My Middle East: Keila Does Dubai

Last December, my friend Solana and I discussed a trip to Dubai, one that I was sure I wouldn't be able to afford.  

When the infamous Etihad fare glitch offered an opportunity to go roundtrip for less than $500 in March, we jumped at the chance.  This would be my first trip to the Middle East and I had no idea what I was in for.  

We decided that while we were over there, we'd also see Oman and Abu Dhabi, but our first stop was Dubai.  There are cities I've loved (Barcelona and Toronto) and cities I...don't (NYC and Portland).  Dubai swiftly and easily fell into the latter category

Keila Burj Khalifa

We started our first full day in Dubai by visiting the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world.  If you plan to visit, know that you should make dated/timed reservations in advance, and there is a difference in price between the general admission ticket (level 124) and SKY (level 148).  

Burj Khalifa
Keila Burj Khalifa

The view was the same as any tall building I've visited lol. I don't think I would take advantage of this experience in any other cities (I've done the Seoul Tower, CN Tower, and Space Needle - I think I'm good). Beyond the view, you know what was great up there? The selfie light.

Usie Burj Khalifa
Selfie Burj Khalifa

We left the Burj Khalifa through the Dubai Mall, and walked outside to see the fountain show.  Pretty views on the way. 

Downtown Dubai
My Dubai
Usie Outside Burj Khalifa

We were there until the sunset, which laid a gorgeous sky over the downtown skyline.  

Downtown Dubai Sunset

After a day of walking the streets, we went back to the hotel, had drinks in the hot tub and fabulously enjoyed the rest of the night. 


The next day, we decided to spend our last day in the city visiting the souks.  Apparently there are a couple around the city, but when we inquired about where to go where there were a variety of wares being sold, we were directed to the Deira Spice Souk, right next door to the Gold Souq.  I'm not big on shopping but I thought the sights and sounds would be pretty cool to experience. 

We'd booked a "safari excursion" for that afternoon, so we got back to the hotel to head out for dune bashing and camel riding. Oh, and a mini photo shoot in the desert. 

Next up - head to the camp for henna, camel riding and BBQ. So, caveat:

I don't know that I could recommend this experience to anyone. I felt...odd. NO worker there looked pleased. More than not pleased - miserable.  And I didn't fully notice the state of the camels until after the ride but I felt SO bad for them. I just.... it was not a great experience as a tourist, one that makes me rethink what is "entertainment" for me as I visit new places.  There has to be a better way.  At any rate, I did it. So, pics.

I was terrified to ride the camels. I had never ridden anything before, not even a horse. So this is my "do I have to?" face. Lol

I was terrified to ride the camels. I had never ridden anything before, not even a horse. So this is my "do I have to?" face. Lol

Camel + Solana
Camel + Keila
(Spoiler alert: I got on)

(Spoiler alert: I got on)

Solana + henna
Keila + henna

We watched the sun go down in the desert, ate at a BBQ buffet, and rode back to our hotel in the same 4x4 truck that I thought was going to kill me during dune crashing earlier (yes, it was that intense.)

Sundown in the Desert

Overall, I was just incredibly underwhelmed by the city.  It felt very...shiny and artificial, like a Disneyland/Vegas hybrid.  Which is fine if you're into that sort of thing, but doesn't seem worth flying halfway around the world for.  And I can't begin to tell you how many situations and looks we got from other people of color, simply by existing there.  From the assumption that we were Nigerian escorts to the couple that was disgusted by us entering the hotel pool, I was overwhelmed by some of the racist attitudes we encountered. And that says quite a bit coming from a Black American.

A couple of things to note if you decide (against my advice) to visit Dubai:

  1. Dubai is not a walkable city.  You will take many taxis. The majority do not take credit cards. Which leads me to...
  2. Carry cash.  I had planned to take a little cash and pay for most other expenses on my rewards earning/no fee credit card and ended up using the ATM instead. Keep that in mind.
  3. In my (limited) experience there, there didn't seem to be a lot to do ad hoc outside of clubs and restaurants.  Since things aren't necessarily close by, get an idea of what you want to see in advance, as logistics and time will play a part in how much you get to see.

So what about you? Have you been to Dubai? What did you think?