Dubai In A Day

If you follow me on Instagram, then you are fully aware that my husband and I have just taken a trip for our 2 year anniversary! We were only gone for a week, but we somehow managed to pack so much into our trip. The main destination for our vaca was to go to Thailand, but we made a way to have a 20 hour layover in Dubai on the way there, and a 10 hour layover on the way back. :)

Dubai is somewhere I have wanted to go for a long time. When I was in college and interning at Aeropostale in Visual Merchandising, my supervisor went when they opened their first Aero store in the Dubai Mall. He came back with so many amazing stories + photos as well as tons of inspiration. I remember being in awe at his photos and thinking how amazing it would be to see Dubai for myself someday. ((And let's be honest... Sex in the City 2 only deepened my desire to go also, haha!)) My knowledge of Dubai or really any Arabic country for that matter was so small, and I had no idea what to expect. Just a few weeks before we left for our trip, we met a friend of a friend at a birthday party who lived in Dubai for a few years. His name was Joey, and he was so excited to hear that we were going to be there soon and was nice enough to share several recommendations for us which had such a huge impact on our trip!

D E S E R T // S A F A R I

Sometimes my husband and I plan and research and read tons of reviews before booking things, and other times we just take a risk. I would have to be honest and say that pretty much everything we did in Dubai was us taking a risk— but it all worked out better than we could've possibly planned! ((Of course that's not always the case, but this time we must've gotten lucky!)) Our flight landed around 8am on Sunday May 15th, and the night before our trip we decided to book a 'Desert Safari' that we would need to be picked up at a random bus stop by 9:10am! After exiting the plane, changing out of our sweats, and dropping off my larger carry-on at the Left Luggage area in the airport, we were in a taxi heading to the bus stop where we needed to be. Somehow we made it, and sure enough a random 4-wheel drive SUV came to pick us up right on time! Our driver was super nice and friendly, and there was another Lebanese guy + girl that would be doing the safari with us! After a quick bathroom stop and getting our very own head scarfs ((aka hijabs)), the next thing we knew we were out in the middle of nowhere with only sand and desert surrounding us! The driver made sure we were all bucked up, and then took off going so fast up and down the sand dunes!! Our dune dashing experience was something I will never forget— a little scary, but totally exhilarating! ((Despite the sweet Lebanese girl next to me starting to get motion sickness, it was pretty perfect haha!)) We stopped at the very top of one of the dunes to step out and get some photos. Our driver knew of all the best photos to capture, and he loved directing us on how to pose and what to do to capture the most epic photos. It was surreal— and so, so hot!! Then we headed back to the campground area and rode on the back of a camel for a few minuets. And I literally mean a few minutes. We booked the 'express safari' since we only had 20 hours in Dubai, and they weren't kidding about the express part when it came to riding the camel. We didn't mind though because it was so incredibly hot and we were ready for our next adventure!  ((However, if you do find yourself in Dubai and want to book the desert safari, the longer one sounds amazing because you ride on camel back to a desert camp and have traditional arabic food at sunset while watching a show...all by the fire!!! YES PLEASE! More info here.))

D U B A I // M A L L

After the safari, we asked to be dropped off at the Dubai Mall. Okay... This is the world's largest mall, and if you know me at all then you know that I was in absolute HEAVEN! There were so many beautiful stores, several I recognized and others that were brand new to me. I ended up shopping at Pull and Bear and getting a super cute black maxi dress! I was under strict supervision as to not buy too many things because (a) we saved our money for the trip for adventures + food, not clothes, and (b) how in the world would I carry anything home considering I already packed my luggage as tight as possible?! ;)

B U R J // K H A L I F A

We used the bathrooms at the mall to change out of our sandy clothes and into our nicer clothes because one thing we did book in advance that our new friend Joey recommended to us was a reservation for high tea at a restaurant called Atmosphere inside of the Burj Khalifa! Every review of this experience says it's a must, however we were super hesitant at first because it was pretty pricey. We decided to go for it anyways, and I am SO thankful we did because I wouldn't have traded that experience for anything! Just seeing the Burj Khalifa from the outside is breathtaking. Not only is it the tallest building in the world, but the structure is absolutely stunning and like no other building I've ever seen before! But once we were inside, we immediately felt like royalty. ((Well, besides the fact that Zach was told that "all stars" are not allowed and was kindly asked to put on a pair of shoes they could provide for him to borrow for the afternoon— a pair of grandpa loafers at least 3 sizes too big! Haha!!)) Poor Zach. He thought he packed his nicer shoes but forgot them in his checked bag! She proceeded to take us up the the 123rd floor to our table over looking the most stunning view of the city! We were in complete awe of the view, not to mention the endless supply of champagne, cocktails, and delicious food that kept making its way to our table! Our server was so overly nice and friendly, and took such good care of us. The chef even came out to discuss possible gluten free items I could have and how they could accommodate for my allergy. Our reservation was for 2:30pm, and we left around 5pm and headed back to the Dubai Mall to change again back into our more casual ((and yes, very sandy)) clothes. There was a massive water fountain and light presentation that happens ever half hour or so starting at 6:30pm that we wanted to see. It was so beautiful- and after that, we took a cab to the Madinat!

A L   Q A S R   H O T E L // M A D I N A T

One of the recommendations from our friend Joey was to hang out at the Al Qasr Hotel and see the Arabic markets ((aka souks)) at the Madinat. We didn't know what to expect whatsoever, and had no idea how beautiful it was going to be! I don't even know how to adequately describe this place. It's like a giant Moroccan/Polynesian-styled resort on the beach that is HUMONGOUS + full of restaurants, stunning architecture, and lots and lots of shops. Everything about it feels authentic and very Arabian. We only had time to wander around a bit and have dinner, but we knew we wanted to come back on our next layover and see it all in the day time! Our dinner was overlooking the Burj Al Arab ((the sailboat shaped building + 7 star hotel...yeah)) and ended with delicious tea in a gold-plated kettle. It was amazing! And finally around 11pm, we left and were on our way back to the airport for our next adventure!!

For our 10 hour layover on the way back from Thailand, we went right back to the Al Qasr Hotel and had breakfast at the Khaymat Al Bahar. We didn't know that we needed to make a reservation beforehand, but luckily because it was so early ((7am)) were able to make one right then and there even though we weren't staying at the hotel! The reason you need to make a reservation ahead of time is because they pick you up on a golf cart to drive you to the restaurant since it is pretty far away from the entrance of the resort in a guest only area. The ride over was completely stunning and the breakfast option we chose was a massive and very fancy buffet! It was very impressive and so delicious! Afterwards, we went swimming at Jumeirah Beach, right next to the Burj Al Arab. To end our experience, we went shopping one last time around the Madinat for some last minute souvenirs. :) 

.......All of that to say that Dubai exceeded absolutely ALL of my expectations! From the friendly people, the stunning architecture, and such natural beauty of the desert and beaches— I definitely do not want our short layover experiences to be our only times in Dubai! I'm sure we will be back again someday!!

I hope this post encourages you to one day check out the amazing culture that Dubai has to offer!

Xo- Tara

PS-- Here are a few more of my favorite photos we took!