It is crazy to think that this was all dirt not that long ago. We arrived during a minor sand storm.
Getting there is half the fun — especially when you are flying in Emirates Airline business class. I wasn’t sure what to expect from Dubai after my 14 hour non-stop flight from Seattle. Sure, I read the websites and literature I was given, but it is hard to get an accurate feel for a place, like Dubai, until you have visited it yourself.
I have to say I was shocked — but in a good way. It was not at all what I was expecting. I thought it would be a hot desert with many locals in traditional garb with some English here and there. I think the best way to describe Dubai as being like if Las Vegas and Singapore hooked up and had a child — and named it Dubai. There is no shortage of glitz and glamor that one might find in Vegas, but with the heat and subtle culture that one would find in Singapore.
I was only able to spend about four days in Dubai, but found some things that you might find interesting if you ever decide to make it out there. I very much enjoyed my trip and I look forward to returning soon. Here are some of the things you might want to consider, if you are able to vacation in Dubai:
It wasn't too difficult being in the middle of the desert. After sunset, the temperature became very nice.
It Can Be Hot!
Duh right? Well, I think the bigger shock is it wasn’t that bad during my visit at the end of April. I was told by more than one person that it would only be a bit longer until it got hot. During the summer months, the average temperature stays above 100 degrees F, where I had it around 80-90 degrees during my visit during the end of April.
Very few people do anything outside during the hot months of the year, where during the cooler months, it is still quite tolerable for a Seattle native, like myself. Just make sure to bring your sunscreen, hats and some sun glasses — you will want to use them.
Although Dubai barely sees a few inches of rain per year, I was lucky enough to experience a few short minutes of Dubai rain. Travel so far away from rainy Seattle for Dubai rain? Yee-haw!
I can never get away from Starbucks, no matter where I travel.
English is Everywhere
It is hard to tell that you are in a country half way around the world when English is so common. There were quite a few times where if I was placed in Dubai without knowing it, I would have a hard time thinking I was outside the US. I was kind of hoping for a bit more Arabic culture, but it sure makes it easier to get around.
I got to go to the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding to learn more about the local culture.
The Population is Diverse
I wasn’t sure what to expect when visiting Dubai, but I can surely say I was not expecting what I found — a huge melting pot of people and culture. Only about 20% of the population are native citizens, where the rest are from other countries around the world. Many people living in Dubai are from India, the UK and even the US.
Notice the lack of bars or security. Shops are rarely robbed, even in the Gold Souk.
Do Not Plan on Becoming a Citizen – Crime is Low
It pretty much boils down to you cannot become a citizen of the UAE. Even if you work in the country for years and have kids in Dubai, neither you nor your kids are able to become citizens. To stay in the country, as a non-citizen, you have to be employed. Those who are not employed are deported (you do have some time to find a new job if you are fired).
Because there are not many people wandering around without jobs, plus the possible punishment of being deported if you commit a crime, Dubai is very safe and crime is low.
When completed later this year, the Infinity Tower will be the world's tallest high rise building with a twist of 90˚.
The Town is New
Talk about growth. Dubai has pretty much gone from dirt and nothing to a large metropolis in about 12 years. And Dubai just keeps on growing; there are cranes everywhere you look. Many people think it is all from oil money, but Dubai really does not have that much money from oil. They have been building their infrastructure and have become very business and tourist friendly. Many world-wide companies have set up offices in Dubai and have pulled people from around the world to work there.
Ski Dubai is so unbelievable -- you just have to go do it.
Snow Ski in Dubai — Seriously
If you need to ask how much it costs to ski inside a mall in the middle of the desert, you are not living life! Okay, don’t worry, it is not that costly and what an epic experience. Ski Dubai is a must see (if you have the skills). The facility sets you up with everything you need to ski: heavy jacket, ski pants (because who would be bringing those to Dubai?) and either a set of skis or a snowboard.
There is only one lift and not too much variants in the routes you can take, but who cares, you are in frek’n Dubai! I haven’t skied in a few years, so it took a run or two to remember how to do it, then after that, it was a total thrill.
It was a little nerve wrecking skiing while being filmed for a segment of the Seattle based show Evening Magazine. Luckily I was able to make it work and somewhat look like I know what I am doing.
WATCH THE EVENING MAGAZINE STORY ON SKI DUBAI
One of the amazing views from the top of The Burj Khalifa.
Visit the World’s Tallest Building – The Burj Khalifa
It makes total sense that Dubai would be home to the world’s tallest building. I am willing to make bets that if some other building is taller someday, Dubai will just build another. That is just the attitude there — bigger and better. Anyhow, making the quick trip up to the observation deck on the Burj Khalifa provides amazing views of Dubai and the surrounding area.
