Abu Dhabi and Dubai for Justine's Birthday!

Justine turned 40 this year, and my surprise to her was a big trip. Justine has been a big Formula 1 fan for a number of years, so I decided we should go to Abu Dhabi for the final race of the season. Given that we were going to travel so far, it made sense to make it a bigger trip, and spend some time in Dubai as well.

Our tickets for four days at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix!

The trip from Vancouver to Dubai is a long one - over 20 hours door-to-door - flying through Toronto. We left Saturday morning, and it was Sunday evening in Dubai when we arrived. The flight itself was pretty good, partially because I paid a bit more for us to have "Premium Economy" seats - slightly bigger, with more room. Definitely worth it.

Both Justine and I managed to sleep on the plane a bit, and we were feeling pretty good by the time we arrived. Getting through immigration was pretty easy, and in no time we were in a taxi and on our way to the hotel. 

The way the trip was organized, we were spending 5 days/4 nights in Dubai, then heading to Abu Dhabi for 5 days for the race, then back to Dubai for a few more days. Our first hotel, the Jumeria Rotana was a good start.

The room was huge - it had two bathrooms - and was situated pretty centrally. Dubai is not a walking city, so I knew we were going to be taking taxis most places. After getting checked in, we headed down to the pub in the hotel and had some dinner. We needed to stay up for a few hours to try and get in sync with the time zone. After eating, we headed out to take a little bit of a walk. Mostly to keep awake for a bit, but also to see if we could get our bearings on the local area. We found a grocery store near by and bought a few things, then headed back and went to bed.

The Dubai skyline

This was my second trip to Dubai and Abu Dhabi, but it was Justine's first time. So we had decided to do one of the bus tours to get the overview of the city on Monday. We slept in a bit, and it was close to 10:00 by the time we got going. The closest stop for the bus tour was about a 20 minute walk away, near the Jumeirah Mosque. The Jumeriah Mosque is said to be the most photographed mosque in all of Dubai. Construction began in 1976 and the mosque is built in traditional Fatimid style.

The Jumeirah Mosque

We picked up the bus and started on the "Blue Route" that runs along the beach. This took us past the public beaches, including some of the most famous landmarks in the city, specifically the Burj al-Arab. The Burj al-Arab (Tower of the Arabs) is the only 7 star hotel in the world, and is the 4th tallest hotel. The Burj Al Arab stands on an artifical island off of Jumeirah Beach and is connected to the mainland by a private curving bridge. The shape of the structure is designed to mimic the sail of a ship. It has a helipad near the roof at a height of 210 m (689 ft) above ground.

The Burj al-Arab

The Burj al-Arab from the road along the Palm.

From there, the tour headed out onto the Palm, the huge man-made island in the shape of a palm tree. We stopped at the massive Atlantis hotel, and took a little break to check it out. This stop was also a transfer point to two of the other bus routes. So we hopped on the "Green Route" that took us out to the Dubai Marina. 

The Dubai Marina

Billed at the "tallest residential district in the world", the area contains 7 of the 10 tallest residential buildings in the world. It's amazingly dense, and has some seriously cool buildings, including the Infinity building that makes a 90 degree twist over it's height. 

The Infinity Building to the right.

The "Green Route" then took us back out onto the Palm, where we transferred to the "Pink Route", which was a much smaller bus that takes you along the top frond of the palm. The end of the route gave you a great view back to the Marina District skyline.

The Dubai Marina Skyline

After returning to Atlantis, we transferred back to the 'Blue Route" to continue the tour. It took us past the Mall of the Emirates, with its indoor sky hill (yes, in the desert) before dropping us at the Dubai Mall at the foot of the unbelievable Burj Khalifa. The Burj Khalifa (Arabic for "Khalifa Tower"; was known as the Burj Dubai before its inauguration, is the tallest structure in the world standing at 829.8 m (2,722 ft). It is a sight to behold.

The Burj Khalifa

We didn't stop for long, but instead transferred to the final "Red Route", that took us through the old city near Dubai Creek. The last time I was in Dubai I had stayed in this part of the city (the hotels are cheaper...), so I was a little more familiar with the area. That said, it was 2008 when I was here last, and this is one city that likes change! That said, the older part of the city had not changed much. Theat area goes back to the 1800s, and is where most of the original souks are located. 

Dubai Creek

We toured that part of the city, before heading back to the end of the line at the Dubai Mall. This time we headed inside. The place is huge - the Mall is the largest in the world by total area, but interestingly is only tied for 19th in gross leasable area - tied with the West Edmonton Mall of all things. That said, its a very high end mall, with all of the crazy luxury brands. Just outside the Mall is a huge fountain that sits at the foot of the Burj Khalifa. The fountain is designed by the same company that did the fountain at the Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas, and similarly there is a light and water show done to music every hour. So we watched that, and then went back into the Mall and had some dinner. 

The Dubai Mall and the Burj Khalifa

Just after the fountain show at the Burj Khalifa

The other draw for the Mall is that there is a cool Aquarium. Our Bus ticket got us free entry into the Aquarium, so we spent a couple of hours exploring the exhibits. It's pretty well done, especially the huge main habitat. They also have this huge crocodile from Australia - the thing is massive and there was an excellent video on how they captured and moved it to Dubai. 

The Dubai Aquarium in the Dubai Mall

After the Aquarium, we wandered the Mall a bit - there's a full sized ice rink before finding a taxi to head for home. It was about 11:00 by the time we got back to the hotel, so it was a full day.