At the beginning of last year, while I was living in Spain for a few months, I manifested finally getting to visit the African continent, a trip that materialised in the final two months of 2022. While I was on the road somewhere in Namibia or Botswana, I decided that my goal for 2023 was to make it out to the Middle East and spend some time exploring the Gulf, a part of the world I'd never visited, nor knew much about aside from the skewed media views. I'd heard some tales of the oppulently wealthy cities, but beyond that my knowledge was limited and I was determined to get out there this year.
It was already coming into the hottest season of the year in the Middle East, with temperatures expected to be in the high 30s and low 40s every day, barely dipping below the mid-20s at night. Combine that with the need to cover your shoulders and knees out of respect for the local culture, I set out on a mission to purchase a few new wardrobe items that covered my skin while being as thin and breathable as possible and, of course, beautiful, for the exquisite landscapes and skylines I hoped to photograph.
How to Get to Dubai
Each of the Emirates have their own airport, but of course Dubai International is the biggest hub of them all, connecting the Middle East to Europe, Oceania, Asia, Africa and even to many destinations in the Americas. According to flightsfrom.com, as of May 2023, 82 airlines fly to Dubai from 306 destinations globally! I flew into Dubai direct from tiny Salzburg, Austria and flew out of Sharjah Airport to my next destination of Doha in Qatar.
Getting a visa for the United Arab Emirates is easy - it's visa on arrival for many nationalities, and e-visas for the rest.
For security reasons, I recommend purchasing an e-SIM (such as Airalo) instead of popping a local SIM into your phone.
Where to Stay in Sharjah (near Dubai)
I had the absolute honour of getting to spend a week in the Chedi Al Bait in the heart of Sharjah. Away from the hustle and bustle of the over-the-top Dubai, this Chedi property was exquisite. It felt authentic, peaceful, serene, quiet, protected and genuine. The food was delicious, the service above and beyond, the facilities stunning and the room was seriously incredible. It's pricey, but if you're looking for a stunning escape and something away from the glitz and glam of Dubai, then this is the perfect spot. If I only I could stay in Chedi properties everywhere I go...
Things to Do in Dubai
Dubai was a bizarre and somewhat surreal experience, witnessing the tall glass and steel buildings rise skyward, marring the desert far beyond the horizon line, itself blurred by dust and sand. I:
- took it all in from the top of the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world (among many other world records)
- wandered through the downtown and watched the music and fountain show at the Dubai Fountain, the world's largest choreographed fountain system
- went shopping at the over-the-top Dubai Mall, the largest mall in the world and home to an indoor aquarium (and waterfall, and ice rink, and and and...)
- and finished our day with a dinner cruise on a typical Arabian dhow along the canals of Dubai
All in all, a nutty and eye-opening day! And it was excruciatingly hot, so I tried to stay indoors where the air conditioning was as much as possible!
While I was staying in the United Arab Emirates, I also made sure to take a day trip down to the capital Emirate of Abu Dhabi, an even more opulent city along the UAE coastline. Check out my post on everything to visit in Abu Dhabi here!