What a difference a day makes! We woke up in a tiny village at the top of the Greek mountains and ended up in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, where everything is bright lights, tall buildings and the bigger the better.
Most people know the Burj Khalifa is here, which is the tallest building in the world (also the tallest man made structure, has the tallest restaurant, and the tallest observation deck), but did you know that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) holds at least 165 different Guiness Book Records 129 of which are from Dubai? They range from the largest fireworks show to the most people of different nationalities washing their hands at the same time. The even have a world record for having the most world records! It seems to be a point of national pride to try and get as many records as possible, no matter how ridiculous. As a family with three boys who look forward to the new Guinness Book coming out every year, it was fun for us to come across these as we toured Dubai.
Guiness World Records
World’s Busiest Airport by International Traffic
This is only one of the many titles the airport holds. In 2015 it saw over 78 million passengers!
On our flight to this world record holding airport I had to take a picture of the flight tracker. Flying in between Baghdad, Mosul and Tehran…looks like a map I would see on the nightly news not somewhere I would by flying to!
After disembarking from the plane it was exciting to see the different culture we had entered. Arabic writing and prayer rooms were two new things noticed by us right away, but we were excited to see some familiar things as well, particularly American restaurants! While we did have Arabic food while we were there, we also enjoyed Cheesecake Factory, Texas de Brazil, IHOP and Cinnabon! In fact, they had almost every American restaurant you could imagine.
World’s Largest Mall
The Dubai Mall is the largest mall in the world by area. It has over 1200 shops and is larger than 50 football fields! In 2015 it was recorded to have over 92 million visitors in one year. To put that in perspective, in the same year, New York City had a record breaking (for them) number of visitors at 58.3 million. That’s over 33 million less visitors to New York City than to this mall. Not only is it big, it is the nicest mall I have ever visited as well. We aren’t big shoppers (we can’t fit much more in our packs!) but it was fun to explore around the mall, and there is so much more to do there than just shop. We saw the aquarium, the largest candy store, and some really fun toy stores. As we made our way around the mall, we even got lost a few times.
World’s Tallest Building
The Burj Khalifa is an engineering masterpiece. This building is not only the tallest building in the world at 2722 ft., but it breaks 18 other world records as well (tallest observation deck, highest nightclub, highest restaurant, longest elevators, etc.). It was truly amazing to see and to be able to go all the way up to the world’s tallest observation deck. Honestly, from the top, you are so high it almost is like looking out of a plane window.
World’s Largest Choreographed Fountain
Now this was something incredible to see! Every night they have a choreographed water show ever 30 minutes that lasts about 5 minutes. Each show is different with various music, fountain, and light displays. We stayed to watch two different shows and they were magnificent.
World’s Heaviest Gold Ring
While most of Dubai has been built up within the past 20 years or so, they have made an effort to keep a few older areas to stay true to the history of city. We took a boat over to the Old Gold Souk and Spice Market one morning and got a little bit of a feel of what Old Dubai would have been like. While at the Old Gold Souk, we just happened to run into another World Record Holder the “Heaviest Gold Ring.”
We also explored around the spice market and the boys tried camel milk chocolate.
When you are walking around, the shopkeepers are very persistent and at one point Parker got pulled into a shop and dressed in traditional dress before he had a chance to say no. I had to go in and try on a scarf before I could pull him out of there. It made for a great picture though!
World’s First Indoor Mountain Resort
Ski Dubai! When it’s 40 degrees Celsius outside come in and cool off! This was too much of a novelty not to try. You can walk in in flip flops and shorts and they suit you up and get you ready to go. Parker and Tyler snowboarded while Luke and I opted for the snowpark and sledding area. Jeromy was in need of some time alone (I had my spa day in Athens) so he decided to go to the movies and spend the day on his own.
While it wasn’t the best snowboarding of all time, it was very impressive for being inside! We had a great time!
World’s Largest Water Slide (Aquaconda)
I don’t have a picture of this actual record breaking water slide, but the whole Atlantis resort where it is located is a blast! If not the biggest water park in the world, it is certainly the biggest and best we have ever visited.
