Dubai / United Arab Emirates

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We had a layover in Dubai, embraced the opportunity, and extended our stay for two nights. All we knew about Dubai was via glossy advertisements boasting infinity pools overlooking The World Islands and we expected nothing less. While we didn’t stay in that 5-star hotel, we did get 5-star treatment, and we got a more realistic perspective of life in Dubai – my cousin Leslie and her family agreed to take us and our dirty backpacks in. Dubai still blew our minds and we’re glad we popped in.

This rapidly growing city is where over-the-top dreams become a reality and then those dreams get topped by something bigger and more awe-inspiring, like the Burj Khalifa (photo below), the tallest building in the world! We really just had one full day to spend in Dubai and it started in a comfy bed on Palm Jumeirah (one of the palm tree shaped islands) where Leslie and Andrew and their two girls live. They arranged a boat to take us wake boarding first thing in the morning, so close to the city that it would be like wake boarding on the East River in NY, minus the severe pollution. The water was clear blue and warm, with the cityscape in the background, a pretty epic way to start the day!

There’s literally everything a tourist could ever want to do…sky diving, surfing, scuba, rock climbing, water parks, trampoline gym, indoor skiing. “How could you ever go to work here?” we wondered. Andrew stressed that this wasn’t the ‘normal’ way they start the day. It’s like if you work in New York you often just visit the sites when a guest is in town. We realized that while there’s tons of activities, people are there from all over the world to work and raise their families, just like any other city. Still, you could probably water ski or sky dive over to work in this city.

Later on we meandered the narrow pathways of Old Dubai, munched on hummus and babbaganoush, and sipped mint lemonade as we watched the old-fashioned water taxis shuttling tourists and locals back and forth. We eventually escaped from the midday heat into the mall, where the elegantly draped Emirate men and women are the most appropriately dressed for the impressive AC. Even more impressive was the full ice skating rink and 2.5+ million gallon aquarium! After standing in front of the tank gazing at enormous rays (what! the Leopard Whipray?!) and creepy sharks with teeth outside their mouths, we migrated on to the Burj Khalifa. Time slots  fill up, so pick up tickets online in advance. Initially we thought we could skip this tourist attraction, but it really is an incredible view and there is a decent display explaining how it was constructed. We finished off an epic Dubai day with the family with a very American burger, shake and fries at Shake Shack.

Thank you Leslie + company for housing us and showing us Dubai. Sorry we ate all your banana bread!

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