Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Exploring JBR, Madinat Jumeirah, and DIFC in Dubai

Thursday morning I had the day to myself to explore, as it was still a workday for the locals, but I had taken it as a day off.  After essentially not feeling like I had a weekend, I was ready for a little bit of a break.  I still was having a terrible time sleeping at this point, and slept until I woke up and then made my way out of my friend's house to the little man made lake in his complex for a quick 3-mile run.

Even at around 9:00 a.m. it felt hot and muggy and the run was a challenge to finish, but I was glad I did.  The loop around the lake was pretty scenic and it was .75 miles around so I did it 4 times for a total of a little over 3 miles.

While running, it was really interesting to observe all the others who were walking around, running around, or biking around the lake as well. Based on my general observation skills, I could tell that pretty much everyone that lived within this development was an ex-pat.  Walking around the street on the way to the little lake path, I gave the neighborhood the nickname in my mind ex-pat alley and thought it was funny even how simply put they made the street names for the people who lived within the development who were likely from all over the world.

Although, despite being on expat alley, I did see this fancy car decal which caught my eye.

As I mentioned, I saw a bunch of people outside who were taking advantage of the nice weather - I was told by pretty much everyone that I was going to Dubai at the exact right time.  Temperatures would get up to the high 70s during the day and then would be a bit cooler around 65 in the evenings.  Great running weather and weather to explore outside - which is exactly what I did on Thursday.

After showering and doing some work e-mails, I hopped into an Uber and made my way to the Jumeirah Beach Residence, called the JBR.  Before I get into the JBR and the rest of the day, can I just make the point that one of the options when you call an Uber in Dubai is for "Uber Chopper."

Yes, an Uber helicopter ride. What the!?! (I didn't try it.)

Anyways, the JBR is this really cool area along the public beach that has lots of restaurants, little shops, a movie theatre, a boardwalk that you can walk or run around (complete with cushy track-like padding) and lots of great people watching.  It is also right nearby the Palm islands that are manmade islands that are shaped like a palm tree when seen from overhead.

I walked around the beach for a while, totally amazed at how beautiful the water was and totally wishing I had a bathing suit so that I could swim out and play on the giant inflatable bounce house thing in the water.  In the background of where the bounce house was, is where they are building the equivalent of the London Eye in Dubai.  Every major city needs a massive ferris wheel!

After exploring this area for a bit, I made my way to find a place to eat lunch.  I looked up some reviews online and walked around trying to find the ones that I had read about, but then totally ditched my plans to eat at this restaurant Operation Falafel that had a ton of people outside of it.  Everywhere else seemed to be pretty empty and with the big crowd here, I figured it had to be good.

I of course got the falafel when at a restaurant with the food in the name. And I also got some hummus, because when in Dubai?  I wish that I had gotten something different because I sort of felt like the amount of falafel I got was very small in comparison to the rest of the food.  Basically I was eating a side of pita and hummus with a wrap that was mostly pita and hummus with a bit of falafel in it.  Aw, well. Whatever.

Following JBR I got into an Uber again and went over to the Madinat Jumeirah, which is the largest hotel complex in Dubai and has a bunch of Venice-like canals built into it and a great view of the Burj Al Arab.  Madinat Jumeirah is supposed to be built as a modern replication of ancient Arabia and the building that you see in the background, Burj Al Arab, is a famous hotel built in the shape of a sail.

As well, there is a great little market of shops and stores within the hotel with lots of traditional items that you can buy.  Since I didn't think I was going to make it to any of the traditional souks in Dubai, I was happy to explore around the Medinat hotel a bit and also made a purchase of a small print to take home and frame.  I like to purchase some sort of art whenever I travel places so I was happy to find something that I liked!

I also walked a bit over to the Burj Al Arab to get a better look and had the idea of going inside to get a drink or walk around. However, fun fact, is that they don't even let you behind the gates unless you have a reservation. Ho hum, on to the next place. [P.S. wouldn't this have been a cool picture if I knew who this Asian dude was?]

