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Great review! This makes me more exited to go now!
all i can really say is WOW!!
Originally Posted by fjpanda
I would be interested in reading it!
There you go
Next up: The mosque.
Our Final Day:
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
Driving up, it doesn't look that imposing:
Parking was easy and we went through a pretty thorough security checkpoint in a tent.
We took a bunch of pictures outside before it got too dark, then headed inside, first to the huge courtyard.
Between the outside and the courtyard:
From one corner of the courtyard:
Looking towards the main entrance:
Shoes come off:
In the main sanctuary.
The famous carpet/biggest in the world or something like that:
The floor in one of the lobbies:
Overall, it was truly beautiful. The craftsmanship, sheer size, opulence, etc. was all incredible. Men must wear pants have have sleeves; women must be much more covered, but they'll lend you traditional garb. Entry is free.
I don't have pictures of the rest of the seat, maybe Mordy will drop some off.
The amenity kits were similar too, just mine came in a leather Bvlgari case and his came in fabric. Also, I got some cozy pajamas.
After the flight, we walked through the overly-mammoth airport and bought Sim cards from Du, they cost 35AED and we spent about another 50 on data and minutes. A total of about $25 and we had plenty to spare. Then we made our way to the Emirates Chauffer Drive desk where they gave a car, without checking whether our tickets were award or revenue.
Day three of the trip.
We rented a car on day 2, after the water park.
We hopped in and headed out to AD:
The one on the left.
Whoops, wrong picture.
The only real attraction we were interested in was the Mosque. Ferrari World, Yas Marina, and some camel racing would have been on the list if we had time, but we weren't disappointing in missing them.
We pull up to the St. Regis Abu Dhabi, which for 13.5k/night (typically 12k, I think), it's truly incredible. There was no receptionist's area. They sit you in a gorgeous wood-panneled club room, bring you drinks, then escort you over to a huge mahogany desk (there are three different ones), where you sit down and get checked in. They offered us a suite but the only available suites had one bed. I ain't sharing.
So they gave us a nice room on the highest non-smoking floor.
The view as we pull up:
I don't have any good pictures of the interior, but it's truly beautiful. Very well done. I'll try to get some from Mordy; he was wandering around while I got us checked in.
I was wondering how they had a private beach when they were on the wrong side of the major road... The answer.
There's a pool on the beach side with a swim-up bar, and a nice pool on the hotel side.
Emirates Towers, the complex next door to the SR. I'm pretty sure there's a scene in the newest fast and furious that involves these buildings:
Backing up a bit, I want to discuss the airline logistics. This installment will discuss JFK => DXB. The airport, the lounge, and the plane.
Emirates officially does not provide a chauffeur service on awards tickets, so a neighbor gave us a ride to the airport, We pull up to the terminal, and I thought the list of airlines was comical:
Right inside the door we were directed to this:
They had no problem checking Mordy in too, although they said he wouldn't have lounge access and he wouldn't be able to come in with me since I'm not a plat. Fine, we'll deal with it later. (They let us both into the lounge with no issues).
We proceeded through the quicker security line and soon found the lounge.
We hang out a bit, check out the plane (boarding is directly from the lounge), drink some, and envy the food options.
Finally, we board. And this is where my opinion is going to differ from most. As I mentioned earlier, I don't think F offers a significant advantage over J. Could be because I wasn't traveling with my spouse, but still, that's my opinion. The seats are the same length (the middle J seats are an inch longer, while the window J seats are about 8 inches shorter than F), and they're only about ~4" narrower. Granted, I'm a smaller guy but next time I'll probably fly J. (well, probably not, but whatever). The shower experience is just that, an experience. Did I need a shower? No, we were heading straight to the hotel and it was evening. DIFTS.
I had issues with the controller, and the privacy doors wouldn't shut. The head FA tried multiple things, and kept offering me a different suite but I was too lazy to move. Also, I felt the clarity/resolution of the controller and screen were lacking, especially compared to Etihad's, which were crisp.
The shower: You're allowed 30 minutes in the "Shower Spa Suite," with a total of 5 minutes of water. I thought it was more than enough. The floor was heated, which is a nice touch as well. One thing they warn you about is the water won't work unless the shower door is completely shut; I had read about that in advance so I was prepared.
This is waiting at your seat after your shower:
We then went back to the hotel and relaxed until the Desert Tour operators were to pick us up between 3:30 and 4. We made our way to the lobby and met a Welsh couple that would be on the tour with us. A few minutes later a Land Cruiser pulls up, we load in, and we were off. There was a German couple already in the vehicle.
