How to Spend a Six Hour Night in Dubai

After several accidental naps due to sudden bouts of jet lag, working on our final presentation that was to be presented in two days, and the worst traffic jam either one of us had ever experienced, we had finally made it to Dubai from Ras al Khaimah. Well, we had at least made it to the outskirts of Dubai.

We had been warned by one of our hotel’s front desk attendants that traveling by car to Dubai was a hassle-and-a-half, but nothing prepared us for the standstill traffic we were now caught in. Having only moved maybe a foot in a half an hour, I was extremely grateful that our driver had the AC on full-blast. It was almost 6pm and the temperature was still a sweltering 104 degrees, not uncommon for late September.

“Should we just walk?” my classmate asked breaking me out of my impatient gaze, the type only perfected by a New Yorker.

I pulled out my phone and opened up my Maps app, knowing good and well that I was probably ringing up an unnecessarily hefty international phone bill from just a minute’s use. 10.6 kilometers. That was the distance between us and the Burj Khalifa.

“Yeah, definitely not”.

“The train isn’t too far” our driver suggested, despite the fact that this would leave him stuck mid-traffic jam with no opportunity to pick-up other passengers. I felt a brief pang of guilt that we had ruined a night of work for this man but decided to take his suggestion. But not without leaving a very well deserved tip and the original cost of our ride.

We hopped out of the taxi, taking one last Apple Maps glance, hoping that we’d be able to remember the 20-minute route to the metro station.

It’s funny, walking through an urban area almost 7,000 miles from home, and you still find familiar sights that remind you of your own city. Finally, we made it to the metro station – my being from New York and my classmate from Philadelphia, we felt right in our element.

1. Check out the Dubai Subway system

Dubai is notoriously clean and their subway system is no different, which was a huge surprise to us coming from less-than-pristine cities ourselves. Some later research would inform us that Dubai actually employs approximately 3,000 workers who clean the city around the clock.

How to Spend a Six Hour Night in Dubai | United Arab Emirates | #AGBHOW | A Great Big Hunk of World | www.agreatbiughunkofworld.com | Dubai Subway

If you’ve ever taken a ride through the subway systems of places like New York, London, or Paris then the Dubai metro system won’t be too unfamiliar to you – in fact, the ticketing system is almost identical to that of Paris where traveling through different zones require pricier tickets. But all-in-all, the metro is worth checking out, super easy to navigate, and will save you the time wasted sitting in backed up traffic on your way to see the Burj.

2. The Dubai Mall

How to Spend a Six Hour Night in Dubai | United Arab Emirates | #AGBHOW | A Great Big Hunk of World | www.agreatbiughunkofworld.com | Dubai Mall

Once you exit the Burj Khalifa/Dubai Mall Station give yourself some time to walk around and appreciate the area. Dubai is such a thriving but still evolving city and while it may feel small at first, one glance up towards the towering buildings will show you how much innovation and thought goes into designing the city. We had initially headed to this part of the city to visit the Burj Khalifa which, if you plan on making the excursion to the top, you can only do by entering through the Dubai Mall.

The Dubai Mall doesn’t provide many shopping outlets for those who’s minimum budget isn’t Dior, but its worth a stroll. Dining options include everything from Eataly to Angelina and experiences include an Aquarium, a haunted house, and even more.

I definitely wasn’t doing much shopping at the Dubai Mall, which I should’ve assumed when I was offered tea and a truffle upon entering, but it’s still not to be missed.

How to Spend a Six Hour Night in Dubai | United Arab Emirates | #AGBHOW | A Great Big Hunk of World | www.agreatbiughunkofworld.com | Dubai Mall

3. Head to the Top of the Burj Khalifa

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There are two main ticket types that can be purchased for the Burj Khalifa. The first allows you access to the 124th and 125th floors and currently runs at 141 AED (~$39 USD). The second goes for 370 AED (~$100), which allows access to both of those two floors plus a refreshment in the signature SKY Lounge.

Be sure to pay attention to what you’re paying as we were initially automatically charged for the more pricey ticket, which we hadn’t asked for or been offered. Luckily, we were able to coax the agent into an exchange – though maybe next time we’ll spring for the VIP package. But there really isn’t a wrong way to experience the world’s tallest building, even if it’s just viewing it from the streets of Dubai.

4. Catch the Burj Khalifa Light Show

The Burj Khalifa light show, which can differ each time, performs every half an hour between 6-11 PM; as well as two day time shows at 1 PM and 1:30 PM (2 PM on Fridays).

While it’s no Disney World Castle Show projection in terms of storytelling, the production quality is top notch. This was actually the moment my classmate and I thought, “wait a minute, we’re in Dubai!”

5. Stay for the Dubai Fountain Show at Burj Khalifa Lake

Funny story – around the corner from the Burj Khalifa on the main strip is a smaller fountain that will occasionally turn on and dance, similar to the Dubai Fountain Show. We had actually stumbled upon this when we first began roaming the city, assumed it was the fountain show and were significantly underwhelmed. It wasn’t until ordering smoothies to cool down outside of the Dubai Mall that Por ti Volare began to play throughout the air, followed by bursts of water dancing in tune to the music. This was the one everyone had talked about and was anything but underwhelming.

