After Rio our next stop was CAPE TOWN! I have been dreaming of going to Africa for years and was SO EXCITED my dreams were finally coming true! Everyone I know who has been to Cape Town barely made it back because they almost stayed because it was so incredible.
Turns out, flying from Rio to Cape Town is very $$$, and the cheapest, least horrible flight was on Emirates with a layover in Dubai. Wait, what? That’s like flying from Seattle to Los Angeles via New York. Let’s look at a map real quick.
Yeah, slight detour.
Anyway, since we were flying all the way to Dubai, and neither of us had been we decided to extend our layover from 8 hours to 32 hours, get a hotel room, and Experience Dubai!™
Dubai is ridiculous. It’s like Las Vegas without the sex, drugs, or alcohol. It’s just loaded with tons of money, insane shopping, and ludicrous buildings. For example, the Burj al Arab, the only 7-star hotel in the world. A “room” (the smallest is a 1,830 sqft two-floor suite) starts at ~$1,400 USD/night. A few of the many amenities include:
- a 24hr butler
- two private bars (upstairs and downstairs, duh)
- 14 types of pillows
- daily in-suite breakfast buffet
- full-size jacuzzi (not a tub like an actual jacuz)
- 5-head rain shower
- 21″ iMac
- super king bed “personalized to suit your specific posture preferences”
- professional wardrobe packing and unpacking (?)
- choice of 200+ international newspapers (how do they get them?)
- fruit baskets galore
It is the third tallest hotel in the world, stands on an artificial island, and is connected to the mainland by a private bridge. We obviously couldn’t afford to stay there, but we definitely wanted to visit. You can’t even step foot on the bridge unless you’re a guest of the hotel (there are serious guards and gates), or if you have a reservation at one of the hotel’s restaurants. We booked a table at the hotel’s Sky Bar for evening drinks. More on that later.
We booked a room at the Hotel Kempinski – Mall of Emirates. They gave us a complementary quadruple upgrade from their basic room to a junior suite (!!) and everything was completely gorgeous. It was definitely the fanciest place we have stayed on the trip and the luxury was appreciated. They decked out our suite with flowers, a cake from their pastry chef, and comped everything in the mini bar. I was in heaven.
The next morning we went to the breakfast buffet which IS A THING. It was the most incredible buffet I have ever seen in my life. This place had everything. There were only three other people there so it felt really relaxing (buffets are normally hectic). We stayed for far too long and ate far too much but we wanted to try as much as we could.
The number one attraction on our list was the Burj Khalifa, currently the tallest building in the world. Visitors may purchase a ticket to access the viewing floor at a specific time. When we got to the ticket desk everything was sold out, but the desk attendant said there was a small tour leaving in 5 minutes that we could join. A tour sounded awesome, so bought our tickets and were ushered into a small waiting room. A few minutes later I asked Patrick,
“Wait, were those tickets 100 dirham or 1,000 dirham?”
“100 dirham.” [glances at tickets] “Nope, 1,000 dirham.”
We paid $272 usd to see a building. Oops.
Well the views and the building were absolutely incredible. We spent about two hours exploring, taking in the views (inside and out) and laughing at the junk in the gift shop.
Dubai has the most insane shopping I’ve ever seen anywhere. It has a number of GIGANTIC malls containing every store imaginable from the highest of high end to the lowest of dollar stores. In addition to the retail the malls have celebrity chef restaurants and crazy entertainment. Our mall had an indoor ski slope complete with a chair lift and real penguins. If you’re thinking “It must be weird to see people wearing ski gear when it’s 100 degrees outside” you are correct.
The Sky Bar
We put on our nicest clothes and took a cab to the Burj al Arab. Driving across the bridge and approaching the building is impressive. The building is massive and slightly daunting.
The hotel lobby is OVER THE TOP. I was expecting a more subdued elegance but this place was an assault on the eyes. A mish-mash of bright colors, water features, retail, level changes, tons of over-designed furniture, and music was a bit overwhelming. It looked like the designer had gone to a Persian fabric store and said yes to everything.
The bar looked like a future-themed bar built in the 90’s. It was so odd. The cocktails were a teenage girl’s dream (they all tasted like candy and some even contained candy), and when Patrick ordered an Old Fashioned there was a lot of confusion. It was a fun experience, because it just felt so wacky. It was like a fancy-themed bar, but it wasn’t actually fancy.
Dubai felt like being in a future city on another planet. Great for an extended layover, but not as a destination.