The skyscrapers and beyond | A mind stretching trip to Dubai
You all can’t imagine my excitement when I discovered that I was travelling to Dubai for a meeting. This was going to be my first time in a Middle Eastern Country. I quickly reached out to NaijaNomads, one of the trusted travel consultants, to urgently assist with my e-visa and they delivered on promise.
Finally, I will be visiting the city most loved by celebrities, the rich and famous. I was excited!!! :) :)
My flight and accommodation bookings were sent to me. I flew on Emirates Airline and again, it was my first time. I actually could not understand what the fuse was about the airline. I mean, it was basic service and the flight attendants didn’t look the happiest. Did I mention no WiFi on Board?! Anyway, I watched “A Star is Born’’ and “My Wife” on the in-flight entertainment and that was one of the best things that happened to me on this trip. A must watch!.
After 7 hours of flying, we approached Dubai. By now, it was dark and I had sincerely thought I won’t be fortunate to see the beauty of the city from the sky. No one told me the view at night is equally stunning. With the skyscrapers and the abundance of lights, the sparkles from the ground got to the skies and I was mesmerized. Sincerely, I got my fill from the views that if I didn’t get to explore the city, I would still be satisfied.
After 7 hours of flying, we arrived at Dubai International Airport and we got shuttled to arrival hall. It took 20mins from where the plane parked to the hall. That already tells you how massive the airport is.
I expected to feel the heat of the desert as we alighted from the plane but I felt the exact opposite. I have heard of how the desert heat could rage in Dubai but I was lucky. Perhaps, Early March is a good time to visit Dubai.
There was a large number of people who had just landed at the airport but the queues were so orderly. I presented my e-visa & passport, and got through immigration so easily. No questions whatsoever!.
I remember there was once a rumor that single ladies are not allowed to visit Dubai alone. Could that have been a myth?!.
After I passed immigration, I booked an Uber to the hotel at Radisson Blu, Business Bay. That reminds me, it is quite commendable that on the Uber platform you can chat with your driver instead of calling. So, I used the WiFi at the airport to message to the driver because as usual, I had no plans of buying the local sim or roaming my line.
Travel tip: Download Uber app before traveling to Dubai.
As I stepped out of the airport, a nicely suited chauffeur with a brown interior Lexus car was waiting for me. Wow! I began to wonder to myself…..why have Nigerians accepted mediocrity as the standard? Why are we so backward in terms of development? Why…why….why. I quickly went passed those thoughts and rode happily to my hotel.
The hotel was astonishing with spectacular views of Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world as at 2017, from my spacious room. This means that without stepping into the city, I already explored Burj Khalifa. How cool?! I was quite hyper-excited and my heart was aflutter such that I could barely sleep when I went to bed. Eventually closed my eyes and opened it. It was right in time for breakfast.
After breakfast, the tourist in me surfaced and I launched out to see Dubai’s old quarters and learn about the history of the great Emirate. I wanted to get a feel of what Dubai was like before all the skyscrapers and glitters, and also to learn some Emirate tradition. Perhaps it was a way of giving me hope for my country.
There are 7 Emirates of the UAE namely Dubai, AbuDhabi (which serves as the Capital), Ajman, Fujairah, Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah and Umm Al Qaiwain. Dubai is the most developed of all seven.
EXPLORING OLD DUBAI
I visited the Dubai Museum, Majlis Art Gallery, the Gold Souk, heritage village, Arabian tea house and Alfahidi historical neighborhood. It felt refreshing to visit the unpopular tourist places in the city which means less crowd. It cost me little or nothing and I left appreciating the years of hardwork it took to build Dubai into what it is today.
No story…I visited Dubai Museum, walked around, read the narrations beside every piece, took pictures and left. :) lol. Okay, kidding. Dubai Museum is one of the best places to learn about the tradition of the Emiratis
The native people of UAE are commonly called Emiratis
The museum as I understand was once a Fort, Al-Fahidi Fort, but originally residence for a monarch. There were various displays of the culture of the Emiratis. I also got to understand the history and the hard labour that went into building what is paradise today.
2. ALFAHIDI HISTORICAL NEIGHBORHOOD
After touring, I took a walk around the Alfahidi historical neighborhood. I stopped to buy Arab perfume oils, baby clothing and cashmere. Then I went off to the Arabian Tea House but it was so crowded with no available seats.
While walking around the old town, I saw the Emiratis favorite pet, a Falcon. I thought this experience could only be felt at the desert but here I was ecstatic. It was going to cost me about AED70 (circa US$25) to dress up like an Arab, hold the Falcon and take a picture, so I declined the offer and just took a picture for memories.
‘‘Falcons are a crucial aspect of the Emiratis culture. They were, and perhaps are, used for hunting and I read online that ‘‘One of the hunting techniques that set them apart from other predatory animals, is that they can be trained to deliver their prey, without killing it. This is vital because in Islam, animals used for food must still be alive when their throats are cut and blood is drawn, in order to ensure that the meat is halal’’. Read more here
What was fascinating as I walked around was that the roads were lined with flowers/roses. It was a trilling sight to say the least. How more deliberate can a country be in beautifying its’natural environment?!.
Similar to London’s old public telephone booths, I saw that of Dubai and was in awe. They were mostly owned by Etisalat and what was more trilling was the structure of the Booth; permanent structures built to last. Despite not been currently operational, the telephone booths were in good condition.