Largest Fair Prize (we have ever seen)
We rented an apartment from AirBNB in the Jumeirah Palm area of Dubai. This is a really fun area with tons of restaurants, shops, and even a little fair area. In the evening of our first full day there, we went out to walk along the beachfront and have dinner. While we were walking down, we came across a booth with a bunch of people gathered around. It was essentially a fair game where you had to hang onto a bar for 2 minutes and you would win a prize. We watched a couple of men try and they didn’t even get close. At that point Tyler said, “I could do that.” He is one strong kid and I believed him. So we paid the money for him to give it a try and just as he said he would, he did it! It was so fun because a big crowd gathered around him yelling encouragement and counted down the final 10 seconds before he won. The owners took a picture of him and said that people hardly ever win, and rarely kids. Tyler was so excited and loved the attention. Then we found out what his prize was. A GIANT pink gorilla. We were all laughing so hard as he heaved that huge gorilla all along the waterfront and back to our apartment. Along the way everyone stopped and stared or cheered him on because they knew what he had to do to earn it! He said the hardest part of the whole thing was carrying the prize home.
Now of course we couldn’t bring it with us when we left, that huge thing wasn’t fitting in our carry on backpacks! But we had plans to find someone on our last day to give it to. It was a stroke of luck or divine intervention that we ran into one of the administrators of the building in the elevator. She let us know they collect items for needy families when people move out. This was perfect! We then knew that it was going to someone who would truly appreciate it. When we dropped it off, the people in the office were so grateful to Tyler they even took his picture to send out in their newsletter.
A Day in the Desert
This was something I knew I wanted to do from the moment we decided to go to Dubai. My friend had told me about her experience going out to a Bedouin camp and I really wanted to see what this was like. We set up for our excursion and had a great experience 4X4ing through the sand dunes, riding camels, watching the sun set over the dunes, driving ATVs, and then ending with dinner at a Bedouin camp while watching belly dancing. It was a really fun experience for us, and nice to get out of the city and into the desert.
Interesting Facts About Dubai
Language: Arabic, but every person we came across spoke English as well.
Population: There are only about 1.4 million people living in Dubai. Only about 350,000 of those are women. This is partly because of the huge numbers of immigrants who come from other countries for work, in fact, only 10% of the people living in the United Arab Emirates are native to the country.
Religion: The National Religion is Islam and there are prayer rooms in the airports, malls, and hotels to accommodate their religious practices. They do allow other churches to be built if they receive special permission from the government. Any form of proselytizing is illegal.
Attire: You must not show excessive skin while in Dubai. Swimming attire is only allowed in hotels or on hotel property.
Weekends: In Dubai their weekend is on Friday and Saturday, with their work week running Sunday-Friday. We actually saw a TGIFriday’s restaurant there, but since their weekend starts Thursday night it was aptly renamed TGIThursday’s! No joke!
Laws: While Dubai seems very western with all of its shops and pop culture, it is still a conservative Muslim country. Here are a few laws that those of us from western countries might find surprising…
- You can be arrested for hugging or kissing in public.
- Jewish people are not allowed in the country but can come to the airport if they are just flying through.
- Living together (or staying in the same hotel room) with the opposite sex if you are not married or closely related is illegal and will get you arrested.
- Driving with any amount of alcohol in your system, public drunkenness, or consuming alcohol outside of the few places that serve it can get you arrested and maybe deported. Alcohol is not served in restaurants and there are no bars in Dubai. The only place it is served is in hotels and people who live there can apply for a license to have it in their home.
- Working without the proper paperwork will get you imprisoned then deported.
- You will be arrested for bouncing a check.
- Any amount of immodesty, foul language, or inappropriate behavior can be reported and you can be arrested.
In all honesty, I wasn’t excited when we decided to add Dubai to our list. I thought because everything was so new it might not be that interesting, just a city full of big buildings. Jeromy persisted though and I have to say I was pleased to have been proved wrong! Dubai has done a great job of creating an environment that is beautiful, fun, and so over the top impressive, it’s worth a trip just to see the things mankind is capable of accomplishing.