After a hectic whirlwind first six months of marriage, my husband and I were in need or a well-deserved break. Where better than Dubai, a city that I had previously visited twelve times, a city that I fell in love with. Eager to go, we looked to go in August, as this coincided with a friend’s wedding in London – we thought we might as well just fly out from LHR the day after.
Having previously stayed at the infamous Golden Sands resorts, based on my last visit, I made the decision to stay in a different location. JBR sounded perfect and the hotels are slap bang in the middle of JBR and the Marina – win win. Now that that was sorted, I needed to sift through an array of hotels on offer – not varying too much in price.
I asked the advice of my travel agent, and he narrowed down some options for me, advising me on what would be best for our money. After some further research, and trip advisor reviews, I opted to go for a mid-range hotel as opposed to the cheapest of the few. I liked the look of Amwaj Rotana, and the fact that we got free breakfast was an added bonus!
Having booked our flight with British Airways, we started a manic weekend of two weddings in two cities, followed by an early for our afternoon flight. Once we checked in, I cheekily asked if there was an upgrade available as it was our anniversary (technically six months counts right?!) and the lovely woman replied that the plane was full. However, she caught a glimpse of my vitiligo on my hands and we started talking about it, me admitting that I was still conscious of it and her saying that she thinks it’s beautiful. Bless her, she apologised for no upgrade, but said I want you guys to have a good time as you seem lovely (politeness and manners for the win!), so she permitted us access to the VIP lounge whilst we waited to board.
Having never been given access to a lounge before, my husband and I had no idea what to expect. What we were greeted with shocked us, rows and rows of food, salads, breakfast items, crisps, glass water bottles, self-service coffee machines and more awaited us. We eagerly looked around for some indication of prices, some clue as to what we should eat, until we realised that everything was included free of charge, mush to our delight! We both managed a hearty breakfast on our empty stomachs, and I even grabbed a couple of packets of Kettle crisps for later.
Upon arrival at the airport, we landed at 23:05, we headed straight for the taxi ranks and were assigned a taxi within fifteen minutes of waiting. We were both tired and in need of a shower and bed. My entertainment system on the flight hadn’t worked so I spent most of the flight just looking around and bugging my husband. The flight attendant did reset it twice to no avail. We had received light refreshments after our meal, and I couldn’t finish my wrap so proceeded to eat the remains in the taxi. The route to JBR did not take longer than half an hour and cost around £20. We managed to see a mosques and skyscrapers along the way.
The hotel checked us in seamlessly, however they did ask for a a cash sum of 300Dhs upfront which would be used for our taxes on check out and then the outstanding balance would be repaid to us – I wasn’t aware of this cash upfront and was told that card payments can take up to three months to be refunded, I handed over the cash but was wary about how much I would have left to spend. I wish I was told this before so I could have been prepared. A fear of running out of cash proved pointless as every shop accepted cards, so I made use of my Monzo card which gave the Mastercard exchange rate – the best at the time and so easy to use! The travel agent had told the hotel we were on honeymoon so a lovely towel decoration, fruit plate and chocolate cake awaited us in our room, a nice start to the day.
A lot of people may say we wasted a night by getting there so late, but we saw it as we gained a day as we woke up afresh, ready to start the next day. Breakfast ran until 11am, something that we loved as it meant we could have a lie-in but also that if we ate later, we would have a small snack in between and then an early dinner – saving us a few quid too! The breakfast was smaller than some I’d seen but definitely not short of options. There was a range of pancakes, french toast, waffles, fruits, fresh honey straight off the honeycomb, cooked and cold meats, beans and breads.
Our room was spacious, clean and had the most stunning view of JBR and the Dubai Eye. We had his and her robes and slippers, a large super kingsize bed, a sofa and coffee table, a desk and double large wardrobes. The bathroom was immaculate with a shower in a bathtub, a toilet, bidet, muslim shower and large sink. Toiletries were replenished on a daily basis, as was water. We had an issue with the sliding doors of our wardrobes falling off their tracks, so I called reception and a maintenance guy was up within ten minutes – this was at 2am! The customer service was second to none with smiling doormen and helpful housekeeping – he upped our four bottles of water to six when he realised we were drinking them quickly!
