It takes about an hour and 20 minutes to get from Abu Dhabi to Dubai. At least that’s how long it takes me. I’m sure 90% of the UAE’s population is able to do it in about an hour travelling at the official speed limit of 140 kmph, but travelling even at 120 kmph, is more than enough to test my nerves and I’m happy to trundle along at what feels like snails pace knowing I’ve got some chance of arriving in one piece.
The three times we’ve come up and stayed in Dubai we’ve stayed in Dubai Marina, which is a great place to be based. The first time we stayed with friends at their palatial apartment up on the 70-something floor. Next time round we made do with our upgrade to the Penthouse Suite at the Marina Hotel Apartments and for our final hurrah, we stayed at the Pearl Marina Apartments.
Whilst the Pearl doesn’t have the cool views afforded the MHA, our apartment was still bigger than what we had back in Abu Dhabi and with a heated swimming pool for the kids to play in, it more than fitted the bill for us.
Having already seen a fair amount of Dubai’s attractions from previous visits, our whirlwind 40 or so hours in the UAE’s largest city (population 3.1 million) consisted of only two outings - the Global Village Dubai and the Dubai Miracle Garden.
Global Village Dubai
Open only during the winter months (usually from November to April), this sprawling site at Dubailand consists of different pavilion sites showcasing a wide range of country’s culinary and retail offerings. With live shows, performances and Carnaval rides, it sort of has something for everyone.
At times its hard not to liken the whole experience to a massive open air food court intermingled with a $2 shop and a Sparkys fun fair stapled on the side. That’s definitely doing it a disservice though, as each of the 27 “pavilions”, representing 78 countries, has been elaborately constructed and only a die hard cynic would fail to be impressed. In any case, where else in the world can you walk 100 metres and say that you’ve visited the Burj Khalifa, Big Ben, Liberty Statue and the Sydney Opera House?
We visited on a Monday, which is reserved for woman and families and the place was fairly heaving. It probably would’ve been better getting there at 4pm opening when it wouldn’t have been so crowded. UAE residents and Emirate families alike tend to be night owls preferring the cooler night time temperatures to gather together which also explains the late midnight closing. With entry tickets priced at only 15 AED its popularity is assured as evidenced by the Global Village now completing its 23rd season.
Dubai Miracle Garden
Veronica picked this one out which turned out to be a real gem. Braving temperatures only slightly cooler than April Fools Day’s 39 degrees, we managed to sweat our way and be entertained for more than two hours. Another one only open during the “cooler” months (November to May), this attraction is home to more than 150 million flowers skilfully sculptured into an array of subjects, such as cats, elephants, cottages and Disney characters.
I’d shudder to think how many workers are required to craft all of the exhibits, but in terms of overall maintenance, treated wastewater is reused through drip irrigation with something like 750,000 litres of water used per day. Wikipedia kindly answered one of my questions about how such a place can thrive in the desert environment.
The piece de resistance, for me at least, is the floral sculpture forming the shape of an Airbus A380 which became a Guinness book record as the world’s largest in 2016.
Unfortunately, the hazy conditions and my sub-par photography skills didn’t enable me to take pictures to do the place justice. In person, however, the vibrant colours pop out at you and it really is a marvel to behold.
We asked the kids afterwards which they’d preferred out of the Global Village and Miracle Gardens and they unanimously opted for the Global Village. For the adults there was no contest and the Miracle Gardens out-blossomed anything the Global Village had to offer. I think, had it been a bit cooler, the kids would’ve been much more keener on the Miracle Gardens, so definitely one to try and visit during the cooler months.
Book Shout Out
Anyone who has an interest in the UAE and more particularly Dubai, would be well served reading a copy of City of Gold by Jim Krane. Krane gives a great overview of the city’s history and how, despite having limited oil reserves they have been able to transform the Emirate of Dubai into a world class city.
After a couple of fun days doing the tourist things we’re now setting out sights firmly on what Jordan has to offer. This will be a new country for the girls and a revisit for me, having last visited 20 years ago. Whilst some things will definitely have changed, Petra, Wadi Rum and all the other main archaeological sights are timeless and I’m very much looking forward to seeing some of these again, in addition to some new ones.