The Burj Khalifa almost looks unreal and the views show how much construction has already taken place and how much room that Dubai has to still grow. Oddly, I did not get the great sense of height that I was expecting to have on the world’s tallest building — but the view more than made up for it.
You will only find alcohol in bars in hotels. Good thing there are a lot of nice hotels, like the Park Hyatt Dubai seen here.
Alcohol is Limited, But Exists
The country is not dry, but one is quite limited in where someone can drink alcohol. Unless you have a special drinking license, the only place one can drink is at a hotel. Do not worry, there are plenty of restaurants in and connected to hotels that will let you get your buzz on. Just don’t wander off too far from you hotel and make sure to read the next section before you decide to drive anywhere.
You can drink and let people drive you over sand dunes.
Do Not Drink and Drive
This is probably a pretty good rule to have no matter where you are . But at least countries like the US will let you have a bit of alcohol in your system legally (0.08%), but in Dubai there is a 0.0% tolerance. You will cut your trip very short if you drink anything and then drive, so just take a cab, public transportation or do not leave your hotel.
Gold Machine on Top of The Burj Khalifa.
Get Your Souvenir Gold
You know those machines where you put a penny in, turn a crank and get a souvenir coin? Well, that is for amateurs. Why would you want a souvenir penny, when you get get a souvenir gold bar? Starting at just $800.00, you can get your very own gold memento.
The machine shown above was found at the top of the largest building, The Burj Khalifa. I was tempted, but stuck to a few cheaper souvenir options.
You can take a classic water taxi across Dubai Creek.
Take a Water Taxi Across Dubai Creek
Even though Dubai is quite westernized, there are a few things you can do to get the cultural feeling. One of those activities is taking a water taxi, called an abra, across Dubai Creek. An old wooden boat (that looks like it maybe should have been retired a while ago) will take you on the creek and to a large street shopping area, called a souk. The fresh air (as long as you sit in front of the exhaust) feels good while watching aircraft take off and other people on their boats floating by.
The Meydan Hotel offers a unique feature; a horse track right outside your room. Only in Dubai.
Great Hotels to Choose From
I had the opportunity to stay in two hotels and view a few more during my visit. One of the most interesting was The Meydan, which has a horse track right outside your room. That’s right, a legit horse track (with high-end grass) in the middle of the desert — only in Dubai right? The race season was completed and I didn’t get to see any horses running around, but still the fact that I could wake up to a horse track was quite surreal.
The most impressive hotel was the Burj Al Arab (the world’s only 7-star hotel). Due to how exclusive the hotel is, only guests are able to get access to the hotel — no lookie-loos. I plan to write a separate story on this hotel in the future.
Sit down, shut up and hold on! Okay, it was hard to stay quiet during the sand dunes four wheeling.
Take a Safari Ride in the Desert
Make sure you have a strong stomach before embarking into the sand dunes in a Toyota Land Cruiser. We used the group Arabian Adventures (which is owned by the Emirates Group) and they did a great job of not only giving us an adventure on the dunes, but also a dinner and a show in the middle of the desert after our ride.
Rolling dunes and camels are a must-see located just outside of Dubai.
Make Sure You Ride a Camel
You can’t go all the way to Dubai without riding a camel. As part of my desert dune riding (see above), I also had the chance to ride a camel. They are a little bumpy when they stand up or sit down to let you on and off and a word of warning — when the guy tells you to lean back — do yourself a favor and lean back. There are certain parts of your body that will thank you later.
Water Fountains by the Burj Khalifa
Watch the Fountains
If you have never been to Las Vegas to watch the Fountains of Bellagio, make sure to go do that first. Because the ones in Dubai put the ones in Vegas to shame. Going every 30 minutes and synchronized to music, it is a wonderful (and free) experience. If you are looking for a bigger treat, make restaurant reservations along the fountain, get a few drinks, enjoy some food and get a free show.
The Atlantis Hotel on the Palm Island.
Head to the Palm Island and The Atlantis
Checking out the Palm Islands is a must, but don’t expect some crazy and unique experience. I had to bring up my map function on my phone to really understand where I was . While on the palm, it is not easy to tell that you are on a man-made sand structure, out in the water, that is shaped like a palm tree. Really, to get the full effect of the Palm, you need to view it from the air. That being said, it is worth the trip to check out The Atlantis Hotel.
Walking into the lobby, our guide was excited to show our group a wonderful glass sculpture. It was very impressive, but little did he realize that it was a piece by Dale Chihuly and since he is based in Seattle, I have seen quite a bit of his work.