Our first day consisted of a light breakfast, the obligatory exploration walk to see our surroundings, and a lunch at Shake Shack – something I had wanted to try for ages! We walked in and were given a buzzer once we ordered, the burgers and fries were amazing! Having walked around, we made a mental note of the places we wanted to try – The Cheesecake Factory, PF Changs and Godiva, I’m looking at you! After luncg, we obviously had to follow up with dessert, so The Cheesecake Factory it was! We ordered a cheesecake each, not realising how big they were and ended up packing our leftovers for later (thanks to the hotel minibar!) After a bit of relaxing, we went for a massage down at the hotel’s spa, which I wanted to be a couples massage but due to segregation we went one after the other. The massage was amazing, and we felt refreshed ans rejuvenated! After a quick shower and a freshen up, we were back in a taxi on our way to Burj Al Arab for a visit to their Gold on 27 bar which we had reserved earlier that day.
We were promptly greeted and taken up in a gold lift, after we’d had time to look around our plush surroundings and take some pictures. We had a minimum 200Ds spend per person so our combined bill would have been a minimum of £90 – not bad for a meal in one of the most expensive hotels in the world! We were hoping to do shisha but were told that this would not be included in our minimum spend, so we opted to get two mocktails and a range of dishes instead which we felt would be more value for money. My husband opted for the Cloud 27 mocktail which came with a cinnamon stick as a stirrer and smoke encompassed in a pyramid which was released at our table – very showy! I chose the Golden Flowers mocktail which was a mix of berries, gold leaf and ice with the drink below. Mine looked like a huge drink, until I realised it was a glass within a glass! For the price, I would have liked a bit more than a few sips worth but still refreshing and nice! For food, we chose the truffle shaped lamb, truffle potato fries and the beef kofta slider. The lamb, to our amusement was three black balls resting on rice krispies! After the initial inspection, we bit into the kebab shaped balls to find oozing mozzarella and a silky aioli on the side. The fries were the british potato wedges (the kind you buy from Iceland!) with an array of toppings and the burger was nicely succulent. After initially being underwhelmed with the food, we really started to enjoy it as we took more morsels! We ended with gingersnap pecans as we wanted something light – these sure were moreish – shame we weren’t allowed to pack our leftover nuts for later, so we sat and finish them!
Day 2 brought along some nice memories as we boarded the metro en route the Dubai Mall. I remember having such an amazing time there on previous visits, I couldn’t wait to show my husband! We enjoyed the scenic yet cheap route of the metro and were instantly tempted by Uncle Fluffy’s japanese pancakes, they were so fluffy (hence the name!) and light, melt in your mouth delicious! We then walked around Dubai Mall, made use of the prayer room and then headed towards Eataly where we were meeting some friends. It was a gourmet looking store with a nutella cafe (yum!) and the actual restaurant located right at the back – genius! This was fresh Italian food at it’s best with amazing olive oil and balsamic vinegar to dip freshly baked bread into, and an array of pastas and pizzas. After our meal, we headed up to L’ETO for dessert and a view of the dancing fountains. It was here we first tried Tres Leche cake and no other has ever tasted as good! I also had a Spanish latte (yum!) and a huge cake slice! I will always remember the expression of delight on my husband’s face when the pulsating lights went on and the fountains started to dance! Our friends dropped us to another hotel, where we visited an aunty and cousin of mine. On our way back, we took a walk down JBR and decided to book some excursions.
The Big Bus tour was next on the agenda, and luckily the bus stopped right outside our hotel, so after a leisurely breakfast we waited to board. We were given some headphones to hear the tour and were set on our way! We did the green and red lines which were the city and old Dubai. This way by far the best way to cram the city into a whole day, we hopped off for lunch, the malls and our free dhow cruise. It was quite easy to navigate and we chose a route that ensured we could see maximum spots! The red line through old Dubai certainly brought back some memories – passing Burjuman, Gold Souk and the spice markets. The day was scorching hot and whilst we were enjoying the day, all we wanted to do was nap on our return. Our ticket came with a marina cruise but we were way too tired for this!
The next day allowed me to tick off another item off my bucket list – the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. In all of our previous visits, it was much too pricey for a family of five, so I embraced the opportunity on this visit. We were picked up from the hotel, along with a few other hotel stop offs, and taken to the palm, where we exchanged the minibus for a larger coach. We were met with our lovely tour guide, who spoke to us through the various sights throughout the day. He had lived in the UAE for many years, and his knowledge was second to none. The mosque itself was a very surreal experience. Thousands of tourists were flocking to the mosque, there were photo stops – but my husband and I felt like naughty children when the security guard asked him to remove his hand off my shoulder! We both took the opportunity to pray our midday prayers, unfortunately something not a lot of people did as the prayer hall was empty. The mosque was clean and clearly well kept, with the ablution area reminding me of the chamber of secrets from Harry Potter! After the mosque, we got to see some of the other sights around Abu Dhabi, an excursion I would definitely recommend!
