2023 – Dubai

Travels – Dubai – June 2023

We both agreed that we would probably benefit from a break after we had returned the Chelmsford Mayoral chains. The handover was scheduled for the last week in May, so a break at the start of June sounded good.

I was hoping to take Ali to Calangute, Goa and so investigated several hotels. The online reviews suggested that the province and its tourist infrastructure had not yet recovered from the Covid pandemic shutdowns.

So Goa was not an option.

By chance, I received an email from SAGA during December ’22 offering a trip to Dubai, in what looked to be a pleasant enough hotel in central Dubai, close to the Burj Khalifa and the Dubai Fountain.

A few ‘phone calls, some negotiation, and I’d managed to arrange a six night trip leaving Stansted on June 1st. And SAGA would provide transport to and from the airports both here and in the UAE.

A few more calls, and Gaz and his girlfriend – Jennifer – had arranged to join us for their weekend, although he called us a few days before our departure to advise that she was stranded in Nigeria trying to sort out an application for a UK university.

On our departure day – June 1st – the promised car arrived promptly at ten twenty and whisked us to Stansted. We might have been more impressed with the 7 series BMW had we not enjoyed the occasional journey in Chelmsford’s mayoral car, but it was still a comfortable journey.

We had plenty of time at Stansted, our flight wasn’t until three, so tried to get into the lounge.

The girl on the door advised ‘up to an hour wait’ and we were about to walk away when a young lad told us that he’d been texted within fifteen minutes. We adjourned to the nearby Wetherspoon’s pub and, as predicted, the text message arrived at the same time as our beers, which we downed swiftly and headed to the lounge for our now traditional pre-flight Bloody Marys.

The plane was nearly full, and departure was delayed by nearly an hour, but they made up much of the time and landed in Dubai by one thirty AM and checked into our downtown hotel an hour later.

We only just made it down to breakfast on Friday morning but enjoyed an omelette before spending a few hours chilling by the pool.

Gaz joined us late afternoon and, after a quick drink and catch up in the hotel’s pool bar, we wandered over to the ‘Time Out Market’. It’s an ‘industrial chic’ food court with a bar that overlooks the Burj Fountains. We managed to grab some seats with reasonable views of said fountains and settled in.

The market has a good choice of food, and we settled on Indian ‘fusion’ food from Mastri. A very pleasant Biryani accompanied by a Butter Chicken dish with Burrata cheese.

We ducked out just before nine, and wandered back to the hotel for a nightcap, Gaz went on to another bar.

We both slept soundly, skipped breakfast and met up with Gaz shortly after eleven. I had booked us lunch at ‘Americano’ in the Madinat Jumeirah complex.

My initial plan was to take the Abra tour through the hotels but they now charge non-residents twenty quid each, so we skipped that and strolled round the Madinat Souk, a polite air-conditioned recreation of a traditional market.

Interesting quote in the Souk!

Americano was disappointing, the brunch menu was sparse and the place almost deserted; Gaz had spotted a branch of McGettigans nearby so he called them and booked us in. We had an hour to kill so nursed our beers and then walked round to McGettigans.

Much better! The place was crowded, and we were quickly seated.

Unlike the brunches in Abu Dhabi, brunches in Dubai seem to take the form of a set food menu with unlimited drinks; we settled in an ordered Bloody Marys.

Ali ordered a Calamari starter, Gaz a Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict, while I enjoyed a Pulled Pork Eggs Benedict. For mains Ali and Gaz ordered the roast beef lunch – with all the trimmings – and I enjoyed a seafood risotto.

We all skipped dessert but were several Bloody Marys in by then.

After lunch we returned to our hotel and crashed out for the evening.

Next morning, Sunday, we met Gaz downstairs and took a taxi to the Hard Rock Café for lunch, arriving a bit early which left us some time to investigate the Festival Mall next door. Lunch was okay, if not great, and our waiter considered himself a bit of a hustler.

It’s a tad worrying, having had slightly disappointing meals in both The Lion Inn and a Hard Rock Café within weeks of each other.

Gaz had booked a car to pick him up from the Hard Rock and whiz him back to Abu Dhabi while, back at our hotel, Ali went for an afternoon swim while I chilled in our room watching the Spanish GP on my iPad. In the evening we wandered back to the Time Out Market – which was markedly less busy than Friday evening – for a few beers and some Vietnamese street food snacks.

We enjoyed breakfast in the hotel on Monday morning and then – after a couple hours in the sun – took a taxi down to the Ibn Battuta mall. It’s one of Dubai’s older and smaller malls, but with interesting décor based on the seven voyages of Ibn Battuta, an explorer who is said to have been the inspiration for the tales of Sinbad.

From there we took a taxi to the Dubai Marina where we enjoyed a Yo Sushi! lunch of sushi, gyoza and ramen. We had a very hot fifteen-minute wait for a taxi to take us back to our hotel, but the driver whisked us back swiftly, telling us how ours was one of the city’s oldest (and smallest) hotels. It’s certainly built on a more human scale than much of the city.

We’d identified another bar – ‘The Tap House’ – that was located under the ‘Time Out Market’. It looked really nice but the actual beers on offer did not match their list, so we walked out an returned upstairs. Their beers were affordable, and while we weren’t planning on dining, the food enjoyed by people who shared our table led us to sharing an excellent pizza.

Over the course of our stay we enjoyed the ‘Dubai Fountain’ several times each evening.

There was another bar – ‘Distillery’ – next to our hotel, but when we called in on our way back it looked deserted, so we returned to our room for a fitful night’s sleep; the courtyard beneath our room was crowded and noisy, and didn’t close until the early hours.

On Tuesday morning we spent another couple of hours near the pool after breakfast, Ali dipped in the pool a few times while I sat in the shade and read my book. By lunchtime it was over forty degrees so we adjourned back to our room to cool off.

We then took a taxi to ‘Bayt Al Wakeel’, a classic restaurant overlooking Dubai Creek that dates back to 1935. I’d visited five years earlier and was pleased to discover that the food was as good as I remembered.

Then back to the hotel before the traffic got stupid. It was to be our last evening, so we packed our bags, headed over to the ‘Time Out Market’ for a few beers and a plate of nachos, then had an early night as we were due to be picked up early Wednesday morning.

Very early, the car was due at five, so I had set a four AM alarm on the ‘phone. We had checked out and were downstairs on time, at the airport fifteen minutes later and by six thirty we were enjoying an unconventional breakfast at a McDonalds halfway through our – two mile – journey through the terminals.

Our flight left on time, we watched some movies, the flight landed on time and our driver was waiting for us, another 7 series BMW, nice.

We arrived home at around three, a busy but relaxing break.