There are two paradoxes that make me: 1) I feel most at home when I’m travelling, and 2) I rarely feel comfortable in the comfort of my own home and city. Regardless of what my reasoning for all of this is, I just know that I find some sort of peace in exploring new places and things. To merely say I like to travel wouldn’t be totally accurate; travel’s a huge part of it, but travel without some new experience or adventure isn’t the right kind of travel for me. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been on those beach-side vacations before, but I always made sure I had some form of exploration in there. Otherwise, what’s there to learn for a girl who, growing up, read for hours on the adventures of former explorers and navigators?
Having said all that, for some reason, I never even imagined being able to go to the Arabian Desert. For an ocean lover surrounded by those great Canadian trees, the desert has always seemed extremely foreign to me. Well, foreign is good, and when I learned I would have the chance to stay in Dubai for a few days last year, I was excited. Dubai’s known as the “City of Gold”, where there are man-made islands and the world’s only 7-star hotel. It is, undoubtedly, a city of great wealth. Dubai’s mall is the biggest mall in the world, with its own indoor aquarium (that you can walk under!), a huge movie theatre, over 1,200 stores, and an indoor skating rink. The best part for me, however, was its indoor skiing resort. For a Canadian or American, it may not seem all that special back home, but for a city in the Arabian peninsula, it’s an amazing feat. The mall is, as a classmate of mine from Dubai once said, “where everyone hangs out”. It’s no surprise to me now, because there’s so much to do.
Right outside of the mall, you can see the Burj Khalifa skyscraper, which is known as the tallest man-made structure in the world. I was able to ascend it in its scary-but-thrilling elevator ride that takes a couple of minutes to go up its many levels. Once I reached the top, I looked out and saw the whole of Dubai – there really is nothing like being high enough to touch the clouds. The best part? It doesn’t stop where you stop; it’s still quite a bit taller. It’s amazing to think of how it was even constructed, and the science that went behind building it. Though there are many tall buildings and monuments out there, for me, there’s really nothing like the view from the Burj Khalifa. To top it off, once you descend, you can view the Dubai Fountain lights show, which happens several times a day (seen in the video below).
So, the mall and its surrounding area has a lot of appeal, I can’t deny that. It’s arguably the center of the city for locals, but for me, Dubai’s real beauty lies outside its mall. As I said before, I love the ocean, but I can appreciate the sands of the desert too; it’s beautiful in a different way (P.S. the beaches in Dubai are gorgeous, it goes without saying). When I stepped out onto the desert, I could feel its history – there’s something very adventurous about a land wherein few people are to be seen. Going into it is also not for the faint of heart – I was lucky enough to drive in on a Safari Jeep that constantly felt as though it was on the verge of flipping over. Still, it’s an experience that anyone passing by needs to try out; if not for the insane feel of the drive in, then for the desert’s breath-taking landscape. Snowboarding fans will also love the sand boarding experience offered in desert tours, which was an awesome treat. Little did we know it was just a teaser for something even better: a sand motorbike race – think Lara Croft – for those of us willing (and yes, I was all willing) to participate. All of this ended in a visit to a typical Bedouin camp, making it a unique tourist experience. What surprised me was how cold it was; while the rest of Dubai was very hot, the desert had its constant breeze, which was rather comfortable during the day but cool at night. Be prepared for how much it can and will surprise you.
With that said, while I was amazed by the technological advancements of the city (I remember saying, “this looks like a city from the future” on the drive in from the airport), for me, the desert was by far the most adventurous and exciting part of this trip. For anyone with a love for shopping, it might be even better, because of how accessible its mall is, but adventure lovers will need to check out the desert. Overall, I’m not sure I’ll ever get to go back, but it’s an experience I’ll never forget. It would be hard for anyone to forget this much gold: