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Bye Dubai

Jonathan van Bilsen



January 3, 2016

Bye Dubai

I have never had a desire to visit Dubai as a destination, but on a recent trip to Asia it happened to be a stopover, which I extended to 4 days… and I am so glad I did.

I stopped on my way back, which was perfect, because Dubai is an extremely modern city with all the amenities one could want. As soon as I landed and stepped off the plane I knew I was in a very modern city.

Dubai is actually a city state within the country of the United Arab Emirates. Another, somewhat familiar state within the country is Abu Dhabi, final resting place of Sir Edmund Hillary (conqueror of Mount Everest). The country was protected by the British; however, they had little use for it in the sixties, as it was a vast desert wasteland, with no potential. Now that oil has been discovered in the region I wonder how they feel?

The airport is extremely large and very modern. Most of Dubai is new, with only a small, old town, remaining (dating back about 50 years). All of the 300+ skyscrapers of the city have been built in the past 10 years.

I checked into my hotel, a beautiful, five star property located on the beach, along a 2 km pedestrian walkway, filled with shops and eateries. The city is extremely safe and one can walk anywhere any time of day. Severe penalties are issued for people breaking the law. If you are caught J walking (and you probably will be) you are fined $80, on the spot. If you run a red light the fine is a hefty $10,000 and your driver’s license is impounded. To make this a bit easier for the government, traffic light cameras are installed at each intersection.

It did not take long for me to realize that this was an expensive city. The breakfast add-on to my room was $50 per person per morning. I passed, as a full breakfast is wasted on me. Instead I wandered along the walkway and found a place that served a decent morning meal for only $30.

It is difficult to find alcohol anywhere in Dubai. The rules are strict and hotel dining rooms are the only ones allowed to serve, proving that you are not a resident. A non-alcohol beer is available in many restaurants and does the trick, but there is no room for an Old Flame franchise in the city.

I booked a visit to the top of the Burj Khalifa Tower and was suitably impressed. An astounding 830 metres (2,700 feet) high, makes this the tallest tower in the world. It is a staggering 275 metres (900 feet) or 1/3 higher than our very own CN Tower.

The ride to the top is swift and the view of the gulf, desert and skyscrapers is unbelievable. Keep in mind, the cost to ride the elevator to the observation platform is $80, and still a ways from the top of the tower. It is one of those things you have to do if you visit Dubai.

The other thing is shopping. Dubai has two major shopping malls; the Mall of the Emirates, with 639 stores (and 7,900 parking spaces) and the larger, more well-known Dubai Mall, with over 1,200 stores. There are no upscale chain stores in the world that do not have a location in either of these malls. From Marks and Spencer to Gucci and from Dolce & Gabbana to Tim Horton’s, they are all located in these two malls. The Tim Horton’s took me by surprise, especially when I realized a small coffee was just under $4.

One of the unique features of the Emirates Mall is its indoor Ski Dubai, complete with lift, luge and penguins. There is also a 150 metre (500 feet) zip line where you can race against your friends, who chose to ski down the slope. The temperature is a constant 4 degrees in contrast to the 40 degree outside world.

The Dubai Mall is similar, except much larger. A 24 metre (75 feet) waterfall feature makes you think you are staring up at Niagara, but the real attraction is the Aquarium, filled with exotic fish from all over the world. A walkway allows you to experience the depths of the oceans from a different perspective, and in typical Dubai style, the aquarium is twice the size of our own Ripley’s Aquarium in Toronto. There are also two full size skating rinks and more stores than you can possibly visit in a day.

The best way to get around Dubai is by a hop on/hop off bus, which takes you around the entire city, including the Palm Islands. It takes about 7 hours  if you do not plan to hop off, so a two day package is worth the money.

The Palm Island is a reclaimed piece of land in the shape of a palm tree, when viewed from above. Skydive Dubai is a popular attraction, which gives you an aerial view of the city and Palm Island. 

There are many interesting and unique sights to see in this modern, clean and beautiful city, and I would recommend a visit if the opportunity arises. 

Jonathan van Bilsen’s photosNtravel TV show can be watched on RogersTV and YouTube. To follow Jonathan’s travel adventures visit

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