Post-show we had roamed the area a bit longer and ended up catching a second showing, this time with more traditional music, and it was even better than the first.

 

6. Walk over to the Souk Al Bahar

How to Spend a Six Hour Night in Dubai | United Arab Emirates | #AGBHOW | A Great Big Hunk of World | www.agreatbiughunkofworld.com | Dubai Mall

The Dubai Mall is a pillar of modernity, but one small bridge along Burj Khalifa Lake brings you to the Souk Al Bahar, a smaller and more traditional shopping center. The design itself is more representative of the local culture as well as the stores that fill it. Stunning items can be purchased from colorful glass lamps to silk scarves, as well as golden-plated knick-knacks. It’s such an interesting shift after exploring the Dubai Mall, and very welcomed.

7. Grab dinner and drinks at the Luna Sky Bar at Four Seasons Hotel Dubai DIFC

How to Spend a Six Hour Night in Dubai | United Arab Emirates | #AGBHOW | A Great Big Hunk of World | www.agreatbiughunkofworld.com | Luna Sky Bar, Four Seasons Dubai DIFC

After roaming the souk, we were definitely in the need of some sustenance and a good drink, which due to drinking laws of the region is only allowed on hotel properties and in specific restaurants or clubs.

We both ended up having one drink each and ordered some chicken wings and dumplings. But the whole experience was even better due to the stunning Dubai skyline, which included the Burj Khalifa standing 2,700 feet in its glory.

 

 


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What to Do When Visiting Ras Al Khaimah

“Wow, it’s hot”, I said the split second we exited Dubai International Airport. Despite the increasingly warm and humid summer we were having back home in New York, I wasn’t prepared for 103 degrees (F.) after roughly 13 hours on an air-conditioned flight.

Dubai had been one of those cities I had always anticipated visiting and here I was on a trip I hadn’t even expected to be on. Unfortunately, my visit to Dubai was shortlived (until a day trip later in the week) and we eagerly hopped into a car that would take us to Ras Al Khaimah, approximately 45-70 minutes from Dubai International Airport depending on your specific destination.

It was only two months prior to this trip that I hadn’t even heard of Ras Al Khaimah, one of the seven emirates of the UAE that is often overshadowed by widely popular emirates like Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Now home to several hotels (three Hilton), Ras Al Khaimah is beginning to become a stand-out UAE destination, thriving especially in the area of adventure sports tourism.

Thanks to an innovation challenge sponsored by George Washington University and the Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority, a partner from my graduate program and I not only landed the opportunity to visit this thriving emirate – but had done significant research on the area prior to our trip. And yet, it wasn’t until we had spent a few days experiencing all that Ras Al Khaimah has to offer that we fully began to appreciate the authentic attributes that separate it from other emirates.

Spend a Day in the Arabian Desert

Pictures are great – but until you visit in person you’ll never comprehend just how visually stunning (and a bit paralyzing) it is to stand amongst bright, rolling sand dunes that seem to stretch on for miles. But this scene is worth more than a photo op, and there are a variety of immersive experiences to really make the most of your time in the desertWhat to Do When Visiting Ras Al Khaimah | Al Wadi | United Arab Emirates | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | A Great Big Hunk of World | #AGBHOW

  • Dune Bashing

Not for the faint of heart, dune bashing takes you on a rocky ride over the dunes. For those traveling solo or with a new group of friends, nothing brings people together more than dramatically slamming around a van with semi-deflated wheels as you take in the views. Despite the slow speed, dune bashing can be slightly nausea-inducing especially for those with weak stomachs or those who regularly experience car sickness, so visitors should limit their liquid intake beforehand.

 

 

  • The Falcon Show at The Ritz-Carlton, Ras Al Khaimah, Al Wadi

Falconry is actually a valued sport and custom within the United Arab Emirates, and it isn’t rare to come across a local who owns one of the country’s national birds. This show, which takes place daily at the luxurious Ritz Carlton Al Wadi provides spectators with the chances to learn about this naturalized bird as well as the Desert Eagle Owl and Barn Owl; but also provides visitors the opportunity to hold and take a close-up look at these gorgeous animals. But be prepared as these birds are a bit heavier than they appear.What to Do When Visiting Ras Al Khaimah | Ritz Carlton Al Wadi Desert, Falcon Show | United Arab Emirates | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | A Great Big Hunk of World | #AGBHOW

  • Sandboarding

Unfortunately, we were unable to fit sandboarding in our schedule; but this popular activity is perfect for those seeking an action-packed adrenaline rush during their visit to the desert which, due to the area’s climate, can be enjoyed year round.What to Do When Visiting Ras Al Khaimah | Al Wadi | United Arab Emirates | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | A Great Big Hunk of World | #AGBHOW

  • Feasting in the Desert

Included with many desert adventure packages is a BBQ dinner or an authentic buffet at Bedouin Oasis Camp. Unfortunately, we were limited on time and didn’t get to take part in this experience, where guests can often also enjoy belly dancing, musicians, and receive henna tattoos; but we did get to stroll the property which is stunning in its own right.What to Do When Visiting Ras Al Khaimah | Bedouin Oasis Camp | United Arab Emirates | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com | A Great Big Hunk of World | #AGBHOW

  • Camel Views

A friend of mine mentioned during our trip that when you travel you realize “how much is the same but different.” As we drove past sand dunes adorned with camels, I couldn’t help but be reminded of driving past the green countryside in other counties, adorned with cows. Camel rides are also common when visiting the desert, but be sure to watch out for the tell-tale signs of a camel in distress or inadequate facilities.