On our return to the hotel, we freshened up and headed back out for dinner. This was definitely a day of firsts and I only had one place in mind – P.F Changs! I’d wanted to visit for ages but never quite got around to it, and here it was, right on our doorstep! The JBR branch was quietly buzzing but not in an intrusive way – they were busy but not packed. Obviously we had to try the dynamite shrimp, some gyozas and a teriyaki steak with wasabi mash and various other accompaniments. The food was amazing, I can know understand why everyone tries to replicate the shrimp, they were the perfect balance of creamy, crunchy, sweet and spicy! The steak melted in our mouth and I loved the wasabi mash! My husband wasn’t keen on the gyozas but it was his first time so he din’t know hat ot expect. I would’ve preferred a chunkier filling, but they were nice!We then carried out the triple whammy of our firsts by going to Godiva for dessert. I love the Godiva strawberries in Selfridges, a must everytime I visit London, but I could never get my hands on the ice cream! I tried the mixed ice cream which was luxuriously creamy and just yum! The best white chocolate ice cream I have ever had. My husband had a chocolate dessert of many components, a mousse, ganache, cake and a shiny glaze – scrumptious!
Day five was one I was looking forward to for a long time, something I’d always dreamt of sharing with my husband, something he anticipated as an authentic Arab experience, something that our recent love for Ertugrul spurred – the desert safari! We had deliberately left this until the end of the week so that we could relax and enjoy the evening. The morning was spent having a leisurely breakfast and Jummah at the mosque around the corner for my husband. As evening approached, we were greeted by the land rover in front of our hotel, then preceded to collecting guests from other local hotels – we ended with six guests and the driver. We were driven through seven different sands, to a camel farm where we learnt about how the camels are cared for. We then arrived at the camp, with sherbet as a welcome drink! Time to channel my inner Halime Hatun! Keen to get the most of the experience, my husband and I visited all of the stalls – a little merchandise stall as well as a shisha and kawa stall. The shisha was not as artificially flavoured as the UK, a bit too strong for me! The coffee was strong and bitter in taste – like a perfectly crafted espresso, one shot is all you need! We then had some chicken wraps whilst waiting for the BBQ food to be served. We were overwhelmed by the amount and quality of entertainment whilst we waited and ate – a fire eater, traditional Arab dances with swords (like the Ertugrul wedding ones!), camel rides, quad biking and of course a belly dancer. The food was well organised, and there was a lovely variety of salads to complement the barbecued meat. We ended the night with a surprise camel show at the top of the sand dunes in the sunset – absolutely stunning! The drive back was nice and mellow, definitely recommend this!
On our last full day, we had sweltering heat, so we decided to spend the morning having a leisurely breakfast and then packing in our hotel room. Mis afternoon, we decided to walk around the Marina area which was stunning, was lovely to see the yachts parked up! I would like to explore more of the Marina on our next visit. We then waited for sunset and headed back out for a stroll on JBR, a McDonalds dinner (major disappointment – dry burgers which were falling apart and no flavour at all!), followed by our last visit to The Cheesecake Factory – yum! We soaked in the beautiful views, the buzzing culture and spoke how we would come back.
Upon checking in for our return flight that evening, I was delighted to see I was allocated to seat 13D – one I knew was in Club World! I tried not to get overly excited, convincing myself that it had to be a glitch. I desperately wanted it to be true, not necessarily for myself – I had experienced it before due to my Dad working in BA (thanks Dad!) but for my husband, I really wanted him to experience it! As we printed our boarding passes and handed over our baggage through the Club World check in point, I was preparing myself to be told it was a mistake, but it din’t happen. Not whilst we checked in, not whilst we had priority but on our baggage, not whilst we chilled in the VIP lounge, not whilst we fast tracked to get onto the plan, and definitely not during the flight – Alhamdullilah. The Club World experience is just different, it is luxury at it’s best and BA sure do not compromise on service, we were inundated with food, a “raid the larder” full of snacks in between meals, an afternoon tea and even a toiletry bag full of goodies! I do not know why we were upgraded but I will forever be grateful!
Dubai is ever-changing, therefore I know our next visit will also be a good one iA! I love the fact hat you never have to worry about praying – a mosque/prayer room is never far, I love how most food is halal so it’s so much easier to eat out, I love how you can hear the Adhan when walking around, and I love the chilled vibes 🙂