In early February I found a list of 100 things to do in Dubai. Most of them I had not done after living in the city for three years! Edited and tweaked the list to my taste. I hope to be able to fill it in with stories of my experience, much as I did with my Paris list.
I have a 2 week holiday coming up and plan to spend at least one week doing many things on this list. I have bought Cobone vouches and booked appointments, so I’m really determined to do many of the stuff on the list. I like lists, because they give structure.
- Relax at the Nefertiti Beauty Salon in Deira. Moroccan bath 11h.
I checked on the Cobone website and was lucky enough to find a Cobone for this salon! I went and had a Moroccan bath by an actual Moroccan woman. After you get passed the fact that somebody else is washing your body it’s really relaxing.
I was led into a steam room and spent an hour being scrubbed by a lady who used all her muscles to do it. I have a very fair skin and actually left with some small bruises on the softest parts of my skin. I can’t believe how much can be scrubbed off even after I thought I was really clean! She removed the entire outer layer of my skin, washed my hair and gave me a scalp massage. Sooo good.
We spoke only a little bit, having nothing to say and not sharing a language. I speak a little French and when she struggled with English I offered French thinking that she would be fluent seeing as she was from Morocco, but she told me that she had married when she was very young and had not completed her French education.The part that made me giggle was when she told me her husband had died and now “mafi husband, mafi French. What to do?” (“Mafi” means “no” in Arabic).
- Enjoy a Sushi buffet.
I unknowingly bought a Cobone for the buffet in the hotel where the spa was. It was so nice to not have to travel while feeling so relaxed. They had really nice sushi, it was a large buffet lunch which also included Sushi, but I ate nothing else. I love sushi and I am finally entirely comfortable with chopsticks so I ate and ate and ate and ate and then had some of the desert stuff. Best way to get to know different kinds of sushi.
- Culture & Co in Oud Metha is the only French bookstore in Dubai.
Kind of an arts and crafts store. I suppose I would come here more when my French is strong enough to read books. I’m still struggling with the French Harry Potter I bought in Paris, but it was interesting walking through here. Took about 10min to see everything.
P.S. I’m just writing this here, because it happened today. A while back I mentioned to one of the buildings security guards, who is an Indian friend of mine, that I really like Indian scarfs and shawls, and whether it was possible for him to purchase one for me when he next went on vacation. Shortly after that I was told that his brother would be coming to Dubai and would bring me one. My friend’s brother sent him pictures of many different shawls and then it was sent to me on Facebook so that I could “choose the design”. His brother went back on another day and sent more pictures, and was then told that my mother should also pick a design she likes. The purple plastic bag from Punjabi arrived one morning and in it were two art works, a beautiful brown scarf for me and a detailed purple scarf for my mother. I had never expected that my friend would ask his family to go to such lengths to find me something just because I thought it was pretty.
This evening I went down to the store wearing the shawl and another security guard friend also from India commented that I was wearing a lovely Indian shawl. I asked him how his mother would wear such a shawl. After I put it over my head he adjusted it and said I look “same like Indian girl now”. I wish somebody could take pictures of these moments, but they happen so quickly.
Sunday 14 February
- Check out the Antique in Al Quoz.
I never knew this place existed! It’s a brilliant store with a mixture of fascinating imported mid-eastern furniture and antiques from the district. I can’t believe I bought stuff from Ikea and Home Centre, this place isn’t much more expensive and its products are much more unique. There was an Oak shelf which I would love to have, but I’m not sure how I would get anything that heavy out of the store and into my home! Definitely returning.
- Art galleries in Al Serkal.
Never again. It’s cute. But I don’t even enjoy art when visiting the best art galleries in the world. I’ve been to London, New York and Paris. I love other types of art, but painting just passes by me. Still it would be horrible to live in a world without art, so I’m glad others love it.
- Gold facial!
This wasn’t on the list, I just added it after buying the voucher. I had a movie moment day yesterday. I purchased a Cobone voucher for 3hours at a spa. I got a Thai massage, a facial with 24k gold (!!!), a hair treatment and a manicure. I love these vouchers, because they give me the chance to experience new things. I would never have booked a day at a spa, but when I found the voucher I thought it sounded fun and it wasn’t too expensive, so I thought I’d risk it and see how it goes.
