I woke up bright and early to head to the Dubai mall to purchase a selfie stick. I know, very vain, but it seemed like we were the only tourists in Dubai without one. Besides, it would be useful for our desert safari. This selfie stick was kind of a big deal.
Addicted to the art of negotiation, we went back to the Deira Gold Souqs for more souvenirs. We would soon learn, Dubai is the best place to negotiate because, in my experience, shops in Abu Dhabi were more expensive and not as willing to. I searched for the Arab scent. It’s a scent that you cannot help but smell when passing some of the men in Dubai. Someone told me Musk and Rose were the ingredients. Yet, the guy trying to sell me this scent was a crook, so I left the souq without it!
Dubai is infamous for its traffic. We were going to be late for our pick up to the desert, which was scheduled for 3:30PM. We were stuck in traffic for about 30-minutes and arrived back at the hotel at 4PM. The driver, who picked us up was so nice. We thought we would be the only ones on the safari but he then drove to a residential area of Dubai to pick up an older Irish couple and their granddaughter. The minute I saw we would be on this desert safari with gramps and granny, I knew we were in for trouble. They would probably warn the driver not to go so fast and blah, blah, blah.
For about an hour we drove on a highway until it gradually turned into the desert. The brown sand was beautiful. We got out of our jeep to meet with the other group of jeeps that would be traveling with us to our secret location in the desert.
As we were zooming through the high sand dunes like a roller coaster, up-down, to the side and around, granny asked the driver if he could slow down for her granddaughter who was getting car sick. I nudged Myllz and rolled my eyes. Really? Did I pay to go slow on the sand dunes? Who goes slow over sand dunes? I guess we do. I was so annoyed!
I couldn’t wait to get to our secret desert camp. The first thing I did was ride the camels. They were so cute. Scary but cute. I almost wanted them to spit so I could see it in person but their mouths were covered.
The scary part of riding a camel is when they come up and come down. It’s sort of like levels. Some of the camels have no sense of space and will be all in your face. Camels are very treasured by the people in Dubai. It’s a serious crime to harm them.
45-million flowers of different shades, colors and sizes surrounded me in theDubai Miracle Garden. I felt like Alice in Wonderland, discovering one masterpiece after another. We proceeded through the garden in complete awe, getting lost in the flower maze. The garden was beautiful.
From the garden, we proceeded to the Gold Souqs. $100 dirham later we were in the midst of a bustling neighborhood called Deira. This was nothing like the immaculate areas we’ve experienced thus far. Deira was different. This was definitely the area of the locals. We were surrounded by a sea of men asking us to buy jewelry, hair and “designer” bags. Some asked us to follow them into alleys, but we knew not to…c’ mon. We eventually met a nice guy whose name stood for happiness in Hindu. I got the best deals from him.
Ky Tip: Mastering Negotiation in Dubai Souqs is essential!
- If you’re with others, be the one that’s not overly eager. The merchants will want to impress you because he knows there’s a chance you will leave his store without a purchase. He will also want to give you a deal.
- Negotiate the price. Remember nothing is set in stone at souqs. If they tell you 10 Dirham try to get them down to 5 or if you are really lucky, 3.
- I negotiated 3 belly-dancing belts for 12 USD. This was beyond a steal because each belt went for 35-50 Dirham which is about $10-$12. Negotiating in USD probably helped me more because it’s a currency other than their own.
- Try to leave the store once they give you an unreasonable price. Of course, it’s a bluff but they will chase you down to negotiate a price that’s more to your liking.
After the overwhelming nature of the souqs, we spent the rest of the night in the Dubai Mall, which is really not that hard to do. The mall is amazing, equipped with over 1200 restaurants and shops, its own ice-skating rink and an aquarium.