Having struck out at the Burj Al Arab, I decided to try out a different location that I had heard positive things about from a number of different people. In the financial district of Dubai, known as the DIFC (which is where the Burj Khalifa is located.) The sushi restaurant names Zuma I heard had a great atmosphere, drinks, and was a popular spot for Thursday evening (which is the last day of the work week in Dubai) happy hour.  My friend met up with me there and we bounced around from Zuma to another restaurant called Roberto's. The bars were hip and cool and filled with important looking people.  The evening was perfectly beautiful and comfortable to be sitting outside with open windows and gorgeous views. I really was soaking in everything I could on this, my first "weekend" night in Dubai.

Although that first picture at Zuma looks like I am the only person in the place, I promise that there were definitely others there! But I do admit that when I first arrived (around 4:30 pm) it was pretty dead.  I had originally assumed that like in the U.S., people might start their weekends a little early but I was incorrect there.  People didn't start to pick up and arrive (in crowds) until 5:30 or so and even way more packed later on in the evening.  I forgot that like most places outside the U.S. people tend to work later hours in the evening... it happens when you are ahead of the U.S. time zone, it seems your day goes later into the evening.  Plus, people don't usually eat dinner or go out until 9:30 p.m. or so in the evening so I guess 4:30 p.m. was a way early start!

Another thing I found interesting that I still wasn't able to find an exact answer for was the why this area of town the DIFC, was able to serve alcohol in their restaurants.  You see, most restaurants in Dubai, such as the one that I ate at by the Dubai Mall, do not serve alcohol.  It is illegal to serve alcohol in most places, with the international hotels often being the locations where serving alcohol is allowed.  Even for people who live in Dubai, it is illegal to own alcohol unless you have a specific license, which requires you to prove that you are not Muslim and also takes a bit of time to acquire I am told.  I tried to look up what allowed certain restaurants, such as the ones in this area, to serve alcohol but I couldn't find a satisfactory answer.  My local friends just told me I asked too many questions when I was trying to figure this out and encouraged me to just accept it as a good thing!

After exploring the DIFC, the evening was spent meeting up with some of my friend's friends and heading to someone's home for a dinner party of about 20 people. It was a LONG night but a really wonderful one. By the end of the evening, my friend was ready to go home but I was deep in conversation with some of his friends that I actually had to be pulled away. His friends (my new friends!) encouraged me to stay out later with them - which goes to show how open and welcoming everyone was that I met.

One of the things I love to do when I travel is actually see what it is like to live in a place.  Tagging along with my friend and his friends, was a really fun and cool experience for me to see what a normal Thursday (read: their Friday) evening is like in Dubai.  I was overwhelmingly blown over by the cool jobs and interesting people that I met and it seemed like everyone has incredibly interesting jobs and backgrounds.  Generally, when I rattle off the places I have traveled to when I talk to people living in the U.S., I am often one of the most traveled.  Whereas in a place like Dubai, I not only am one of the less traveled of groups, but often most people have lived internationally in 2-3 different locations or traveled to even more exotic places than I have.

I love being a part of those conversations and learning what it is like to grow up with pomegranate trees in your backyard in Lebanon, go on gemology expeditions in Sri Lanka, skiing in Poland, hiking in Oman, or traveling to Bahrain for work trips.  It is always so interesting and eye-opening to me to see what it is like for people outside the U.S. and how much living outside of your native country seems to open you up in many ways.

I know that this post is becoming massively long, but I love having a forum to share these observations and the things that I learn and see.  I know that it is something I will love to come back and look at someday, so often these longer posts I write more for myself than for others.  Although, I do hope that the observations and things that I share are interesting and eye-opening to everyone else as well!

I guess I will wrap for now and I apologize that this Dubai trip is turning into an epic series of posts but I want to be sure to capture it all!

1 comment:

  1. So fun! That falafel is so sad. I love a good falafel and that's so so small and sad!