I finally understand minorly why spa hotels exist. It was a really relaxing day and I left feeling like the Heidi animation where she’s floating on a cloud. Even if I don’t do this again it was an experience. When traveling I do many things for the experience, but somehow that rule hasn’t applied to Dubai yet and it should. At least in my world.
I left the spa after having my nails done twice, I smudged the first round, and hailed a taxi.
- Enjoy Thai cuisine at the Smiling BKK in Al Wasl Plaza. It’s a chill Thai restaurant with a décor itself worth seeing.
The taxi dropped me and I called to find the location. “Do you see petrol station, ma’am?” “Yes.” “Go backside you will find restaurant” “I’m at backside, there’s no restaurant here. Oh, wait I see Mona Lisa picture.” I had googled the restaurant and luckily recognised their mock-up of the Mona Lisa. It’s a tiny restaurant, probably 8 tables in total. The décor includes Mona Lisa with fake eyelashes, an Elvis Presley photo, something on Buddhism and a photograph of an Eastern god (not sure which country/ religion). The food was really good, I ordered chicken soup which the waiter cooked at my table and I had to add the sauce, to ensure that I liked it.
I asked if I could use the bathroom and was given a key and a plastic basket containing toilet paper and hand soap. The waiter pointed and three white doors and told me to unlock the first one. The door contained a sign which read “BE A MAN!!!… This restroom is ONLY for LADIES”. Somebody else had written “Seriously?” in pencil at the bottom. One of my funniest moments.
- Watch The Gypsy Swing Project play live Jazz music on Monday nights at the Radisson Royal from 8pm to 11pm.
“If a sound is made and nobody hears it, does it really exist?”
A wonderful band playing to an empty room is so sad. The lead singer has a strong voice but I was the only person there and I ordered the smallest thing on the menu so I could leave soon if I didn’t like the music. I never knew I liked jazz music but turns out I really enjoyed it. I love living life. I could have stayed home tonight and this wonderfulness would have been 4min me and I’d be missing it due to reruns of old TV series. It took a little searching to find this place. The hotel has a strange lift system and I ended up back at reception to ask for directions again. Feel like I’m living a movie sometimes. Truth is movie moments exist because those moments are real somewhere in the world. Tonight my movie moment was a girl singing on a barstool next to a beautiful piano and me curled up on a leather chair with a glass of red.
After adjusting to Dubai prices it still feels very expensive paying Dhs70 for a cocktail. I end up with wine and still have no idea what a Martini tastes like because it feels weird paying the same price for a cocktail as for a new jean!
Loving my holiday week. I tried many of these types of stuff in the beginning but it was too immense for me while stealing to a new city now I’m so excited to get to know it.
They served a bowl of nuts with the wine, wish I knew what the green stuff in between the nuts are!
- See over 65,000 marine animals at the Lost Chambers.
This was the first place I’ve ever visited where I got a discount, just because I’m a UAE resident. It’s nice, maybe if you buy the Behind The Scenes tickets there’s more to see, but I was done within 10minutes maybe 15. I walked through twice to ensure I’d seen everything and then left. The only thing this made me want to do is buy an aquarium tank and own some brightly coloured fish. There’s not that much to see really or well not according to me.
- Have a Filipino meal at Pita restaurant (Order the best-selling Bulalo!)
“Sir, what is Bulalo?” “Meat” “Ok, but what is the dish?” “Beef, maaa’aaaam.” “Right, uhm, yes one bulalo please. Maybe I’ll know what it is then.” After 10minutes the server placed a large pot infront of me containing mostly broth, a few carrots, some corn and large pieces of meat. I had some meat, all the veggies and asked for the rest as a take away which I brought home to my mother. “What is it?” she asked “beef” I replied.
According to Wiki Bulalo is a soup made by cooking beef shanks and marrow bones until the nutrients melt into the clear broth. So I’m going to say that it’s soup with meat!
- Dubai Miracle Garden
It was smaller than I expected from the pictures. It’s an exceptionally colourful place where flowers have been arranged to look like houses, cars, butterflies and hearts. I spent 9hours in the Gardens of Versailles, so I like gardens… This took about an hour I guess. I’m glad I went, I’ve heard so much about this place, even if I never see it again, I’ve been there, I’ve done that. I think the miracle is not that they arranged the flowers into the word LOVE for Valentine’s Day, but that they created a garden in the desert.
- Dubai Butterfly Garden
Oh my goodness! I couldn’t believe how beautiful this was. It’s an indoor garden which is kept at the perfect temperature for the butterflies which are everywhere! There are big ones and small ones and bright ones. There are black ones with velvet wings and some with red spots to look like eyes for predators. I love butterflies, and have never been to a place like this before. My favourite was a butterfly from Peru. It’s blue when flying, but when it sits down it closes its wings and turns brown. These little blue specks fluttering around the room.
The staff also puts out like stands with slices of fruit on them for the butterflies. An orange slice, some watermelon and some stuff I didn’t recognise and on all of these stand the butterflies gather to eat.
I’d like to go back someday.
- Ride the Dubai Metro, the longest fully automated metro network in the world
This wasn’t a “to do” thing for me, this is my mode of transport most of the time. It’s the longest driverless metro. So you can stand in the front of the train and watch all the sights and there are never any protests by angry train drivers which is a very big plus. The trains run above ground most of the time and have large windows from which you can see many of Dubai’s skyscrapers.
- Ride an RTA Bus.
Again this is a form of transportation, not a to do list item in my mind. I don’t ride the bus much, because my regular route uses the metro. I did not enjoy the last time I was on a bus, because the driver pulled away quite quickly, and I was thrown against the doors which bruised my entire upper arm.
- Go on a mountain safari in Hatta.
Pretty sure I blogged about this at the time. I bought a Cobone voucher for this and we drove there. I enjoyed the heritage village, but was surprised when after driving an hour to get there the other tourists wanted to leave after about 10minutes! It was a very quiet place, but I’m glad I’ve been there. Remember to pack your passport!
- Have a picnic in the park.
My Moroccan friend called me one afternoon and invited me to join him and his friends as they where having a Moroccan lunch in Zabeel Park. It turned out one of the friends had visited Morocco recently and had brought back the ingredients for this dish and I was very pleased to be allowed to share it with them. We sat on the ground and ate with our hands and I thought about the silly rules some people have about how you “should” eat.
- Order garden fresh salads of immaculate taste at Wafi Gourmet – Dubai mall.
I probably walked passed this restaurant a million times. But I never noticed it, only finding it today when I was looking for it, I thought a new place must have opened up, because how could I not have noticed a place with such beautiful blue lights?
They sell many different Lebanese delicacies, some of which I’ve seen at weddings or made and the bakery and others which I had no idea what it was. I ordered a glass of pineapple juice and some “kibbeh” I had eaten this before, but didn’t know the name and was actually disappointed that I hadn’t ordered something new and different and unknown. The food was decent and the place was really pretty.
- Watch the Dubai fountains dance gracefully to different tunes.
This I have done repeatedly. We tried it when first moving to the city and then the last time we were there was when some family visited. It’s really beautiful and after being at the Versailles dancing fountains started in 1695 it’s really amazing to see the art continued in a new way
- Have a shopping spree at The Dubai Mall
I live in this city! The mall has sales almost every three months. Then I buy what ever I need and I try not to really shop unless there’s a sale on. The mall has high prices, but when the sales come things get marked down by 70% so it normalized.
- Sample Almaz by Momo’s top notch Moroccan fare. It’s the best in Dubai it seems. Located in Mall of the Emirates.
I went here to try and save my day after my previous list item hadn’t worked. I ordered a Moroccan breakfast which was delicious and looked very pretty. It was served in a clay dish with a little bowl of olives on the side. It was a mixture of tomatoes and bell peppers cooked with cut up sausage and an egg in the middle.