We headed out to explore Dubai on foot. We soon learned Dubai is a city where everyone drives. Getting anywhere on foot is the worst mistake you can make. Our target for our first journey in Dubai was to find the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. One of the many disparities of Dubai is that in the midst of its divine architecture, there’s a lot of development going on. We walked along an unpaved path filled with cranes and construction in search of the Burj. Finally, we found what seemed like civilization along the Sheikh Zayed Road but lost sight of the Burj Khalifa.
Where was this building?
We continued walking until we heard music. “How Low Can You Go” by Ludacris was blasting from an unknown location and we followed the sweet sounds of hip hop until we were at brunch in the Al Murroj Hotel. The party was filled with drunk people, smoking shisha, and having a blast (an unusual sight to see in the broad daylight, especially in a country that emphasizes its zero tolerance for alcohol in public), so we did what anyone would do and crashed the party. Across the street from the brunch was the Dubai Mall. We headed towards the mall and noticed that the Burj Khalifa was right in front of us. How to get inside was still a mystery. The landscape of this city was bewildering; nothing made sense. When we thought we found the entrance to the Burj Khalifa, we were stopped by security telling us we were trespassing on private property. We decided to go to the Dubai Mall and see what we could find there. Once again, the entrance for the Dubai Mall was hard to find. We had to walk along a beautiful lake for about ten minutes before discovering a sea of people, many with selfie sticks, relaxing in front of the mall. Once inside we headed straight to the currency exchange and ATMs. We then grabbed a bite to eat and discovered that the entrance to the Burj Khalifa was actually inside the mall. Go Figure. After all that walking we were exhausted.
I am going to Dubai. Thank You, God.
It was great to see a familiar face as soon as I got to the airport. Not really familiar, I’d never met Mike before but after talking to him and others on our Travel Noire GroupMe chat, I was excited to know that he and his best friend Morgan would be taking the same flight as me and my best friend Myllz. We met up with a few others from our crew and were off on our 12-hour flight to Abu Dhabi.
There was a certain curiosity about this unknown country. The flight was long. After 9-hours I needed to stretch. The one great thing about Etihad is how much they feed you; at least 3-4 times en route, and the food was delicious. I was enamored by the beauty of the skies. We flew into 3 different time zones during our flight. It’s amazing how the world works. When we arrived it was Friday morning in Abu Dhabi. The sun shone brightly in my window.
We walked out of the plane and I inhaled. That’s something I tend to do when I arrive at a new destination, I want to see if the air smells different (It didn’t). I proceeded to find customs and was surprised by how many men were at the airport. We were in the Middle East for sure. I was initially taken aback by the custom representatives. They were traditionally dressed in their Disdash’s. Their skin was beautifully tanned, and their smell was enticing. I didn’t make eye contact, only from afar. The rep handed back my passport, with a smirk.
Myllz and I proceeded to the parking lot where we awaited our ride with Mike and Morgan. They were also headed to Dubai and suggested that we join them. The morning sun was hot. I haven’t felt this heat in a long time. It was refreshing. We walked to the all-white range rover that would drive us to our destination. Almost everyone in Dubai and Abu Dhabi has beautiful new cars, so this was just a taste of what we would see during our week-long stay. We talked about the States and our travels around the world on our ride to Dubai, gradually stopping to take a pic if we noticed a unique structure in our view.
Approaching Dubai was breathtaking. There’s no doubt when you leave the midst of Abu Dhabi and enter the land of enchanting tall, pristine and glistening structures. The driver dropped Mike and Morgan off at their hotel and Myllz and I hitched a taxi to ours. When we approached Jumeirah Emirates Towers it was surreal. The bellboys rushed to our doors to let us out and grabbed our bags. From this point on there was no touching, or holding our bags, they had it all covered. Check-in was a breeze, I paid in full to avoid any mishaps later and was greeted with a hot towel and a delicious cold beverage, accompanied by a purple lily. We went up to our room and the first thing I noticed was the view, a beautiful view of Downtown Dubai. To be honest I wanted to sleep and asked Myllz if I could take a quick nap to be rejuvenated for the rest of our day.