I hesitated for a second knowing I had trips to Jamaica and Greece already on the docket for 2015. "I'm not quite sure how I can afford those, why would I add another trip to next year?" The pragmatic side of me perked up and I thought "Of all of these places, which is a super steal and thus a worthwhile unexpected expense?" My gut told me that Abu Dhabi or Dubai on an ordinary day was at least $1000. I did a little research and found that $1000 was on the inexpensive end for fares to these cities. "WOW. If I act now, I can get a flight thats normally over $1000 for less than $300!"
Trying to rationalize the expense, I thought, "Jeff's birthday! There are dates near his birthday. Perfect." Not knowing if the dates I had in mind would work, I did a bit more research to confirm this 'supposed' 24 hour refund policy that Expedia and other online travel companies have. Thirty minutes later, my worry had been nixed and I had selected two tickets from DC to Abu Dhabi (The commute to Dubai was a bit longer). I texted Jeff, asking him to call me immediately in the morning and I went to bed.
Christmas Day 2014
Jeff called me at 8 in the morning. I told him about the glitch fare and found out that the dates I had picked conflicted with a conference that he attends annually. Crap. I logged into Expedia and found the glitch fare was still there!!! I immediately selected another pair of dates for Abu Dhabi. Whew.
Super excited, I started looking at things to do in Abu Dhabi. There's a breathtaking mosque...and.... and..... mmm ok. I called Jeff, "Would you be opposed if I changed our ticket to Dubai? There's more to do there. Our commutes will be longer but....what do you think?" Jeff, who was just thrilled about the trip in general, told me whatever I thought was best was cool with him. So on a wish and a prayer, I logged back into Expedia, and managed to find two tickets to Dubai. Holy smokes- we're going to Dubai for only $500!
Jeff and I took off for Dubai on a Thursday evening on Etihad Airlines (partners with American Airlines). There are few non-American airlines that I have flown with, so I was happy to see that my experience on this plane was comparable to when I fly with American or US Airways. We landed in Abu Dhabi late afternoon Friday. We were supposed to catch Etihad's Coach bus to Dubai, however we were going to have to wait an hour for the next one to arrive. We opted to take a taxi instead. This cost about 211 dirham (aed) for an hour ride. This is the equivalent to $57.
We set out for dinner in our neighborhood on our first night in Dubai. The city was alive, feeling very much like home in DC. I was surprised to see so much diversity among the people. Range in fashion and in cuisines also astounded me (We had Italian food our first night!). But what bewildered me the most, was the high usage of the English language. In conversation and in print. I mean English was printed almost every where (e.g. billboards, menus). I later learned that while Arabic is the official language of the United Arab Emirates, English is the most spoken.
Some of the activities that we did reminded me of being in New York or Las Vegas. We visited Atlantis The Palm, a spectacular resort with a lot of attractions and a beautiful beach. This is where Jeff swam with dolphins and we both participated in a Shark Safari.
We saw a fountain show (similar to the one at the Bellagio in Vegas)- water dancing to the sounds of Michael Jackson (a testament to his international stardom). We checked out Dubai Mall, the world's largest shopping mall. And we went up to the top of Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building, for an amazing view of the city.
Even though a booming metropolitan city, Dubai is still rich in culture, which is apparent in much of the food, dress, and religion. We enjoyed more traditional middle eastern cuisine each morning for breakfast. My favorite part of this meal was the dates. They were incredibly sweet- tasting as rich as cotton candy :-D
We adhered to more conservative dress when we visited the Jumeirah Mosque. This was more strict for me than it was for Jeff. I needed to keep my shoulders covered and have clothing down to my knees. This policy also applied to public places such as the Dubai mall.
We got a chance to learn a bit more about Dubai by using a hop on hop off bus. My favorite places were the Gold Souk (market) & Dubai museum. We also got to experience a night in the Saharan desert (Believe or not but I found a groupon for this excursion). We went dune bashing and rode camels during sunset (Ladies- opt for joggers or harem like pants if you want to be comfortable!). We ended the night with traditional dinner while watching tanoura and belly dancing.
Dubai was a magical place to visit. It was modern and exciting and yet history and culture oozed from its being. This is a place that I look forward to returning to, glitch fare or not - it is that exceptional.