Before I sign off on Dubai posts, I have to write about the place where Varun laughed and squealed the most – Dubai Dolphinarium.
We had spent the earlier part of the day at Ski Dubai so this was a befitting part 2 of the focussed day. The Dolphinarium is in Children’s City – a little bit further from Dubai Mall. Mostly we saw locals, kids celebrating birthdays and other little kids with their parents on vacation.Varun has a small blue toy dolphin that he loves. He used to play with it in India and I think it’s probably lost somewhere in the move. So when he saw pictures of the Dolphins in various brochures his eyes went wide as he literally yelled “Look, mama, Dolphins”!
The show is in an indoor air-conditioned auditorium. It is about 90 minutes long and has a musical and magic tricks ( they call it illusions) part which IMO was totally unnecessary and boring for kids. It was hard to keep kids engaged during that part despite the beautiful acrobatics.
Varun kept asking me when the dolphins and seals would arrive. Finally when they did, he was jumping up and down in his seat, clapping and cheering like I have never seen before.
If you do have little kids, do take them here. The Children’s City has other kid friendly things to do like slides, park, planetarium, nature and space center etc. Its worth heading out that way even if you have seen Dolphin shows else-where. Keep in mind transportation back after the dolphin show is a bit iffy and you have to wait for a cab to show up.
We headed from here to see the musical fountains. I think we saw them thrice all in all. As we stayed fairly close to the Dubai mall it was one free indulgence which we loved.
A very kid friendly, safe and cosmopolitan city, we truly loved Dubai. We hope to visit again when the kids are older and we can do some crazy adventure the emirate has to offer: Zorbing, Indoor Sky diving, Hot Air Balloon Ride over the desert, just to name a few!
An opportunity to visit the Tallest building in the world? Yea, to the 124th floor of the building pictured above and look out! Need I say more?
It was again one of the things we didn’t want to miss in Dubai. This was the only tour we had booked before we left India. We had read on Tripdvisor to book in advance as the tickets are cheaper online than at the window. Plus you can then plan your day/time in advance rather than be at the mercy of whats available. But even then the sunset times were all sold out for the entire duration that we were supposed to be there.
Our reservation was at 3:30pm so we were looking forward to day time views of the Gulf, Dessert, World Islands and The Palm from the top.
The line or the wait wasn’t long though Varun fell asleep en-route. A series of escalators whisked us to the elevator. And the elevator took us within a minute to the top.On the way to the elevator, there is even a special skylight to capture the soaring tower. And the information and timeline video of tower being built is fascinating.
At the top, Varun woke up and in his semi asleep state freaked out as he looked down. He was a bit upset at first but slowly warmed up to seeing various sights from the telescope.
The view truly is amazing on a clear day. I can imagine sunsets and evenings when the city comes alive with lights must be even more spectacular.
We saw folks sitting around waiting for sunset. But an hour or so later, Varun had enough of the cramped quarters and wanted to go back down. We had some tantrums and timeouts there especially around souvenir shop with its chocolates and toys. Parenting. Doesn’t stop at the top of the world!
Once down, we lingered around the Dubai Fountains pool, saw the musical show one last time and then headed out for dinner. It was our last evening in Dubai and we had an early morning flight to catch. There was packing to be done, car pickups confirmed before we could sleep.
After this trip, we were looking forward to starting our life in San Francisco!
A truly metropolitan city, we hope to visit Dubai again. Next time we will probably stay at some desert resort to take in its beauty in all its glory!
While in Dubai, a visit to Jumeriah Mosque is a MUST.
As a non-muslim, there are probably very very very (did I say very?) few places in the world where can you can enter a mosque. The enticing domes, the calls for prayer, the water tank outside where pigeons and humans wash their feet, the carvings have been very enticing to me. After living in Hyderabad I have seen a couple of mosques from outside.
I have seen beautiful pictures of people praying together during Ramzan inside the mosque.
When I found out that Jumeriah mosque welcomes everyone to their place of worship so that they can educate people about Islamic culture and Emirati way of life and traditions; I was all up for a visit. The mosque in itself is very beautiful and the educational tour was an added cherry on top. Everyday (except Fridays) at 10:00 am, a tour is offered at the mosque. Arrive by 9:45 am to buy the nominally charged ticket and don a head scarf or a hijab is you are not dressed modestly (head, shoulder and knees must be covered inside the mosque).
The tour starts promptly at 10:00 am. The guide talks about how to prepare to enter a mosque ( washing and ablutions) , the importance of Mecca, five pillars of Islam ( There is only one God, Pray 5 X day, Fasting and Self Control during Ramadan, Donate saved money that you are not using for anything else to charity, Visit Haj if financially/physically possible without taking credit), how is the prayer done, what does it mean for an Emirati to dress modestly etc.
Oh, kids are welcome on the tour. Varun sat in the women’s prayer room which is off to one side playing quietly with toys while Vipul and I listened to the talk. He also liked seeing the books kept on the low stands and pretended to read them. Most older kids sat patiently listening to the talk with their parents as well.
I think all cultures are riddled with myths and stereotypes (some more negative than others) and having a program such as this in a landmark setting in the most modern Islamic city is a great start.
Probably if every big city in the world had such a program for all religions it will dispels so much negativity and let us civilians live ( and let others live ) in peace.
If you do have a free morning in Dubai, do visit this program. It can be combined with a cultural lunch or breakfast where you can learn and sample Emirati cultural foods. We couldn’t go on that tour but the photos on SMCC site are very tempting!