- See amazing aquatic life inside the world’s largest acrylic panel; Dubai Aquarium.
This I did about 3years ago. The Dubai Mall’s Aquarium is the largest indoor aquarium in the world. It also has a large reptile section which I avoided, but the pictures of it grossed me out entirely. The piguans where cute.
- meet the Dubai Dino – real dinosaur skeleton displayed at The Souk Dome in Dubai Mall
I pass this by so regularly I’ve stopped looking up when I pass it! It’s an amazing skeleton, 1.5million years old and was discovered in America (I think). Dubai bought it and at first it was at the main entrance, but now it stands in the beautiful Souk Dome, one of the most beautiful parts of the mall which was built in Arabic architecture style.
- Gaze at The Waterfall, a stunning water feature with art sculptures of human divers.
To me this is a regular part of the mall. I use it as a land mark to know where I am or in which direction I should walk. It is beautiful. But I don’t pose infront of it, that’s for the tourists to do.
- Dine in a restaurant with a terrace facing the Dubai Fountain.
We did this when the family came to visit. Ordered a large red snapper which was cooked on coals and then had a lovely evening eating the fish and watching the fountains.
- Shop while daydreaming about Venice inMercato, an Italian-inspired shopping mall.
Mercato means “market” in Italian. This is an ordinary small shopping centre which is built according to the architecture of Italy. Little plastic green plants “grow” on the balconies. After being in Italy all I can say is they did a good job, but the atmosphere is missing and to me that was the most important part of Italy. I don’t come here regularly, the Dubai Mall has now become my norm.
- stay or dine at the wave-shaped Jumeirah Beach Hotel
I attended the birthday party of an acquaintance here one evening. The cocktails where good, expensive in my mind, but normal for Dubai’s standards. The view was lovely though. It’s close to the Burj Al Arab, so you can get a few good photos.
- Eat at Ravi Restaurant for their naans and curry in Satwa.
Had the best Indian food here. The mutton korma was delicious. We also ordered another mutton dish, but I can’t remember the name. Everything was really good, but almost all the customers where western! Kind of interfered with my atmosphere of venturing out… The food was served with a box of tissues, large bottle of water, 2 paper cups and a miniscule salad.
An Indian friend of mine had told me I should try “Aloo Paratha”. I asked around and a taxi driver told me I should order it at Ravi Restaurant. So today I tried, but I was told that “is not good time to order this one”.
We took a taxi there and back again by pure chance. The Satwa mosque looked really beautiful against the cloudless blue sky. Mum bought some material at the tailor and we experienced something outside the SZR bubble.
Today was a good day.
- Get measured for custom-made dress.
Yesterday afternoon I took my old favourite dress in my backpack and walked to the tailor in Satwa. I don’t think I’d be able to find them if they weren’t next to the mosque. The two large towers of the mosque are visible from almost everywhere and so I know which way to walk. I asked the Hindi speaking tailor how the whole dress making things works. I was strongly reminded of Bill Nighy in The Best Marigold Hotel “’I asked about the plumbing’ ‘What did he say?’ ‘No idea it was in Hindi.’”
I gathered that I had to buy material and bring it to him. I spent some time going through all Al Frida’s stuff, with a bespectacled Pakistani following me offering to help. I left with lace and shiny material.
The tailor measured me from head to toe. Around various parts of my body and then drew a little picture of the dress with a ballpoint pen on a scrap of paper. “No lining” “what?” He pointed and explained in a non-verbal manner that I had not bought a lining material for the dress. After this was done I headed home.
I have walked passed the Iranian and Pakistani sweetshops many times without entering, but yesterday I decided to ask what the various things were. The man could only get out “sugar” even though he spoke English well he did not know how to explain his delicious sweets to me. I bought one and asked if I could sit down at the same table as an Indian man who was having his dinner. “Yes, madam” this reminded me how out of place I actually was. I nibbled at the sweet and packed it into my bag, saying I wanted to take it home to my mother. It was really yummy and looked like fudge although it tasted completely different.