The hotel also has a decently sized aquarium that you can check out for a few extra bucks.
From all angles, the world's tallest building, The Burj Khalifa, looks unreal.
In Conclusion About Dubai
You have to try and make it to Dubai someday. It is really hard to explain the energy and how unreal everything is there. In one day, I woke up beside a horse race track, then by noon I had already visited the largest building in the world. That was before putting on snow gear to check out penguins, throw some snow balls and then do a few ski runs. Finally, heading out into the desert to 4×4 on some sand dunes and ride a camel. This was all just one day. Where the heck else can you do that in the world? Only in Dubai — that is something you will find yourself constantly saying and that is not a bad thing.
ALL 94 PHOTOS FROM DUBAI
My Other Related Dubai Stories:
* Photo Tour of Emirates Airline Crew Training in Dubai
* My Review: Flying Emirates Airline Business Class to Dubai
I couldn't get any good shots of my 777-200LR in Seattle or Dubai, so I am using this photo of another Emirates Boeing 777-300ER that I took from my aircraft.
EMIRATES AIRLINE REVIEW BASICS:
Airline: Emirates Airline
Aircraft: Boeing 777-200LR
Departed: Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA)
Arrived: Dubai International Airport (DXB)
tops: Non-stop flight Class: Business Class
Seat: 8D to DXB (center, aisle, bulkhead) and 11A to SEA (window)
Length: About 14 hours
Cheers: Great combination of service and product.
Jeers: If you have wide shoulders, avoid the center seat — even in business class.
Overall: Emirates makes a 14 hour flight easy.
With the wood paneling, the Business Class really has a warm atmosphere. Notice the real flowers on the bulkhead.
THE FULL EMIRATES BUSINESS CLASS REVIEW:
On March 1st, Emirates started flying from Seattle to Dubai non-stop. I was invited to try out Emirates Business Class product on one of their recent flights (the airline covered the costs of the flight). This review will be a mixture of both my flight to and from Dubai — although I slept most of the way home.
The benefits of sitting in a premium cabin starts well before you get to the gate, but only once you arrive to the airport. With Emirates, the benefits of flying in Business Class starts at home. If you fly in either Business or First class you have access to a free chauffeured car within 60 miles of your arriving or departing airport. Unfortunately I did not do my homework before leaving and did not find out about that service until I was in Dubai (thanks Ben for the ride to the airport by the way).
However, I was able to make use of the service when coming home and it is always great having someone greeting you with your name on a sign that escorts you right to your front door in a Town Car. Having a Business Class ticket normally gives you access to a lounge at the airport and flying Emirates out of Seattle is no different. Passengers who have either first or business class tickets are able to use the new Club International lounge before their flight.
Emirate's Business Class seats offer quite a bit of room and one ginormous remote.
Since I stayed in the lounge for a while, my flight was almost fully loaded by the time I arrived at the gate and I was able to just walk on the plane. I messed up and forgot to check myself in online (I know, what kind of airline reporter am I?), so I ended up in a middle seat: 8E. Emirates has their 777-200LR configured in a 2-3-2 layout in business.
Even though the seats are larger, I was not looking forward to being in the center for 14 hours, but at least I wasn’t in economy. When I found my seat and sat down, I became a little worried — my shoulders touched both sides of the hard plastic walls — not good. Luckily for me the lovely (and smaller) Harriet Baskas, who was in my media travel group, had the aisle seat next to me and offered to swap. I gladly took her up on her offer and never had any problems with the seat width with the open aisle.
I think I would have managed just fine in the center seat, but if you have wider shoulders, I would surely advice checking in earlier to claim a non-center seat.
If you like technology and gadgets, you will love Emirates ice entertainment system. Each seat in first and business gets this large, removable remote.
Emirates entertainment system, called ice, was amazing, but a bit overwhelming. First off, you have three options on how to control the system: touching the screen, using the removable touch screen remote or use the smaller wired remote. When sitting in a bulkhead seat, even at 6’1″, I was unable to touch the screen. When I flew back to Seattle I was not at the bulkhead and was able to touch, but it wasn’t easy and I would imagine near impossible if you measuring in at less than 5’10”.
I am normally not very slow when it comes to technology or in-flight entertainment systems, but it seemed like I could only do some things with one remote and I had to do other things with the smaller one. I am sure I just wasn’t able to figure it out, but if I had trouble, I am sure most other people did too. It is worth trying to get past the control issues, because once you do, there are many options — 1200 to be exact.
Emirates, by far, has the largest selection of movies and entertainment I have experienced. After flying a total of 27 hours to Dubai and back, I still had not explored everything it had to offer. For a frequent flier on the airline, this would be a huge perk. No matter what class you are flying in, you get access to the same ice entertainment system (just not the fancy large remote if you are in economy).
Emirates configures their Boeing 777s with a 2-3-2 layout in Business Class. Notice how the windows have buttons to move the shades.
One on my favorite things, on systems that offer it, are the outside cameras you can access on your screen. The Emirates 777 has one facing forward and once facing straight down. Being in the center section during take off, it was handy watching the aircraft take off via the cameras. We took off to the north and just kept going — almost in a straight line over the north pole and back down to Dubai. Because of this, it never got dark outside.
Passengers also have the option to make a phone call at $5 per minute or send text messages for $1 per message. Every time I tried to access the service, it said it was unavailable, which was okay by me. I was planning on trying it out for the story, but was not motivated to ask one of the flight attendants, since I did not mind saving my money. Although Emirates does have Wi-Fi up and running on all their Airbus A380s, they do not have it on the rest of their main fleet (777, A330, A340) — yet.
When the lights go down, the stars come up. Emirates offers a special StarLight feature providing a great sleeping atmosphere.
The new Boeing 787 Dreamliner is touted as being unique for its ambient lighting and electronic sunshades. The Emirates product in business and in first is almost as close as you can get to the 787 interior.
First, they have the ambient lighting; going from a soft white/yellow to pinks to purple for the different light cycles. Then you have the windows up front that do not have manual shades, but two buttons that make the shades go up and down. The flight attendants have the ability to to put up or down all the shades, similar to the 787.
What Emirate’s 777 has that no 787 has (yet) are the stars that come out on the ceiling. Called StarLight, this amazing feature is unique to Emirates and really sets the mood. It is hard to describe, laying flat on a bed at 35,000 feet, opening your eyes and seeing stars.
It is too bad that Emirates doesn’t have any 787’s on order; it would be amazing what they could (and probably would) do with that cabin.
Steak, potatoes I cannot pronounce and red wine at 30,000 feet? Yea, I can handle that.
After settling in, it was time for meal service. My dinner started with a traditional mezze platter with hummus, smoky moutabal, muhammara, vine leaves and a spinach fatayer. Yea, I don’t know what half of that means either, but I can tell you that it was great. Then I was served roasted tomato and thyme soup and salad, followed by the main course of beef fillet with shallots and dauphionouse style potatoes. I decided to skip the dessert option and have a bit more red wine — nice call.
Economy class still provides large screens, amenities and food. Eh, I will stick to Business Class.
I feel very lucky that I get these opportunities to fly in the front of the plane on long flights, but there is no doubt that I have put my time in economy. During the ride over to Dubai, I made an effort to make a lap around the plane and check out economy. During my tour, most people were sleeping and there were so many feet, arms, shoulders, etc out in the aisle — it was a challenge to get through without bumping into people.
With the 3-4-3 layout in economy, it is a bit tight, but doable with the large screens and same ice entertainment system. That being said, I was happy to return to the business class cabin.
Business Class is nice, but First Class is better. Each seat is like its own cubicle, with closing doors.
When I complete flight reviews, I try to stay anonymous as long as I can. Typically a flight attendant will start asking questions (not suspiciously, but out of curiosity) when I am taking photos of my remote, food, etc. One of the benefits of being known as media is getting access to the aircraft that others might not.
On the flight back to Seattle, I was given the opportunity to spend some time up in First Class. Luckily for me, there were no passengers in the front cabin, which gave me time to check it out and talk to the flight crew. There are four crew members assigned to first class, including the pursuer. They normally work in shifts of two, but when there are no passengers in first, they are able to enjoy a relaxing flight and also will help the rest of the cabin crew, if needed.
Where business felt so much better than economy, similarly first class felt so much better than business. There are only eight first class suites, where each has a large seat, own mini-bar, large tv screen, similar controls to business class and doors that can be closed to give ultimate privacy.
Taking off from Dubai I could see the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa in the background.
One indicator on how good a product is on an airline is how well I am able to sleep. The fact that I slept five hours to Dubai and about 10 hours back to Seattle is a positive sign for sure. Another indicator is how happy I am that I was able to sleep so much. In this case, I was upset that I slept so much and wasn’t able to enjoy my experience a bit better. Emirates has lived up to its reputation for providing a fabulous flying experience.
Next is to try and test out their newer business product on the Airbus A380 — stay tuned.
See all 52 photos from my Emirates Airline flight
MORE STORIES ON MY DUBAI TRIP:
* Photo Tour of Emirates Airline Crew Training in Dubai
* Airline Lounge Review: Club International at Sea-Tac Airport
Yes. The building is designed to look like an airliner. Only in Dubai.