One of the most popular things to do in Dubai is to go out in the evening for desert safari. Depending on the tour operator that you choose to go with, it includes dune bashing, sand skiing, camel rides, dinner in the desert with belly dancing, henna painting etc.Dune bashing was the highlight of the trip. Vipul couldn’t stop raving about it. I skipped as it was too much for my 28 week pregnant self to handle and of course I didn’t want Varun to partaking in it either. The ride is crazy rough (how crazy depends on your driver).
We booked the tour after we reached Dubai and went with Arabian Nights. Apparently more exclusive (read expensive) tour operators take you out to a conservation area to talk about desert conservation, bedouin lifestyles, falconry etc, but this tour was a pure “entertainment”.Even though it is evening safari, we were picked up from our hotel around 3:00 pm and then dropped off by 9:30 pm.They dropped Varun and me at the desert camp and went with others to the dune bashing area. They were still setting up the camp so Varun and I wandered around the small dunes, watching camels and sunset from a ridge.
Vipul loved the sand bashing part – roller coaster rides amongst dunes so high that it was impossible to keep up. He only got a sense of how vast the desert is when they stopped for sunset photo ops. The sunset watching area was crowded with all tour operators descending on the same spot for sunset and then whisking the tourists away to various camps for dinner.
As Varun and I were at the camp before everyone else, we bagged some prime seats. After sunset, it began to cool a bit and the freshly made shwarma and falafel were what we needed. Even Varun enjoyed the falafel and freshly baked bread from tandoor.
Fortified, we went out to try the camel ride ( a joke of a 2 minute ride), henna painting, seeing the falcon and trying the sand skiing.
Over dinner, we got to see an amazing Tanoura dance. Although not local to the area, the Tanoura dancers are a sight to watch. With their colorful long flowing skirts they twirl around at dizzying speeds. The origin of the dance is in Sufi tradition and is to symbolize union between Earth and Heaven with the twirling motion indicating seasons, movement of earth around Sun as well as around Mecca. Here the whole act was to entertain us tourists and earn a living. Maybe some day when we go to Egypt we will experience the dance the way it is intended to be. But for now, it got us hooked!
Followed by the Tanoura dance was a belly dance – again not a regional dance but something to keep us entertained. She was good as belly dancers go. Folks milled around over food, Arabic coffee, sheesha while the belly dancer entertained.
The good part about the camp setup was that the sheesha hut was setup away from the main seating area. So we were not bothered by the smoke. And other family friendly activities like henna painting, sand art, dressing up in local garb, souvenir shop etc were away from sheesha hut.
After dinner and entertainment, we headed back to our hotel. It was about an hours ride away. Folks we shared the car with were sloshed and slept all the way. Varun didn’t want to come back. He was happy playing in the sand and digging up a storm while we had dinner. Needless to say there was some crying involved but he slept en-route as he was tired to.
If you have one day in Dubai, do this tour. There is nothing more entertaining and adventurous than this! And of course this is what everyone back home will ask you about (besides Al Burj) ;)!!
One of the best places for kids in Dubai is Ski Dubai, especially if they have not seen snow before like Varun!
Located in Mall of Emirates, its the largest indoor ski and snow park of its kind. Varun was reluctant to go and wanted to instead go to the pool in the hotel. We somehow managed to convince him that throwing snow at mamma will be more fun. We reached there, bought our tickets ( again Explorer has a 2 for 1 deal on adult tickets) and changed in shoes and snow suits ( included in ticket price). We had carried our skiing gloves and hats but there is an option to buy them there.
Varun was so excited once we reached the place, he barely had the patience to change into snowsuit and wear hat and mittens.
Once inside he just wanted to scoop up the snow, form a ball and throw it at me and Vipul.
And the other thing he loved was tubing. He took so many turns going up the slope with the tandem tubing tires in tow and flying down the slope. He especially loved when it turned and twisted.
And then he had fun pulling Vipul on the sled!
Slightly older kids loved the toboggan slides. And their parents had a hard time taking them away from the slides. We didn’t try skiing or Zorbing but even those are available inside the park at an additional cost.
The only weird part was that as the ski dome has a glass wall shared with restaurants and the mall, it was funny watching people in shorts and dresses outside while you are in frigid temperature. It felt a bit like we were in a zoo with others watching us while we played in snow.
Even we had to drag Varun out of the park after a few hours. He was tired but didn’t want to stop playing.
Albeit expensive, it was the best part of Dubai trip for Varun. The smiles and giggles were totally worth it!! Don’t miss it especially of you are from tropical parts of the world.
Psst: Read more about our Dubai adventures here!
Dubai is known for its superlatives – Dubai fountains being one of them.
They are the tallest fountains and dance to the music over a large man-made lake flanked by Burj Al Khalifa and Dubai Mall, similar to the ones in Bellagio, Las Vegas. The similarity is striking as the developers for both the projects are the same.
People flock here every evening from 6:00 pm onwards to see the show. Music varies by show. The views of Burj Al Khalifa and sunset over the skyscrapers behind the lake are particularly beautiful and make for great photo ops as you wait. We had an African song once and a Bollywood song one other time accompanying the fountains show. The place is packed as people try to occupy spot along the promenade, the bridge etc. So come early and stay for a couple of songs. Finding a cab after the show is hard as everyone tries to exit at the same time.
The best way, IMO, to experience the fountains is from one the boat ride on the lake. It is expensive but you get a view without jostling others. With a kid not having to worry about them getting lost in the crowd is always worth it.
It’s the best free attraction in Dubai.
Rest in photos.
PS: Looks like I need to learn to photograph dancing fountains better. Any tips appreciated!!