After 40 minutes of driving he pulls over at a local tourist shop where they push the Arabic dress stuff on you. We haggled and bought some souvenirs before heading out to the desert. 10 more minutes of driving and they pull off the road (which was coated with sand anyway). Dozens of Land Cruisers are parked and letting air out of the tires. Our driver, Akhmed, was one of the nuttier ones, racing and trying to overtake all the other. I absolutely loved the dune bashing. The couple in the back row kept getting thrown from their seats and hitting the roof. This wasn’t timid driving over the dunes. It was full out flying and getting air on many of the jumps. Pics don’t do it justice. After 30 minutes he pulls over so we could all get some picture for 10 minutes, then we continue on to the camp where they have camels, ATVs, a flacon to hold, henna tattoos, and the meal. During the meal they have a “dude in a dress” show, and a belly dance show (not tznius at all). We were back at the hotel by about 9:45.
The Whirling Dervish, started out lame but was pretty cool (it’s a dude):
The next day we decided to start with a water park. It was a tough call between the one at the Atlantis, and Wild Wadi, which is at Jumeirah Beach right across from the Burj Al-Arab. We chose the latter, for no real reason. Our hotel concierge had 30 AED coupons, bringing the price down to 255 AED. We had a fantastic time, and there are some crazy rides, many of which have a view of the Burj. Notably, they have a huge series of “water blasters,” where you sit in a tube and you get shot up slopes that bounce around.
Taken from the stairs up to a 110foot water slide:
We then rented a car from Hertz in the Marina [returning at the airport in AUH], and went to see old Dubai, including the Spice and Gold Markets and the old port area. Pretty sketchy area, but plenty of tourists. In the Spice Market the shopkeepers ALL try way too hard to get you in their shop, very similar to the Straw Market in the Bahamas. I found it very annoying. The Gold Market was more enjoyable.
Then we headed over to the Dubai Mall, a huge mall (one of the biggest in the world?) which is adjacent to the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. They have an attraction called “At the Top,” which is an observation deck on the 124th floor. “At the Top Sky” is at the 148th floor, the highest observation deck in the world. We splurged on the higher one, for the heck of it. It was truly incredible, but I’m not sure it was worth the extra dough. Mordy thinks it was. It also includes a tour and some other VIP treatments. It was about 6pm and our tickets were for 7:30. We went out to watch the Bellagio-style fountains and get some pics. The timing was great as the fountains had been off for the prior 3 days as a show of solidarity with 4 UAE soldiers who dies in Yemen. We got to see the Burj in daylight and at night, and it was truly incredible. IMO, the Bellagio show is cooler.
Looking up from the 148th floor:
The fountain show from the top of the world:
That was pretty much the end of Dubai for us. We chilled the following morning before checking out and heading to Abu Dhabi. I’ll post that part in the AD master thread.
In summation: Dubai is truly incredible; I’ve never seen anything like it. There are hundreds of skyscrapers, all built very recently. It feels truly amazing there. The roads are wide with lush landscaping, true opulence everywhere. We really enjoyed, and had zero negative experiences. I like Dubai much more than AD, but Mordy liked AD more. In Dubai, the foreigners seem to outnumber the Emiratis, with local dress being the minority. There are just so many expats and tourists there.
Feel free to ask any questions or request any specific pictures, we have loads.
Sigh, 10 hours left in the air.
This is what I posted on another [travel] forum:
A Quick Jaunt to the UAE
Emirates Chauffeur Drive gave us a ride to our hotel.
We anticipated spending 2+ days in DXB, with a short stop in AUH to see the Mosque and catch our return flight. Mordy really wanted to stay on the Palm Jumeirah, so that ruled out SPG properties (which there are a ton of in DXB) and we chose the Fairmont for the first three nights (Sun, Mon, and Tues) for about $650.
The hotel is a little left-of-center in that picture. The Atlantis (which has a great water park) is visible at the top of the "tree."
Beautiful property, although the lobby has an overbearing scent, kind of like a Middle Eastern A&F. They couldn't find my upgrade certificates in the system, so they gave us a basic city-view room. I was concerned about noise from supercars flying up and down the palm all night, especially since we were on a low floor. I called Fairmont and they put my certificates in my account immediately; we went back to reception and they gave us a nice sea-view room on the 8th floor.
The views from the beach in front of the hotel, looking out to the Dubai Marina area, and from our balcony:
The hotel at night, from the beach:
This was going to be a mostly move, move, move vacation, try to see and experience as much as we could over 3 days. Being procrastinators, neither of us really planned an itinerary ahead. We really wanted to skydive over the Palm, but that's the one thing we couldn't as it was booked for the entire month.
The first day I wanted to see the desert/Arabic side of Dubai, and Mordy wanted to go skiing in the Mall of the Emirates, so we booked a dune bashing, camel riding, see the desert type tour for the afternoon/evening and headed out to the mall. [There a dozens of such tours and they're all about the same price. It includes a buffet dinner and some shows, but we obviously can't report on the food.]
The skiing was ok. It's an experience skiing (I snowboarded) indoors, but there are only two slopes that converge to one, and it got boring pretty fast. We paid 200 AED (about $55) for 2 hours, including all gear, pants, jackets, socks, etc. You have to buy your own gloves which were a reasonable 25 AED for a fleece pair. We had a good time, and it was pretty empty so no line for the lift. But we got bored and left after about an hour and a half. Walking around the mall was pretty cool as well.