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Burj is the word

Burj burj burj, burj is the word.

A whirlwind photo diary of my brief time in Dubai.

Once upon chilly December, I packed my bags and flew south (and also quite a bit east), to get myself some sun, some blue, and a little bit of icecream.

To be perfectly truthful, I was visiting UAE’s Dubai as part of a work trip, rather than for my health. But I did also manage to head out for half a day, and one extra evening, to see some of the sites.

First up, a comment on the city. It’s warm and buzzing with sound- not least among them the constant sound of construction. One of my dominant impressions was that Dubai really demonstrates the power of man made structures- exactly what can be built if you have the money, the will, and the workforce.

It’s kind of strange, because you end up with desert on one side, and sea on the other. And in the middle, something incredibly man-made and modern.

I spent an afternoon walking through Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR), where white sands are darkened only by the shadows of impressive structures.

I managed to accidentally stumble into some Australian Iced Coffee, and less accidentally find my way to a mango icy pole. Plus there were some cool buildings.

My next stop was the OG Palm.

Palm Jumeirah, an artificial archipelago built in the 2000s with the help of a dutch dredging company.

It’s worth noting that there’s now sort of a second Palm, the Palm Jebel Ali. That one has had a bit of a complicated history, being planned for completion in 2008, before tanking amidst the global financial crisis, and now (as of 2023).. .potentially continuing in development???

Anyway, I didn’t really feel like stoping on the Palm, as it seems to mostly be shopping malls, hotels and a fun park, so instead I took the central monorail up the Palm, and then back on down to the mainland.

My plan after that was to walk a bit, and ultimately make my way towards some food, but instead of having a nice stroll I ended up getting myself stuck between a busy road and the royal palace (no entry, obviously), and ultimately reached the point where my phone battery ran out and I felt a bit stranded.

I ended up hopping on a bus and heading north- rather than choosing to go back home- with the hope that I’d eventually find a charging station or a familiar landmark.

Enter, The Burj.

After what felt like a very long time on the bus- which made me question exactly how far north we’d driven- I caught a shining glimpse of the evening sun hitting the tallest building in the world.

Once we were close, I hopped out, headed into the nearest shopping centre, and threw myself on the mercy of the information staff (please help me charge my phone), and ultimately, a Starbucks (they had charging ports too).

I’m pretty mad at myself that I didn’t end up getting to my true destination- the Orfali Bros Bistro, which is consistently rated one of the best places to eat in the world. But I guess sometimes in life it’s ok to just slump over and iced green tea latte and take a bit of a break.

Despite being close to the Burj, my destination of the evening was actually the various markets- filled with spices and gold, to the far north of the city.

I spent some time wandering around, which somehow included stumbling into a very Indian alleyway, before paying a few coins to get on a tiny boat to cross the Dubai Creek.

On the other side there were more stalls, with a particular focus on gold.

Also, UAE had recently had their national day, so there was a lot of associated decor:

After a bit more wandering, I decided to move on.

So I headed down a super-modern-but-slightly alien-pod-y subway station, waved to the nice station robot, sat myself in the ‘Women only’ coach, and got myself back to the city centre.

Next stop: the Museum Of The Future.

Announced throughout Dubai as ‘the most beautiful building in the world’, although, weirdly, when I google search that phrase, what comes up is the Taj Mahal.

I was sadly not able to to into the museum itself- tickets book out weeks in advance, which I must admit I hadn’t expected.

But I did manage a quick sneak inside the building:


And from the outside, it really is very cool.

A fellow tourist managed to take a couple of slightly derpy photos of me:

I’m not sure why she wanted those poles in the shot.

And then, my final stop of the evening, Galaxy Bar.

Number 50 of the 50 Best Bars in the World list, 2023.

It took me a while to find the place, but inside the vibe was perfect. The managing bartender spent a lot of time discussing the theme, and the way the drinks are designed (two drinks on each theme of different constellations), and also showed me a beta version of their app, which interacts with the star-scattered ceiling to show the different constellations and drinks on offer!

All up, it’s one of the coolest places I’ve been to, and the drink (with sesame wafer) was also pretty great.

And then, most of the rest of the time was work.

I was visiting for the COP28 climate conference (more on that later), and I have to say that the whole thing exhausted me. A huge city-like location, with thousands of things to see, talks to attend, and a lot of miles to walk in the very hot weather.

I had the idea that I would spend some of the evenings visiting more tourist things- my friend particularly had suggested that I go see the Global Village (a multicultural food village), and the Miracle Flower Garden. But most days, I woke up later-than-I-should (jetlag), headed straight for the COP, and called it a day only when I reached a certain floppy level of exhaustion.

I mostly ate at the COP venues or in my hotel room (which was luckily serviced with a kitchen- although why do they always give you a sink but no sponges or washing liquid?), rather than going out. Once I had breakfast at the hotel and chatted with a very nice (I think Indian?) server, who was trying to convince me to eat Aloo paratha, and I had to explain to him that I would be in India in a couple of weeks time so was avoiding the more Indian offerings of Dubai, and also that eating Aloo Paratha in a hotel really felt like a bit of a betrayal to my boyfriend’s mother who is an incredible cook.

Anyway, because the area I was staying in was very non-fancy, food was quite cheap. I did a big shop to get salad and yogurts at the start of the week, and then ended up buying falafels-related product from a nearby cash-only shop, and spacing the food throughout the week.

Which is all pretty boring life conference stuff, but I’m mentioning it because one day I ordered the Egyptian Foul- a fava bean concoction that made me think of my grandad, who grew up in Alexandria.

That’s her on the top left.

It was… heavy.

Anyway, after a week of COP-ing, I reached my final evening in Dubai, and realised I still hadn’t seen two of the key SIGHTS of the city.

  1. The Dubai Frame
  2. The Burj Khalifa (up close and personal, and with the associated giant shopping mall).

Dubai was never really on my list of countries to see, and this visit itself was a work thing, so it seemed worth a quick look at the main tourist bits, assuming I might never come back.

The Dubai Frame is a 150m tall monument and museum that is supposed to connect the past, present and future of the city. From one side you can see the city’s most modern buildings, from the other, the older parts of the city, and inside there is a visual-effects guided tour from the history to the future o Dubai.

I’m not sure if the future part of that all is why the park- which is next to the frame- has a bunch of planet/spaceship structures?

Once again, I didn’t actually really ‘do’ the Frame experience, but rather just looked at it a bit from the outside.

Kinda cool with the changing colours. Plus, the park next to it seemed genuinely lovely, with lots of families having bbqs and picnics.

I zoomed off to the final stop of the evening, and the showstopper of the city:

The Burj Khalifa.

829.8 m of height.

A whole lotta sparkle.

Shortly after I arrived, the tower decided to put on a show:


One of my aims of the evening was food– specifically, a visit to the TimeOut Market, and its offshoot of the very highly rated Reif Japanese Kushiyaki.

When I got back outside, the area was filled with people, all waiting to watch the Burj sparkle once again.

This, this is too many people.

I ducked briefly inside the giant shopping centre, and then out again.

And managed to make it to a good viewing spot in time for the fountain to start its show.

Nice enough, especially with the operatic music to go along with it. But I don’t think it really translates to photos.

Plus, those yellow things– which are ‘special viewing mats’ you can pay to sit on- really ruin the vibe.

One last look a the Burj.

And that was Dubai!

Dec 5-11, 2023

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