….92….114….124! Even though it is the elevator with the longest distance traveled in the world, it took less than a minute to climb to those terrifying heights.
There was a woman to greet visitors at the top. She just grinned when the door opened and she saw me peel myself out of the corner of the elevator. Maybe it’s to my disadvantage, but I am certainly aspectabund.
“Um…are you okay miss? Welcome to the top?” It was more of a question than a greeting, really.
Disoriented, I had no sense of where to go so I went through the first door I saw and I found myself on an outdoor viewing area semi-enclosed with glass windows. My sheer panic did not abate even when I saw J&J peering off at the amazing vistas that this observation deck had to offer. My entire body was shaking and my voice was a few octaves higher than normal.
I looked around, at a safe distance from the edge, finding many of the landmarks and buildings that I was familiar with from yesterday’s journey. There was a pretty incredible view of “The Earth” – the man-made islands that are in the shape of the continents on our marvelous planet. It was spectacular, albeit terrifying.
J&J and I noted that on the ground in Dubai you hardly notice that you’re in the desert (a welcomed change from dusty, sandy Kuwait) but high up above the city you really can see that despite the greenery, Dubai is largely sand. In fact, yesterday on the Big Bus Dubai tour, we learned that the city uses an intense desalination process for the staggering amount water that they use to keep Dubai filled with green spaces.
Even though I was terrified the entire time I was really proud of myself for conquering my fear and going up – and actually having a peek out of the windows. That’s more than I can say about my visit to The Top of the Rock in New York a few years ago…but that’s another story.
My only wish was that the Burj Khalifa had more informational pieces at the top that told visitors about the structure, its namesake Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, the President of the UAE, its construction and its current uses. Of course, the nerd in me looked up this information long ago, long before coming to Dubai – long before I was even in Kuwait – but it would have been a welcomed distraction from my fear. At 452m in the air (1482.94ft) I really needed it.
When I went to retrieve my things from coat check, the same woman looked happy to see that I had survived. We briefly talked about where I was from (my Roots backpack gave it away!) and then she poured a whole heap of Arabian chocolates into my purse.
“For you miss! Enjoy Dubai.”
Mall of Dubai
J&J and I headed through the Mall of Dubai afterwards for a late breakfast. As we were walking, our fine-tuned Canadian ears definitely heard the sounds of hockey sticks on ice, and as we peered over the railing to the floor below us we saw a rep hockey game. These (approximately) 10-year-old boys formed two teams: The Edmonton Oilers and the Winnipeg Jets. J&J are from Edmonton, and so we felt that this was a strange and welcome coincidence. I followed up this experience with a breakfast sandwich and a honey cruller from Tim Hortons and my need for Canadiana was satiated.
The Mall of Dubai is one of the largest malls in the world. It has approximately 1,200 shops. It has a skating rink, a waterfall, an underwater zoo and an aquarium – among other things. If you choose, you can pay a fee to walk through a tunnel under the aquarium. We chose to walk around and see what we could from the mall itself instead of paying money. We had a spectacular view of the different marine animals and even two snorkelers!
My favourite part though, was what I saw next to the aquarium. There was a video of adorable otters that were painting on canvases. Their artwork was on display for passersby to enjoy! Take a look:
After we finished at the Mall of Dubai, we three returned to the Gold Souk to take a closer look at some of the jewelry – but quickly remembered how uncomfortable these markets can be. There were men approaching us from every direction asking us if we wanted designer handbags, pashminas, or watches. So many watches! We meandered around this section of the city feeling hot, exhausted and hungry – off to The Mall of the Emirates for lunch!
I loved our visit to this mall. But, let me clarify: I’m not a mall kind of person. I’m not a shopping kind of person. The Mall of the Emirates though has some really interesting features to it as well. J&J are avid skiers and snowboarders back home and so they wanted to take advantage of Ski Dubai! Having never skied in my life, I didn’t think that now was the time to start. Ski Dubai is a highly popular attraction here – it has snow, a live penguin experience, ski and snowboarding slopes, and a snow room in which to play! It’s absolutely frigid in the waiting area – and it’s -4 in the ski areas themselves. Back home that wouldn’t be such a bad day, but I’ve already acclimated to the 40+ degree weather and so my ears and fingers are numb! The prices for skiing are reasonable and all of the equipment and clothing is provided for you – so it is certainly worth checking out if ever you make it here to Dubai.