I heard Dubai is also known for its cuisine, so I thought to try out one of its traditionally styled restaurants but was met with a crowd again. I mean, I could not even enter and people had to sit outside which was equally filled.
Still within the neigbourhood, I went to The Majlis Gallery. Oh! Such a place for art lovers. It was built to give everyone an expereince as there is a courtyard where you can relax and be creative. I learnt that the place used to be an interior designer’s house. My favourite piece was by a Syrian artist and it cost a whoopy circa US$20,000. It was an abstract and one of the most gorgeous artwork I have ever seen.
3. TRADITIONAL MARKETS IN DUBAI
I visited the Deira Gold Souk, the world’s oldest and largest Gold market. They sell gold jewellery & gemstones.
Over 10 years ago and even way back in University, I heard a lot of how gold jewelries were cheap in Dubai and people were spoilt for choice. So visiting the gold souk was only natural even though I knew I wasn’t going to buy anything.
Most times, I visit places for the experience, to have a better insight into what I knew and to improve on future discussions on the suject matter. How else does one contribute to a discussion?? It is better to be practical than theory based. Lack of expereince will always show!.
Enough of the inspiration speech. I was swamped and distracted by the bunch of middle men in the market, literally dragging me in various directions to patronise them or take me around. I toured the place, sampled fascinating jewelries, checked out prices and had conversations with shop owners. Good to inform you all that I survived not buying any jewelry but left with Arab perfumes gifted to me.
4. TOURING DUBAI CITY
By now, I had seen the old town and could better appreciate the glitters. While driving by, I saw the famous and controversial Dubai Frame dominating the already impressive skylines. It was gorgeous!.
To end my 48 hours fast and furious tour of Dubai, I vsiited The Dubai Mall. It was a world on it own and I will be blogging about it seperately, else this post would be too heavy.
I sincerely thought that wines were not allowed in Dubai or any Arab country but I guess it’s a myth because we ordered red wine and we were served. Perhaps there’s a different between red wine and alcohol?!
TRAVEL TIPS: VISA APPLICATION
Like I had earlier mentioned, I applied for the UAE e-visa through Naijanomads who is resident in Lagos. For folks in Abuja you can reach out to Globe Jaunters. All that was required of me was a scanned copy of my biodata page and a scanned copy of my passport photograph on a white background. It cost US$100 as at the time I applied. Please note that the cost is dependent on your length of stay. See below for guidance.
For 2 weeks
Individual rate: $100
Family rate: $90
For 1 month
Individual rate: $120
Family rate: $110
FINAL THOUGHTS ON VISITING DUBAI
How do you feel when you discover most of what you read or pictures you saw is a true reflection of a place? Pleased!.
There is so much to do in Dubai. I didn’t even scratch the surface and I look forward to visiting again. I was glad to have explored the Old Town which is off-the-beaten path, and home to traditional markets & cultural experiences. What makes Dubai tick you may ask? Everything! The restaurants, Arabian artistry, history, shopping malls, five-star properties, massive parks, galleries, cuisines etc.
Let no one tell you otherwise, development is a mindset.
All the pictures I saw online of what used to be Dubai never really made sense to me until I went visiting. Do you know Dubai was pretty much a creek in the past, focused on import-export trade, until the discovery of oil and boom—boom—boom, visionary developments began to spring up. All of which was televised. :)
LESSONS FOR MY DEAR NIGERIA
The UAE which was once just a desert. is now the envy of ‘giant nations’. In 2018, the GDP of UAE (with less than 5% of the population of Nigeria) was higher than that Nigeria. Perhaps there are a few lessons from the UAE, though in my opinion, it is not perfect place.
Preservation of regional identity and establishment of structures: Every single region of the UAE is autonomous and fend for themselves, as I am made to understand. All the various regions are free to trade internationally, build international airports and seaports, power plants, refineries etc. Completely decentralized!. I also read that this initiative was made possible through the study of the 1963 Republican Constitution of Nigeria, which we have long abandoned. :)
Visionary leadership: What the UAE had was a leader with vision and that is exactly what we need. Duke, with a vision, capacity and experience, transformed Cross River into what we have today. Why can’t this competence be multipled across the country.
Tribal sentiment is a killer: As a people, we should be focused on recruiting/electing people who have the competences and skills to deliver on a mandate as opposed to belonging to a particular tribe.
Cheap labour: Infrastructure development was done in UAE by employing Indians and similar to other Arab countries like Egypt. Nigeria is currently being ‘harassed’ by the Chinese on various projects which is to our favour if the contracts are probably structured. Hence, the government should take advantage of this and develop the country.
Security: What sense of safety and security filled me as I walked down the streets. This is what an executed vision of 50 years looks like. Why won’t the world troop into Dubai for either tourism or buying of properties. It is such a safe place to visit and live but can same be said of my dear country, Nigeria?! These are the little but impactful things that change the way the world sees a country.
Infrastructure development: This is the most important thing in any advancing/advanced economy. I mean, infrastructure development is the catalyst of all economies and the heart of industrialisation. The education system, healthcare system, alternative transports systems, public infrastructure and utilities are almost non-existent. Nigeria is almost 60 years old and it’s a shame we are still toddlers.
While I understand that economies go through boom and bust, that of Nigeria appears to be bust for too long. We need to establish enforceable policies, promote economy growth and development, and formulate laws that facilitate trade and private participation.