It was surreal pulling up to the Emirates Airline training facility in Dubai to find that part of the building was designed to look like an airliner — engines and all. In retrospect, it shouldn’t be too surprising, since this is the land of bigger and better and Emirates Airline seems to fit right in.
Emirates currently has a fleet of over 175 aircraft, flying to 120 destinations and they have no plans to slow down their growth. The airline hopes to hire around 4,000 additional cabin crew by the end of 2012.
Emirates is not an airline that cares only about the number of employees, but also the quality. They hire people from around the world to train to be some of the best flight crew in the world and Emirates Aviation College in Dubai is where every new hire will start.
A Majlis, where students learn about the Emirates culture and the cultures of others.
Each week, about 80-120 near new trainees will start their seven week long educational journey. Each class is comprised of people from around the world, making Emirate’s employees some of the most diverse. At any given time, there are about 130 nationalities represented among the trainees and about 70 among the the trainers.
One of the first steps of every trainee is learning about Arabic hospitality and about the other cultures represented among the company and passengers in a themed roomed call the Majlis room. The crew’s diversity helps them easily interact with many of the passengers that will be flying on the airline.
Flight Stewardesses train how to properly serve passengers in this Airbus A380 mock interior trainer.
One can only learn so much by reading out of a book or being lectured to. That is why each trainee is given hands on experience in one of the interior cabin mock-ups. From greeting passengers to learning what order to serve them food, to pointing out how to operate the on-board showers, the mock ups provide opportunities for students to learn new ways of doing things and to learn from their mistakes.
Each trainee is taught how each cabin is designed to give their passengers a unique experience. Emirates tries to make first class passengers feel like they are on a private jet, where business class passengers will receive a “my retreat” experience and finally a “surprising treat” type encounter for economy.
Part-time Emirates Trainer and Senior Flight Stewardess Lisa Williamson works the bar in the Airbus A380 trainer.
One part of the training is learning when it might be best to start weaning a passenger off alcohol, when they have had one too many. This can be more of a challenge when that passenger is in a public space, like the business and first class bar on board an Emirates Airbus A380. Unlike a bar on the ground, a drunk person cannot be kicked out. It takes a certain skill level to cut a person’s alcohol without insulting them. Lisa Williamson, part-time Emirates Trainer and Senior Flight Stewardess, explained how Emirates follows a delay, distract, dilute and then, deny strategy.
Every flight stewardess learns how to properly wear their uniform and wear make-up.
A group of Emirates flight crew walking in an airport garners attention — and for good reason. Their outfit is one that stands out and each trainee must go through training on how to wear their uniform, style their hair, apply their make up and of course on how to properly wear their signature red hat.
Emirates Boeing 777 safety trainer is able to move on three axis, providing realistic scenarios inside the cabin.
Although learning how flight crew should properly wear make up is interesting enough, getting to the training pool with a mock up for the Boeing 777, Airbus A380 and A330/A340 is much more aligned with my interests.
Unlike other safety training mock-ups I have seen, both the 777 and A340/A330 trainers are able to move on 3-axis. Due to the size of the larger A380 trainer, it did not move and was stationary.
New trainees practice helping a passenger who is passed out down the slide.
In the aircraft training room there is a pool that is surrounded by all three aircraft mock-ups. On one side, crew are able to practice water evacuations, where on the the other side, slides allow trainees the ability to practice sliding to the ground. This can be a mentally and physically challenging part of training and those flight crew that are not able (or un-willing) to go down the slide, are unable to continue the overall training program.
Emirates Airbus A380 and A340/A330 Safety Trainer.
Like most other things in Dubai, the aircraft training room was huge — it has to be. There was no shortage of eye candy watching both the A330/340 and Boeing 777 trainers rocking and rolling, hearing trainees yell for their training and seeing them jump out of the slides. I probably could have stayed in that room all day — heck probably all week.
Unfortunately during out visit, there was no one who jumped into the pool.
Who needs Disney Land, when you can take a ride on an Airbus A380 upper-deck slide.
The photo above does not accurately convey how steep and long the upper deck slide on the Airbus A380 is from the top to the ground. It made me feel a bit nervous just standing on the ground and I could imagine that some trainees would have some hesitation sliding down for the first time. At first glance, the facility might seem like fun and games, but crews are practicing worse case scenarios on how to keep passengers safe and how to save lives.
From providing the best customer service as possible, to helping passengers in a disastrous situation, the Emirates Airline Crew Training facility prepares everyone to have a successful career with the airline.
SEE ALL 35 PHOTOS OF EMIRATES TRAINING FACILITY