You can’t always plan opportunities, sometimes they knock on your door and if you are open to new experiences and it’s meant to be, it will all come through. This is how one day to another, I was in Dubai and later on the road to Abu Dhabi.
One week before, a friend of mine presented this opportunity and the next day, Bruce and I were buying our plane tickets and applying for the online visa to the United Arab Emirates! It was one of those moments where you simply say yes and figure the rest out later. As I said, when it’s meant to be, it works out. We quickly figured out how to recover our MBA classes (very responsible of us, haha) and started to research about the country.
Just a quick note for those that need to apply for the online visa, it takes 4-5 business days to arrive (the express visa) but Friday in the middle east is considered like a Sunday, nobody works, so it is important to consider this (we applied on a Friday and took a little longer than we thought, probably due to this fact).
We only had 3 days: 1 in Dubai and 2 in Abu Dhabi. We had to take full advantage of this so we hired a tour / taxi to take us around Dubai and planned ahead by buying the entrance to the Burj Khalifa in advance.
The United Arab Emirates is a very interesting country. Some facts that I found very interesting:
– As they know that they cannot live from oil forever, Dubai was created to promote luxury, high-end tourism. Very smartly, the prime minister of UAE and Emir of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed, has focused on converting Dubai into a world class tourist destination that can subsiste without money from the oil industry.
– The UAE has a population of 9 million people but out of this number, only 1 million of the population is local, the other 8 million comes from other countries. The biggest group is from India with 4 million people, followed by Pakistan, Philippines, etc. This makes these two major cities very international. This is why they do not give out nationality to anyone except those born in the UAE.
– The official language is Arabic but everyone speaks english.
Dubai and Abu Dhabi both are extremely impressive cities, each with their own particularities and things to see.
Dubai, to me was a symbol of the wealth the country has. The Burj Khalifa, Burj Al Arab, the palm tree islands, the Dubai mall, there are no words to describe them. They are probably the most impressive man-made attractions I have seen.
The palm tree islands is one of the most incredible of Dubai’s mega-projects. The project took over a decade to complete and real-estate wise, it has been a huge investment for those who bought early-on. The 150 meters houses on the branches of the palm tree (with private beach of course!) were around US$200,000 when in plans and today are around US$10 million.
The Burj Khalifa. Amazing. It was an experience just going up in the elevator to the 148th floor. I highly recommend going up to the 148th, why would you stop at floor 125 when you can keep climing? The elevator has beautiful projections inside and is the fastest elevator I have ever been. The sights from 555 meters high, are simply amazing, you feel like on an airplane. The building is so tall that when you look at it from below, it gives you the illusion that it is bending (see the picture gallery below).
Of course we also wanted to learn more about the local culture. We visited the spice market, textile market and diamond & gold market. We also had lunch in a small shawarma place that was amazing!!
The drive to Abu Dhabi is about 1.5 hours from Dubai, so it’s worth visiting even for the day. This is the capital of UAE. The main icon to see here is the Sheikh Zayed Mosque. I have to say this is the most beautiful mosque I have ever been to.
At night we went to dinner to Hakkasan which is one of the restaurants at the Emirates Palace, another amazing building to see.
The last day, was CAR day! We went to Ferrari World to ride the FASTEST roller coaster in the world. It is extremely fast! 240km per hour in seconds! If you like adrenaline, this is for you! Then we went to see the finals of the Formula One, which for me was a completely new experience and it was incredible! Something to see at least once in your life if possible.