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Explore the Heritage Sites

  • Dhayah Fort

The area surrounding Dhayah Fort dates has apparently been settled since the third millennium BC, and now provides a mild hike, scenic views, and a piece of history. Throughout the years, Dhayah Fort has been used as both a settlement and a defense post – and is now one of the most popular historic sites in RAK.

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  • Al Jazirat Al Hamra: The Ghost Town

For history lovers, Al Jazirat Al Hamra provides an eerie forgotten piece of history. What once was a bustling community founded by a handful of tribes, eventually becoming home to 2,000 people, before finally eventually abandoned due to tribal conflict and frequent sandstorms. The ruins and remains of the town’s buildings are a photographer’s dream and a great way to get a feel of the past.

Head Into the Mountains

While many visitors head to Jebel Jais to take part in adventure sports, the area is also a prime location for photographers or travelers seeking out-of-this-world views. Viewing Deck Part, which is compromised of seven viewing decks provides views not only of the mountain range but also of the Arabian Gulf and the Al Hajar Mountain valleys. And if you’re able to catch the sunset, I highly recommend it.

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I promise that zip lining 1.7 miles on your stomach like Superman is nowhere near as scary as it sounds – but definitely adrenaline-inducing and mind-blowing. What starts off as a millisecond of fear quickly turns to amazement as you take in the view of Jebel Jais. Once you land at the base, you’ll be re-hooked to a second, standard sit-position zip line that will take you down to the landing base. Be sure to book this activity in advanced as it does book out and is not one to be missed.

 

 

 

 

 

The Jebel Jais Via Ferrata combines hiking, climbing, and three zip lines with the spectacular view of Ras al Khaimah’s stunning mountain range. The Via Ferrata tour is approximately four hours long and ideal for thrillseekers.

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How do I travel around Ras al Khaimah?

While there is limited bus service to a couple of locations to and from the vicinity of Ras al Khaimah (as seen here), the primary form of transportation around RAK will be by taxi or rental car. Unfortunately, this region does not yet have the infrastructure for a full-fledged public transportation system. Thankfully, many tours from Ras al Khaimah include public transportation and will pick you up directly from your resort.

What should I wear while visiting Ras al Khaimah?

Technically, there are laws regarding dress though many aren’t strictly enforced. That being said, I believe that when traveling it is best to respect the culture of which you are immersing yourself in. You may also find yourself stopped in certain public locations, such as shopping malls, if what you are wearing is too revealing. During my trip, I primarily wore short sleeve t-shirts and loose-fitting, lightweight pants. However, while at the resort, guests did wear bikini bathing suits to the pool, and shorts around the hotel. In general, both men and women should try to keep their shoulders and knees covered when out and about. Religious sites, such as mosques, may require a women’s hair to be covered and even more modest attire. In general, when choosing what to wear, ask yourself two questions:

  1.  Am I comfortable? Remember that when visiting during the warmer months, that loose-fitting clothing will not only be more appropriate but a lot more comfortable. Try to wear fabrics that breathe and will not cause you to overheat.
  2. Will the locals be comfortable? You are in no way expected to dress in full abaya or anything, but there are ways to be comfortable yourself while also showing respect to the local customs.

When is the best time to visit?

Coming from New York, I was not used to the heat of Ras al Khaimah (around 103 degrees Fahrenheit in late September). December-March is probably the most comfortable months to visit in terms of temperature, if you’ve not spent much time in this part of the world.

What is the cuisine in Ras al Khaimah?

The cuisine of Ras al Khaimah is incredibly diverse – restaurants range from Arabian to Syrian to Chinese to Indian. Similar to Dubai, RAK is pretty westernized, so places like Popeyes, McDonald’s, PF Changs, etc. are incredibly commonplace – but for the best and most authentic experience, I recommend just strolling and stopping at one of the many mom-and-pop style restaurants. We did and had some exceptional meals that were often large enough to bring back to the hotel for later.

 

 

Get Your Guide: Ras Al Khaimah: Afternoon Desert Safari and BBQ Dinner | www.agreatbighunkofworld.comGet Your Guide: Jebel Jais Mountain Picnic from Ras Al Khaimah | www.agreatbighunkofworld.comGet Your Guide: Ras Al Khaimah 5-Hour City Tour | www.agreatbighunkofworld.com

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